Interview: Rhiannon Alexander
Rhiannon Alexander is a designer and shop owner. Her shop Vintage Style Me began nearly six years ago and her shop is ever-growing. I was lucky enough to have a little chat with her about her amazing clothing shop and what she has been up to.
Hello Rhiannon! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?
I’m great thank you!
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’m 28, I grew up in Cornwall mostly so I have fondness for the beach and the countryside. I’m currently living in Cheltenham after spending some wonderful years in East London where I really grew the business. I have a sausage dog called Penny and I live with my best friend Olivia in a beautiful regency townhouse.
I adore your online shop. What made you decide to set up Vintage Style Me?
I had always wanted to work in fashion, and making clothes had always been a huge hobby of mine. During uni (studying English Literature, not fashion oops!) I hoarded a huge amount of vintage clothing that U had re-worked to make more wearable for every day use. I finished my degree and thought I may as well take the leap and see if I could make it work. I had no real responsibilities or commitments, so my very kind boyfriend at the time made me a beautiful website, I made my friends model and Vintage Style Me was born, selling re -worked vintage for the first year.
Why did you call your shop Vintage Style Me?
I find naming things really difficult, Vintage Style Me came about from basically just writing loads of random words down and seeing what worked! I loved the idea of having a .me domain rather than .com so Vintage Style Me just sort of fit!
How has your creative process changed since the start?
We’ve come along way since the beginning (nearly 6 years ago). My first website was very basic and had a very retro/vintage feel. Lots of sepia tones and glamorous looking women. I shot most of the vintage on a mannequin. Now our website is quite sleek and modern, and everything is pictured on a model which I think people really respond too. Its so good to see how an item of clothing moves and falls when being worn. There are still similarities though, for example sourcing vintage and fabric buying is still quite similar.
I still have my eye for fun prints, and use vintage fabric or reclaimed fabric where I can. I loved vintage because of its uniqueness and ethical quality, so I really try and maintain that ethos in our handmade range. I love that now everything is made and designed by me, the whole process is a lot more creative and I love finding inspiration from peculiar places!
How did you manage to learn and hone your craft?
I’ve had no formal training in fashion or garment technology, everything I know is self taught. I started out when I was about 14 on a hand wound singer sewing machine! My mum taught me to read patterns and I have a lot of books! Mostly by trial and error and just playing around and seeing what works!
Have you always been into fashion and sewing?
I have been into fashion (especially dresses) for as long as I can remember! I grew up on a farm, but wanted to be a princess! So would be wearing a flouncy dress with wellies! My mum was very into fashion when she was young, so I grew up with pictures and stories of things she would wear in the 70s, so that massively influenced me. I basically live and breath dresses. I get so excited over fabric and just looking in stores!
What equipment do you use for your work?
I keep it basic and I have a Brother Sewing machine and a Toyota Overlocker (couple of each). A lot of tape measures as I cut them in half all the time, and A LOT of pins which end up everywhere!
What tools or materials could you not live without?
Obviously the sewing machines are my most useful and must have items. But a good pair of sharp scissors and a retractable tape measure (so you can’t chop through it) are my favourite items which I couldn’t be without!
What is the reason behind doing Look Books?
Look Books are designed to show off the clothes in an editorial or story style setting. They are so much fun though and it is a great chance to get creative and work with some amazing people. Its really nice for everyone to do something different, as taking product photos isn’t the most fun for the mode or photographer “turn to the side. Now face the wall etc”. I think of it as a twice a year party!
How has doing Look Books for your website and Facebook page helped your business grow?
Doing look books really helps to make a brand look more professional, and the images are great for social media channels too. They’re also a great way to meet other creative people, and I try to collaborate with other small brands too. For example, crown and glory have supplied us hair products to use, The White Pepper have supplied shoes, and most recently CrossEyes have supplied vintage style glasses.
Do you have any advice for anyone starting a Look Book?
I think just have fun and if you have whacky idea give it a go! It’s all trial and error. Make sure the models are having fun and then it really shows in your pictures. Have a good soundtrack on to get everyone in the mood! I’m also a fan of props too!
Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?
Social media is so so important. I get most of my sales through Instagram. I try and post as regularly as I can, although sometimes it is hard to keep the content new and exciting. I don’t ever want to bore our followers with the same picture. Flat lays are really great as they’re quick and easy to do, but really effective.
Who inspires your work?
I’m inspired by a lot of things. I love old black and white movies and adore the women dresses with the little collars and cuffs. Cinema is also a great inspiration to me, the movies of Wes Anderson for the colour palettes. Street style, art history, music.. so many things! I’ll see a detail from one thing and team it with another idea.
Do you have any favourite pieces of clothing that you adore at the moment from your shop?
Its quite rare that any items from the shop end up in my closet as i’m always so busy with order. BUT this collection is so good i’ve got a few myself.. The luxe Pea Green dress is my new going out dress because its the most amazing colour and the fabric is just epic! It drapes beautifully and moves when you dance, I had so many compliments on it. My second is the Graphic Lines smock; I love how preppy it is with the white collar and the deep pockets, so useful for every day wear! I also have an embroidered smock because they’re just so beautifully I genuinely think every girl should have one!
What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your Facebook page, website and your work?
In the next year I think you will see a lot more different fabrics being used, and more collaborations with other brands.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a dress in collaboration with Joanna from @Getlostclothing! We worked together to make the cactus dress and we’re working on another secret one now!
What’s your typical working day?
My typical working day is to start work about 9am. I’ll drink lots of tea and reply to emails, plan out which orders are to be made that day. Browse (and post) to Instagram, sort out any future shoots etc, then i’ll spend the rest of the day making dresses.
What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business off the ground?
The biggest struggle for me is having to use the business to pay rent and support my life as well. From the beginning the profit could never be solely put back into the business. Its always had to pay my rent/bills/food etc as well as buying stock, advertising etc, so for me that’s been the biggest struggle as it’s a lot to put on a young business. I also started it with nothing so it’s never had a big cash injection which a lot of business have (and probably should have!)
Do you have any exciting plans for this year?
The year is quickly coming to an end, but I always make some super sparkly party dresses for Christmas and new year. I’m actually taking my first holiday since starting VSM and going to Australia for 2 and a half weeks in November!
What are your career plans with your online shop?
I plan to really up our wholesale side of things and supply our dresses to other bricks and mortar shops. It would be great for people to go somewhere and be able to try things on.
Do you have any advice for anyone starting their own online shop?
My main advice would be to stick with your own ideas and not try and keep up with other brands. Everyone does things differently, and your uniqueness will shine through! Using third party stores like easy and asks marketplace are great to start out with too as they already have such a large customer base.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to start sewing or get into fashion?
YouTube is great for tutorials on how to make basic things, and to explain something that looks confusing in a book. Also check out local evening classes for sewing skills. Its a great way to meet people and will help you with the basics. Just take the time to look at how clothes are put together and you’ll understand how they look in pattern form.
What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?
“do what you love and get paid”… i’m not sure its advice but its a little quote that I think about all the time. I’m so lucky to be able to make a living from what I love doing the most. Also, good images are key. People love pictures so I think I always try and keep our photos true to the brand.
Please take a look at Vintage Style Me on Facebook and their website ‘http://vintagestyle.me’. There are lots of dreamy Look Books, dresses and inspiring images.