A Story and a Store to Fall in Love With Vintage
At the heart of Capitol Hill in Seattle, there’s a precious clothing shop. Its vibe is miles away from any vintage store you’ve ever entered. The design is delightful, the air is fresh, and each piece looks brand new. Zorro Vintage, the name of this wonderful place, is the creation of Leslie Ellis, an equally wonderful woman who kindly agreed to speak with us about her love for vintage and her journey as a blooming business owner.
“I started buying vintage when I was in middle school. It was an affordable alternative to name brand clothing and a way to have things that I thought were interesting and one of a kind”, Leslie told Mindful Feminism.
This passion, morphed into a side-hustle back in 2016, in the middle of a fun road trip along the West Coast of the U.S. “On my way to Desert Daze, a music festival held in Joshua Tree, California, I began stopping at thrift shops in small, often distant cities like Grants Pass, Oregon or Boise, Idaho. I discovered a lot of amazing pieces at these places, but they weren’t my size or aesthetic, and I thought ‘if I start selling these professionally, they could be the right fit and style for someone out there,’ so that’s when the idea for a shop was born.” Zorro Vintage began on Etsy and Depop and stayed online for about a year before the plan for the physical store was on the table.
Although shopping online is still very much an option –they do national and international shipping- having a place has been ideal because many customers have fallen in love with the gorgeously curated pieces just by walking by. Leslie explained some of the thoughts that go into selecting each garment: “I don’t buy synthetic fabric, I try not to buy anything polyester, and I usually don’t buy things that are acrylic unless they’re soft to the touch. I really like to stick to natural fabrics, because I know my customers are drawn to that.”
In addition to the beauty of the pieces, there are numerous reasons buying vintage is a great idea. Ellis gave us her take on the pros of this trade. “There are three main things I like to highlight. Sustainability is a big one. When you buy vintage, you’re separating yourself from the fast fashion industry, and the fewer people that support that, the less you’re going to enable them. In addition to the ethics, there’s the fact of quality. Unlike fast fashion, which generally falls apart within a year, these pieces are of high quality. That’s why everything in my store looks new although it’s 50 years old. Finally, what you’re buying is one of a kind. There’s really a sense of exclusivity to each vintage garment, and you’re never going to see somebody else wearing the same thing.”
Our talk also covered Leslie’s journey of becoming a business owner. Her most significant lesson until now is one we're pretty sure all entrepreneurs can relate to. “The biggest struggle I’ve overcome so far has been looking to social media or to competitors for validation. I’ve understood that we’re all doing our own thing and I’m doing my best. Recognizing this has been comforting, and I think people pick up on that improved level of confidence.”
Passion and enjoyment have also been vital ingredients for the growth of her shop, which of course wasn’t always successful. “Two years ago, when I was starting out, I was barely making 200 dollars a month. I had twenty followers on Instagram, I was taking photos from a shitty basement studio with a borrowed camera, I had terrible equipment, and it all just looked bad”, she shared amidst laughter. “But I’ve loved it every single step of the way,” she added.
Hearing Leslie talk about her business with so much emotion was quite inspiring. So it was no surprise when our conversation ended on a uniquely passionate note: “Last month I went to L.A. to buy wholesale for the first time, I was able to go into huge warehouses as a reseller, spend seven hours a day looking for stuff, and it was really intense but also incredibly rewarding. I was with a friend, and there was a moment when I looked at her and said ‘Melissa, I’m living the dream!’ Traveling and buying vintage for work? It feels surreal!”
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