Interview: Vintage to Vogue

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Vintage to Vogue is an independent clothes purveyor based in Bath stocking vintage women's and men's clothing and accessories. I was lucky enough to interview Vintage to Vogue about their shop and vintage clothing. 

Hello! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?

I’m good thank you. 

Tell us a little bit about your background. 

We purchased Vintage to Vogue 12 years ago after more than 30 years in the IT business and working in London. We were seeking new challenges and a new lifestyle. 

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I adore your business. What made you decide to set up Vintage to Vogue? 

We had been commuting daily from Bath to London so something closer to home was also a priority. I had studied fashion at the London college of fashion and both my husband and I had an interest in clothing and fashion. My husband learnt that the previous owner of the shop which was called vintage to Vogue but sold mainly women's vintage, textiles and buttons etc. They were retiring and wanted to sell the business. So after much thought we took the plunge, took early retirement and bought the business including the name which we thought was a great selling point.

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What does your shop sell? 

We decided to focus on authentic vintage clothing and accessories including classic designers and couture. We also decided that there was a gap in the market, so we created a comprehensive menswear section. 

Our extensive womenswear includes items from the Victorian times right through to classic couture. We specialise in clothing and accessories from the 1920's including gorgeous beaded dresses, easy to wear 1940's tea dress, 50's prom dresses and going right through to the cool sixties and funky seventies. Our menswear section has an extensive collection of tweeds, vintage classic evening wear, silk top hats, quality shoes from top English shoemakers, bespoke tailoring, and fine gentlemen's accessories.

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Why has social media been an important platform for you to use? 

Since opening twelve years ago the rapid rise in on line shopping has brought new challenges to independent shops operating from the high street. As lovers of quality workmanship, design, fabrics and textiles our early forays into the on line world of buying and selling on the Internet were disappointing. From a selling point of view, the amount of resource required in accurately measuring, photographing and describing a single item of vintage clothing combined with a high return rate put a strain on profit levels and a positive experience. 

For us buying on line also has high rate of disappointment, no amount of images can replace the benefit of actually being able to see and feel the material, and study the workmanship close up. So although we have a web presence and an active Social media platform allowing customers to purchase on line we have concentrated on developing a creative and excellent in house customer service. 

This includes a professional styling service to allow customers to get the most from their purchases plus an opportunity to share in the history and background of the item. This ensures all of our customers not only can add an exciting new item to their wardrobe but also have a great shopping experience, something we feel can be missing from on line purchasing. We also offer a sourcing service where if a customer is looking for a particular item which is not in our current stock we will use our extensive network of other dealers and connections both home and abroad to track down the item at no additional cost to the customer.

This has proved very popular with those customers that have a hard to find requirement. We literally travel the world to source our clothing and accessories, this ensures we always have a varied and high quality range of stock and by personally seeing each piece we can ensure it meets our exacting standards.

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Who inspires your shop? 

We tend to take our inspiration for the shop, not from one source, but from a variety of shops, magazines, fashion museums and retailers we encounter from around the world when we are out and about on our buying trips. We also love to spend time both on line and reading historical fashion books to research classic designs and styling.

Do you have any favourite pieces from your shop that you adore at the moment?

Some of our favourite items include a 1950's Dior couture dress, a ladies Edwardian hand embroidered driving coat and from the men's beautiful silk top hats from the early 1900's with their original leather hat boxes.

For the last few years we have been steadily increasing our relationship and contacts within the film, TV, and theatre productions which has led to us providing clothing and accessories to the producers of Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders, Mr Selfridge, Indian Summer plus a wide range of plays and period dramas this is definitely an area we are keen to grow our success in. 

Also, our free styling service is great for customers who wish to attend themed events, Goodwood Revival etc or just how to mix and match vintage clothing with today's accessories to create a unique and individual look for themselves. We have built of a large catalogue of images to show clients so we can work with them to create the styling they are looking for.

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What’s your typical working day?

The good thing about our business is that there is not really a typical day as it varies so much. When we are not in the shop serving customers we are out sourcing new and exciting stock both home and abroad, taking images for updating our social media platforms, ensuring we have the right stock in the shop, it's priced correctly and that it is well presented. 

There are also the unfortunate mundane, but essential elements that have to be addressed when you own your own business like keeping up with the accounts, responding to emails, overall maintenance of the shop managing staff etc. We also use any spare time we have to carry out restoration and repair work on the clothes and accessories to ensure they are looking their best before they go into the shop.

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What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business off the ground? 

I think if you are going to be successful in business you have to love what you do and my husband and I still get that feeling of excitement when we go out on our buying trips as you never know what you are going to discover. We have both always loved good quality and great design in clothing, in particular, bespoke and couture. It just so happens that in today's throw away society and obsession with cheapness much of the great quality pieces are now either from a past generation or out of the price range of many people. Pure vintage pieces therefore provide an opportunity to own something special at an affordable price. 

Unfortunately, the word vintage has now become over popular and is used to describe anything that is second hand regardless of its quality. Our love, and appreciation will always be for those items that were carefully designed from the best materials and put together by craftsmen and women to create an object of beauty, for example a 1920's silk and beaded flapper dress or a bespoke three piece tweed suit.

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Do you have any exciting plans for this year? 

My husband is launching his own brand of unisex bags which will be retailed both on line and through the shop. The bags are unique and have been designed and manufactured locally. In keeping with our passion for vintage, our range will also include a great selection of fully restored historic leather bags repurposed for today's living

Do you have any advice for anyone starting their own shop?

There are two pieces of advice we were given in the early days, one was "only buy items that you yourself are excited by, that way your customers will be excited by them" and always remember that customers have a choice of where they shop. 

What’s next for Vintage to Vogue? 

We have just started working with the costumiers for Downton Abbey "the film" which is exciting for us as they will only use authentic clothing of the period and we are busy planning our next buying trip to the States in search of new items for next years collection.

What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?

Always remember that customers have a choice of where they shop.

Images taken from the Vintage to Vogue video by Alex Howe. If you would like to find out more information about Vintage to Vogue,  take a look at their website 'https://www.vintagetovoguebath.co.uk'. You can also find them on Instagram 'https://www.instagram.com/vintagetovoguebath/'.

Rhiannon BrittenComment