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Something old, something new: How these Irish women are changing the style game with vintage Depops

“I think people glamourise being a ‘girl boss’.”

HAVE YOU FOUND yourself looking at the high street’s fashion offerings and felt a little bereft? You’re not the only one. More than ever, people are reaching for second-hand bargains from charity shops and Depop in the search for style inspo and sustainability.

But what drives the women behind some of Ireland’s most beloved vintage brands?

Ruth Dempsey is the brains and brawn behind Finders Keepers, a vintage outlet in Bray, Co. Wicklow which also operates a Depop shop under the username ‘moodybluevintage’.

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Nothin like a delivery day 📦 🚚💫

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“I got into vintage through being a “quirky” teenager and my love of my great aunt Muriel’s wardrobe,” she tells DailyEdge.ie.

She’s the glammest 90 something woman you would ever meet, still wears heels and if you ask her about her jacket she’ll tell you she got it ages ago and ripped bits off her curtains and sewed it to make it even more glam.” 

Her love of shopping resulted in a wardrobe that became too expansive even for her shopaholic self. After returning from a stint in Australia, she decided to use this asset to set herself up. 

“I basically I lived in charity shops and eventually owned more than I could ever even wear. I just moved home and the job market was slim to none, so I decided to make my own job and started sourcing, styling, and selling vintage from my sitting room.

“I’m lucky I have some great looking friends who would be my model – I’m 4ft10 so not exactly model material – and a boyfriend who’s a photographer who helped make things look nice!

It’s been my side hustle and source of enjoyment since 2012, and that hasn’t changed, only that its my main hustle now!” 

Which came first – the Depop or the shop? Ruth has been utilising the second-hand shopping app to sell her wares since 2014, as well as selling from her Etsy site. However, while Instagram did exist four years ago, it was a different beast to the marketplace of photos we scroll through now.

Apps such as these bring massive benefits to a business like Ruth’s, while also having their drawbacks.

“In general, [social media] made vintage a lot more mainstream and readily available, which has its ups and downs – you can reach a lot more people with Depop thats for sure,” she says.

“However, I feel like it has changed the definition a little bit. Vintage fashion can be a little diluted now, which as someone who’s been selling it for years, it breaks me a little bit.

“Yes, fashion trends come and go, but a lot of shops online and in real life these days really tread the line of vintage and – let’s just say – not new.”

Despite Finders Keepers being a one-woman operation, she says business is great.The satisfaction of what she does trumps the long, long working hours. 

“I really wouldn’t change it for the world though. That stupid cliché isnt true – do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
I do work, every single day, and its not always sunshine and rainbows, but seeing people be excited about their new bits and getting to chat to the wonderful customers I have, makes the bad days worth it!”

Down the other end of the country in Killarney, Co. Kerry, Hazel O’Malley operates out of a small premises in the town, as well as on Depop, aptly titled Hazel’s Nuts About Vintage. Hazel began selling at markets and on Facebook, before opening her own place in 2016, in the upstairs of the building her great grandmother ran a grocery shop and eating house in the early 1900s.

“I came a roundabout way to vintage,” she explains to DailyEdge.ie. “I studied History & Celtic Civilisation in UCC and then straight out of college got myself a secure, pensionable job in a local authority at the end of the last recession.

“I moved into Community Development and I am still working in this area… But I needed a more creative outlet and I always loved fashion and history and have been always drawn to clothes with a link to the past, a retro influence. 

Similar to Ruth, Hazel fell into the habit of shopping excessively during the Celtic Tiger, saying she felt it left her wardrobe full and her soul empty. 

“I became drawn to second hand shops again like how I had dressed myself in my student days, taking clothes that family and friends were getting rid of, mixing old and new,” she says. “I grew increasingly frustrated with the lack of options for people like me looking for something different than on the high street and started looking into markets and vintage shops. 

