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Portobello Road

Sara (&Tiger)

Owner, Sara Tiara Headwear

"Portobello is an integral part of my creativity and identity... feedback from such a diverse crowd of people makes your personal vision a much broader one"

How did you end up on Portobello Road?

My father was an antique dealer from the mid-60s and so as child I spent many Saturdays in Portobello Road. At some point all my family have worked in Portobello Road and both my parents were trading here every weekend until they were nearly 80 years old. My first job was helping on the stall when I was about 15 and ten years later I had a paperweight company so I had a stall in the same place here selling paperweights. After travelling I came back and started selling vintage clothes and from there started designing my own clothes and eventually I got to hats! I suppose nearly every weekend of my life if I am not travelling then I’ll be here. It’s funny, I had a year when I was wholesaling where I wasn’t on Portobello Road and I felt a huge void in my life.

What was missing when you weren’t on Portobello?

I have come to realise that selling in Portobello is an integral part of my creativity and identity. To have feedback from such a diverse crowd of people makes your personal vision a much broader one. Overall, I just find this place really nourishing, especially on a Saturday because of all the different backgrounds and nationalities. For me it is my reference point in life - even if I’m on the other side of the world I wake up on a Saturday morning missing Portobello. I think I’m addicted to this place. I always come back home with a happy feeling, even if it’s a quiet day, and I always feel like it’s been worthwhile spending my day on Portobello.

It always fascinates me to see how the mood and the look of the street changes throughout the day. At 7 am there are just a few traders setting up their stalls with a feeling of excitement in the air and a couple of hours later you start seeing the locals doing a bit of grocery and newspaper shopping. By 10 am the street starts transforming until midday when the concrete on the road is totally covered by people. There are so many different nationalities walking down the road that it almost has a bit of a holiday feel. Then at 4 pm things start to wind down and by 6pm it feels like Portobello has morphed into another place. It kind of reminds me of that feeling of when you have been on the beach all day and you stay there to watch the sunset and suddenly the atmosphere becomes very peaceful.

What do you remember about Portobello as a child?

My father was quite a free spirit and was really drawn to Portobello and the atmosphere. I remember the contrast of where we were living in the countryside compared to the busy Portobello Road where everyone seemed to be dressed in colourful costume – I use to wonder if they were on their way to a fancy dress party. I now get flashbacks seeing Tiger out there interacting with the stall holders and how they are teaching him different things. He’s been here from five weeks old! I thought I was going to be stay at home initially but he’s always been here. He gets spoilt – we arrive here in the morning and the stall holders give him little presents and come and say hi to him. The last two weeks he’s also sold a couple of paperweights. I sold these twenty years ago on this stand and now he is here – the third generation selling on Portobello!

Has it changed much in your time here?

Oh yes. I try not to be to down about it as that’s life – things evolve, places change, and I like to believe that Portobello is a special place, a powerful place, that’s why it is like it is, and it will keep its uniqueness and be protected from too many changes. I think there will always be antique dealers as it’s known as an antique market and that is what will keep its essence – antique and vintage dealers are a unique breed of people and I believe that one of the reasons that so many people visit Portobello is to experience the eclectic energy of the street. If Portobello market was to lose its antique dealers and creative people then it would also lose its spirit.