Louise Sleigh of Catwalk Creative Vintage Speaks to Business Boom!
This afternoon’s showcase feature’s a fantastic online business that is very much in the interest for all you vintage fashion fanatics! Catwalk Creative Vintage, founded and ran by Louise Sleigh, is a central hub of fantastic vintage products sourced from all over the UK. Louise has a clear passion and motivation for her work and adding to that her skills and eagerness for social networking, she is certainly one to follow! Here’s more from Louise herself on her business and love of all things vintage:
“Catwalk Creative Vintage is an exclusively online boutique selling predominantly ladies vintage and designer clothing, vintage accessories, costume jewellery and a small selection of homewares. I set up business in 2004 after I was made redundant. The insurance industry is a far cry from what I do now! However, it provided me with lots of useful skills such as how to offer great customer service and the importance of good product knowledge. So, after leaving my 9-5 job for good, I turned my situation around by setting up the type of business that I could easily run from home. By this time I had a small daughter to consider, so it was important that I was around for her too.
I’ve always loved vintage clothes which goes back to my days spent at the iconic Affleck’s Palace, Manchester. Throughout the mid to late 1980s, I spent many hours there. I hated the ‘big hair’ and ‘power dressing’ look that was so prevalent during that decade. So instead, I opted for the flat-top, rockabilly style! My mother cried, but I loved it! My first vintage purchase from Affleck’s was a dark brown suede jacket which I’m wearing in the photograph here. I thought I looked so cool! It’s ironic that today, teenage vintage fashionistas, are looking back towards the 1980s with a fondness that I never had! It’s a strange old world!
So, back to my business venture. It struck me that with my love of all things vintage, I should invest my small redundancy package into buying a car and some vintage stock. I first of all began selling on eBay to gain selling experience and then later, opened a shop on Etsy. There are pros and cons to both selling sites although I still sell some pieces at both venues. By 2006 I decided to set up my own website and the rest is history! At the time, I didn’t have a clue about designing a website but if the enthusiasm and positivity are there, it’s amazing what you can achieve. I designed and maintain the website, take all the photographs and include a full, detailed description about every item that I offer for sale, including condition notes.
I must add that anyone who thinks selling vintage is a ‘piece of cake’, should think again. If you want to do it properly, you need to do a lot of research beforehand. I spent a considerable amount of time in my local library until I’d built up my own collection of fashion history books. It also takes time to source quality stock. I made a lot of buying mistakes at first but it’s the only way to learn. It can also take time to build up contacts and establish yourself. However, now my website has been live since 2006, I find that people contact me with a view to selling their ‘old clothes’. I’m still constantly trying to improve my business but I feel much more confident in my buying choices.
I’m also very keen to make sure that prospective customers know exactly what they’re buying. I don’t agree with the current penchant for hacking-off hemlines. Not everyone wants to wear mini-length clothes and to be fair, there’s enough original 1960s mini dresses to go around for everyone. I hate to see an original piece from the 1940s or 1950s hacked-off at the hemline, unless it’s been seriously damaged in some way. It just completely ruins the lines of the original design and fabric pattern. I would urge anyone interested in genuine vintage clothing to take a look at my advice page on the website, and learn some key tips, thus avoiding nasty buying mistakes.
All high-end designer pieces offered on my site are professionally dry cleaned (I use Village Dry Cleaners in Chorlton – they are excellent!) If I can hand or machine wash, I do that myself, press the clothes and I also take care of any repairs necessary. It’s not just about selling, it’s about getting a piece ready for re-sale. I take pride in what I do.
And finally, I’m very proud to be part of the vintage community and feel very strongly that we should stick together and offer support to each other. Setting up a small business, especially in the current economic climate isn’t easy, but if you’re willing to put in the hours and do your research, it can be very rewarding. I became a member of the Vintage Fashion Guild (VFG) a few years ago as a professional vintage retailer. The VFG is an international organisation with members all over the world. VFG sellers are held to a Code of Practice which ensures members are committed to providing accurate and complete information about our goods, and also good business ethics. I’ve made many wonderful friends and colleagues from the UK, America and Australia. They offer lots of support and guidance and the VFG reference library is something to behold. You can sign up for their newsletter and visit the public forums too. Please visit their website without further ado!
And last but definitely not least is my twin sister, Alison (Alice), of Kitty Wink Vintage. She recently set up a networking group aimed at attracting all kinds of vintage based businesses in the North West of England. I hope you’ll stop by the website and take a look. If you’re a vintage vendor, stylist or vintage photographer, please join us on Facebook or contact Alice via the website. We live in an age of social networking so it’s incredibly easy to promote each other on Twitter and Facebook. And if I find a blog that I love, such as the marvellous Business Boom Bolton!!, I love to re-tweet the post and put it on my Facebook page for others to read. Let’s spread the love a little!
If you have a small business, I definitely recommend getting a blog. It’s a great platform to advertise what you do and promote others in your field. I get lots of website traffic via my blog, Catwalk Threads, so please stop by. You’re very welcome!
Thank you Business Boom Bolton for giving me the opportunity to talk ‘vintage’.
Catwalk Creative Vintage: http://catwalkcreativevintage.co.uk
Find me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/catwalkcreativevintage
Follow me on Twitter: @catwalkcreative
My blog, Catwalk Threads: http://catwalkthreads.wordpress.com
Alice of Kitty Wink Vintage: http://www.kittywinkvintage.co.uk/