Each month in 2014 I will feature a female entrepreneur from Northern Ireland. I find these smart and creative women inspiring and I hope you do to. Last month I featured Jill Crawford, owner of luxurious granola brand ‘Just Live A Little’, and this month it’s Becky Moore, the Creative Director behind Northern Ireland’s biggest vintage fairs.
When did you hold the first vintage fair in Northern Ireland and how have these events grown and developed over the years?
The first Frock Around The Clock Vintage Fair took place in November 2008 at the Wellington Park Hotel in Belfast. I had closed my vintage shop Decadence (in Bangor) earlier that year and had tried selling my vintage wares at various antique fairs but the market just wasn’t right. Having visited vintage fairs in London and fallen in love with their atmosphere I knew that I wanted something similar for the Northern Ireland vintage community and thus the idea for Frock Around The Clock was born.
The first event was an immediate hit with sellers and visitors alike. Initially set up to provide a platform for sellers of authentic vintage fashion, jewellery and collectibles, by the second event we had expanded to include vintage and upcycled furniture, homewares and handcrafted designs for the wardrobe and home. The addition of scrumptious sweet treats, music and retro hair and beauty sealed the event’s reputation as a great day out – one where you could shop for unique and quality items not found on the high street, and have a load of fun into the bargain!
Since 2008 we have expanded our repertoire of events so we now run the Frock Around The Clock Vintage & Handmade Fair, The Vintage & Handmade Wedding Fair, and Total Stitch Fest: The Alternative Craft Show.
We have staged over 50 events in Belfast, Bangor, Lisburn, Cookstown, Ballymena and Newry and have appeared in hotels, a castle, stately homes, a music hall, and even on a barge!
What do you enjoy most about organising the vintage fairs?
Definitely the wide range of interesting, talented and creative people that I have met over the last 6 years has been the highlight of running the fairs – both exhibitors and visitors to the events. It never ceases to amaze me, the sheer entrepreneurial spirit and level of creative talent in this wee country of ours, and the fact that so many small businesses have not only survived, but thrived, in the difficult financial climate of the last few years is testament to this. It has also been wonderful to see how much people enjoy our fairs, and to see how they appreciate not only authentic vintage treasures, but unique upcycled designs and handcrafted goods. The discerning consumers of Ireland have kept our events running year after year and the support that they show to local small business is fantastic.
What do you find the most challenging aspect of the work you do?
As we are now entering our 7th year of running the vintage fairs, there has been a big challenge of keeping things fresh for visitors who return month after month, and to attract new customers as well. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make sure that we retain a core of regular sellers who are big favourites with customers, but also to source new vintage dealers and creative designers so that there is always something new and exciting to see and buy. When Frock Around The Clock first started out there were no other vintage fairs in Ireland and since then other similar events have begun, but we work hard to stay one step ahead. Our strict criteria for exhibitors mean that we have an excellent reputation for quality and for staying in step with trends, and it is a reputation that we strive to keep, to ensure that our events are a successful and enjoyable experience for sellers and buyers.
Have you been a life-long vintage lover?
As long as I can remember I have been in love with old things. I grew up with parents who are big collectors and who refurbished antique furniture so I was bitten by the vintage bug at an early age. My love for vintage fashion came a bit later, around the age of 13 when I would go and stay with a great aunt who had wardrobes full of clothes from the ‘20s and ‘30s and I used to spend hours dressing up. Then when I was 16 (in the early 1980s) my boyfriend’s Mum opened her wardrobe to me and I discovered that she had kept a lot of her clothing from the ‘60s and that’s when I started wearing vintage as a fashion choice rather than just admiring it.
Whilst my friends were wearing New Romantic fashions and ‘80s neon, I was wearing crimplene mini dresses and ski pants. I loved that I looked different, if maybe a bit odd at times!
When it comes to vintage clothing and décor is there a particular era you are drawn to?
I have quite an eclectic taste when it comes to vintage – I used to be most in thrall with 1950s fashions and loved wearing dresses with nipped in waists and full skirts but my tastes have changed and over the last couple of years I have fallen in love with 1970s maxi dresses and big sleeves. When it comes to the home I’m definitely a fan of the Mid Century Modern look, but I’m not a purist – if I like something I will buy it whatever the era so my house is quite a mish-mash of eras and styles, combined with a few modern pieces and a lot of upcycled designs.
For those people who have yet to discover the wonders of vintage shopping, how would you convince them to get started?
For me there are many advantages to vintage shopping and a few of these are….
Uniqueness: Dressing in vintage means that you are never going to turn up to the party wearing the same dress as someone else. It allows you to express individuality and your own sense of style.
Quality: It might sound like something your granny would say, but they really did make things to last in vintage times! Generally speaking workmanship and materials were superior and they weren’t designed to be consigned to landfill or the charity shop after one season. Spend your money wisely and you could get a vintage frock of designer finish standard for the same price as a modern high street reproduction of inferior material and finish.
History: I know not everyone is going to feel the same, but I always feel that there is a special romance attached to a garment with a history. I love the idea that a frock may have had a fantastic and interesting life before it landed in my wardrobe!
Green Sense: Shopping for vintage is recycling at its simplest, and who doesn’t like shopping? You can help the environment without even thinking about it!
So now you know just a few of the advantages, you know it makes sense but where do you get started? Frock Around The Clock, or a reputable vintage shop are good starting points as you can be sure that items have been sourced carefully and you can ask the dealer questions and for advice.
When shopping for vintage clothing, always try on before buying – sizing has changed drastically over the last few decades – a size 16 from the 1950s is more likely to be equivalent to a size 10 by modern day standards. Always check the maker’s label (if there is one) if you want to buy authentic vintage. An old label will let you know that you have got your hands on the real thing and not on a modern garment in a vintage style. Always check the condition of the garment before trying on – not all vintage clothing will have survived the decades without some flaws.
If a garment speaks to you in one sense, but there are details that you don’t like, keep an open mind. If you’re creative, look at it through the eyes of an upcycler and see the potential of what it could become.
And if you’re still not convinced…don’t approach shopping for vintage in a ‘dressing up’ sense. You can wear vintage and still be contemporary – mix vintage with new pieces to express your individuality and stay on trend. Keep an eye on what is currently on the catwalk and then try your darnedest to source a vintage original – that way you can be fashionable but avoid wearing the same thing as everyone else.
And if the idea of wearing something that has been worn by a previous owner puts you off, just remember next time that you are shopping on the high street, any garment that you pick off the rails could have been tried on by dozens of people before you take it home!
Do you have a motto that you live by, and if so what is it?
In the words of Bugsy Malone…”Give a little love, and it all comes back to you”.
Who or what drives you to be successful?
My parents, my children and my sister were a fantastic support when I decided to give up a career in the Civil Service to open up a vintage shop at a time when vintage was still quite ‘underground’ in Northern Ireland, and then again when I decided to close the doors on that and start Frock Around The Clock Fairs.
There is nothing quite like ditching the safety net of a regular salary to follow your dreams at driving you to be successful, but the support of my family and friends has kept me on track when the going gets tough.
In fact my daughter and 2 of my friends now work for Frock Around The Clock and their enthusiasm and love for the business I have built is inspiring.
How do you like to unwind?
I find that the best way to de-stress is to be creative with my hands. I’m lucky to have a fantastic studio at the bottom of my garden where I can escape from it all and get stuck into sewing or upcycling projects, but my favourite way to unwind is to get into my pyjamas in the evening, relax in front of the fire with my cats and knit or crochet. Pure bliss!