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The Just-commonsensical

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The queen of vintage - Hilary Proctor
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The queen of vintage - Hilary ProctorThere's only one thing more fabulous than Hilary Proctor's vintage furs and crocodile handbags, and that's the lady herself.

Hilary Proctor is the proud daughter of a Jewish refugee who came to Portobello Road after fleeing Nazi Germany and started selling watches on the streets without a penny to his name. He was given a stall in 1949, and Hilary recalls how she used to run home from school to help him. "I loved working with him because he was inspirational," she says.

Proctor moved into the Admiral Vernon arcade 11 years ago, and since then her stall has grown to four times the size. She says that she just "slipped out" of selling vintage clothing, and now trades exclusively in vintage furs and crocodile handbags. "I buy with a passion, I only buy things that I absolutely adore," she says. She also puts her extensive and loyal client list down to the fact she won't sell you anything "unless it's right for you".

Hilary wasn't always able to be so selective about her stock. In 1973 she took over her father's stall from her brother, but only had four days' notice before the next trading day. "I cleared everything out of my house, it was like a giant boot sale really, but I took Ј13 that day and after working in the hairdressers for Ј5 a day, I thought, 'this is amazing!'"

Scores of fashion designers and A-list celebrities have passed through her doors, including Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Scarlett Johansson. Hilary tells me that one of her greatest honours was when the late Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre visited her shop and told her she had "exquisite taste". After London Fashion Week, John Galliano once bought some crocodile bags from her to give as gifts to his models, and to this day she still has Catherine Deneuve's phone number, just in case she spots anything that she may like.

The celebrity attention hasn't gone to her head though, as she treats every customer just the same. "I want people to feel very welcome when they come in here," she says. "It makes me happy."

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