Inspiring Business by Sharing Success

Derbyshire school friends' vintage clothing business is booming

Derbyshire school friends' vintage clothing business is booming

FROM American sportwear and iconic Nike high-tops to brightly-coloured shell suits – circa 1990 – and Louis Vuitton handbags, two school friends from Derbyshire making a name for themselves vintage clothing market which has grown ten-fold during the pandemic.

 

Alex Tribbennsee and Lawrence Varley, who both met when they joined Kirk Hallam Community School, in Derbyshire, set up their business – Vault Vintage Wholesale; a clothing warehouse based in Langley Mill, just 18 months ago and have turned over almost half a million pound during that time.

They import tonnes of clothing from around the world, predominantly from the US and mainland Europe, and re-sell to small, independent vintage clothing shops.

Their Langley Mill warehouse is like an Aladdin’s Cave of pre-loved goodies, from limited edition t-shirts created to mark the opening of a movie blockbuster to a beautiful – and rare – camel-coloured Paco Rabanne case. They also stock iconic brands such as Levis, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger.

Vault Vintage Wholesale sell authentic military jackets, too, and the pair were surprised to find a half-used packet of Orbit chewing gum in one of the pockets when it arrived at their warehouse from abroad.

Lawrence, 31, said:

“I love the military outfits and the history behind the clothing. I’m also a big fan of 90s fashion.”

Vault Vintage Wholesale was set up just before the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 and their biggest customers are in mainland Europe – although they do have a growing following globally.

Thirty-year-old Alex, who has previously worked as a marketing manager, said:

“For customers abroad, we offer a video call so that they can see what we have in our warehouse and then sell by weight or category. US sportswear and Carhartt – the American work-wear brand which was worn by celebrities such as Jeff Daniels and Glenn Close at the 2021 Golden Globe awards in the USA – and really popular, as is Italian womenswear.

“It’s quite time consuming – the calls can take up to four hours - so we have a minimum price of £300 per sale. We also offer a service where you can visit the warehouse and hand-pick your own garments.”

One of those repeat customers who uses Vault Vintage’s premium service is Dalton Bramley, owner of Chesterfield-based Gorilla Garms. Dalton quit his job as a teacher to follow his dream of owning a vintage clothes shop recently because he was making double his income as a teacher by selling pre-loved clothes online.

He said:

“I had been selling vintage clothes online for a few years as a side hustle and I was making double the amount of money I was making in my teaching job.

“So, a week before lockdown, I opened the shop in Chesterfield. It’s been a strange year but, with my online shop still doing well, I’ve made it work.”

Lawrence and Alex have put endless hours into making their business work, averaging nine hours a day for seven days a week, and their passion for fashion trends and the history of the industry is evident.

Lawrence, a former sales manager for Hugo Boss, said:

“Before 1996, t-shirts had a single-stitch on the hem and arms, so single-stitch clothing can help determine whether a t-shirt is vintage or not. Europe adopted double-stitch technology slightly before America.

“There are other ways of dating items. For example, if you come across a pair of Levis 501 jeans and there’s a big ‘E’ on them, you have a good pair of jeans on your hands. If the red tab only has lettering on one side, the jeans can be dated back to pre-1955.”

While their clothes may be vintage, their approach to selling their garments is very modern.

They have a website – vaultvintagewholesale.com – but most of their customers come via Instagram.

Alex added:

“Instagram is, without a doubt, massive for us. We get a lot of traffic come through Instagram.

“When the world was locked down due to covid, we were really busy; with a lot of people on furlough and generally having more time on their hands, we saw an increase in sales.

“Sales of vintage online clothes is expected, over the next few years, to grow 11-times faster than retail and we’re excited to see how our business can grow.

“We’re keen to grow organically. We have seen people in our industry push their businesses too fast, too soon, and we don’t want that; we’re still establishing ourselves but believe that, if you have a passion for something and work hard, you’ll reap the rewards.”


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