Mallory Weiss and Kristina Derrick regularly find themselves mailing packages all over the globe.
The Saskatoon-based women are the creative force behind BadBad Vintage, an online clothing shop that pairs nods to the 90s with hip-hop and a “Y2K” influence. Their unique eye for fashion is finding a fan base all over the world, with a mostly younger group of buyers clamouring for their crop tops and oversized jerseys.
“There are just so many more options online. There’s so much more of an audience,” said Weiss, who said they’ve only sold one piece to a Saskatoon resident but most recently shipped packages to Jerusalem and Australia.
The prairies are a new frontier for vintage. Only a handful of sellers exist in the provinces’ largest cities, and their biggest customers remain online. While it’s easy to spend hours rifling through dirty clothes at second hand shops and go home empty handed, there’s a huge market online of vintage sellers who do the hard work, creating collections with their own unique aesthetic and selling them at a profit over the Internet.
Stacey Laing is the owner of The Dress Form, a Regina-based vintage shop. While Laing does about 50 per cent of her sales online, she also has a small display of clothing at Cade Clothing in Regina. She finds her wares either while travelling or through other vintage sellers online.
The storefront allows her to service a small market in the city, but most of the audience for vintage sales is online. Her Instagram account is full of romantic dresses with unique details.
“That’s where most of the selling goes on, just because your audience is so much bigger and you only have one of what you’re trying to sell in one size. You just need that platform,” said Laing.
Owning an online store has a distinct advantage over a physical retail space, says Dwight Heinrichs, a professor of marketing at the Paul J. Hill School of Business at the University of Regina.
“A big plus is cost saving. As a vendor, it’s very expensive to set up a shop,” said Heinrichs. While business owners who open a retail space may leverage their home to sign a lease for their business – not to mention staffing and staying open for regular business hours -- online retail comes with far less risk.
“Online, you can be doing this while you’re doing something else,” he said. “If you aren’t having fun with it at some point, you can just shut down your site and that’s that.”
These Saskatchewan women are finding success in the same vein as retailers such as Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso, who turned her own sideline eBay shop into a full-time online empire raking in more than $100 million in yearly sales.
For the owners of BadBad and The Dress Form, their online shops are mostly a labour of love. All three of the women have day jobs. While BadBad is making money, its owners say they’ve continued to reinvest in their business.
“We’re not cutting ourselves cheques or anything,” said Derrick. They pull items from the collection Derrick sourced in rag houses and vintage shops in Vancouver, or take road trips to find pieces in stores across Canada or in prairie cities further afield. Weiss poses as the model in most of their online listings.
For Derrick, who moved back home to Saskatoon a couple of years ago after studying fashion on the west coast, the prairies offer a lot of possibility. In contrast, while supportive, the fashion scene on the west coast was saturated.
“You have a pop-up shop happening every day in Vancouver,” she said, referring to the trend of retailers offering goods for a limited time in a non-traditional setting.
With the explosion of online fashion, Derrick says she’s not geographically limited, and can take part in the fashion community from the comfort of her home.
“Fashion Week in Paris is on my SnapChat, and I think that’s amazing. I’m sitting in the bathtub looking at people’s pictures from fashion week,” she said. “Underground trends are starting from nothing on Tumblr. These trends aren’t starting with fashion leaders, these are fashion followers who are creating these trends and these aesthetics. It’s so much more open for everybody to experience fashion now with the Internet.”
It’s also allowed them to build community around the world.
“We have friends in Florida that we’re working with, and different artists across the world that we’re working with. It’s so cool that we can come together,” she said.
BadBad Vintage will host their first pop-up retail sale in Saskatoon April 3.