Thursday, 7 June 2012
Article for Shortbread: www.shortbreadstories.co.uk
It took me years to decide that I would make my dream business a reality. I remember conversations with friends from as far back as 2003 when I spoke of owning a vintage clothing business. I knew every detail of how I would run it from where to source products (my hometown) to how to package them (wrapped in tissue paper, vintage ribbons and fabric) to the little extras, like giving customers a compilation CD full of vintage songs. I also spoke of somehow creatively integrating local artists and businesses. I just didn’t know where ‘local’ would be, for I left home (South Carolina) for Scotland in 2004 and didn’t come back until last year. In Scotland, my passion for all things old only grew. I danced at every retro club night in Edinburgh, became a northern soul connoisseur, and honed my vintage knowledge with not only a full-fledged collection, but also through a job I got at local vintage institution, Armstrong’s. I was one of their Ebay girls and learned all the dynamics of and tricks to selling vintage online. A little over a year ago, I had barely been home long enough to have a couple of home-cooked, southern meals when I learned of several different people who had or wanted to open up a vintage shop. I got a little angry, and realized I was only jealous. I decided there was no point in being bitter about something I was fully equipped to do on my own. So I did it. Instead of wallowing in unemployment depression, I started up Runaround Sue Vintage Boutique on Etsy and treated it like a full-time job, because at the time, it was. When I had at least 60 items listed, many derived from my own collection, I went public with a Facebook and Twitter page. I guess that’s when it felt official! Both of these social networks have been instrumental in getting the word out. So was Etsy. Instead of creating my own website, I chose to do work through Etsy since it’s like a social network in its own right. With its own newsfeed, it’s easy to see what fellow members are up to if you’ve added them to your ‘circle’ or ‘favourited’ their shop. My base following has been through Etsy and I love it because you can also check your ‘shop stats’ to see exactly which websites, listings and keywords generate the most or least traffic to your shop. Etsy listing pages enable you to easily post a new listing to Facebook and Twitter (and now, Pinterest too, another welcome and lucrative addition to my social media world), which is a huge help. They must know how daunting and time-consuming the wide web of social media has become, so Etsy has made it easy for sellers to quickly spread our gospel. Customers can also ‘like’ a listing, which gets the domino effect going on Facebook. The more impressions made through friends of friends, the more friends Runaround Sue Vintage has indeed. Another essential tool is Twitter, and the Twitter/Facebook teams have made this a time-saver as well. I have my Facebook page linked to Twitter so all posts and updates I make on Facebook are automatically posted on Twitter. Many times I’ll list an item and post it to Facebook and Twitter, then wait and refresh the item to see how many views it’s getting. A lot of times, that number multiplies several times in the span of five seconds. The more eyes I can reach, the better, and it would be a shame to sit on these completely free and totally useful tools at my disposal. I also use Facebook and Twitter to hold secret sales. This gives Etsy customers and an incentive to click off Etsy and take an interest in Runaround Sue on a different medium, which can attract their friends who may not be on Etsy yet. I also like to use social media to indicate when I’ve sold an item and where in the world it’s off to. Since my favorite thing about vintage clothing is the many stories a dress or a pair of shoes can tell, I think it’s important to indicate any known stories in the listing, as well as let everyone know where an item is going in order to make more memories, and more stories. One of my favorite stories lies in an item that holds so many memories for me, let alone the ones it must have made back in the 60s. It’s a pink, orange and white psychedelic top with sheer, pink sleeves. Not only is this the very first of many vintage threads that I would buy at Armstrong’s (the place I would work at five years later), it is also the shirt I wore to my very first of many nights of dancing at The GO-GO club night in Edinburgh. As nonsensical as it sounds that I would sell this, I believe, as I presume the previous owners did, that these memories will stay with me long after the shirt is not. I simply haven’t worn it in years (a vintage-buying addition will replace last night’s GO-GO blouse with next weekend’s 60s mini dress) and I love it too much to greedily hold it back from becoming a part of someone else’s nostalgia. This shirt will be one of over 60 items modeled in my first vintage fashion show I’m organizing to take place in one week. It’s for a special charity, and many artists and local businesses are contributing themselves, their time and their products (I’m doing goody bags) for the occasion. I hope there are people out there somewhere dancing to the tune of Runaround Sue by Dion & the Belmonts, clad in their Runaround Sue Vintage attire, creating their own stories to tell of that garment and making their own dreams come true, too.