First off, I just wanted to say, this is my very first attempt at doing anything like this, so you will have to bare with me whilst I get to grips with it all. You may have to deal with me rambling on a little but in certain areas and the occasional spelling mistake, but I promise I will get better at this as I go along. Think of this particular piece as a wikipedia page bio to begin with!
Okay, now that I have conveniently lowered everyones expectations, let’s begin.
My name is Chay, and I own an independent clothes shop, along with my girlfriend Amy, in the south west of England, named The Cove. We opened the business back in October 2014, and have been here ever since. What I would like to do, is give you a little insight into how everything came about, what my passions are as a small business owner, and to also share with you my daily, weekly and monthly goings on in the fun world of vintage and independent clothing!
I suppose a good place to start in my first entry, would be how this all came to fruition. To be honest, I don’t claim to be a fashion expert, far from it even. I don’t even claim to be some sort of business expert. What I do have though, is passion and the belief that if you want something bad enough and you work hard to do it, you can achieve anything. That mindset too, didn’t come naturally. I shall explain that as briefly as I can.
My background hasn’t always been fashion and clothing. I have pretty much dabbled in a bit of everything when it comes to work. From an early age, I went straight into part time retail work, where I would work in a local fruit and veg depot, helping with processing deliveries with my dad, who was a delivery driver at the time. I juggled that with working weekends at a local bakery my mum worked at, washing dishes for a couple of quid an hour and some free food at the end of the day. I then went on to working in pretty much every national supermarket firm you could think of. A major reason for me coasting from job to job, was the fact that I wasn’t very academical. I think part of that reason, was my attention span at the time. It’s not because I couldn’t do the work, it was that I could never fully invest my time and mind into it. Always getting sidetracked into messing around with my friends, things like that. Maybe it was because I couldn’t relate so much to the courses i tried, I’m not so sure. Either way, the uni route wasn’t the path I was on. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who had so many creative and fresh ideas, but never enough confidence or mental strength to pursue them. I often rethink to years ago, when I would be stocking shelves at my local Tesco, that it wold be great to have control over your own business. Where you’re your own boss, where you don’t answer to anyone (authority figures are a pet hate of mine) and that you could set your own path, but just feeling like there was nothing i could really do about it. I know for a fact that I’m not alone in having this feeling. I have come across so many like minded people in my time, where we have had similar stories. It can be so hard to know where to even start in such a massive direction.
So for years, I plodded along, waiting until the end of each month to get that pay check, spend it on things and stuff I didn’t need, and repeat the process month after month, year after year. It wasn’t until 2009, that things started to change a little in my outlook on things. I was 25 years old. I needed to go and see the world. Personal circumstances and the feeling of monotony factored in too. So I booked a ticket to the USA. 3 months away, no plan, just try and see and do as much as I could. Maybe this was the way forward. I landed in New York with a couple of friends in April 2010, and from there, we travelled around the country, going from state to state, hostel to hostel, and meeting so many diverse people along the way. At this point, my interest in clothing had started to flourish. I always remember heading down to lower Manhattan and stumbling across a whole street, full of vintage clothing shops. One shop in particular, the name of it I forget, had a 1980s KISS pinball machine in the far corner of the shop. I thought that was so badass! I then headed over to California, where there were a whole host of places to visit. Los Angeles and San Francisco were the two hotspots for such places, as you can imagine. Anyway, it gave me a fresh impetus to get into any sort of clothing job. Anything! It was with that, that when I came home a few months later, I applied for a job in the local Topman/Topshop store. I didn’t hear anything back initially, so I just kept hoping that maybe one day I would get phone call saying a position was available. That phone call didn’t come for another two years or so. I was working at a local restaurant at the time, as a waiter. the social aspects of that job were great at the time, but the feeling that if I could just get my foot in the door with a clothes store, that would be all I need. So I was fortunate enough to get a place at Topman, processing deliveries a couple of days a week. Pretty much doing the stuff no one else wanted to do. I knew though, that if everyone got to know me, and see the passion I had built up over the last few years, that I could work my way in and have a input into the place.
Around this time, me and Amy had booked a holiday over to Barcelona. What we found over there, had a significant impact on both of our mindsets about the next few years, moving forward. The back streets of the city centre were full of quirky vintage clothes stores, with so much character in each one. We both knew then, that this is what we wanted to do. Now I was totally happy working at Topman. At this point, I had earned my way to a full time position, working side by side with my friend Sam. It was the funnest part of my working career at the time, as we both had such a similar outlook on fashion, but still had our own dress sense from one and other. But something inside me had changed. I think the desire had grown really strong to look into setting up my own business. Seeing as where we live, there is nothing like what we had in my mind, the gap in the market was there. The major stumbling block, was absolutely no experience in starting a business, no real money to speak of and no contacts. Those three reasons alone, would probably be enough to put off anyone. But i knew deep down, that if we didn’t even at least explore the idea, then it would be a regret to live with. So we did explore it, and we met people, we visited empty shops that potentially could be viable, we did our research into suppliers. We did all of this, because the desire to have own own thing was growing bigger by the day. We were very fortunate to get great deal on a shop unit, where it had enough space to build something we we looking for. On top of that, we sourced out a vintage clothing supplier, who had some awesome rates on exactly the sort of styles we were looking to stock. All of this wasn’t built on us having thousands of pounds of spare cash, but an idea of what and where we wanted to go with our creative direction. So, with the small amount of money we did have available, we went about stripping down the shop space to a blank canvas, and designed something that not only represented our personalties, but also did it using friends, very little tools and imagination.
The shop in its early stages of decorating
One of the vintage suppliers we visited at the start
Our first order of clothing, which we sorted at our home
If you have read this far, first of all thanks! I’m sorry if it feels like i’m breezing through details on specific things, but i’m just trying to give you a small idea of how it all came to be. I think if I were to give full details into it all, it would be a whole day worth of reading. As I do more of these and get better, I will revisit certain parts of what I have talked about here, to give you a more detailed explanation on them.
What I will be trying to do with these blogs, are to involve you all into what we are trying to build as not only a business and brand, but as a way of life. One thing that I have tried to do since the beginning, is to create something that is not just ours, but everyones. I will tell more in the next blog!