Monday, 21 April 2014

A life update: Things I learned from selling at a vintage fair

Hey everyone! I didn't mean to go on a mini hiatus but ended up having a little Easter break with my partner in which I was barely online (my internet connection has been practically non existent as of late and I can't wait to get a new broadband provider) and generally did nothing too taxing or stressful! I ended up eating a lot of pub food, going on random adventures, and watching bizarre cosmetic surgery programmes (what all regular couples do I'm sure...). I'm back now, though, and realised that I never wrote about my first experience of selling items from my brand at an event.

I decided that for a first timer like myself I should probably start off small, as it would be a learning experience more than anything else, and I didn't want to end up spending lots of money just so I could make big mistakes! I ended up choosing a tiny local vintage fair. There are no set table/stall prices, and you are simply charged a set percentage of whatever you sell. The idea is that you don't end up paying a big fee even if you sell barely anything. I wish more events worked in this way, but I guess it would be too hard to monitor anything bigger than this as people would probably just lie about the day's takings, plus there probably aren't an abundance of cheap or free venues to rent out.

Anyway, I spent the week leading up to the event making last minute bits and pieces, and practising my table layout. I expected to get a small table as previous fairs I'd been to had been extremely short on space, given the fact the fair is held at a bar. However, this time the venue had been renovated and dramatically changed, so when I arrived, I ended up having a massive area to myself. There was a leaflet display awkwardly placed behind it that I wasn't too sure what to do with, but I figured it didn't matter too much as this was a very casual affair.

The fair was held from 12pm until 5pm, but boy did it feel like a long day! I only knew one person already, and I am not great in new social situations, so I felt too shy to go up and talk to the other vendors, who all seemed to be friends already. I fidgeted a lot and wandered around a few times, before deciding that slowly eating my packed lunch would be the best way to waste time and look occupied. Oh dear.

During the entire day, I only sold two items, and the organiser took pity on me and decided not to charge me a fee for being there, which I thought was very kind.

Things I learnt from this experience (and other things which will hopefully help me and any other vendor newbies in the future):

  • If you're going to be selling at an event, you definitely need to have someone to be there with you for moral support, to watch your table if you need a toilet break, and to make the time go faster. I knew this already but simply didn't have time to sort it out. Make sure you plan this out well in advance.
  • Try to make your table look as full as possible (though not cluttered). My table looked sparse, and I didn't have enough items at the time to improve it. Next time I'll be better prepared.
  • Make your space look unique. Use a nice table cover (and make sure it's massive! Mine was way too small) and use different levels to add depth and interest. 
  • Make your space look touchable! I need to improve on this. People want to feel as if they can pick things up and have a proper look, so don't try to create an art exhibit people will be too scared to come close to in fear of disrupting it.
  • Talk to people who walk past, even if just to greet them. I know that nobody likes being harassed, but at the same time, I think my complete silence was off-putting! Be personable and approachable.
  • Think about your target market when choosing an event to sell at. Mine is the Japanese street fashion scene, but I was at a vintage fair. There's a slight crossover there, but it's a thing of chance. I would like to try a small convention or an event specifically related to kawaii fashion in the future, as it seems more likely people will be interested in the things I make.
  • Get a banner of some sort. I was just using a piece of card on top of my jewellery display, but it was small and unnoticeable. Business cards are also important, and they should be displayed on your table, and placed in with customer purchases so they know how to find your stuff again!
I wore a very casual lolita coordinate for this day, as I wanted to be comfortable.

Although some of the problems I had really were down to the nature of the vintage fair (as you can see it wasn't just a regular convention/craft fair table, but clearly some part of the venue's bar/some sort of bench... not even sure what my table was at this point) I do think I learnt some valuable things about selling to people in real life. Online, you just leave the customers to browse your shop and read descriptions and examine photos. In person, it can be more down to you and what you bring to your table. I'm going to work harder on dealing with my anxiety and being more confident in myself. Hopefully I can do better in future!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post, even if it's a bit more of a personal/life update sort of thing. Perhaps someone out there can get some use from my experience. Feel free to comment and I hope you all had a wonderful Easter 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

That Enchanted Event Everyone Keeps Talking About

It's been a little while since I've had a chance to do any blogging! I have been super busy as of late, and university has started back up again after an incredibly short break. 

The first post I really need to get out of the way is my experience of Enchanted! Right. Brace yourselves.

Enchanted was held at The Gibson Hall, London, on Saturday 5th April. This event was hosted by Street Fashion Europe, and was in the same vein as the Tea Party Club's Frock On event of last August. The difference here was that it started a bit later in the day, which allowed everyone plenty of time to put together their very best coordinates and arrive at the event. 

I travelled with my fellow Berkshire lolitas, Taylor and Sabeela! Along the way we bumped into a group of Leeds lolitas, and shared a carriage with them on the Waterloo and City line of the Underground. We were the only people on it. Loli train!

I arrived at 2pm, the time when the VIP ticket holders would be allowed in, and found myself in a queue stretching down the street, for twenty minutes. Finally, I made it inside and handed over my raffle donation (six hair bows from my brand Sugar Trampoline) and got given a specially printed tote for the event. I decided I would check out the contents later! I was more interested on getting into the main hall. 

