House of Bricks is a fabulous sister duo selling vintage and preloved clothes. The girls specialise in bright and colourful ’80s and ’90s pieces – two girls after the Old Tat Boutique’s hearts! They kindly let us pick their vintage brains and find out what it takes to run a business…
When did you start your business?
A couple of years ago when I wasn’t completely happy with what I was doing, House of Bricks had been a pipe dream for a few years at that point and we just decided to take the plunge and go for it! After having planned and researched for about 6 months we finally launched the H.O.B online store in October 2013.
Where did the name come from?
Josie & I were brainstorming years ago before we actually launched the business. We were writing on our brick wall at home with chalk and the idea just came to us and we stuck with it!
What made you decide to do this?
We’ve both always loved fashion with both of us doing fashion-based courses, Josie – Fashion Promotion and me, Fashion Print Design with Business Studies. I’ve always been obsessed with vintage clothes and the amazing feeling of discovering unique one off pieces.
What were the first steps you took?
We did A LOT of research beforehand, seeing what else was out there, trying to build a website that was different and unique. There is so much competition out there we wanted to create our own brand and identity along with our online shop.
Tell us about your first sale – how did it happen? How did it feel? What was it?
My first sale was actually to someone who is now my friend! It was amazing. After putting so much time and effort into making your dream into a reality there is no better feeling than when that first sale rolls in!
How long until your business started picking up? What do you think made this happen?
It takes a long time to get your name out there, that’s for sure! For the first year or so I had a job alongside building the business. I don’t think I anticipated how hard it would be to even get people to know your company exists!
Trying to find your bearings and learn to juggle all the different aspects takes time too.
How do you decide on pricing?
I did a lot of research on pricing before we started up, looking at potential competitors online and off, working out how much we’d spend on stock and other outgoings in order to make a good enough margin.
We try to keep our prices fair and competitive but at the end of the day usually price as to what we’d pay for a particular garment if we were out shopping ourselves!
Do you shoot look-books?
Yes, the look-books are one of my favourite parts of running H.O.B! I collaborate with my friend, Lily Brown, who is an insane photographer and we come up with a concept and build on it together. Festivals are my favourite thing on earth and we traded at a few for the first time this summer, which is why we chose the festival theme for our latest SS15 shoot. It’s so fun brainstorming ideas, building all the outfits, choosing props and just generally experimenting and being creative.
At the moment we produce two a year, one for Spring/Summer and one for Autumn/Winter. Although it would be amazing to shoot them more frequently as it Is so much fun!
Do you find they help and why?
Yes I definitely think they help in terms of displaying our brand identity. Our main aim is to create a sense of fun with our look-books, showcasing the uniqueness of vintage fashion and to project our own personal styling ideas. Most of the pieces we sell are from the 80’s and 90’s so those eras are our main source of inspiration.
As we currently shoot our garments on mannequins it is good seeing particular items styled up, as we would wear them and putting them into context. Plus it adds a sense of fun and our own personality, which I think is really important.
Has your business had any low moments? Tell us about that.
Not so much low moments but there are certain frustrations. I’ve never regretted my choice to start House of Bricks as I absolutely LOVE it and it’s my ultimate dream.
There are lots of things that are extremely time consuming though, which I don’t think I had considered fully before I started. It’s also a lot harder than I’d anticipated getting your name out there, but that only pushed me to try and think of new ideas and work even harder to get the brand out there!
What is the best thing about what you do?
Hands down the best thing about it is buying stock. I handpick everything so it’s just like a massive shopping trip! Plus with everything being vintage and one offs you never know what you’re going to find.
I also love doing the look-books, thinking up the concepts, building ideas, getting props and seeing your vision and ideas come to life is the best feeling.
What is the worst?
Having to part with the clothes. There are definitely some that are extremely hard to let go of and it’s difficult sometimes to remind yourself that you’re shopping for your business not just your own wardrobe! But seriously the hardest part is probably juggling all the different aspects of the job. Just to get an item on the website has so many different steps which are extremely time consuming, from buying, photographing, editing the photos, writing descriptions, taking measurements etc…
Then on top of that there are so many other things to consider, promotion, social media, blogging, vintage fairs, festivals plus I also make handmade accessories now too!
Despite of this though, its all worth it to do a job you love!
You also have stalls at vintage fairs etc – tell us about them.
Yes I try and do as many local vintage fairs as I can, mainly in London and my hometown Brighton. They’re extremely helpful for both sales and promotion. They’re also great for meeting other traders in a similar position to do, you end up bumping into the same people each time and creating a sort of community, which is really fun to be a part of.
We’ve also just started trading at festivals, which is my absolute dream. We’re hoping to do a tonne next summer!
The fairs are one day only so tend to cost around £70 for an average stall or you can pay more for a bigger pitch. The festivals are 4 day events so are usually around £500 for the weekend.
How long does shooting new stock take?
Depending on how much new stock I have I usually have an afternoon to prep everything, i.e. steam, hang, then a day to photograph everything.
How long does it take you to upload them?
After photographing them I will edit the photos, then write a short description for each item as well as pricing them, taking measurements, fabric/washing details and any other information I can give to try and give as much away to potential customers as possible. It can take a while, but so satisfying when they’re finally up!
You have a lot of stock and it seems to come and go very quickly in bulk – do you have suppliers, if so who?
No, just wholesalers, we don’t have any specific suppliers. They are mainly based in London although we have road tripped up North in the past as they have a few great & massive warehouses there! It is possible to get suppliers who can send you things in bulk. Eg. A bag of 25 shirts. However I like to handpick all our items so this doesn’t really work for me.
Do you have any tips when dealing with suppliers/cherry picking items?
No not really, I just choose items I really love and could see myself wearing! I’m obsessed with bright colours and fun prints so that’s usually what I’m instantly drawn too.
What are your vital tips to starting up a vintage business to those who are considering it?
I’d say if it’s what you really want to do just go for it! I always said in my case I’d rather look back in 5 years and be glad I tried than look back and think ‘what if’? I don’t think enough people are going it alone and doing their own thing nowadays and think that it’s important to have a continuous flow of new independent small businesses to keep things fresh and interesting.
I guess I’d also let them know how time consuming even the smallest of tasks can be! I don’t think I really considered everything involved just uploading items let alone all the other aspects that run alongside it, especially when you don’t have a full team behind you!
How do you ensure HOB is a go to vintage destination?
I just do my best to keep up to date with my social media and try to push the brand as much as I can. I’ve started emailing bloggers too which can also be really helpful as fashion blogging is so on trend at the moment and they can have a huge following so if you can get one of them to wear one of your pieces it can be extremely helpful.
Words by Loo Loo Rose