Creatively Isolate Vis-a-vis ‘99 Vintage

WINCHESTER, Hampshire; England’s capital city from 1519 saw the crowning of Egbert (first king of all England) and upheld this post until William the Conqueror’s arrival. It is a city with phenomenal levels of heritage, perhaps the perfect location to build a social hub, a community stretching nationwide — even touching spots of Europe. ‘99 Vintage is exactly that, a hub for all things used and abused, clothing or down-right collectable in Hampshire.

’99 is a solo internet-cum-physical store located within Winchester’s Brooks Centre, run by a closely-knitted family trio by the names of Jack, Bernie and Harry Edwards. Starting out on market platforms Depop, ASOS and Instagram the unit have gone from strength to strength; even supplying musicians and social media influencers spanning all paths of life. Let us dive into this; you may realise that we initially thought the store was run by two brothers solo, we were later introduced to Mother and buyer, Bernie.

TC: So, who are the Edwards brothers? What is ’99 Vintage?

HE: To start with ’99, it’s become a family-run business in a way; Bernie is a third of it now as well. I’d say us as a group, Jack’s 23 turning 24, I’m 21 and Mum is in her mid- (censored to maintain happiness) — we came together after years of it just being a Depop page, and now have a shopfront in Winchester. It’s our first shopfront and we’ve had it for about a year now, actually it’s coming up to a year very soon; we’ve had a pop-up store before that at the University of Winchester. We curate and source sought after vintage items as well as running a buy-sell-trade business, so most of our streetwear — Supreme, Palace, Guess — comes from buy-sell-trade, that concept and the rest of it comes from charity-shopping which is Bernie’s full-time job, as well as carboots, eBay, thrifts. Everything on and offline is what we’re trying to cover.

’99’s a symbol of today’s need for sustainability worldwide, we strive everyday to speak to customers about what they’re contributing to when buying an item from the store; in a sense saving the planet and saving the planet from fast-fashion. Even with our online store now, we never intended to do it but with the current circumstances we’ve had to switch online for a little but, so we’ve had to do recyclable packaging and delivering any Winchester orders ourselves as well.

I’d say as a family as well, me, Bernie and Jack, it was our drive towards sustainability as well. I think we’d spoken about it from the start, ’99 Vintage had been going for three of four years, we’re very driven towards the sustainable world of fashion anyway — especially after all we’d learnt about sustainability itself.

JE: Yeah, definitely big on the sustainability and stuff, but I mean simply if I were to answer who are the Edwards brothers and what is ’99 Vintage — two boys from Watford who have managed to get together with their Mum, who is Bernie by the way, I think she’d prefer to be known as Bernie, and altered their online presence into a store-front.

TC: You mentioned a lot there in terms of sustainability and opening your own store, but what would you say your BIGGEST achievement has been? This can be individually, or as a team; maybe best find, biggest sale, most exciting client or even the fact you have your own store. 

JE: That’s a really good question, because I think we’re going to have three very different answers. Personally, the biggest achievement for us as a store is being able to implement the buy-sell-trade element quite seamlessly; because it’s quite a bold thing to do, pop up in a very random location of Winchester and assume that there are going to be people around willing to sell their clothes to you. That’s essentially what we do, we’re as competitive as we possibly can be at giving good prices in comparison to Depop and stuff. So, being able to just rock up and be a bit of a clothes vacuum if you like; because this buy-sell-trade exists people are bringing to us for faster cash rather than selling on Depop. We just manage to flip it for a little more, whatever our general mark-up is. I’d say that’s probably the biggest achievement in terms of ’99 Vintage, for me.

Oh, and client-wise we’ve inadvertently sold a tee to A$AP Ferg, it’s a weird subtle flex, we sold it to a store in America where Ferg’s stylist walked into the store and bought it from them. It was a Hackers tee, that film with Angelina Jolie in; then we also sold a t-shirt to Matt Healy, the lead singer of The 1975‘s Manager, presumably for Matt himself. It hasn’t popped-up on his Instagram yet, but that was a pretty cool thing to do.

HE: Damn, I actually forgot about the A$AP Ferg thing, that was mental. It was thrifted in Winchester, sold to Metropolis NY and they let us know it went straight to Ferg through his stylist. I think my personal achievement in terms of Vintage, Jack hit it on the head with our buy-sell-trade concept but it would have been having probably the only two rare Tupac’s on sale in the UK, in a store. We thrifted them both at a carboot sale for £3 each, they were late 90’s bootleg and literally some of the best pieces I’ve seen in the UK. I think having those would be my favourite achievement, saying that I know I’m going to come up with something else in a minute that’s so much better; but that springs to mind.

I don’t know if you want to put this in, but we sold one for £400 the other month… which is mental. He ended up trading in loads of bits as well, it was crazy.

Also, we went from doing eBay and having ten items, to ASOS having 30 items, to a market-stall in Watford for two weeks having 50 or 60 items — two Saturdays basically — to me, Jack and Bernie thrifting for eight weeks and managing to kit out the shop with 400 items ready to open. Then from there, it’s fluctuated from 500-650 in the shop on a day-to-day; that big jump for us is a massive achievement. It’s really not easy, not an easy thing to do.

TC: A big one to think about. With your progress in mind, achievements that you’ve both mentioned; where are you hoping this next decade will take you? Are there goals or stepping stones in places – or will decisions be made as opportunities arise?

