2016-09-13

Shine On



Dress? Lisa Baday, thrifted Shoes? Kenneth Cole Clutch? Vintage

It's been a while since I've blogged but things are pretty steady around here. I still love my studio and I still love sequins. Nothing new under the sun.
I spotted this dress at the thrifts this spring and thought to myself 'now that is some next level sequin'.  It's so unusual and the sparkle is so intense that I knew it had to be a good find. And it was a sweet find! Made in Canada and from Lida Baday... Thanks to thrifting, my closet is way more baller status than I actually am.

I wore this dress out with friends and when we were doing the typical 'what are you wearing tonight?' texting, I described this dress as a very shiny, structured, sexy garbage bag.
My friend summed it up more accurately though, and sent me a picture of a wet seal.


Spot on. And if possible, it makes me love the dress even more...

2016-06-07

Eat Pray Love Dress Shop Blog


Everyone who has seen some sneak peeks of these photos done by Claire,  has commented that I look so happy. Part of it is that Claire and I are thick as thieves and she has a really natural way of capturing the moment (also, if you told me two years ago Claire would be taking pics in my studio (click to see more pics!), I would have said she is too cool for me... but here we are making margarita dates) and the other part is that I am, indeed, happy.


And that sounds wonderful but, it's not. It turns out I am an obnoxious happy blogger.
You see, for years now, I deal with anything in my life by writing about it. It does not even usually make it to the page and only about 4% really gets published on the blog or goes into an overly wordy Instagram caption but I have always handled things by 'writing' about the episode in my head. It gives me a chance to step outside of the situation, think over what happened slowly and helps me deal in a rational way. I suppose it is like therapy in a way. But cheaper, so I can use the money for more boxwoods for my garden.


But lately every time I start to 'write', it turns into some sappy Eat Pray Love blog post and future Yen is already rolling her eyes at past Yen. When I am happy, does my sarcasm leave the room?
And maybe happy is the wrong word. My happiness is not an everyday high, I still have to pay my taxes (never mind paying them, it's doing them that is currently killing me), I still have to hustle my butt off to be even slightly competitive in the vintage market and obviously, I can't just make everything with my dad ok but I have a general spirit of contentment. It might be from getting older, because in addition to those chin hairs, getting older has just brought some more quiet in my soul. I'm not so combative and argumentative. Maybe because arguing is great but just walking the walk is better. Be the change, you know?
See? This is dumb. In one blog post I wrote about 'a quiet in my soul' and about being the change. At this rate, I might as well quit selling very beautiful and interesting and wearable and unique vintage online and start on my self help book.
But really, it feels good to be settled and content. It won't always be like this, life is full of ups and downs (what an insightful sentence, eh...?) but I just want to enjoy what I have right now. And included in what I have right now is my sweet happy little studio and this rhinestone blazer that I thrifted for way too much money but it was for charity and it has the nicest drape, so it was worth it...


p.s. I wrote this blog post a few weeks ago, I let it marinate (I always do this with blog posts now...) and then I deleted it by accident (who does that...) and since I've had a few grumpier weeks so don't worry, Eat Pray Love Yen was temporary.

2016-04-04

Chapter Three.



Dress? 1980's does 1930's, thrifted Shoes? Vince Camuto 1960's floral corsage? Vintage

I'm not back.
It's just that the other day my ankles were shaved, the sun was shining and I felt like my outfit was on point, so I suggested to Matt that maybe, for old times sake, we find a wall and take some outfit pictures.
He clapped his hands with glee because lately what he has been missing most in life is taking outfit pictures for me.
Or... in his typical laid-back way, he agreed, snapped my pictures in 3 minutes and we continued on our way. I cannot believe I used to post about 2-3 times a week and that Matt was such a good sport for yearssss about taking my pictures...

