An Interview with Friends & Neighbors Vintage
Friends and Neighbors popped up in Victoria last Spring in a flurry of vintage dresses and shibori fabrics. Since then they've become a prime resource for quality vintage clothing up and down the Island. These women are a collection of many talents; F&N spent this past year supplying the city with vintage clothes, shibori workshops, curated markets, and a host of other creative endeavors. They've since divided their skills among themselves and continue to run a growing multifaceted business with their go-with-the-flow mentality.
We asked Brooke, one half of their Vintage shop, to answer some questions about F&N's first year in business. We thought this would be a nice little introduction seeing as Picot is soon be Friends & Neighbors Vintage first permanent pop-up! That's right, you'll soon be able to stock your wardrobe at Picot!
Picot: Tell us a little about yourself / your business
Brooke: Friends & Neighbors Vintage is a collective of female artists and treasure hunters who are inspired by the PNW, our sweet and supportive community in Victoria, and most of all, the thrill of the hunt!
Picot: How long as F&N been in business
Brooke: It will be 1 year in March!! We hosted our first sale at my house and had no idea at the time that it was going to be the beginning of a very beautiful and winding road for us all.
Picot: What does Friends and Neighbors do? It seems almost like you do everything! Is there a common thread in your endeavors?
Brooke: Last Summer it really did feel like we were doing it all haha! We have taken all we learned in the past year and recently expanded the brand into sub-categories, so right now there is a 'Friends & Neighbors Vintage' brand (debuting in your lovely shop!) run by Amber and myself, which will focus specifically on pop-ups, online sales and styling going forward. Mel will be debuting her brand, 'Bind and Bloom', sometime in the near future which will focus on the shibori workshop aspect of the brand. And our sweet Danielle, who has been out East for school since the Fall, will be returning in the Summer with new artwork she'll be showcasing on her own and at future F&N pop-ups, of course!
Picot: Where did the idea for Friends and Neighbors come from?
Brooke: We never had a plan or idea per se, believe it or not! Danielle and I organized a small house sale and each invited a friend to participate. I invited my dear vintage loving friend, Amber (who I knew had an amazing collection of her own, both shopped for and some inherited from her Aunty Penny and Grandmother), and Danielle invited Mel, who was was running her own online business at the time and had been delving into indigo dyeing. At the end of the sale we were all so elated by everyone who came, and by all the great feedback about the cozy, DIY aspect of the sale, that we wanted to do more! That day ended up being the start of our year long, unplanned journey. The name Friends & Neighbors felt like the perfect fit since so many of our friends and neighbors were at that first sale and have come to all our future sales (shout out to Part & Parcel and Danielle's mama Deb, among many!)
Picot: Have you always had a passion for vintage clothes?
Brooke: Yes, 100%! Both Amber and I have been collecting vintage clothing and oddities for as long as we both can remember. Honestly at this point we almost need F&N because our houses are overrun with goodies...we can't stop! I worked at a vintage shop on Johnson Street 20 years ago called 'Secondhand Roses' where I worked for trade and it really cemented my dream of wanting to own my own shop one day.
Picot: What makes you most excited about the evolution of your business?
Brooke: That it's happening organically and we are just going with the flow. We both believe in letting things flow naturally and seeing where the ride takes us, and so far that very loose business model has worked out well.
Picot: Do you have a mentor?
Brooke: I feel like we each have lots of personal mentors but as far as the gang goes, anyone on the Island who is an active maker, who is out there and making a go of it is someone who's our mentor (whether or not they know it). It takes a lot of courage and strength to start a business based on your craft. Jovee Handcrafted, Lizard Breath, Picot, By Lacey Janette, Bardot Knick Knack and Hoard, Shop Open House, Smug Boredom, Rachel Saunders, and Drift & Nest are a few locals we love and look up to, but, oh my gosh, we could honestly go on and on. Inspiration and mentorship is all around us!
Picot: What does each of you provide to F&N?
Brooke: Focusing on the Vintage side of things, Amber comes with a unique eye to find anything that's buttery soft and oh so special. She also has years of experience with refurbishing and re-purposing antique furniture and is a very grounding member of the pack. I have a background in fashion arts/styling and my day job is graphic design so I tend to do more of the computer-related tasks and Instagram. We both thrift like there's no tomorrow though!
Picot: What have you learned from the time you started this endeavor to now?