HE: Obviously, with the current situation it has pushed back a couple of plans we had. We’re hoping to do a full shop-fit on our current store in Winchester, to make it our own which we’ve been given the green light for; that’s the first stepping stone towards really showing off our brand inside an actual space, because the clothes are in there right now but that’s not our colour choice or anything like that. That’s pretty big for us! In the back of our minds is a second shop, but this is very parallel to the fact we need to gain a following on YouTube first — in our heads if we have the following on YouTube through our episodes then we will be able to open a shop anywhere, and it’ll be known.

In the back of our minds, South, we want to open another shop in the South — but we’re hoping to do that anyway. At the same time, decisions will be made as opportunities arise because it’s such a random industry right now for sustainability. We don’t know what’s going to happen next, and it’s like we have no idea what opportunities will arrive; we’ve spoken about doing something with Selfridges with a bunch of people, that just came out of nowhere you know what I mean? It’ll be interesting to see what arrives. We work really well off the bat, so it’s quite interesting.

JE: Wow, ten years man. Like Harry said, definitely shop two, shop three, shop however many over the next ten years would be crazy; alongside that we want to keep promoting sustainability, keep pushing that and maybe incorporate it into our branding, our own merch and stuff. So, we’re currently going through the motions of sourcing as sustainable products as you possibly can when it comes to printing your own merch — rather than producing anything using cotton as an example, we’re thrifting blanks. We’re thrifting t-shirts that have old labels that we can identify to be 20 years or older, but they’ve got no print on them no detailing at all, which leaves us space to incorporate some sustainable inks and chemical-free paints so that we can start screen-printing some of our own things. Maybe even shredding up old t-shirts that are too worn to be sold-on, but we could use the fabric by shredding everything back to its natural state then using those off-cuts to put into our new t-shirts. I’d say that’s probably one of the biggest things we want to be doing, as well as expanding from vintage and streetwear, into having a rail — definitely a rail or so — in our stores for our own stuff.

TC: Admittedly I probably gave you guys too wide of a time frame, but gosh – BIG ambitions. Selfridges space, reducing unwearable tees to their original form and merch; wasn’t expecting so much to be in the works!

Moving away from your store for the last two if that’s okay, focussing on locally-aspirated creatives instead. Would you say there’s a degree of struggle when pushing for local talents and projects to take off, or is it down to the idea/project in itself creating a psychological wall?

HE: I don’t think it’s the idea of a project itself that’s creating a psychological wall, I think it’s just getting yourselves out there. When it comes to it, we’re definitely not the first people to do buy-sell-trade — a big part of our inspiration came from spots such as antique businesses and loads of places in America. The best way that we grew since opening as a shop, was word of mouth — 100%. The idea itself was set in place, it was a good idea for us!

In terms of a psychological wall, there wasn’t one for us apart from the fact that we were estimating our wages and how that was going to work; that could definitely be something that a new project would struggle with. Though, there is a struggle for local talent to take off because the likelihood is that your idea has been used and excelled prior — like I said we’re not the first to do buy-sell-trade, there are so many businesses that are massive and use the concept. So, I think that you do need to start small obviously so you’re doing the right thing by starting locally, but everyone’s mind is on that big business that already does it and you’ll need to stand out, which we do because there aren’t many vintage stores that do buy-sell-trade in the UK anyway.

JE: I think with getting local projects and talent up and running, there’s always going to be a little difficulty. I don’t want to say we fluked it, but we had an opportunity to have our pop-up in the shopping centre that we’re currently in because Harry’s university lecturer set it up. We took that with both hands, and ran away with it so after the six days we were in that slot they offered us the full-time slot. So, I think when it comes to pushing for local talents and projects to take off, the struggle is the opportunity in the first place — you’ve got to find or jump at the correct one. There’s always a struggle there, before the pop-up our opportunities were ASOS Marketplace for example, which we got on and that didn’t go very well for us at all in fact. Depop was probably more lucrative for us than ASOS was anyway, so it depends which opportunity you take.

Psychologically, like Harry said there’s no point reinventing the wheel. Vintage shops exist, our idea exists everywhere, whether it be America or up-and-down this country competition is always good. I’d say that’s probably the main psychological wall, I guess it’s an element of having to believe in what you’re doing as well? Knowing that you’re going to put your own stamp on things, again we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel but matching our store with YouTube, our personalities and the fact it’s a family-run business is unique all of a sudden; then you have taken what is a simple idea and put a personal stamp on it. And well, hopefully the benefits outweigh the weaknesses.

TC: You both said a few times whilst responding to the question that you hadn’t ‘reinvented the wheel’ per se, and to an extent modelled your business on ideas you’d seen over socials and other platforms – because let’s face it everything has been done at some point!

So in light of this, and our final question:

 Scenario; you’re faced with a trio wanting to do a similar project to you, abroad. Not competition, based in a different country perhaps even continent. You can give ONE piece of advice, just one. What would it be?

JE: 100%, my one piece of advice would be to be aware of early expenses, keeping on top of the account from the get-go.

BE: Remember why you started and the importance of sustainability; with that in mind, work hard and thrift. Don’t wholesale or you become part of the problem.

HE: From that, I think just understanding you have to be customer-driven to have a business like ’99 or buy-sell-trade. You’ve got to thrift based on what the customers want, it’s not always what your eye is unfortunately. But yeah, be customer driven and be aware of customer support and service to stand out.

 

TC: Thank you, thank you, thank you again! Stoked you agreed to be part of this. PERFECT!

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