In my last post on the blog I wrote about shutting down the shop on Ottawa St... The month following that, I liquidated as much as I could (the shop was busy from the day the closure was announced until I shut the doors; there is irony there... turns out the key to success is failure), packed up the shop and said good bye. We went away down South with friends where we got a tan, burned our lungs at a foam party and survived getting stuck on a reef... The reef incident is a long story that will certainly get exaggerated every time we tell it, so in a decade this will be the tale of how we survived a week at sea with only rum to sustain us. When we got back from vacation the only thing we had left to do before we handed back the keys to the old store was to take down the sign on the front of the building. That night, as Matt passed the sign down to me off the ladder, I thought to myself that it felt like this should be 'a moment'... but it wasn't. It was just what needed to be done. I wasn't sad or bitter, I was just fine.

And here we are early April... Can I just say that it feels good to feel good? Moving primarily in an online direction (Etsy link here... shameless but necessary promotion) was 100% the right move for me. I love my new work space at the studio. It's so pretty that I kinda pinch myself that I get to work there... Once I get a new window for the space (this week! finally...) I will have natural light and I can work so much more efficiently at listing fabulous vintage. I'll also throw a party once that window gets here. Since I opened three locations in 2.5 years, I feel like I cannot throw another opening party, so we'll call it a window party; we'll hang up lights everywhere and pop that champagne. I'm open to the public on Tuesdays and by appointment and online 24/7 thanks to the wonders of the world wide web. Retail is never going to be easy, that is a lesson I have learned over the years over and over again. And there are always bins of vintage that need to be cleaned, bins of vintage that need to be mended and bins on bins on bins of vintage that need to be photographed but I feel like The Edit has a stronger and more united aesthetic now. I love helping old pieces find new potential and making vintage something that is about quality and fabulousness, it does not have to be something intimidating.

You know how a few years ago it was a thing in the blog world to write a letter of advice to your 17 year old self? There's not much I would tell younger Yen to change because it's all part of the journey I guess. I would tell myself that my hair and make up skills get better but that's just as future encouragement. I should maybe also tell myself to curb my sharp tongue a little because sometimes jokes cut a little deeper than they need to when sarcasm is your first language. I would remind myself to trust in God's plan a little more. That things don't always work out exactly as you thought and things get hard but there is beauty in lessons learned and new paths.
And that guy you start dating when you are 17 (eek! so young!), who you thought was maybe a bad boy, making baller status $14/hour and driving that amazing Tercel? He's not even close to a bad boy. He's totally low-key and solid and funny and will take outfit pictures for you for years and help you set up three shops and encourage you every day... He was a good decision.

I would also let myself know about chin hairs and how I have to pluck them every morning these days. Not that there is much 17 year old Yen could have done about that in advance, I just would have appreciated a heads up on that aspect of aging... Youthful, starry-eyed 20 year olds, consider yourself warned;)

2015-12-26

Moving Over, Moving Up and Moving On?


                                 

And there it is...
I'm closing the shop on Ottawa Street and moving to a studio space to focus my vintage business in a more online direction.
Matt, the perpeptually positive, says that I am just redirecting my business to follow consumer demand and lowering my overhead. He is not wrong, for a while now I have noticed that a high percentage of my sales are either online or are directly originated from online; where people come into the shop not to browse but to purchase 'that thing' they saw on the shop's Etsy or Instagram.
And I'm half business savvy enough to know that this is 100% the way I am supposed to spin it. I just need to say that The Edit is just taking the next step in being able to efficiently provide quality vintage to its loyal clientele by opening a studio space. And that is the truth and I am super excited about how cool my studio space is but it does kinda feel like I am leaving out part of the story...
I didn't excitedly sign a new lease on a bigger space last January and rope my friends into painting every single fixture in the shop with layers and layers of primer and white paint in order for me to leave it all behind one short year later. And as much as I know, for my sanity and for the bottom line, that moving into a studio is the right choice for me, closing down the shop is still something that makes me really sad.
Some might even say that having a bricks and mortar shop turned out to be a failure. 
I said it. The 'f' word. I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to say that word and I'm going to get lots of texts from my friends (and my mom,thanks boo) telling me I am not a failure. And it's not totally a failure per se, I think The Edit vintage has a bright future but the street front location part of the equation did not really work out quite as planned...

