Frockery Talk

  • Woman's Weekly celebrates its centenary

    November 5, 2011

    Woman's Weekly is celebrating its centenary this week with a special edition which includes a pull out copy of its launch issue.

    Woman's Weekly

    Back in 1911, it cost 1d (that's one old penny for those too young to remember pre-decimal coinage!) The first edition featured articles on fashion, sewing and knitting, cookery, careers and that ubiquitous topic, weight loss. With women's wasitlines almost exclusively under 28" in those days, some of us might do well to follow some of these early tips ourselves!

    The original editor of the magazine undoubtedly possessed a clear vision of her target readership demograpic, asserting that the new title would not be catering for the upper echelons of society; rather it would serve the needs of "the woman who rules the destines of the home ... in her life, her work and her recreation".

    The article mix has remained consistent for a century, which probably accounts for the magazine's enduring appeal. We remember when Woman's Weekly sewing patterns were available by mail order for 6d; in fact we have a goodly number of them in our stock room, many still in their original envelopes.

    Now, with more and more modern women re-engaging with the traditional creative pursuits of home baking, crafting, knitting and dressmaking, Woman's Weekly can surely look forward to a renewed lease of life as it enters its second century.

    As the magazine's current publishing director Sandy Gale says, "the past one hundred years of Woman’s Weekly provides a unique record of the lives of women and social issues of the last century and it remains as resolutely and proudly relevant to its hundreds of thousands of readers today.”

    Amen to that! We're off out to buy our copy now.

  • Arthur's day out (or Beauty v the Beast)

    November 2, 2011

    We had a marvellous time at the St Andrews Very Vintage Fashion Fair and met some lovely customers and fellow traders. The organisers, Ivory Tower Events, deserve a big round of applause for the effort they put into making the day such a resounding success.

    Here is our own Arthur Frocker all set for his day out. He really turned heads, especially when he lost his own as we negotiated a Dundee roundabout!

    Arthur Frocker

    We even took a short bit of video footage with him mannequining our stall.

    In addition to Arthur (who, let's face it, is no oil painting), there was fortunately also a beauty on the team in the form of the gorgeous Siobhan who modelled some of our clothes after being transformed into a glam madame by Sandra Cormack and styled by the lovely Anna. While strutting her stuff as a 50s bombshell, she managed to tempt one customer into buying our flocked circle skirt straight from her body!

    We are hoping Sandra has some more photographs we can post on our blog of Siobhan modelling the various looks, including a 60s Jackie Kennedy cocktail dress and a fabulous mint green evening gown which has already found itself a new owner. We are also hoping that we can work together in the future on vintage model photo shoots as motionless mannequins just lack that certain je ne sais quoi  (sorry, Arthur!)

  • Don't miss the St Andrews Vintage Fashion Fair!

    October 28, 2011

    Tomorrow is the big day for vintage lovers in and around St Andrews!

    St Andrews vintage fashion fair

    We'll be there and have been struggling to decide what to take from our vast vintage stock. It's just a pity the Frockers' van doesn't double as a tardis!

    However, visitors to our stall will be able to pick up a discount code for the Frockery website (valid until 30th November), so be sure to come and say hello if you are in the vicinity.

    We'll be bringing some stock from our current catalogue and some that is not yet online. Look out for a couple of Halloween frocks, an original Carnaby Street mod nehru jacket (in all its floral glory!) and some over the top 80s gowns.

    And prepare to be amazed by Arthur's new 'Lurch' look?  All he needs now is a makeover from the talented Sandra Cormack who will also be exhibiting at the fair.

    Hope to see some of you tomorrow and remember to donate generously to Help for Heroes.

  • The value of vintage: what's it worth?

    October 24, 2011

    This post is one we have been thinking about for a while but have only just got round to composing and (if you're reading this) publishing. It's about the relative value of vintage from the perspective of  a frockophile who turned a passion for collecting and wearing 'old clothes' into a business. Since the aforesaid collecting habit had taken over most of the house, it was either that or divorce, and it's therefore gratifying to report at this juncture that the frockers are still happily hitched!

    A couple of red wine fuelled 'confessionals' with fellow business owners at a recent social gathering caused us to reflect on our own steep learning curve since starting out. Back in 2007, we not only had lofty ambitions to be a more affordable alternative to existing vintage stores which we felt were a tad overpriced, but we were also keen to offer quality preloved contemporary clothing because our own wardrobe was not exclusively vintage and our focus was on sustainability as well as style. We saw our recycling model as a timely antidote to the rash of fast fashion that seemed to be sweeping the nation and which greatly offended our green sensibilities. So far so good.

