[All photos my own - please ask before reproducing].
The busy shopfront is a hint of what's inside.
Any long-term lover of Brighton will certainly not be a stranger to Snoopers Paradise (yes, there's no apostrophe - I've checked, grammar fans). This is a hub of collecting heaven, where thousands of pre-loved objects are crammed into stalls amid a labyrinth-like building. One minute you'll be on the hunt for some vintage buttons, then you'll become distracted by a selection of typewriters and some cookery books that are older than your parents. It's one of those rare places where you could spend hours without being pressured into buying, or crippled by the wheels of a pushchair or a small child's Heelies roller shoes.
Even entering the place requires a touch of kitsch.
The one downside, as far as I can see it, is that unauthorised photography inside Snoopers Paradise is strictly forbidden (yes, I did take the images below without permission, but I couldn't find anyone to ask politely). When every stand has its own photogenic appeal, from the stacks of old postcards to knitting patterns, and the tables bulging with unique furniture, it's really hard not to grab your camera, but I can see that this would be a source of constant irritation. Underneath all of the attractive bargains, they do have a business to run, and it's important to remember that you can pick up many things here for small change, with gorgeous old photos going for 10p each and sewing patterns at around £2.
The sun-drenched mannequins beckon you inside.
So, what of the charges that many Brightonians level at Snoopers, which is that it's a place for hipsters and not for the average Joe? Though I don't live in Brighton, I make a point of visiting the emporium every time I'm in the city, and I've never felt as if I'm being judged. You can be an avid collector of vintage pieces or just a bargain hunter and you'll be just as welcome. One advantage is that you won't find staff eyeballing you every five minutes or trying to give you sales lines - there's a central till point on both floors and that's it. You're left to your own devices, which is just what you need when there's so much to take in.
There's always a mix of styles and decades on show.
Upstairs there's only a slight change of tone as you reach Snoopers Attic, where clothing and accessories dominate. Take your pick from the rails of tweed jackets, classic slacks, flight bags and shirts. There's also a really creative range of upcycled jewellery for sale, which uses watch components and turns them into necklaces and rings.
Reasonably priced clothing in the Attic.
Again, prices can start small, with vintage ties at just £4 each - considering you can get a brand new polyester tie for £4-5 in a high street store then this is great value. Obviously there are other pieces that are more expensive, especially if you're looking for a winter jacket or a tea dress, but nothing is marked up excessively, which is the important thing as Snoopers needs to remain competitive to keep buyers interested; otherwise it risks becoming a showroom rather than a business.
If you find yourself down the Laines in Brighton then take a trip to Snoopers Paradise and you won't regret it. Just don't be surprised if you go in for a scarf and emerge with far more...
7-8 Kensington Gardens