So what happened?
I'm sure I don't need to write a post breaking it all down but I honestly think these are things in small business that we don't talk about. Small business owners start with a dream and stars in their eyes and probably a couple Pinterest quotes about how if you follow your passion, you will never work a day in your life. And there is nothing wrong with some stars and some Pinterest quotes but it's also nice when the grind happens to know you are not the only one feeling the pain or that sometimes all the passion and heart and good intention is not enough. We don't share enough about the journey (well, maybe that is because as a small business owner you maybe don't have the time or energy to share...) so when something happens, a small business just disappears and we all kinda draw our own educated or uneducated conclusions.

I think we can sum up exactly my experience with running a bricks and mortar by saying it is really hard...
Retail is hard. I've said it before and I will say it again. Retail is so hard. Despite that, having your own retail space is probably one of the top 'dreams' that people romanticize about. Setting up a shop and putting it all together is so so fun. And standing behind your counter for the first time and making a sale to a stranger who loves your stuff is this incredible high... But the day to day is tough. The needle that flicks from making a sale to not making the sale is set so delicately... A cold day, a hot day, a too nice day, a lazy day, a bloated day, a cranky infant day; there are so many factors involved in getting store traffic and making a sale. And retail is not just hard for me. It's a struggle for everyone. So if you have a favourite shop in the city that you have not been to in a while, go and visit and make a little purchase and give them a hug (if they are into it). I suspect it's been a generally tough year for retail across the board.
Shopping at small independent shops is not always the easiest. The hours are not like Walmart and it takes a little bit more effort but it is the small stores that give a city or community their shape. I know the city of Hamilton is on a bit of a high right now; after years of being 'the armpit of Ontario', we're apparently cool... And that's cool. But let's be real, it's still a struggle. If you love this city, don't just pay lip service to it. If you want your neighbourhood to be interesting and walkable and varied, remember the little and the medium guys. Your dollars have the power to shape your city.

Also, as it turns out, selling vintage is really hard. Besides the amount of work it takes to source abd clean it, it's also a lot of work to sell each individual piece. The best thing about vintage is that it is so unique but the worse thing is also that it is so unique. I know it sometimes looks like things sell out so quick at the shop because the shop generally gets a really good response on Instagram (and I am so grateful for that online support, thank you, thank you...) but the problem is that I can only sell one of each item. Even if 5 people are dying to own that one piece, I can only sell it once and then I have to get to work and hustle to sell my next item. Every single item in the store is unique and has to speak for itself in order to sell. So if I sell the three things I posted on Instagram that day, it's great, but they are still likely only a drop in the bucket of the amount of overhead it takes to run a bricks and mortar. 
I also think The Edit departs a little from what a traditional vintage shop is and that may have hurt me because I almost needed to explain the concept to the consumer... The way I see vintage is that it can be worn in a very modern way; mixed and matched with what you already have in your closet. To me vintage is just better quality and more unique than what you can get at the mall and I just love getting someone into their first vintage piece and opening their eyes to the fact that vintage does not have to be costumey or scary... It translates well online because that's how I have always dressed for the blog and because people can see the outfits put together. But people who don't follow me online and see a  vintage shop, they imagine it being more costumey. So no, I don't have a wacky 60's polyester suit for you to wear to Aunt Betty's costume birthday party but I do have a 60's blouse you could wear with jeans. If I could turn back time (sorry, if I get that song in your head now...), I would not go back and start by being more 'vintagey'; it's all part of the process and it's just a lesson I learned over the last two years...

