alisha lola 1960s
It might not have been appropriate for an eight-year-old, but viewing the 1962 psychological horror film What Ever Happened to Baby
Jane? planted the seed for young Alisha Lola’s fascination with vintage aesthetics. Every day she’d come home from school in London to find her mum watching classic black-and-white films on the telly, including Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles flicks. “I was amazed by how people could place their art into moving images,” Alisha says. “I was always inspired by the old Hollywood style.” Now 24, Alisha is dedicated to dressing in full 1960s attire. She landed on the decade at 18, after working her way through 1920s, ’30s and ’80s style phases as an adolescent. Something about the ’60s just felt right. “This will sound extreme, but I feel like 1960s style connects with me so strongly on a spiritual level,” she says. “It’s taught me how creative I can be, and brings so much joy and happiness that I never thought I’d discover just through clothes and material things. Clothes aren’t just clothes – it feels like an artform to me.”
After falling in love with 1960s fashion, Alisha naturally sought out culture from the era, too. She dove headfirst into ’60s arthouse films, La Nouvelle Vague (aka French New Wave) and kitchen-sink realism (films, plays and novels centred on working-class Britain). Her more muted work outfits (featuring simple capri pants, pencil skirts, cardigans and winged eyeliner) are inspired by French New Wave cinema, while her groovy Carnaby Street looks are reserved for weekends. Alisha learnt to construct a beehive do during quarantine last year, and often switches between a big bouffant and a pixie crop. Living in London – once the epicentre of the Swinging Sixties – certainly proves handy for sourcing vintage duds. “My number one resource is ebay,” she explains. “A lot of older people sell their clothes there, so I’m getting all these amazing gems and bargains from the land and time it came from.” Alisha’s Mod style also proves a hit with older folks around the city, who often approach her to compliment her or tell her they once owned the same pair of shoes. “It makes me really happy that my style resonates with them,” she says. Her mum is her biggest supporter, despite having come of age in the 1970s. “We went to visit a Mary Quant exhibition a year ago and my mum was completely fascinated with the craft and art that went into making clothing from back then,” Alisha says. “She absolutely loves that I took up this style of dress.”
Despite all this, if she were ever presented with a time machine, Alisha would politely decline the opportunity to step inside. Like most in the vintage community, she’s a fan of vintage aesthetics, not vintage values. “It would be a complete struggle for me as a Black woman. It would not be any fun,” she says. “Just hearing about what my grandma went through when she arrived in the UK from Saint Lucia in the ’60s – they treated Black people as secondary. People of colour weren’t given a chance or job opportunities.” If there is one thing she’d like to experience, though, it would be the days of social revolution. “I have so much respect for those movements,” she says. “If I had to go back, I’d possibly like to participate in different women’s movements and civil rights movements.”
For now, Alisha much prefers being a student of history. She worked as an archivist for two years, preserving and restoring historical documents and materials. While it had nothing to do with fashion directly, the chance to connect with history made perfect sense. “I think in a way I’m restoring and preserving clothes from a long time ago with what I wear,” she says.