What a gorgeous venue! I got myself a complementary mango smoothie from the bar and my goodness-- it was the best smoothie I'd ever had. It was just so... smooth! I was soon reunited with my friends and we generally wandered around, just about managing to brave the bring and buy stall for a couple of minutes at a time. 

Basically, it was CHAOS. Many people were literally crammed in around the rails to look at the secondhand bargains on display. In the end, I didn't buy anything. I did "um" and "ah" over an Angelic Pretty skirt (Chocolat-chan Going Out) but I didn't want to blow most of my budget on a skirt. So I walked away (semi-regrettably) and gave up. 

In the dealer's room, things were much more peaceful. I decided to give all the stalls a once over and then come back later. One stall made my heart jump because of the top half of a mannequin sat on top of their display! I'm a bit scared of dolls XD I really liked that no two stalls were the same. There was a really good range of styles and items on offer.

Anyway... later on I decided on a pair of cute wristcuffs from Peacockalorum which matched my coordinate (which I'll get to later). The ring is from Miss Selfridge!

There was a fashion show to showcase various designers, including indie brands, and also a q&a session. I heard them going on but used this time to refuel and get some fresh air. 

There was nothing substantial provided at the event foodwise. Instead, there was a huge cake and sweets buffet that everyone clamoured around. I got stuck in the crowd, which was unfortunate as the staff were yelling at us to move from that side of the table. I always seem to wind up in trouble somehow! I escaped with a few things on my plate. I didn't really like any of it, but others seemed to enjoy it. Luckily, I'd come prepared with a small suitcase and brought out the tupperware to eat some of my packed lunch! At the start of the day, people kept asking why I had a suitcase, but of course, by the end of it, they wished they'd brought one too! I cannot stress enough how easy a suitcase makes life on a long day out where you'll be weighed down with purchases by the end of it. It also enabled me to carry spare shoes with me, and a jacket for when it would be cold outside later. I am so prepared for life XD

As the day wore on I didn't feel I'd sufficiently explored my shopping options and eventually headed to the Dreamy Bows stall, which was in the main event space. I decided to get myself a black and white Angelic Pretty baseball style top. 
I felt a bit better having gotten something more substantial than a pair of wristcuffs, and decided to call it a day. There were many other things I ended up being tempted by... but at that point, I felt like if I got them, I'd be buying things for the sake of it. Never a good approach!

I may have missed the other stage events, but I made sure to come back for Minori's makeup tutorial session. 
She painted just one side of the model's face, which made the white makeup appear even more dramatic! 

After the session was over, my friends and I made a beeline for the front of the stage to get a picture with Minori. We'd not bothered at the start of the day due to being told you had to pay for pictures (turns out, you had to pay for Minori's signed posters), but now it seemed like it was our last chance! 
She was so tiny and ethereal. I'm glad I finally got to see her in the flesh. She looks just as perfect in real life as she does in pictures, let me tell you!

The event began to wrap up rather later than scheduled due to the absolutely enormous raffle. It seemed like most people had something or other to take home by the end of the event (I won a Juliette et Justine booklet thing). I got a bit too excited when the list of contributing brands was read out and Sugar Trampoline came up. I started cheering like a dork-- and so did my friends, too! I couldn't help but laugh in surprise. 

After the raffles, the organisers began thanking us for coming. Mila couldn't help but start to cry, and it was then I realised just how emotionally invested they were in making these things happen. We were told it took 6 months of hard work to organise. It must be so strange to have such a nerve-racking build up to an event which is then over in a single day! (This is why the thought of having a traditional wedding terrifies me-- I figure it's more or less the same principle!)

By then, it was dark outside and I hadn't gotten any outfit photos or pictures with my friends. I rushed off with Luna, Sammi and Nicola to the dealer's room to amend this problem. 

We were so tired and done by this point! They were lucky they were staying in a hotel nearby. I had a two hour trek home ahead of me!

Now, onto my coordinate! I was going for a kind of "kawaii vintage" vibe.

Outfit Rundown
Canotier etc: Handmade by me, offbrand
Bolero: Miss Selfridge
Jumperskirt: Sweet Cherry by Metamorphose
Bag: New Look
Shoes: Bodyline

I saw people with some super elaborate headdresses (ships, entire tea sets, unicorn horns, all sorts!) which left me in awe. Still, I'm happy with how my coordinate turned out. Shame none of the photos of me look that great! (even a photo of me taken with someone's fancy camera looks terrible because my entire face is in shadow! I have the worst luck :L )

Overall, it was an interesting day. The highlights would have to be that excellent smoothie and getting a picture with Minori. My VIP tote bag ended up containing lots of fliers and business cards for indie brands (plus some yummy treats such as the bizarre but somehow awesome green tea flavoured chocolate!) which meant I got to find out about small businesses I'd never even heard of before. I didn't like Enchanted anywhere near as much Frock On, but it was wonderful to see people I don't get to hang out with very often, and it was clearly a positive step forward in the direction of making Japanese street fashion more accessible in the UK. 

I think I'd love to come back to an event like this, but as a vendor. We'll have to see how that works out though. Watch this space!