Saturday, 15 July 2017

We Met The Maven Of Vintage Lingerie

Image credits: Photography: Shutter Go Click 
Hair: Hula Hair
Make Up: Victoria Farr 
Flowers: Firenza Flowers 

Ellis is the owner and creative mastermind behind Effie Butterworth - a brand and online shop that sells rare, delicate vintage lingerie from the early 20th century, as well as garments inspired by the styles of the time. Each piece is handmade in England using fine materials and made-to-order, ensuring a perfect fit. I think they make the perfect gifts, for mothers (silky robes and calf-length slips) and lovers (the more risque items, like the Florence bralette). Ellis herself is lovely and modest, as you'll see in the interview below - we've been in touch via email for a few months and we might have some exciting collaborations in the pipeline. I hope that her insights into setting up her succesful online business (she is a five star rated Etsy seller, with 140+ reviews), can inspire sellers across the world! But enough from me...

What inspired you to set up Effie Butterworth?

Upon finishing university, I forced myself to sit down and evaluate what I really wanted to take away from my Costume degree; my love for undergarments, the 1920s and 30s and interpreting designs from those eras prevailed. It seemed like a very logical progression to turn that passion into what would eventually become my job.

Why did you choose to have a specific focus on vintage and vintage-inspired lingerie?

Vintage has been a big part of my life for many years, and creating the undergarments for historical costumes was always my favourite part. There’s certainly a level of excitement in knowing that underneath an outfit, the most beautiful lingerie is being worn and I wanted to bring that to life with my own flair. There seemed to be a definite gap in the market, particularly in the UK, for an online shop dedicated to vintage lingerie and I love that I have been able to specialise in this way.

What sets apart vintage style clothing from modern day 'fast fashion' - in your opinion?
I think a lot of it is the nostalgic element, dreaming of times gone by. There’s also a desire to be different in modern society and whilst there’s a growing market for vintage inspired fashion, it’s certainly not mainstream. It’s such a pleasure to see small independent businesses be able to thrive in an industry that isn’t swamped with large batch goods.

Have there been any challenges you have had to overcome?

Oh, just a few! Running a business single-handedly provides challenges on a daily basis. If it’s not organising my accounts, it’s frantically googling website code or having to order more fabric after making a really silly pricing mistake, as I did last month. I’m coming to realise just how important it is to be able to shrug the little things off and accept that my business is, and will always be, a work in progress.

Your photography is always so intricate and elegant - what are your tips for creating amazing imagery for fellow small business owners?
Thank you! I’ve been lucky enough to work with some incredibly talented individuals on photoshoots. It’s daunting, but networking is so important; make connections, people are often more willing to help and be involved than you might think. Secondly, hire a hair and make-up artist. I was on a very tight budget for my first shoot and I decided to do it myself, whilst I was pleased with the result, the stress just wasn’t worth it. Finally, find a good venue! It’s usually the first thing I set in place when organising a photoshoot, as it will be imperative to creating the overall feel.

What is your favourite product in your current range and why? 

It would have to be the Effie robe, my signature piece from the Certain Surprise collection. It really embodies what I was trying to get across with the range; total 1930s luxury, wearable in everyday life.

What encourages you to keep pursuing your entrepreneurial project when times get difficult?

I’m constantly reminding myself of how lucky I am to be able to pursue my passion and actually get paid to do so, as many are not in such a position. I work very hard to be where I am and whilst I occasionally exploit my position, I will never take it for granted. Don’t get me wrong, there are times I do wonder whether I have made the right decision, though it’s always short lived.

Any words of advice for other women out there who would like to set up an online shop but don't know where to start?

There are hundreds of forums online dedicated to discussions about business, not to mention blogs. These sources of information will be invaluable to you, don’t dismiss them as someone else will have already faced all of your struggles, you just have to take the time to hunt them down. I would recommend using an online marketplace (like Trendlstr!) to sell your products, if appropriate. It will take a lot of pressure away from marketing your own website and if you choose the right one, the fees will be worth it. Social media is your friend, it might seem like the friend that never calls you back, but stick with it, invest time in it and it will reward you in the end.

Finally - favourite vintage style icon/sex symbol? Why?

Marlene Dietrich is a true inspiration; she was a key figure in breaking down gender norms and remained politically involved until her last years, not to mention her impeccable style. I can’t answer this question without also mentioning Jean Harlow, for me, nobody epitomises glamour quite like she did.

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