I already have a bit of a girl crush on Dawn before interviewing her. The witty columns, awesome style and impeccable taste in pets made her the ideal candidate.
Then she went and decided to add business lady to her already impressive spectrum of skills – now, on top of everything else (including impending motherhood), Dawn is also the proud owner, buyer, designer and curator of online vintage shop BOB. I interviewed her about her love of vintage, pets and other important things.
I imagine you have quite an impressive vintage collection, what made you decide to take the plunge from vintage buyer to seller?
A few things! I love the challenge of convincing people who think it’s old tat that gems are to be found. There has been nothing more satisfying than the tweets and emails I’ve received from people who love their purchases. I also love the process of sourcing, but my personal collection was getting out of control so I needed another excuse to go shopping. I am brutal when I buy. I could spend six hours at a flea market and leave with only one dress that I love for BOB, and I would feel completely satisfied that it was a good days work.
I also love the restoration process. Finding something that looks a little sorry for itself, having it cleaned and fixed and bringing it back to life before I put it on the site. It’s great when I find pieces in perfect condition but it’s so fun when I find something that needs reviving. It’s like dress CPR, we bring them back to life.
Do you remember the very first time you bought something from a vintage store? What was it?
Yes. I was in my early 20s, broke and living in Dalston but working in Parsons Green. I got a bonus at work and went into a little vintage shop in Parsons Green. I was in heaven. It was a totally different shopping experience for me. Nothing was organised, nothing was obvious, everything felt so unique. I spent my entire bonus in one go then had to load it all onto the back of a push bike and cycle all the way across London. I’m surprised I didn’t get pulled over, it was really hard to control the bike. But I bought a selection of 50s and 70s dresses that day, most of which I still have. And it changed the way I shopped forever. It was like my style finally found me.
Vintage shopping can be super rewarding, but it can also be disgusting at times… I’ve been there… What’s your grossest vintage shopping story?
Oh God, don’t. I’ve seen enough yellow armpits and crotches to last a lifetime. But there was one dress I got for BOB which caused us many challenges. It’s a really cool, extra large, pure wool shift dress with an embellished neck. I was so excited about it, finding good quality in larger sizes can be tough so I couldn’t wait to get it up on the site. But it smelt of BO. I had it dry cleaned, then specialist dry cleaned with pure oxygen, then hung it outside for a week, then sprayed it with lavender, put it in the freezer and even squirted vodka on it to try to get rid of the smell, but nothing worked. Whoever wore that dress the last time was determined not to leave it. So I had to abandon it, there was nothing more I could do. As upset as I was to lose such a great frock, I had to admit it was kinda gross and get rid of it.
Do you ever alter your vintage pieces or do you think that’s sacrilegious? I am guilty of hacking into some dresses and still unsure how I feel about it.
No I think it’s a great thing to do, but I would never do it to a designer piece, or anything of value. But I see no issue with reusing great fabric and reshaping a piece to suit it’s new owner. As long as you retain some of the original charm I think it’s fine. On This old Thing we did a lot of this. Sometimes vintage pieces were completely modernised, and although I get that is kind of pointless most of the pieces were of sentimental value. For example, if someones mum had an 80s sundress in a cracking fabric but with a horrible shape, it’s fun to reshape the dress so the dress can be enjoyed all over again. When sentiment of a piece is involved I think people should do what they want, as long as they seek advice and get it done properly!
Dream piece you would like to find for yourself of BOB?
Oh my! So many. I love the cheaper stuff but as my business if pretty small it’s not really cost effective for me to only sell cheap stuff. So I sell a lot of designer too, which I love. I find this so exciting because these clothes really are a part of history, and it’s what all the cheaper stuff was copying. So I’m always looking for designer bargains that I can sell at reasonable prices. I price everything relatively to how much I buy it for and how much work is done on it before it goes on the site, so when I can offer something at a great price because I found a bargain myself, well that’s a real buzz. So really my dream pieces are designer vintage dresses that I get at a great price. And I do all the time, which is awesome!
Enough about vintage clothes: tell me about you – what did you dream of becoming when you were a little girl? Were you always set on writing or was that the result of a series of events?
I always wanted to be a writer. Always. I’d write stories and poems and make my family sit and listen to them. But I wanted to be an actress too, but that was just because I was a show off. When I eventually got to drama school I just didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t want to read someone else’s words and pretend to be someone else, I wanted to have my own voice. So I got into journalism and now I write fiction. It’s been a long journey but it’s a wonderful feeling to now be a professional writer. Mix that with designing dresses and the fact that shopping is part of my job, and I’m pretty happy with where I landed!
The most important question of all – tell me everything about your pets? I need to know their story, what they do, all the stupid things you get to witness on a daily basis. I am obsessed with my cats idiosyncrasies and I love nothing more than finding out about other people’s pets.
Oh My God, I am obsessed with Lilu and Potato. Lilu is Siamese and sounds like a screaming baby, but really she is just saying ‘hi’. She is actually circling me like a shark now. Sometimes she yells at me until I pick her up and hold her like a handbag and just walk around with her. I’ve been forced into washing up and doing the laundry all with this stupid cat under my arm. But I’ve had her for 11 years, we are equally as obsessed with each other. We have literally travelled the world together. And then there is Potato…oh that little guy. The gentlest, softest, kindest little soul. We rescued him about 4 years ago and he thanks us every day. he is madly in love with my husband, so an evening in our house usually looks like this – me and the cat snuggled on a chair, Chris and Potato snuggled on a sofa. It’s a very cuddly household.
Quick fire round:
– Reading: Some stupid bossy crap about how to raise a kid. I’m stopping though, I don’t want to learn how to be a mum from a book.
– Listening to: The Darkness of Wallis Simpson.
– Wearing: a bonkers hawaiian skirt with some jeggings. Don’t judge me, I’m very pregnant.
– Dreaming: about childbirth.
– Doing: writing my buns off so I can take some time off. I have columns to deliver and a book due in months. HELP!
Top 5 Books
Oranges are not the Only Fruit.
A Room of Ones Own.
Flowers for Mrs Harris.
We Need To Talk About Kevin.