aux etoiles vintage

How We Make Our Long Distance Vintage Business Work

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Inspecting the inventory. Photo by Ann Dean.

In April 2018, Aux Etoiles Vintage launched on Etsy and Instagram with a curated collection of vintage “momcore” blazers, high waist denim, tissue thin tees, and prairie dresses and blouses. As business partners and longtime bffs, we were thrilled to see a 20 year-old dream become a reality. The catch? We are separated by a distance of 1,200 miles. How do we run a vintage business from two separate locations? Here’s how we took our business from an idea to reality and here’s how we make it work.

First, Some Background

The first time we really bonded over fashion was at a party in our early 20s. The specifics of our conversation have been lost to time, but it was clear that we had a lot in common and were meant to be friends.  From that point on we spent our time obsessing over APC catalogs, listening to lots of Cibo Matto, and gathering at my apartment on Sunday nights to drink wine and watch Sex and the City. What more did a gal need in 1999?

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Channeling Carrie Bradshaw, circa 1999

All along we would have ideas for a fashion aesthetic to share with the world, but we weren’t quite sure how to make it happen. Should we start a zine? It was the 90s thing to do, but too much work. Build a website? Websites were too techy and complicated back in those days. Social media was not on the horizon whatsoever, so we contented ourselves with writing lists of style influences in notebooks, sketching ideal designs, and sharing our ideas with each other. Then we went on with our lives. Kara moved to Brooklyn and went on to get her Ph.D. Tracy got her masters and started a career in museums and cultural nonprofits. We had kids. Life happened.

Winter Break Sparks an Idea

December 2017: We found ourselves at home with our kids over winter break and messaging one another over Instagram. We’d send each other accounts we liked, posts we loved, and looks we were into. Most of it was vintage. Then, this happened.

Kara: Also…do you think we could run an online shop.

Tracy: Yes, I think we could. We’ve been talking about it forever — let’s do it!

Kara: I feel like this is exactly the type of project for two Virgos.

By January, thanks to social media, Aux Etoiles Vintage was born.

We Need Stuff

We were in business! Now what? Well, first we really needed to hone our aesthetic and source our inventory. That’s a tricky thing to do long distance, so in March 2018, Kara flew to Kansas City and we began sourcing. What evolved with the Aux Etoiles Vintage brand core look: prairie dresses and Edwardian blouses, blazers, high waist denim, workwear, midi skirts, and vintage tees. Basically, what we’ve been wearing for years and years. Our initial collection was built around star pieces including a Laura Ashley corduroy dress and a flannel Edwardian style blouse. We spent our first weekend photographing, figuring out lighting, measuring, and making plans.

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Our first haul. 

 

We Need to Sell Our Stuff

After research and discussion, we made the decision to go with Etsy and to build our Instagram presence. The next few weeks were devoted to listing items, a tedious but crucial process. By April, we were live and ready to go. In May, we had our first sale and we’ve been off and running ever since.

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Fuel for measuring and listing. 

How We Maintain Our Long Distance Partnership

First and foremost, communication is key. We are in near-constant communication with one another, usually via texts. We text each other when we wake up, on our lunch breaks, and right before we drift off to sleep. We each source in our respective locations and we send each other photos of our finds. We consult each other on pricing, photo lighting, Instagram posts, and styles. We are fortunate to be able to meet in person 2-3 times per year for sourcing, styling, photoshoots, and pop ups.

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A rare moment together! Photo by Ann Dean

Key Tips for Running a Long Distance Vintage Business

  • Communication is key. Communicate often and be open with your communication.
  • Plot out weekly goals, aka deliverables: 10 new listings, one new blog post, five Instagram posts, etc.
  • Try to meet in person when possible. Even if it’s once a year, meeting in person helps solidify ideas and style inspiration.
  • Get a joint business bank account. It makes everything easier.
  • Be clear with your customers that you are shipping from two different locations. That way, they have a better expectation of shipping times.
  • Have an inventory system to track who has what.
  • Have fun and don’t stress the small stuff!

Overall, starting this business has been a gift — it’s strengthened our friendship, given us a chance to pursue our interest, helped us to share our fashion vision, and providing us with an opportunity to channel our career experiences into a new area. If you and a friend have a dream, don’t less distance be a barrier — go for it!

 

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