Walking into New Wave Exchange, the first thing I notice is the bed at the end of the room. Who puts an installation that reflects a bedroom scene into a vintage clothing store? Alana Doyle does, that’s who.
It was in 2017, inspired by Vivienne Westwood’s punk-spirited shop SEX in London, that Alana decided she wanted to create a space and business of her own. Alana had been managing vintage stores in London for eight years pre-pandemic and while lockdown was a horrendous time for a lot of people and businesses, it gave Alana a chance to really plan and research what it was she wanted to create.
An experimental flair and eclecticism of fashion, fun and freedom became manifest through New Wave Exchange.
July 2021 was when the vintage store eventually opened on Trafalgar Street. However, New Wave Exchange is so much more than a place to buy clothes; it is a space which also reflects the creativity and subcultures that emerge from vintage fashion. Linking music, art, and clothing, the name of her store came to Alana on a lockdown walk: ‘New Wave’ inspired by The Cure’s musical genre, and ‘Exchange’ relating to the operation of buying and selling second hand garments.
Mid-chat, forensics scientists turn up to the store to collect glittering shards of glass from the window. Two days prior to our meeting, they unfortunately experienced a break-in. As Alana shuffled rails of jeans and dainty tops out of the way, she considered turning the large wooden board blocking out the daylight into a piece of art in itself. Evidently, Alana sees art in the most mundane objects and moments. This perspective of turning a horrible experience into a piece of positive memorabilia is an accolade to her creativity.
New Wave Exchange is a place of exploration and expression; a place for everyone and anyone to come in and look around, Alana explains enthusiastically.
She loves watching people roam the store, and observes customers who interact with the clothing. There is a real human connection within the store and I believe this comes from Alana describing the space as an extension of her own personality. Everything within it – from the clothes to the stickers on the walls, are carefully selected by this passionate owner. New Wave Exchange is welcoming to all, and Alana encourages their customers to be confident in the exploration of the store, and themselves.
So how would I describe the vibe of New Wave Exchange? Well, Alana says that zebra print is part of their DNA. There is a real scrapbook feel to the space created from pieces of art, different clothing aesthetics, all forming a mosaic of Alana’s loves. For instance, in the corner of the fitting room is a vinyl of the playlist that used to play in Vivienne Westwood’s store as a nudge to the starting point of New Wave Exchange. It is little moments and crafted details like this that give the store a real personal but also communal feel.
The community spirit is also dictated by the small collection of art and illustrations given to her from regular customers and friends.
She explains that it is not a space to display art as such, but rather a way to represent the community that loves New Wave Exchange. Regular customers become friends of the shop. Even on first meeting Alana, we get lost in amiable conversation about fabulous boots and statement coats as items of clothing everyone should own.
As suggested, the most obvious representation of art in New Wave Exchange is the Nostalgia Bedroom installation. Imagine overlapping and slightly torn posters tagged to the wall, red wine stained glasses, and underwear eager to escape its drawer. The Nostalgia Bedroom looks like a film or television set situated along the edge of the store.
It has the details you would expect from a reckless female’s bedroom including an overflowing makeup box and a pink bunny teddy poised on the pillows. I interpret the bedroom as an outlandish representation of careless adulthood and rebellious teen spirit. I can’t decide if the two are clashing or existing harmoniously.
Partly inspired by Tracey Emin’s The Bed, having the installation in the store is bold. Intended to be used as a place to take photos, Alana states how it has received attention from fashion and photography students, but more people should be boisterous enough to interact with the bedroom. While she was hesitant about the project at first she surmises that it is a moment in the infancy of the business which is bizarre but it works.
The initial idea for Nostalgia Bedroom came from Amelia Hope who first volunteered with the store, before becoming a member of staff.
Together, both Amelia and Alana collected posters and pieces to put into the installation and they built it together. The pre-digital atmosphere became accepted as an accurate representation of the brand.
In the future, Alana would love to come up with new ideas for other exhibitions and installations within her space but for now the Nostalgia Bedroom is staying. New Wave Exchange has also collaborated with local designers and bands by featuring tour clothing, proving that this is not just a space for artists, but all forms of creativity.
Speaking more seriously about the importance of second-hand shopping, Alana says “why would anybody buy new clothes” when there is so much character in second hand garments.
The act of vintage shopping is fun and exciting; you never know what you may find.
Vintage clothes also tend to be of a much better quality, and are a much more ethical way to shop. Wearing vintage clothing in itself can be recognised as art – a way of embracing and enjoying how you choose to express yourself.
While the New Wave Exchange Instagram page can be perceived as stereotypically girly, and there is a strong emphasis on young artists, Alana wants people to know that New Wave Exchange truly is a space for everyone. They have a wide customer base with some regulars in their 70’s, exemplifying that it is not just a space exclusive to young and trendy people. She states that you can never go wrong with fashion, so do not be afraid to try things on. And sometimes it is okay to choose fashion over function.
Alana’s hidden gem is proudly off the cuff and wants you to be surprised by what you may find hanging off of one of the many rails. Be prepared to be bombarded by pattern, colour, denim and leather. With the addition of art and creativity in New Wave Exchange, it proves how the shopping scene is developing and evolving. Hunting for vintage items is something to look forward to and a whole experience. At New Wave Exchange, you can browse, observe, question, create, photograph, pose, and ultimately be inspired.