Co-founders Julia Jameson and Ting Zhang met by chance at a private dinner organised by secret Venetian restaurant Il Nascondiglio, discovered a shared love of all things bygone and hatched a plan to open vintage store Annata (which means ‘vintage year’ in Italian).
Located in a sleepy compound owned by the Russian Orthodox Church, the sunny little space was previously Zhang’s own studio apartment, and still retains the feel of a best girlfriend’s bedroom, not least thanks to an antique iron-frame bed, which the duo found buried deep in a Pudong junkyard: it positively begs to be flopped on for a chat and a giggle after you’ve tried on a pair of perfectly preserved 1920s Mary Janes (1,200RMB).
Lining the walls are rails of tea-dresses (from 250RMB), embellished denim jackets and funky print shirts (each item is neatly labelled with the decade to which it belongs), while shelves groan with cage coin purses (50-60RMB), cats’-eye sunglasses and costume jewellery, and battered suitcases display crocodile-skin clutches.
The selection, which spans the 1940s-1980s, is small but well-edited: many items were handpicked during trips to Istanbul, Trieste, Amsterdam and London’s Brick Lane; others are family heirlooms from Jameson’s British husband, such as an antique copper hot water bottle now used to display necklaces.
It’s hard to pick standout items, but the pair’s own favourites include a 1940s black velvet dress (800RMB) with ruched sleeves, a 1960s stretchy mini-shift with turquoise and white paneling (very Megan Draper from Mad Men) and an oversized patchwork jacket from 1980s Yugoslavia.
A word of warning: be sure to check if something’s for sale before losing your heart to it. We admire a pair of burnished-gold sunglasses only for Jameson to sheepishly refuse to part with them: ‘They’re the one thing I’d save from a fire.’
However, you could get temporary custody, as the duo are toying with the idea of a rental service. A gold and black beaded flapper dress (1,400RMB), in particular, looks ripe for a Great Gatsby-themed ’do.
Outside, the sunny patio is set to host afternoon tea or brunch – an excuse to bring out the vintage tea set – though grander plans are afoot for literary salons and poetry readings, depending on demand. Either way, Zhang and Jameson are favouring an organic approach to publicity. But with the stamp of approval from London-based designers PPQ (who dropped by on a recent visit to Shanghai), it seems the secret’s out.
By Selena Schleh