“I started by packing the contents of my wardrobe and heading to the Flea Style Market in Galway in about 2013/14. I sold really well, loved the buzz of sharing my passion for clothes and after a few months started buying to sell, doing other markets.”

She says business can be “up and down”, adding that she tends to be at her busiest over summer and at festivals. It’s forced her to diversify by running a monthly flea market, a weekly food market and vintage events with a business partner. 

“The markets and events feed into the same ethos of the shop – sustainability, life-style and community,” she says.

Social media has been a bit of saviour for Hazel, allowing her to connect with customers, either current or potential, instantly. 

“It’s great for me located in the south west of Ireland,” she says. “We have so many visitors to Killarney. I’m able develop the shop as a destination for people visiting the town.

I’ve had people drop in as their first port of call off the plane from Germany to Kerry Airport because they follow my Insta, so it’s huge for me.”

Social and personal

How tricky is it to balance a real-life space with a virtual shop? For Ruth, the transition from virtual space to a real-life shop came about easier than expected.

“I’m lucky I have a very supportive mum and partner who I bounced a lot of ideas off, viewed spaces with and built the shop with,” she says. “So far, I love the space I’m in, its an ideal size, good location and my neighbours are great!

According to Ruth, the response to the physical shop has been “phenomenal”.

“I had this preconceived notion that no one would come in and I’d be closed within a few months. I didn’t know if there would be much of a crossover, but there was definitely a lot of people who knew me as “that big Depop shop” and there was a good few who came to the shop IRL.

“I think it’s definitely given me a good base to jump from, but the business in store is a whole different kettle of fish sometimes. Some stuff that would never sell in the shop, would be gone in 10 minutes online. It’s sometimes like running two businesses at once, but as I said earlier, I do love it and I wouldn’t change it.”

Hazel reckons the spaces are more similar than that. “With social media, you can get feedback on Insta from customers just as much as you can in store. It’s so important, the interaction you have with customers, and it’s what differentiates small stores from high street brands. 

“I go on buying trips with my customers in mind – I’ll be in Berlin and see something for a regular customer that lives in Dublin that I have never met, post a photo of it and they will be the first to respond.  It’s like a personal shopping service and I get a huge kick from that.”

Just another manic Monday

It’s easy to get swept up in your job and long for your weekends. When you’re a one woman show, however, you can’t afford to wish away the week. It’s something that does get to both women on occasion, but their positivity tends to win out in the end.

“I love, love, love finding the perfect piece for the perfect person and their total appreciation when they are matched!” Hazel says, when asked what her favourite aspect of the job is.

“I adore sourcing the pieces, interpreting trends, putting pieces together, shooting them and displaying them. I’m just a little girl at heart that never grew up from playing shop!  I get excited every morning turning the key on my shop door and wondering what the day will bring. 

“My least favourite thing is that running a business you are on your own. You can ask for advice but in the end, decisions are up to you and on quiet days or weeks you can second guess yourself and doubt yourself. In general, other business people are very supportive especially other vintage sellers and if you reach out there is support.

I think if you believe in what you do you can’t go far wrong.”

On the contrary, Ruth loves being her own boss – sort of.

“Getting to choose the stock I get in, getting to close and open freely, getting to have my own stamp on things, getting to chat and genuinely make friends with my customers … I’m one step away from getting a worlds best boss mug a lá Micheal Scott.”

giphy (1)

“My least favourite thing would have to be also being my own boss – it’s not all fun and games, there’s so much money and hard work that goes into it every day,” she continues. 

I think people glamourise being a ‘girl boss’, but they think its just all dressing up and making money, when in reality i’ts stressing about doing your taxes, paying your rates, sorting through piles and piles of clothes and working all the time.”

In terms of expanding, Hazel is happy enough with her lot at the minute. Ruth has no plans to move out of Bray:

I have no plans of yet to Move from Bray, as the heart and soul here is unmatched. Bray is class!”

Hard to argue with that, in fairness.

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