If there is one thing i’ll champion till the cows come home, it’s the independent vintage shop. In fact indie shops of all types should feted, nurtured and cherished. In my job as personal shopper, with the exception of one solitary place, I always take my customers to owner-run shops. Why? Well the difference is considerable. It’s like being cooked for by a friend rather than eating a drive through Mac Donald’s. Take my favourite shop in London, Hunky Dory Vintage. Ian and Ian (or ‘Ian Squared’ as I refer to them in my head) hand pick all their clothes from France and Italy, know their stock inside out and give me and my clients a discount, and the run of the shop. Last year I went to Ian B’s 50th birthday and both of them came to my book launch. It’s quite simple, once you get to know each other, a relationship forms which brings with it many benefits.
Independent shops don’t always have the easiest of times. In London, especially, rents are on the rise. The trend I have seen is for an area of independent shops to be over taken by multinationationals once that location has been deemed ‘on trend’ only for those interesting shops to move elsewhere. The aforementioned Hunky Dory did just that from Greenwich to Brick Lane. Some established merchants are fighting back. This is what happened when Abercrombie announced their intention to set up shop in Savile row. With all this in mind, it makes me very excited to share with you a new and utterly different online vintage shopping concept. How on earth does this tie in with the above I hear you ask? Okay, bear with me…
A couple of months back I met Bahareh to talk about her new on-line selling platform Voutique. I wasn’t convinced on paper and I wanted to find out more. I adore the connection between tech and selling vintage and it had piqued my interest. Over tea at Browns we discussed how they were going to bridge the gap between the online world and the physical world of buying vintage and I learnt about an incredibly novel new website that is going to help showcase the very best of independent shops and give them the online presence that is missing with so many businesses.
So what exactly is Voutique all about? Ok so here is the skinny. It’s a website featuring beautiful handpicked items from a number of independent boutiques. They are currently selling mens, womens and furniture (with wedding dresses coming soon) all sourced from some of the best vintage businesses in the UK.
I have seen a preview and the items featured are gorgeous. So many 50s dresses at very reasonable prices and also exciting Victorian items from Rebecca Sweeting’s L’Oublie collection. During our chat Bahareh touched on a point that I agree with: many websites list items of poorer quality alongside prime items. Whilst it is good to have a price range, the time and resources involved in making an item available to buy over the internet are considerable. Internet shoppers are primarily convenience shoppers. They want you to do the rummaging, sorting and cleaning, and they want it sent to their door. They are time poor, and generally have the money to splurge if they are looking at your site. This is why I have no qualms with online vintage being a bit pricier, as I know that work that goes into making it convenient and easily available.
Another bonus is the most shops I know don’t have the time or the inclination to market themselves online, and Voutique does exactly this by providing a shop profile. Countless times I have wanted to write or tweet about a shop and had nothing to link them to. There is also a business support and courier services offered. I’ve seen their current list of collaborators and it’s impressive. If you own a shop and would like to get involved there is still time. There is a 6 week free trial period after which a very modest fee kicks in.
For the online consumer this will give fresh access to a veritable treasure trove of quality items. I have been informed that there will be very nifty search options so that you can find exactly what you want. You can also sign up to a service where you register your interest in a particular item. When it’s been found you will be the first to know. They are also working on shooting all the clothes in-house to harmonise the images.
As an ex seller and avid buyer I sit on both sides of the fence and to me its seems like a win/win situation and with a founding member being a tech wiz this is one project that I shall be following with interest. Voutique goes live today. Happy shopping!
Here are my top 4 buys: