I had the pleasure of meeting Lindsay Hastings Burchby, the founder of Bay Area shopping site Thrifted and Modern (you can also find them selling on Chictopia Shop). The selection they offer is all in the name— amazing vintage items and stylish new pieces from cool brands like Miista and Evil Twin (Brian Atwood even bought some shoes). It’s the perfect shop for fashion insiders into indie designers and one-of-a-kind pieces.
Lindsay’s not only talented and extremely hard working, but she’s a sweet person too! Get some tips by finding out how Lindsay got started, and also tons of inspiration from her story!
Describe your store in three words.
“Geometric / Au courant / Synthesis”
Where do you get inspiration from?
“I look at a lot of street style and runway collections for inspiration, though I don’t draw from anything directly. I just fill my head with images and my brain scrambles everything around and spits Thrifted & Modern back out. I get a lot of my ideas from staring out the window.
I taught two semesters at the Academy of Art in the Photography department this past year. That was very inspiring. They always say you learn the most about something by teaching it and that was definitely true for me."
Can you tell us how your store came about?
“It was kind of an accident in the beginning. In 2007, I was waiting tables at an upscale seafood restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, and trying to make it as a fine artist. Ironically, the art work I was doing at the time dealt with the same ideas I work with now; it was all about the forced synthesis of different styles fusing together to create something new but, hopefully, uncontrived.
I had graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in Illustration, but was very burned out on the whole thing. School had made me neurotic and depressed which led to a creative paralysis of sorts. All I could see were the flaws in what I was doing.
It was a very frustrating time, but also a lot of fun. I was going out almost every night. There was a scene in Providence that had so much energy. My two best friends and I were also going thrifting every week, and my wardrobe kept expanding with every trip. I had a lot of clothes and was completely obsessed with fashion. I think at one point I even made my own shoes, by cutting up two pairs of thrifted shoes and using the pieces. I wore them out a few times before they fell apart.
In 2007, my crazy Providence life came to a screeching halt when I made the decision to move back home to California to get married. The decision was made very quickly and abruptly, with the intention of returning to Rhode Island after the wedding. I needed cash for the move, so I joined eBay and sold off some of my designer and vintage clothing. I think I made about $900 and remember being completely hooked on eBay after that.
After the move, I got another job waiting tables at a fine dining restaurant and hated it. Californians are so different than New Englanders, and I had a really hard time adjusting. After a few terrible months, I ended up walking out the back door of the restaurant right before I was supposed to wait on the Mayor of Santa Clara. I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving. I just got in my car and drove away. I still can’t believe I did that.
Remarkably, that is when Thrifted & Modern was first born. It was the summer of 2007 and I had no job. My husband, Casey, and I had some friends with an eBay store and I thought I might try to do the same thing. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into."
How long have you been in the business?
“I started selling on eBay in 2007, but the store was a completely different thing back then. I was selling a mishmash of vintage items which included a lot of 80s sunglasses. I had two other stores before changing the name of the eBay store to Thrifted in 2009. I launched my own website in the summer of 2011 and began featuring new items in addition to the vintage shortly after that.”
What’s it like working in the Bay Area? How does living here affect your business?
“Well – it’s so expensive! I’m in Campbell, so I would probably have a completely different experience if we were to move to San Francisco or Oakland. It’s pretty suburban here, but I did find the most amazing little studio of all time. It looks like a weird vintage Disneyland western town. I love it.”
What’s a typical day like for you?
“I work most waking hours, but a lot of the work doesn’t really feel like work because I want to do it. On weekends I try not to put in more than six hours each day so I don’t get burned out.
I wake up around 8:00 a.m. (my alarm is set for 7:30 but ugh), check my 50+ new emails in my phone (the stress helps me get up faster), respond to a few emails, have a piece of sourdough toast and a yogurt, shower, stop at Starbucks for my iced grande nonfat caramel macchiato, and go to my studio.
I usually spend about an hour or so answering emails and text messages, unpacking boxes, and getting organized. After that, I will usually edit photos for a little while or photograph some more products. I might also publish some products during this time or just get them ready to go. Around 2:30, I realize that I am starving and shaky from the iced grande nonfat caramel macchiato and I might walk somewhere and get some food and fresh air. When I get back, it’s more of the same thing; photo editing, shooting products, uploading photos, writing copy, paying bills, answering more questions, booking models, market research, washing out a vintage dress or two, steaming, sorting, and looking at line sheets. Around 10:00 p.m. my husband, Casey will call me and tell me he is on his way home, so I will start finishing up. At 11:00, Casey will call me back and let me know he is home at which point I lie to him and tell him I am on my way before I finally make it out the door at 11:30."
What’s your biggest store-related accomplishment?
“Brian Atwood bought shoes from me. I promised him I wouldn’t tell, but I can’t help myself!”
Do you work in a one-man team or do you receive help?
“I used to do everything myself, but I do have some help now. My assistant Elise Gray, who owns Fancy Rags, works Mondays, Wednesdays, and half-days on Fridays. She does all the Chictopia Shop postings, Etsy listings, inventory management, shipping, and blogging.
We do an all-day photo shoot with a model every Tuesday. I would not survive if it wasn’t for my hair and makeup artist Teresa Reynolds. Teresa is hands-down the best makeup artist in Northern California and my rock. We call her Fairy Godmother since she has anything and everything you might need on her at all times. She once fashioned a funnel out of an old file folder and conjured up some motor oil for my car. I’m not kidding.
My friend, Kristin Cofer, and her boyfriend, Richard, have been designing the Thrifted & Modern emails for the past several months. Kristin also shot two lookbooks for the store. The first lookbook, “Sunstorm,” is published on the website and the second will be out very soon.
My former Academy of Art student, Martine Pinnel, comes down to the studio on Thursdays to help shoot and edit products for the website and for 1st Dibs. She also shot an editorial for the store and helps edit the photos I shoot on Tuesdays. Martine was one of ten finalists in the Vogue New Exposure Fashion Photography contest this past summer. Her work is pretty rad.
Chase from The Black Cat Collective Vintage Emporium has quickly become my second husband. He has been swinging by the studio every other day with a car full of some of the most amazing vintage and antique pieces you have ever seen in your life for us to consign. I started selling some of my higher-end pieces on 1st Dibs this past fall, and Chase and I quickly forged a sourcing partnership to free up some of my time. The man is a miracle. A few weeks ago, he showed up with multiple solid gold Victorian purses. Solid gold!
My friend Tiffany English, who I met when she was running the ultra-hip and fabulous Rock Paper Vintage, updates our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @thriftedandmodern. Tiffany and I were friends through the internet for years before she moved to the West Coast last year. She was actually the first person to tell me about Chictopia back in the day. I’m pretty sure I joined because Rock Paper Vintage was there.
And last but not least, my SEO and copywriter Jody Hume. Jody has another full time job, but she helps write product descriptions on Fridays when she can. Last year I got my hands on an eight-hour SEO video tutorial which was ridiculously thorough. I made poor Jody watch most of it and the two of us have been trying to DIY SEO the website since. Did I just coin a new term? DIYSEO."
You sell a mixture of thrifted and wholesale items. Where do you find these products?
“I think this is the part of the interview where I am supposed to say, ’I’ll never tell,’ but my response is going to be even more vague… ‘everywhere.’ I will literally shop anywhere and everywhere that will sell me vintage.”
Where and how do you network with other store owners?
“Actually, I have become good friends with a lot of other store owners over the past few years. I belong to a network of over 30 other vintage sellers who I chat with almost daily on Facebook. You would think there would be cattiness since we are technically competition for one another’s customers, but it is just the opposite. Everyone is so supportive, helpful and open. I cannot say enough nice things about this group of talented women.
I also have gotten to know some of the local vintage vendors through Chase from the Black Cat who I mentioned above. He is one of those people who knows everybody."
Your store is online only. What are your favorite sites to sell at or market your store?
“Chictopia (obviously)! We have Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram too.”
What do you consider the best ways to promote your store?
“I think the best way to promote your store is to have a great unique product that people not only want, but also want to share with their friends. Social media is great, but it is important to remember that it only works if people want to share what you have in the first place. It is only part of the equation.”
Does social media play a big part in marketing?
“We have done almost zero paid marketing, so social media is really all we have to get the word out. Collectively, I think it has played a big part in Thrifted and Modern’s success, but it is feels slow while you are building a following. There are so many brands out there all yelling into cyberspace. It is hard to be heard.”
Where do you find your models?
“Lately, we have been booking our models through Stars Model Management in San Francisco. The bookers, Kristen and Alicia have been absolutely wonderful to work with. Stars is probably my favorite agency because they really look for girls who can model, rather than finding tall girls with pretty faces.”
What do you look for in models before booking?
“The most important thing to me while booking is whether or not the model can move. Hands are particularly expressive in photographs so I always check portfolios for tense hands before I book.”
Any tips on how to get great product shots?
“Getting great product shots takes practice. I thought any good photographer could do it, but there is a timing to shooting catalog that takes a while to learn. The model is constantly moving, so you have to anticipate what she is going to do and catch her at just the right moment. I am still learning. I get better with every shoot.
You also have to make sure you get the shots you want in-camera. During a shoot, I can take up to 2000 photos, which is a lot of editing. It’s just too much to manually adjust each and every little thing in Photoshop afterward. It would take an entire team of photo editors just to edit one shoot."
What camera do you use?
I have a Canon 50D but I’m not sure the camera matters so much.
Do you have any suggestions on tools or systems for efficient book keeping/ inventory?
“Hire a bookkeeper! Don’t try and do it yourself! I do track my own inventory, but that’s on a homemade Excel spreadsheet from the dark ages that I would not recommend to anyone. I am actually looking to find a better way myself. If anyone out there can recommend something besides Quickbooks, let me know.”
What is one thing that you wish you knew before you started Thrifted & Modern?
“Sometimes I wish I had taken some business classes before I started, but then I wonder if the odds against success would have scared me off too much to keep going. Sometimes a little naiveté is a good thing.”
What projects do you foresee?
“I think about doing a lot of things, but I have no time. I’d like to eventually start my own line, but right now that is just a dream.”
Would you recommend that anyone start their own store? How does someone know that they have what it takes?
“I am not sure you ever know whether or not you have what it takes. I think (hope) that that is normal? My mom always told me to do what I was obsessed with and I think that is the best advice anyone ever gave me. You know when you walk into Barnes & Noble and go to the magazine aisle – well, what is the first magazine you pick up? I always looked at Gap Press or some other publication that printed that season’s runway shows. I used to feel guilty for not looking at the art magazines, knowing that I should be more excited to see what other artists were doing. But in the end, I really just wanted to look at clothes.”
Any last tips you can give to someone looking to start their own clothing store?
“This business is incredibly stressful and competitive. I have trusted some people who have burned me pretty badly – and my friends that own stores would say the same. It is really important to know yourself well before you start any type of business. There will be instances of frustration and desperation which test your character, poisonous people that can ruin your trust, and moments of complete insanity. At the end of the day all you have is yourself, so you better make sure you know who that is.”