budget fashion

  • 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.

  • Frugality is back in fashion

    October 18, 2010

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    The UK budget deficit reached a staggering £155 billion in the last financial year. In other words, the government has spent £155 billion more than it has 'earned’ from taxation. That’s an awful lot of debt (plus interest) to pay back when there aren’t enough ‘customers’ paying into the treasury coffers to keep the country solvent.

    This week’s spending review will tell us just how bad it’s going to get for individuals and businesses, many of whom are already feeling the pinch in these troubled economic times. There has been much speculation about where and how heavily the axe will fall across each and every area of government spending and the review will undoubtedly contain some very bitter pills. The only thing for sure is that frugality is well and truly back in fashion for the majority of us, and probably for a long time to come.

    Almost without exception, we will have to learn to make do and mend as cuts in government spending will have far reaching implications, not just for public sector jobs but for the wider economy.  Serious belt tightening is called for,  and there are already signs of a ‘correction’ in shopping habits as former spendaholic impulse buyers are transformed by necessity into bargain seekers, and fashionistas adapt to the more realistic  'recessionista' mode .

    It is vital to get a grip on personal  finances in anticipation of the rainy days ahead, but it is entirely possible to shop on a shoestring and dress for less when needs must. Why not take a leaf out of the inspirational New Dress A Day blog, which follows frugal fashionista Marisa Lynch as she spends a whole year without going traditional clothes shopping?

    As she explained at the start of her project, which now has just 42 days to run:

    “The only shopping that I’ll be able to do is that of pieces that have been used and worn already.  So long to mall trips and hello to sifting through piles of vintage pieces at flea markets and at neighborhood garage sales. Each day for the entire year, I’m going to introduce a new piece into my existing wardrobe that I’ve found from these places.  On top of this, I’m giving myself a budget of $1 a day. One person’s trash is becoming my treasure this year.”

    Now that’s what we’d call extreme shoestring shopping, but Marisa has done a truly amazing job of creating and reinventing outfits from other people’s cast offs and probably deserves a Nobel prize for services to textiles recycling!

    If, however, making and altering your own clothes is beyond your skills set, and/or you simply haven’t the time to scour second hand stores and thrift shops for bargain buys, there is always the option of buying second hand or vintage from those of us who have done the sourcing for you. The financial savings from eschewing new in favour of preloved or vintage can be considerable, and so we feel obliged at this point to indulge in some shameless self promotion to remind readers of the benefits of online shopping at the Frockery, which is affordable, convenient and secure with a no quibble returns policy.

    What is there to lose, apart from that overdraft?

  • Austerity begins here

    June 22, 2010

    Well, we have returned from holiday in time for the so called austerity budget and are not looking forward to the inevitable belt tightening that lies ahead for all of us. One of the aims of The Frockery is to provide quality clothing and accessories at affordable prices and we are determined not to disappoint.

    We have experienced a few delays with our new website, but all the blips should be ironed out this week and we will of course provide forewarning of the changeover to our new look. Meanwhile, we are busy catching up on holiday orders and have a lot of super stock to add to our new catalogue so will be burning the midnight oil for the rest of the week. We are also looking forward to taking part in the vintage fashion fair and catwalk show in Kirkcaldy on 3rd July.

  • Finest frockery for the summer

    June 2, 2010

    We have just updated the catalogue with a selection of the finest frockery, from silk tops to leather jackets with a few hats thrown in! We want to make it easy to get your summer style sorted for a fraction of the original cost, whether you fancy boho festival chic, want to add some glamour to your holiday wardrobe or go all out for that fearless SATC look.

    But remember, we will be away for two weeks from Friday 4th and won’t be sending out goods until our return on 21st June, so please get any last orders to us before 12 noon on Friday.

    Our new website is meanwhile nearing completion and should be ready for action on our return. We are very excited about our new look and have incorporated some customers’ suggestions, so we hope you will like it!

  • New stock!

    April 18, 2010

    Another catalogue update has just been completed and we are especially loving this grey longer length cardigan with colourful motifs and this fabulous cream ostrich leather handbag which will complement any outft. As promised, we have listed a selection of lovely Laura Ashley dresses, some of which have already been snapped up.

    Thank you to all the lovely customers who have taken the time to send us feedback on our services and suggestions for our website which is currently being redeveloped to include a host of new features. We are trying to include as many ideas as possible to improve the Frockery shopping experience and should be ready to unveil the new look website by the end of May. We have to say we are more than a little excited at the prospect!

  • Love is in the air

    February 5, 2010

    We are already into the shortest month of the year and Valentine's Day is fast approaching. Love may be in the air, but if these post festive bills are threatening to dampen your romantic spirit, you need look no further than The Frockery for some inexpensive but tasteful tokens of affection for your loved one. Or why not just treat yourself?

    We are especially loving this fun heart print party frock from Top Shop, this Lolita Lempicka lace trimmed silk slip and this raspberry silk camisole from Coast, all of which will win hearts without breaking the bank.

    There there is still plenty of time to order before Valentine's Day as we usually dispatch the same or next day by first class recorded delivery.