When did you first set up Instant Vintage and how did you come up with the name?
We started Instant Vintage in 2007. We moved from London to Bath and spent 6 months travelling around South-East Asia trying to decide what to do for work. We ended up buying lots of beautiful jewellery, accessories and a small range of custom made clothing to bring home with us. Then we spent a year selling at Spitalfields and Portobello Markets before eventually deciding to look for a shop in Bath. We opened Instant Vintage on George Street in 2008.
The name is a play on words, really. We wanted to convey that our collection has an eclectic timeless feel, often inspired by vintage or retro pieces but that they are new. The expression an ‘instant vintage’ also means an instant classic or instantly revered. It’s amazing how many people think we are actually vintage though so I think it confuses people at bit!
What background did you have for going into fashion?
Poppy: I have worked in fashion retail and wholesale my whole career, most recently running a showroom for Noa Noa in London. Fashion is in my blood though. My grandmother was a designer for a chain of department stores, my parent’s had an antique shop selling vintage clothing and later a business designing and making children’s clothing. I grew up surrounded by people designing, making and customising all sorts of wonderful things, we were never short of a fancy dress outfit!
Andy: My background is in quality assurance and production, my most recent role was working for Budweiser overseeing packaging and production across Europe. Now I organise all the manufacturing and import of our collection.
When did you add the men’s collection?
At the beginning of 2016. We had loads of guys asking for menswear, there are very few independent men’s shops in Bath. It’s going really well.
How do you manage running a busy shop and raising a family?
It’s a juggle! We have 3 boys aged 6, 4 and 2.5. They all came to work with us when they were tiny babies but now they are way too energetic and boisterous. We do a combination of nursery and working in the shop as well as from home, we both take turns to look after the children while the other works. It’s very important to us that the boys get to spend time with each parent and that they see both of us working.
What do you enjoy most about running a retail shop?
I love the diversity of the role, from the interaction with customers to the visual merchandising, there is always something to keep me motivated and I love being my own boss. My absolute favourite part is the process is planning a new collection and buying accessories and jewellery to compliment it. Everything seems so disparate and then it all comes together to make an exciting, cohesive collection in the store, I get a real kick out of that!
How do you market your business?
We try to keep our social media fresh with news and outfit suggestions, we have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the store. We also do a lot of direct marketing to our mailing list customers. We have special shopping evenings with drinks and a discount when new stock arrives and at Christmas. We have a really good loyal customer base who regularly attend our events.
What changes have you seen since you opened?
Bath has changed as a city a lot with much of the focus now being on the new Southgate development. I feel this has split the city with many of the larger retailers moving out of the Stall Street area, creating a bit of a void in the middle. There are still loads of lovely independents at the top end of the city but I don’t think tourists always realise that if they get off a train or a coach near Southgate.
I think people generally have less money to spend then when we first opened. Customers are much more discerning now, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I would prefer our customers to buy one thing that they will treasure and love wearing, rather than many things that they don’t really need.
What do you think is the biggest challenge an independent shop keeper faces today?
I think competing in a market where so many people are shopping online is difficult. We have tried selling online but our model doesn’t really work. People like to be able to see our collection as a whole with all the accessories and jewellery that compliment our range of clothing. They also appreciate the service and styling advice that we offer, it’s all about the shopping experience and making sure you offer something unique. It’s important to appeal to a broad audience without loosing brand identity.
What inspires you?
I’m also hugely inspired by colour and print and am constantly saving images online and in magazines for colour inspiration. I love searching through old magazines looking for retro and vintage shapes and embellishments that I can update and incorporate in pieces that are more wearable today. I love the creative side of putting a collection together right from the basic core items to the more statement pieces and accessorising for multiple looks. I love working with one key piece and styling it in many different ways to ensure it is diverse and offers the customer real value.