He pulls out a crushed-velvet, emerald-green suit from one of the many boxes brought out of storage for the photo shoot. “It’s by [Savile Row tailor] Tommy Nutter,” he explains. “It belonged to Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees, right at the time they were making Saturday Night Fever. Like any bespoke suit, it’s got his name sewn into it, and the date it was made.” There’s also a jacket worn by Madonna in Evita, a 4th century scrap of fabric (which they bought because they couldn’t believe how old it was), shearling jackets, ball gowns, and a 1960s psychedelic-print shirt in synthetic fabric that the couple admit is “particularly horrible”.
“This is like wearing your curtains,” Mark continues, producing a patterned 1960s jacket from another box. Originally sold at the Beatles’ famous Apple Boutique in Baker Street, George Harrison wore one like it – possibly even this very jacket. “It’s one of the most expensive things I’ve ever bought,” says Mark. “I found an American woman selling it online. She wanted an enormous amount of money for it. I negotiated down to £3,000 in the end, but can you believe she found it for $10 in a thrift store?”
America, they explain, is where they get their best finds now. On a recent trip to LA, they stepped off a plane and went straight to an enormous vintage fair, almost leaving empty-handed – before catching sight of the metal on a Sixties Pierre Cardin dress glinting in the sunlight at the back of the stall. eBay is another good resource, and buyers now seek the Butterfields out independently as well. But all too often these days, they find that British vintage shops hold nothing for them.
“Sometimes I can just stand in a shop doorway and I’ll say, ‘No, there’s nothing here,’” says Cleo. “I see stuff that I think is 1960s and then I realise, ‘Oh, it’s just Topshop,’” adds Mark, “but then I guess we’re partly to blame for that.” Indeed, everyone from Topshop to leading fashion houses sends designers to the Butterfields for inspiration. It’s hard, they explain, to know what to show people. What one person finds interesting, another finds irrelevant, and while it’s nigh on impossible to second-guess the mind of a creative, there’s simply too much stock for one person to work through the rails alone.