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Interview: Is Alexandra Vintage the way forward?



Deep in the heart of central Reading, there lies a building. To many, it means nothing and is just an empty studio but to a select few that building acts as the pride and joy of all things vintage. Fabulous, hand made garments await you at reasonably affordable prices. You ring the buzzer, the door is opened, up the stairs you go and another world completely immerses you. This is Alexandra Vintage. Dresses, coats, hats, accessories, jumpers are on offer to thoroughly browse through and with such a spacious studio, you are almost spoilt for choice. Of course they do provide a male section, I actually picked up a gorgeous silk shirt for the bargain price of £5! But deep at the heart of this well crafted studio lies Alexandra herself.

I walk into her studio and her eyes beam with happiness and she can't wait to show me her newest stock and talk me through what she has planned for the next few weeks. I feel that this crucial one-on-one service is something Alexandra offers every single customer that walks through her doors. She shows such genuine pleasure in helping you find something, her unique aesthetic allows her to take on the role of stylist even when booking one on one appointments. I can honestly say she is one of the most loveliest women I've ever met. After knowing her for some time, I decided that I would like to ask Alexandra a few questions, just to pry into how she came so far, how she distinguishes herself from the high street and just really what makes her tick.

I grab my notepad and pen, pull up a chair (not forgetting the standard offer of a cup of tea) and wait for Alexandra so we can begin the interview. She types with such ferocity on her laptop I almost feel bad for taking time out of her busy schedule, but then she gives me a reassuring smile and begins telling me about a customer buying a fabulous 50's inspired dress a few days prior, so I feel that now would be a perfect moment to begin the interview.


So Alexandra, what exactly got you into the vintage market?
I remember being around 14 or 15,  and picking up a fabulous vintage peacock blue, 60's inspired bag, and it just made me feel all special and giddy inside! I guess you could say that was a pinpoint. I'd been exposed to a lot of second-hand clothing from an early age and  I was very into my fashion, following the red-carpet looks and consumer reads like Vogue or Elle, but I it was almost a subconscious thing too. I was very drawn into individual pieces and how key pieces were integrated alongside them. So then I  fell into a marketing and events role a few years down the line for The Oracle (Reading's central shopping mall), and I was there for 4 years...

What was that like?
Oh absolutely draining! From that I picked up a tonne of experience, but I was left really with no-where to go, and it was really then I wanted to mix my passion of vintage clothing with this marketing experience. With stuff like that you have to want it, truly want it!

110%?
200%!

Going from a Marketing role in one of Reading's busiest shopping outlets to starting up your own business must have been a scary prospect. What was the transition like?
*pauses* Exciting, nerve wrecking...the possibility of freedom...I was scared too, but as a whole I saw it as a challenge, a very exciting challenge! I mean I was happy I felt these things, because then there would never be a quiet moment! But the main thing is that I was happy going through these emotions even though they seem quite negative.

I'm sure you are aware of the more mainstream aspect vintage clothing now has in 2014, how do you differentiate yourself from the high street that now offers a more vintage and classic look?
It's all about that personal touch at the end of the day, and how you present yourself as the face of a business! It's all about product quality, they are made properly and most are even hand-made by designers, so I'm always in the know about the high street influence. We wash the garments and present them around the boutique, offering that unique one-on-one service that the high street doesn't have. I'm an integrator Kieran, I provide that free genuine service which allows me to truly listen to my customers, it's all about them at the end of the day! Most people get bored of looking the same, I mean just look at the basic history of retail! I strive for my customers to be individual with their style, and I think Alexandra Vintage really gets that.

Do you team up with other vintage businesses at all?
Oh absolutely. Without any kind of alliances with other businesses I wouldn't survive in this industry. 90% of them are so lovely and working with them is a pleasure. But then on the other hand, 10% of them are just a little bit too big for their boots! I work with a company called B-Vintage quite regularly, in which we sell garments on behalf of other collections which is fabulous but you do have to be careful sometimes. Sourcing the vintage product can be tricky, so you have to keep your cards close to your chest and only share select information with select people.  Oh not forgetting PR of course, which is very important. 

Speaking of select people, tell me about the range of customers that walk through the door because I imagine it really does vary! 
All customers are different, which is a good thing because I love you all! Each person I encounter has their own independent style, which is something I completely admire but also something I can relate to myself. All my customers give their time to me and I like to do the same, customer loyalty is something I really want to achieve. I thrive, and subsequently my business thrives off all of you; it really is wonderful and rewarding. I'm now in my third year at this studio and I wouldn't have done it without my fabulous customers!

The economy is always a tricky thing to negotiate, how do you keep up with an economy that is changing rapidly by the day?
It's crucial that you keep up with the pricing, absolutely crucial. We (myself and other people in the business) do our research around the products that we sell and therefore we try to price our stock accordingly. Because say if we don't price the stock well it won't sell so we lose a sale and, in the long run, lose more money. I'll hold my hands up and say sometimes in the past we have got it wrong, but then those items go into the sale anyway - it just sometimes ends up with a case of asking too much in the moment, but like I said these things happen and we do try do get it right. 

Final question, where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
*pauses for some time* Who knows? The dream for me is to go to the head vintage retailer of the UK and hopefully become part of it. I believe that anyone can aim big and have dreams to aspire to, as long as you work hard. I've been working hard for a very long time but I've remained loyal to who I am and to my customers, the feedback you guys give is outstanding and it pushes me further to work harder. But in 5 years...I guess I want to be bigger, better and beautiful!


Alexandra giggles when saying this, and I commend her ambition as the interview comes to a close. I pack my notes away, embrace Alexandra with a goodbye hug and we end the afternoon with a classic selfie to go on her Instagram page. If this interview hasn't persuaded you to go and pay her a visit I honestly cannot recommend her enough. Alexandra is unique, stylish but most importantly she's someone who wants to be your friend. Look out for Alexandra Vintage kids, it's gonna be big. 




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