wilma mae,
the gathering goddess

I was born in 1967 (yes, it’s true!) to Stanley and Anna Branche just outside Philadelphia. So I have lived in at least three of the decades of the clothes that I sell! In 1970, when I was three years old, my mother moved us out of the ghetto where she was born, to an affluent area of Philadelphia called The Main Line, where she believed we would get a better education. Education was a huge deal for my mother. She worked incredibly hard to transcend her own upbringing, growing up with two half-brothers in a brothel. In the 1940s she studied at Penn State University, and also abroad in Denmark, both rare for a woman of colour in those days. She was such a badass. My mother became an educator and dance teacher but more importantly she was a leading figure in the world of mysticism. She went by the spiritual name of Shakmah.

My father was a noted civil rights leader in the 60s and was known as a ‘loveable rogue’ by family and friends. From the 70s he became a ‘serial entrepreneur’ though I could never figure out exactly what he was doing but it was always exciting, glamorous and dangerous at times. I guess if you Google them both, you’ll get an idea what I mean. 😉

This is my heritage. Well, at least part of it anyway. This is where I come from, and what formed me.

I am one of four children; three brothers. I studied in France for part of my teenage years and then moved to the UK in 1989 to study. I met a wonderful man, got married and had two wonderful children. I worked in PR for over a decade. In 2001 we divorced and I gave up my profession. It was around this time when my life was changing dramatically that I discovered my love for vintage fashion, initially just buying on eBay.

I got sucked into the auction mentality very quickly. I didn’t want to lose an auction and found I got quite competitive, eventually becoming an expensive exercise! Soon, I ran out of room to store the massive amounts of clothing I had collected. Obviously, I needed to sell some, and this is how The Gathering Goddess was born.

I met the love of my life, Victor, about 12 years ago. We married in 2007. After living four years in the midst of the Suffolk countryside, lots of family drama and a bout of depression, we decided to move back to London to restart. During those country years, I put my vintage collection in cold storage. When we moved back to London in 2010, it seemed that vintage had moved forward and people were more open to it. As a result, I saw the opportunity to resurrect The Gathering Goddess; something I could do professionally with huge passion.

Because I am self-taught, I have probably gone overboard with fashion history. I spend most evenings curled up with fashion history books, watching old movies, listening to different types of music from different eras. This is what I did during my awkward teenage years as well. So not much has changed. I am geeky about my fashion history. I am still learning and love researching fashion. If the vintage gig doesn’t work out then I think I will go back to school and get my masters in Dress History.

But for the moment, I am doing what I love and have worked hard to build my business. As with most vintage dealers, it is truly a labour of love. I hope you love the pieces you find on the site. Now that you know a bit of my story, go and find your dream piece on the home page and weave your story into it.

With love always,

Wilma Mae