All Vintaged Up & Alexandra Vintage talk business with BOB front lady and vintage fashion ambassador Dawn O’Porter
In October last year Dawn O’Porter launched her online vintage business BOB (named after her signature bob hairstyle), selling a mixture of one-off pieces of vintage clothing and her own vintage inspired BOB collection. In May this year Dawn opened her first BOB pop up shop in London, allowing people to see the collections for themselves. Having been featured on Dawn’s hit Channel 4 show This Old Thing last summer, we caught up with Dawn at her pop-up shop on Monmouth Street last month to ask her about running her own vintage business.
AVU & AV: Thanks for taking time out to chat to us today. So, our first question, how do you see the vintage fashion industry in the UK growing? Do you think genuine vintage businesses or vintage repro businesses are going to do better in the future?
DOP: I think repro is what the high street has been doing for years. It’s all inspired by what’s happened before, but now companies like BOB are doing a better quality of it, which I think will always be really successful because a lot of people out there just love new clothes. But I think the nostalgia is starting to take off and people are starting to get excited about the idea of having an original and having something totally unique. So I think all the old styles are coming back with repro, but I think the love for the originals is going to get bigger and bigger. I also think the fear of it (original vintage) is going; the fear that someone died in it or it smells of cat wee is fading because more people are wearing it. Also the vintage shops are better than ever before because there is a market for it now, so because of that there is more choice.
AVU & AV: So you think they (vintage fashion businesses) have upped their game?
DOP: Yes and because of that it’s got more competitive. There are so many vintage shops now, especially in London and online, that you really have to source great stuff and it’s making us all work a lot harder, which is a really good thing for the industry.
AVU & AV: So you don’t feel like the industry is becoming saturated or there is going to be a decline anytime soon?
DOP: It will never become saturated because all the pieces are one-off so it doesn’t matter how many shops there are or how many people are doing it. It is the job of the buyers like me to make sure that people trust my eye in finding good quality pieces, but we are all having to source more and look harder. Competition is really difficult in vintage – there is a lot out there – but it doesn’t really matter because you never see the same piece twice. As a buyer it’s luck of the draw as to what you find and that all important edit that you crucially do before selling. If you do that then people will know to come back to a place that stocks great vintage.
AVU & AV: Owning your own vintage business, what would you say are the best bits that you find really rewarding?
DOP: So last night (at the BOB launch party) a lady came in. She has bought a few things from me now but said she didn’t really know what her style was… She has recently just realised that she rocks 80s! So the great thing about vintage, where people haven’t done it before, is that they wear something they wouldn’t normally – it can change the way people dress completely. So when that happens that’s the moment; when they say “oh I think I’ve just worked out how to dress!”.
AVU & AV: and that really inspires you?
DOP: Yes it’s a great feeling.
AVU & AV: And what are the worst bits? The things that really get to you!
DOP: It does get frustrating when people can’t get over the fact that other people have worn the clothes first and they don’t believe that dry cleaning works. They don’t see the charm of that in vintage (someone else owning the clothes first) and that just gets a bit boring, and repetitive – it’s like, get over it!
AVU & AV: The many “my granny had one of those” comments!
DOP: or you look like my grans curtains, which I take as a massive compliment!
AVU & AV: We know you are a big fan of the 80s but do you think the 90s should be classed as vintage?
DOP: I just don’t like it. Mainly because I wore it when I was a teenager. I see people wearing it now and I think it looks really cool but I can’t do it because it’s what I looked like when I was younger.
AVU & AV: it’s too fresh for us?
DOP: yeah it’s too fresh. There are parts of it I like, but it’s just not for me. With BOB I draw the line at late 80s.
AVU & AV: What would be the single most important piece of advice you would give someone else running a vintage business?
DOP: As far as buying is concerned be bold and try to offer clothes that people won’t find anywhere else, but be realistic too about what people will wear. Sometimes I go into vintage shops and I can see where they are going wrong; there are just a lot of unwearable clothes. Stay away from fancy dress and actually think to yourself “could a woman comfortably wear this walking down the street”, look and feel awesome in it, or does she look like she is on her way to a Halloween party!
AVU & AV: and being able to integrate vintage with the high street?
DOP: yes exactly. The ability of integrating vintage within their normal wardrobe. I think that’s the most important thing because I think it’s very easy to see really bonkers stuff that no one will want and then it’s just a waste of your time and money
AVU & AV: yes definitely, it’s good to maybe have a couple of show stopping items to attract people in though?
DOP: Oh yes. I buy stuff specifically with editorial in mind sometimes. That is a part of my business I really want to grow, where stylists come to me for shoots in magazines where something is just really dramatic, but I’m not going to sell it in the shop so I cant spend lots of money on that stuff. I have a selection of stuff that I know what that’s for and the stylists will call up and say “have you got anything?” and I will say “yeah I’ve got this, it’s ridiculous!” When you are buying with the intention of selling just be honest about what people are likely to wear.
AVU & AV: And the last question which is specific to BOB, we know that lots of people are wearing BOB and lots of celebrities are posting photos of themselves, but is there one person that you haven’t converted yet that you’d love to see wearing one of your pieces from BOB? the money shot?!
DOP: Oooo who would that be? I would have to say Tilda Swinton because she’s massive on vintage and she treats fashion like art so she’ll wear something and always looks amazing. I’ve got a Courreges skirt that I’d love her to wear. She’s so involved with what she wears and so styled, but clearly all by herself and if she were to choose something from BOB I would find that probably the biggest compliment ever, she’s just awesome.
Thank you Dawn.
Check out the beautiful vintage and amazing vintage inspired BOB collection on the BOB by Dawn O’Porter website.