It was while driving through the vast, snowy landscapes around Reykjavik that Anna Lewis first got the inspiration to launch a customised clothing start-up.
Having previously managed a wholesale Ebay business, she had the skills, experience and some leftover stock, but wanted to tap into the growing Etsy market and do something altogether more creative. Within 24 hours of flying back to the UK, the business cards were ordered and Mr Fox Upcycled Clothing Co was established: “The concept was simple: take something unloved and slightly outdated, and with a little bit of time, skill and imagination, make it into a desirable item again.”
As Anna had no technical skill for sewing or dressmaking, she recruited a seamstress, Yasmin, based in Liverpool, sending parcels back and forth on a regular basis. Together they experimented with ex-high street clothing, by adding layers of tulle to create 50’s style prom dresses, restructuring garments into pencil dresses, or adding ric rac and lace trims. A bright pink paisley shirt dress was made into two separate co-ord pieces for more versatile items, and ladies’ tops were upcycled into girls dresses, skirts and cushion covers. The hardest part was getting used to the Etsy website, but soon the sales trickled in from the US, Australia and Canada, and vintage clothing from the 60s and 70s were added to the mix.
Eight months later, Mr Fox Clothing opened their first pop-up shop in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. Situated on the borders of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire, Holmfirth is a popular spot for tourists and daytrippers, and it was a great opportunity for the growing business to reach a new audience and sell directly to customers. Based on the fourth floor of Multicraft Cabin, a mini-boutique was created, selling a mix of vintage handbags, silk pashminas, knitted children’s jumpers and customised ladieswear. The first pop-up was swiftly followed by a second, this time much closer to home, and Anna switched from a freelance theatre and events career to focus on the business full time.
Me And Mrs Fisher craft and cake cafe on Lord Mayor’s Walk had an upstairs haberdashery that was proving expensive to stock, and as a popular hangout for York St John Students and families, wanted to maximise the potential of the ‘dinky but delightful’ space. Now, vintage clothing and sewing paraphernalia sit side-by-side, along with handcrafted prints and homewares, making it a lovely location for both coffee and gifts. With ladieswear, leather handbags, scarves and vintage fabric currently available, Anna will shortly be adding vintage menswear and childrenswear in time for Christmas.
Anna is the first to admit that the success of this venture has been a complete surprise: “For months I couldn’t commit much time to it, yet the sales would happen organically. It gave me the confidence to really go for it, but I’m learning day by day. Selling on Ebay I made every mistake in the book, this time it feels more intuitive”. The business has moved out of the spare room and into ‘Mr Fox HQ’ at Stonebow Studios, which Anna also runs as a creative office and rehearsal space.
The pop-up in Holmfirth finishes November, with Me And Mrs Fisher finishing in January. “The aspiration is to have a bricks and mortar shop one day, but for the time being, the pop-up shop is a great way of building a following. I’ve got my eye on Harrogate, Huddersfield, maybe even Sheffield or Manchester. But I’ve yet to experience a Christmas in vintage, that is my next big challenge - keeping the Etsy page and two shops stocked with good quality, seasonal items in sizes 4 - 20. I’m stockpiling like crazy already”
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