I first happened upon Andrew Hirst and his vintage haberdashery shop Wayward on the East Sussex coast in the March 2013 issue of The World of Interiors. I was instantly fascinated by the story behind the shop, and pouring over photographs of it in the magazine felt like stepping into a film set; a dreamy world of brass buttons and faded ribbons. I knew that I had to visit sooner rather than later. I met Andrew for the first time at his stall on the Portobello Road a few Fridays ago (I also came away with a few metres of beautiful striped silk), but the real deal beckoned, and so did the seaside. Do you ever get that feeling? It's like an urge, I find. Sometimes I just really need to get to the sea, to hear the waves and smell the salt water...
I cleared a day in my diary, packed my rucksack and headed off by myself early on Sunday morning - taking the train from Charing Cross through the Kent countryside and ending up in St Leonards-on-Sea. I walked through the small town to a road just one or two streets up from the seafront. Here resides Wayward. I sat on the stone steps outside, took a peek through the dusty windows, and gave Andrew a call. Bad timing - he was around the corner in the middle of lunch with his family. He swiftly turned up however (very kind) and with a jangle of keys, let me into the shop.
I spent the next half an hour alone, drinking the place in. Wayward houses a museum of period store fittings, with antique cabinets stuffed with vintage ribbons and trimmings parked end to end from the front to the back of the shop. Thousands of buttons, in bakelite, mother-of-pearl, wood, brass, glass and leather are boxed and stacked on shelves rising from floor to ceiling. Fabrics (striped cottons, printed linens and checked suitings) lie strewn everywhere - in old baths, underneath stairs, in wicker baskets and over antique armchairs. It really is the most perfect place.
After a good poke around the shop, I bought a few bits and pieces and started thinking about what to do with the rest of my day. Andrew offered to give me a lift down the road to Hastings Old Town - he dropped me off outside these old fishermen's net huts. Aren't they brilliant? The deep black wood and the yellow gold of the lichen-covered roofs against the piercing blue sky - really stunning. I love how un-seaside-like they look - silent, dark and brooding and so at odds with the loud, flashing amusement arcades lining the rest of the seafront.
I had to have an ice cream, obviously. I'd assumed I would probably end up with a fairly average seaside mint choc chip (not that that would have been a problem), but behold! What's this? An outpost of Gelupo, in Hastings!? Dark chocolate and vanilla. Utterly wonderful. Almost as good as the fabric shop. Almost.
I traipsed around in the sunshine for quite some time - through the Old Town and along the beach. Then I lied down on the pebbles, shut my eyes and listened to the waves. It was worth the trip.