Dec 06, 2018 | By Jane Boddy
Pam Cheema is a big lover of beautiful one-off pieces, and what initially started out as a hobby in 2009, has since been reported by Rachel Zoe, as one of the best vintage brands to follow on Instagram. If you are not already following Frock on Vintage, you should start now.
Frock on Vintage, which comprises of an IRL appointment-only shop in Birmingham and a killer Instagram account, is now in its 10th successful year of trading. On an average day you might spot anyone in store from, Virgin Radio presenter Kate Lawler, to Nicola Roberts to Ella Eyre (they are all customers). Once inside the store expect to see endless 80’s and 90’s handpicked vintage garments and accessories (personally I am a huge fan of the vintage Moschino pieces).
We caught up with Pam to find out more.
Tell me about Frock On Vintage, have you always had a passion for vintage?
I have always loved vintage and one-off pieces, I have never been one to follow the crowd and shop the chaos of the high street. Frock On Vintage started off as a bit of a hobby, I was working in TV whilst sourcing one-off pieces in my spare time. Lots of my friends and customers at vintage fairs kept giving me really lovely feedback and asked why I wasn’t pursuing things full-time.
There was a gap in my work contract and I took it as a window of opportunity to go out to Africa for four months and do some voluntary charity work. My trip was cut short as I contracted malaria and I had to return to the UK. I has seen and experienced so many heart-breaking things during my time in Africa, really changing my whole outlook on life. I came back realising that life really is short and can be taken away at any time so I had to follow my dreams and push FOV as a brand!
From there, it was all a bit of a whirlwind really, mainly because I was so ambitious from the outset. Within 6-12 weeks of trading, I pitched to one of the biggest retailers Topshop and successfully got the brand into the Birmingham Bull Ring store. Frock On Vintage was stocked as a concession in the store for two and a half years.
What’s your unique selling point?
I have always sourced on trend one-off pieces, which I feel has always kept the brand different from every other out there. I take pride in every garment I source and I am a stickler for quality. I am a real perfectionist and I only source things that I would personally wear too. The market has become so saturated over the years which has made it more difficult to source those ‘WOW’ pieces but I have always stood strongly, never compromising on the pieces that I pick for my brand.
You are based in Birmingham, are there any other similar independent stores like yours?
Sadly there isn’t really any in my city of Birmingham. There is Cow Vintage, Urban Village and also a vintage range in Urban Outfitters but that’s about it. There have been a few brands that have popped over the years but sadly have closed very quickly.
My customers are from all over the UK and also parts of America and Europe. The brand appeals to the girl next door from lots of different cities. As well as having my brand in Topshop, I was keen to expand so I set up a little studio where I did appointment only shopping. It added a completely different dynamic and experience for the shopper, something more personal.
Where do you source your garments from?
I don’t have one particular place that I go to; I have several sources all over the in UK. I have been in the creative industry for years and have built fantastic relationships with my suppliers.
I have never been a bulk buyer and never will be. I handpick every single Frock On Vintage item and spend lots of time curating thought-out collections. People don’t realise sometimes the lengths that you go to source pieces. I spend hours on the road and can often be found diving into containers in dark, cold warehouses to find pieces! It is hard work, but I am prepared to do whatever it takes to get the very best for my customers!
You must be constantly re-stocking your studio with new finds, how often would you say is it updated, weekly/ daily or less frequent?
Over the years I have learnt how to refine my sourcing. When Frock On Vintage was stocked in Topshop I had a surplus of stock, but now I am at a stage where I have got a really neat, refined collection. There are always key things that I am always on the look out for. My customers have wish lists they send me and I always make it my mission to find them what they are looking for. It is so lovely to hear the feedback from them when they love the garments I have sourced them!
I do have a really strong business and commercial head, but I am not really in it for the money, it’s never motivated me. Customer relationships, building a brand with integrity and that is honest has always been key.
What do you think the future holds for vintage fashion?
The climate has changed a hell of a lot, people’s finances and the political landscape means the world is more volatile than it ever has been.
I am always going to sell incredible on-trend vintage pieces; nothing has changed from my perspective and never will. The vintage market has become really saturated now, so the key thing for me is to continue to take pride in sourcing the best and remind myself why I set Frock On Vintage up in the first place.
With high street retailers selling clothing at really low price points and copying a lot of vintage pieces things are more challenging today. I do, however strongly believe that the market for authentic vintage is here to stay!
To get your hands on the best on-trend 80’s and 90’s one-off pieces out there follow the Frock On Vintage Instagram page: @frockonvintage
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