Vintage Expert | Sarah at Planet Sputnik
Aug 4, 2014 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
Living the vintage life always provides us with so many warm fuzzies. Whether it’s planning our wardrobe for the day, figuring out a look for a special event, hosting a cocktail party for friends, or investigating our latest thrift store finds… Being a retro enthusiast means you’re a champion for history and in touch with whimsy and imagination. Sarah with Planet Sputnik is a maven after our own hearts and her recently launched Planet Sputnik Homestyle line will surely give you inspiration during your own vintage journey! Join us as we learn more about Sarah’s perspective and influences.
“I’ve loved the 1950s since I was a kid growing up in a small town in the south-east of England and my passion for the era’s styles went through a natural progression in my teens. Once I learned to drive, I bought my first 1950s car at seventeen and discovered the London rockabilly scene. It was a passion that led directly to my career as an automotive writer and editor, working on mainstream and classic car publications in print and online. I’ve always driven and ridden classic cars and motorcycles, and I write about them too, so my hobbies and career are completely interwoven.”
Planet Sputnik provides props, costumes, and actors/models for a variety of projects. What have some of your favorite collaborations been and why?
We’ve worked with loads of great clients: from fashion, celeb and style magazines (such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan), to advertising campaigns, and marketing material (with the likes of Barbour, Levi’s and Louis Vuitton). We’ve been involved with lots of music artists too. One of our earliest – and highest profile – projects was with Lana Del Rey, who shot her very early promo material with us as well as the cover of her number one album, Born To Die. We also were asked to provide cool vintage bikers for a Belstaff collaboration with David Beckham, which was fairly exciting. We’ve been lucky enough to work with many amazing photographers, film makers, models, artists, art directors and stylists. It’s hard work but can be a lot of fun. You can see more of our exciting projects on our front page portfolio.
What advice do you have for someone looking to break out into the vintage modeling scene?
There seems to be some fantastic opportunities these days – far more than even five years ago. The vintage modeling scene is bigger than ever, with its own magazines, websites, specialist agencies and dedicated photographers. With the ever-growing reproduction retro clothing market, there appears to be plenty of modeling outlets (not to mention more opportunities to break through into the mainstream modeling industry). It’s a great time to get involved!
What are some of your first considerations when you create a retro environment and how can people apply that to their own homes?
Well, first and foremost our 1950s bungalow location is a home, built for enjoying and living in, so it has to be practical. The fact it looks attractive in photos is a bonus.
For instance, all of the kitchen appliances, including the 1950s fridge and stove, are functional, not just decorative. (Some of our clients find this hard to believe!) I love the style of the 1950s but am very well aware I live in the 21st century, so we have a microwave hidden away along with a TV, laptop, iPhone and iPad. I’d find it impossible to run a business – or a life – without these things.
The airy, open-plan feel of mid-century modern homes is addictive. I love pastel colors such as pink and turquoise for home décor, atomic prints and blonde wood furniture – and that personal taste is reflected in the bungalow. The fabrics and wallpapers are original and reproduced designs, while most items are vintage complemented by the odd vase or wall hanging from contemporary home stores. It’s taken many, many years of research, collecting and restoration, and has been a real labor of love. If it’s one thing you need to create a vintage home, it’s commitment.
What do you see trending in vintage right now?
Well the word ‘vintage’ is a little overused and seems to be a catch-all for anything that isn’t brand new. But to me, true vintage has to have had some decades to ‘mature’ and that’s what we specialize in. It’s interesting to see how the mainstream world returns to the classic themes again and again. Two years ago retro pastels were in fashion, while this past year it’s been vintage-inspired lingerie. Cool retro bikers and rockers have been in constant demand for editorial and marketing campaigns and music videos. Of all our old vehicles, our 1956 Chevrolet pick-up is the most requested. It seems everyone loves the charm of a classic American truck.
You’ve been able to work with a lot of musicians; what’s on your play list at the moment? What’s the next big sound/artists our readers should get to know?
I love listening to music – the louder the better – but have never defined myself by my record collection. I have extremely broad tastes, from rockabilly to punk, 1960’s garage to Duran Duran, The Carpenters to heavy rock. I’m probably the last person to ask who will be big next, as I’ve met plenty of people who’ve ‘made it’ and plenty who haven’t. Having said that, I do remember when an unknown Lana Del Rey was shooting at our bungalow before her first big record company launch, listening to her singing along to a backing track for her forthcoming single Blue Jeans. I thought: “Well love, I dunno who you are, but you look amazing, can sing beautifully and write your own material. You deserve to go far!” So perhaps I can pick a good ‘un when I see one, after all…
Tell us more about Planet Sputnik Homestyle! How did the collection evolve? We love that it’s created and manufactured in the UK, could you talk more about how that came to be?
Nostalgia is bigger than ever, in the mainstream as well as in more purist vintage circles. I wanted to harness that passion for the designs of the past and share it with a wider audience, both in the UK and around the world. We want to celebrate what we long-time revivalists have always known and cherished. Planet Sputnik Homestyle draws on the atomic design themes of the 1950s, and while not everybody can have (or necessarily wants) a full-on vintage kitchen, our range of premium housewares such as tea towels and oven gloves will bring a touch of retro glamour to anybody’s home.
The idea came to me organically; I love 1950s prints and fabrics, yet the originals are fragile and becoming ever harder to find. I’d often scour the big London designer home stores for the odd mid-century-modern-influenced housewares, but it was difficult to find items in the funky atomic style I particularly like (as I’m not really a polka dot and cabbage rose kind of girl). Eventually, I decided to produce my own.
Keeping our products British-made and high quality was a major part of the concept. As we know, more and more people are rejecting the ‘make it cheap whatever the cost’ mantra of consumer products as these items are so often unethically produced in Asian sweatshops. Supporting homegrown skills was important to me and it also reflects the ethos of the postwar era, when Great British craftsmanship and manufacturing led the world. Exporting our products takes that message around the globe.
We love your signature atomic graphic – could you talk a bit about your inspiration for that design pattern and if the collection may feature other designs in future.
Aw, thanks! Planet Sputnik’s atomic logo sums up our retro brand perfectly. It also appears in Planet Sputnik Homestyle’s launch design – Orbit – which is so typical of the 1950s. I wanted to reflect my own love of vintage-style pastels, so for the first range I chose blue, yellow, pink and turquoise. I figured at least one of those would work in most people’s kitchens. I work with a superb London-based designer who’s as absorbed by the styles of the past as I am. We have many more unique retro designs, products and colorways in the pipeline. As I said, the graphics appeal as much to high-street consumers who like something a little different from the norm and take pride in their home, as to full-on vintage fans.
The vintage lifestyle is a small, lively, and growing community here in the States – how is the scene in Great Britain? Do you find more and more people gravitating to retro styling and what’s their reaction to vintage?
Personally I’ve been part of the vintage scene here in the UK for the best part of 25 years and have met many wonderful people and had some fabulous times. I love the fact that more and more people are gravitating towards this lifestyle – every social scene needs fresh blood to keep it alive. I don’t have much time for moaners who want things to stay the same and complain about “‘newbies’ ruining it all”. There are more vintage clubs, events and weekenders than ever, and the influx of youngsters (and not-so-youngsters) who have discovered the vintage way of life play a major role in this growth. Welcome aboard one and all!
For our readers: Curious about Sarah’s work or inspirations? Ask our latest experts your top questions in the comments!