Since Mandy Milne was a little girl, she has been playing dress-up with her granny’s clothing and gloves.
Now, her lifestyle is built around a bygone era which she relives every day through the way she dresses and the business she runs.
Mandy, a quirky pin-up girl with bright pink hair, recently opened a store in Long Street called Restrospective, where regular women can transform into pin-up girls, from head to toe.
Mandy, whose pin-up name is Maggie Bow, started the women’s clothing range inspired by the fashion of the 1940s, 50s and 60s, about nine years ago, purely “out of love for the era”.
Originally from Durban, Mandy studied fashion design and worked as a senior designer for a well-known retail group.
“It was an awesome experience. I did the design and trends for the sports division for their in-house brands.”
She then took a leap of faith and left the industry to start her own business.
She said the vintage, rockabilly era has always been a big part of her life.
“I’ve been to car shows since I was young. I designed a range around all my passions, and that’s where Miss Happ started.”
Miss Happ is the name of Mandy’s women’s clothing brand. However, this is just one of a number of businesses she runs, all under the name of the mother company, Red Hot Blue Design Concepts. “We’ve got Miss Happ, and Boot Hill for men, all retro and vintage inspired. And we’ve added a small range of clothing for kids under both of those brands.”
Mandy’s new project is the Metropolis Vintage Studio, which is housed at the back of the Retrospective store. “It’s a small studio space for women to come and get photographed and made up in the classic vintage style.”
Although the pin-up look is a lifestyle for Mandy, she said people are only, just starting to understand the style. “We get a lot of foreigners in the city centre, which is awesome. I find that the international market understands the look because overseas they are more than likely exposed to a lot more than in South Africa. We have so many locally broadcast programmes and shows and you see tattooed pin-up girls and the way they do their vintage-styled hair and their classic dress sense, which all help to understand what us women are all about.”
Asked to describe the key elements of her designs, Mandy said: “Our designs are not dependent on trend; it’s more an era. So we have swing dresses which is a classic 50s silhouette with the flared skirt and the nipped waists. A lot of ladies come to buy dresses.”
The Miss Happ’s range also includes hair accessories – bold flowers and retro colours – which she makes herself.
Mandy also does vintage hair styling, offered at the Beauty Bar in store, and offers her own range of hair care products and hair dyes under the Parade Hair brand.
She identifies as a rockabilly girl because of her bright pink hair and tattoos, but dresses in the 1950s style of the classic pin-up.
“It is self expression to a degree, but its making it my own. I still dress in my vintage girlie way every day. Mandy has also started her journey as a pin-up model, and has appeared in many international magazines, mostly in America.
“I live the lifestyle every day. I drive a Black ‘68 Pontiac Firebird. This is who I am.”