Finally, having a store front on Ottawa street is really hard. And to be the honest, this is the one that really did me in and that frustrates me the most. I cannot continue to keep a clean, well-stocked, pretty physical store and then also keep a well-stocked and pretty online store simultaneously. I would bring in new stuff to the shop daily and list as much as I could online and I'm just tired. I can't just keep killing myself over both and with the in store traffic slowing and online picking up as long as I had the time to put effort into it, the decision had to be made.  
That's mystery of my life right now; what happened to the foot traffic on Ottawa St? I would never, ever have taken on a bigger shop and an overhead that was 2 and a half times the original overhead if I didn't have the numbers in the old shop to sustain the new shop. And then yes, hopefully having a bigger space would bring more revenue because I was able to offer a wider selection of merchandise. The spring was good and summer started fine and then the traffic just kinda died. I don't know what happened. And it is so frustrating because I love this scrappy street and to see it slide backwards in the time that I have been here breaks my heart. In the last month a few other businesses in the block have shut their doors or moved. I feel so sad for these sweet individuals who put it all on the line and are now packing up shops with lumps in their throats. 
I honestly do not know what happened on Ottawa Street to cause it to slow down so much. I mean, we've been the next 'up and coming' street for years now and I know growth is slow and there will growing pains but I did not expect this slump. And we do have our stars on the street that can pull enough traffic on their own but there are a lot of shops that have suffered a lot from this slow down. 
I'm leary to talk about this but most people know there was some drama with our business association this summer on Ottawa Street. I generally stayed out of it because I want to Switzerland it all the way and stay neutral but I will say this... When I started The Edit in November 2013, I felt like the paid staff at the business association really cared and did the best they could to help. The BIA has since had some changes in staffing and has not felt the same since. I am not saying it is the BIA's fault that the street is slow. However, I think the street (and the city, as I am assuming city tax money also pays into the salaries...) deserves a BIA that knows how to properly manage and work social media to the benefit of street, an updated website and someone on the BIA who actually walks the street and visits the businesses. I hate writing this last paragraph because the last thing this street needs is more negativity but I really hope this street gets more involvement out of the BIA. And out of us. I'm sad to be gone but you can bet I'll be back often, especially for Dora's spicy gumbo. You should go too;)

And so that's that.
This last month was not so fun. It's hard to sit in a shop and look around and think 'you are so cute, and I'm trying so hard but it's just not enough and I know what I have to do.' I took my time making the decision, then made up my mind, lost some sleep and definitely went through the emotions of sadness, anger, frustration and bitterness. Thankfully, those feelings do ease up (which is good because bitter Yen is not that awesome) and I know that this is the right decision. Signing a new lease on a cool space helped too because it gave me a real plan and direction.
I am definitely moving inventory to the new space but I do hope to liquidate quite a bit so I can start fairly fresh. Online everything is 30% off until the end of the year, at which point I will shutter the Etsy shop for 6 weeks and come roaring;) What I'll be selling when I re-open will be an even tighter edit of The Edit; clothes I love and housewares that'll impress your guests. The last day the shop on Ottawa will be open is Jan. 15th and I hope to be ready in the new space mid to end February... I'll give more details on Instagram of the new space when I can but it's an old factory in a pretty convenient location with brick walls, concrete floors, natural light and free parking ten steps from the front door;) So I'll be much more active on Etsy but I'll keep some kind of studio hours so all my favourite local people can pop in before or after work to pick up or try on 'that thing' they saw online.
And to all the people who have supported the shop these last two years, thank you. I hope you will follow me as I move and continue to let me be a part of your closet and home. Also a giant teary thanks to Matt, who always has my back and who has known that this was the right move for a while, but wisely let me come to the conclusion myself... 

This year has been a doozy. For reasons shared and unshared (sorry, everyone hates a vague blogger...) 2015 feels mostly like a hazy mess. However, it's a true blessing to say that even when so many things are upside down, the important things in my life are perfectly in place. 



*I miss writing! Not enough to get back to blogging yet but it's totally how I process things. Considering my last two posts have not been the most happy posts, I feel like I owe the blog at least another happy post;) I'll do that in the new year...;)