    Still mulling over the frockers' progress, which has not been without bumps in the road, we happened upon this blog post in which the author considers the value of vintage fashion and, specifically, its pricing in the marketplace. The post was interesting from a personal point of view, not just because it linked to one of our frocks, but also because it mentioned Portobello Road market, one of our very favourite places (although it's not what it used to be, thanks to the encroachment of developers, and is indeed now fighting for its very survival).

    We visit London as often as possible (more regularly now that our daughter lives there - that's her on our website top banner!) and it invariably turns into a busman's holiday as we trek around vintage markets and shops to see what's on offer. Some of the prices can certainly be eye-watering, but we imagine the rents, pitches and other overheads must be equally eye-watering for the traders. Not to mention the cost of living generally.

    Living in Notting Hill in the 80s, when vintage was still very much a minority sport and Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts hadn't yet sent local property prices into the stratosphere, the future chief frocker's passion for all things retro was confirmed on Portobello Road and further nurtured at nearby Kensington Market. Back in '81, while her work colleagues headed to Harrods to spend suitably big bucks on posh frocks for an event where they were to be presented to the Queen (as patron of their employing organisation), Alison bought a vintage black velvet gown for a tenner at Kensington Market, having fallen in love with it at first sight. She still owns it, and despite it now being several sizes too small, will never part with it. That was to be the story of her life, which eventually led to frocking for a living and loving it!

    But back to the salient point of that blog post, where the author ponders the price of vintage clothing after a shocking encounter with an especially expensive frock down the market. As a vintage aficionada and aspiring trader with frugal frocking tendencies, she speculates on the extent to which greed might play a part in pricing. She also wonders, quite reasonably, whether it might be wiser from a self preservation point of view to price items in line with those of other sellers rather than undercut them and risk suffering a damaging blow in the popularity stakes.

    That conundrum took us right back to our own early business planning days and we're the first to admit that when we started out our pricing was a bit haphazard. In our quest to keep prices low, our mark-up was based simply on what we had originally paid for our stock (sometimes years ago) or, in the case of consignment customers, a mutually agreed selling price. Hindsight is a great thing and, if we are being completely honest, we failed to properly analyse all the other costs associated with running our business as we were first and foremost in it for the love rather than the money. Although our overheads were low, and still are, they all need to be factored in to maintain a degree of solvency and keep us in wine!

    Our pricing is now a rather more sophisticated process based on a combination of factors, including the condition, era, size, style, label and current market desirability of our stock, rather than just a straight mark-up on what we  originally paid for it. We also factor in the other overheads like website running costs, rent and storage, sourcing costs, postage and packaging, marketing, administration and compliance with all the legal aspects of running an ecommerce business such as the distance selling regulations.

    Selling one of your own old frocks on ebay is a fairly simple exercise, but moving up a gear to buy and resell multiple frocks means you are no longer a private seller and automatically acquire legal liabilities, all of which need to be costed and met from your profits. Contrary to the head-in-the-sand belief of some sellers on ebay and elsewhere, that includes accepting returns of online purchases whether you like it or not!

    By way of exemplifying relative value, we sold a vintage 70s John Charles cocktail dress earlier this year for £28. It was a real head turner, in very good but not mint condition, and it lasted less than 24 hours on our website before winging its way off to a new home. Imagine our surprise when, shortly afterwards, we coincidentally came across the same dress in a different colour on sale for a staggering £249 while randomly browsing another vintage site (as you do in this business!)  We were frankly astonished because, gorgeous as the dress was, it was not (in our opinion) worth such a massive price tag by any stretch of the imagination. We know we're Scottish, but seriously...

    While there are undoubtedly big price discrepancies in the vintage fashion business, at the same time there are so many variables involved that 'fair' and consistent pricing is essentially a difficult balancing act. Bricks and mortar shops, market pitches and online stores all have different fixed overheads to factor into the equation just to break even, and then there are other important elements to cost, like that bottomless money pit also known as a marketing budget so that prospective customers can actually find your wares.

    These things are all expensive, as increasingly grumpy ebay sellers will testify, given that their ever-rising fees are inextricably  linked to the significant overheads incurred by the giant platform as it seeks to maintain its place as market leader. While greed is undoubtedly a prime motivating factor for some, from corporate giants like ebay and Google right down to the smallest bedroom-based entrepreneurs, it is just one element of a highly complicated mix.