Brooke: We've learned to streamline the work. When we started, it snowballed very quickly and we were all so in it, we didn't have the proper flow set up. We were all doing what we could, fitting it around our lives and day jobs, not realizing how draining it was becoming trying to all do it all. We were doing pop-ups and shibori dyeing workshops, styling shoots and hosting events. It was a really insane summer and ended up burning us all out to varying degrees. That is a big reason why we split the brand up among us, and we are already feeling there is better workflow now that our roles are more concentrated.
Picot: Can you tell us about a specific time in your life when your path had a trajectory, or had a catalyst moment that lead you to where you are now?
Brooke: Well, personally I feel like my path to F&N started when I was working at my old job, Bamboletta, a doll making company based out of the Cowichan Valley. At the time, we were a small group of women working out of a studio at Whippletree Junction. We were all perfect strangers and were brought together by the company owner, Christina who saw a commonality in all of us. We worked 8 hour days, 5 days a week, in a small room set up with couches and big puffy chairs, sewing and working on dolls and talking and talking and talking. Through all of what life threw at us, we were all there to support and hold space for one another. Growing up, I always gravitated towards the ease of male friendship so it was my first experience of seeing the power of a coven of women. I wouldn't want it any other way now!
Picot: Has there been a time where you were unsure about your business, or afraid to move forward?
Brooke: I would say after the Summer/Fall craziness and us all feeling so burnt out, there was definitely some uncertainty. After we regrouped and talked about our new direction, it's felt better than ever. When your business model is to 'go with the flow' it's pretty much par for the course to feel uncertain at times. Amber and I just approach everything now with, if it doesn't work out, it's not meant to be. That has alleviated a lot of that anxious pressure that can creep up.
Picot: What is a key defining characteristic or choice you have made in developing your business, and why?
Brooke: To be as chill as possible and keep having fun. Why do anything that isn't filling your cup and fun? We have our day job roles that already have their varying degrees of un-fun times, so it's paramount that this is an outlet fueled by light, easy, fun times.
Picot: What would your advice be to budding creative entrepreneurs?
Brooke: Make Instagram your bff. It's an incredible, free tool in marketing and it's there for the taking!
Picot: What do you enjoy about running a business as a team? Or what are the benefits?
Brooke: We love that the load is a little lighter with the both of us and that there is a constant flow of great ideas. We each have our own sense of style or approach to running a business, so the skill-set among us is definitely broader than if it were just one person. Also it feels like so much less pressure when you have someone who's always got your back and can pick up work when life starts getting in the way. We aren't at a point where this is full-time yet, so having someone else to jump in when necessary is so awesome...especially when the trust is there.
Picot: What is your favourite aspect of your business?
Brooke: When customers take home one of our gems. It's rewarding beyond belief when we pair a beloved article of clothing to their rightful owner. Honestly when I'm thrifting I feel like I'm rescuing special items and can't wait for them to live their new life! Amber and I are really crazy about preserving as much as we can about the past. It's an absolute passion to have Friends & Neighbors as an outlet for that.
Picot: Can you tell us 6 things people generally don’t know about you?
- We're both moms and between us we have 5 children ages 6-16.
- Amber and I met 8 years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter. We bonded over our love of all things vintage of course and I'm pretty sure we talked about doing something together in the early days of friendship but our kids were all very little at the time so it seemed very out of reach.
- We both struggle in our own ways with social anxieties which was really difficult at first when we would do the markets and events. I think we were equally surprised by how scary it was to be on the other side of the table at markets and would take turns on our tall stool as our grounding spot, haha. We're getting better at it though and it's nice to be able to support each other in that way. Victoria has always been full of the loveliest and kindest folk, so we get through our anxieties really by just talking and being open with our customers and making the effort to really connect with them.
- We are children of real life hoarders and both channel our learned hoarding habits into vintage items. I would say I'm slightly more in denial of my hoardy ways but that's because I'm very out of sight out of mind and I sneak giant totes of clothing into the storage space so it's often worse than I think (and by worse, I mean, SOOOOO many treasures of loveliness, so not that bad!).
- We travel a lot! Amber goes East quite a bit while my travels are generally more PNW related. I just bought a 60's travel trailer and my dream would be to travel, buy and pop-up all on the go!
- We dream of having our own little shop one day, but we're waiting for the stars to align. We'll start first with an online shop and see where that leads...
Follow Friends and Neighbors Vintage on Facebook to catch their pop-ups and markets or find them at Picot Collective this Spring!