    In order to survive, as well as eat, all business owners need to turn a profit (hardly rocket science!) but we frockers are committed to keeping affordability and sustainability at the heart of ours. In fact, such is the emotional investment in our micro business, we'd definitely be doing something else if we wanted to make serious money!

    Once the poor relation, vintage has finally succeeded in throwing off its musty old image (with a bit of help from Lily Allen et al) to become a celebrated subset of mainstream fashion. As such, it is inevitably attracting its share of sharks and opportunists who will always find a way to make a fast buck and excessive profits from whatever they see as being ripe for exploitation (think Portobello Road and developers). We can only hope that they will eventually move on to the next big thing, but we're not holding our breath.

    It never used to be so, but just like Notting Hill property, vintage prices seem to be spiralling ever upwards and there will always be people with more money than sense. In the meantime, we'll just carry on regardless, vaunting the vintage, rocking the retro and celebrating the second hand, all the while sticking to the same slow fashion principles on which the Frockery was first founded.

  • Faux is the way to go

    October 22, 2011

    It's time...

    As temperatures plummet outside, our cold weather wardrobe has officially been recalled for active duty.

    Faux fur is everywhere again this season and makes a no-brainer addition to any winter wardrobe, including Rosie Webster's on Coronation Street. Being especially fond of it ourselves, we have been adding a variety of faux fur coats and jackets to the catalogue, including the following lovelies.

    This vintage Roman Originals sumptuous cream faux fur coat is one of our current favourites.

    cream faux fur coat

    This classic dark brown vintage faux fur jacket will go with anything, from jeans to ball gown.

    vintage brown faux fur jacket

    This cream faux fur gilet with leatherette belt will add a stylish layer of luxury and warmth to the winter wardrobe.

    cream faux fur gilet

    This dark brown faux fur jacket with cute rounded Peter Pan style collar is due to be listed soon.

    This fabulous vintage silver grey faux fur coat is reminiscent of 80s Abba style.

    And last but not least, a cute cream faux fur hood with pompoms!

    cream faux fur hood with pom poms

    Why not treat yourself? You're so worth it!

  • A fair cop?

    October 21, 2011

    The issue of copyright, passing off and trade mark infringement is one with which we are quite familiar since we reported on the Shoeperwoman case back in April. Although Amber managed to get that particular dispute resolved,  it is a problem which is all too common, invariably causing anguish, stress and expense.

    Successful fashion bloggers appear to be at disproportionate risk of being ripped off , as Amber has documented in her 'Caughty doing a McNaughty' post where she outlines some of the times she has been imitated online. From the trafficking of teddy bears to finding her stolen body parts on ebay, Amber does seem to have suffered more than most, but it seems an never ending struggle to put an effective stop to it.

    We should stress that we have no issue with bloggers and website owners who credit our original content appropriately, but we have occasionally found our words and pictures being passed off as someone else's. So while plagiarism may not seem to be too much of a problem for us, maybe we just don't know about it! Which brings us to the point of this post...

    The other evening, a number of emails flew into our inbox in quick succession, alerting us to the fact that one of our images had been stolen and was being used on another website. It was definitely ours, having been taken by Johnny Frocker at a charity fashion  show last summer, and featured a one-off original vintage dress which we subsequently sold, but it was being used by a seller on a well known ecommerce platform to flog her own products.

    70s vintage crochet dress

    Tweeting the hosts of the seller's account produced (promptly, to be fair) a contact address to request that image be removed and involved our sending an email with details of the infringement. Apparently, the 'take down' could only be requested by the copyright owner, which is why our eagle-eyed informants were unable to report it directly, but they intimated that the person who stole our image is a serial offender when it comes to this sort of thing.

    Now we have no issue with the platform owners' speed in actioning our take down request, which happened within a matter of hours, but why on earth should someone who regularly abuses their terms and conditions be allowed to remain an account holder? Surely that's sending out entirely the wrong message? Get caught (oops, just unfortunate), fair cop, take it down, wait a while, repeat the offence.

    When it comes to content theft, it's undoubtedly a jungle out there, but thankfully there is help and advice only a few clicks away from those who know much better than us humble frockers. We found this no nonsense post by Gerald Weber, How to Put the Kibosh on Content Scrapers & Thieves, to be especially enlightening, and this 37 page forum thread on the subject of Getty Images copyright infringement is surely enough to send shivers down any potential plagiarist's spine!

    Of course, we'd still have been blissfully unaware of the activities of our own latest copycat had it not been for the community spirited actions of complete strangers, to whom we extend our grateful thanks for the timely tip-offs. You know who you are!