Jul 12, 2008

RetroThreads: An Interview with Carol Holmes

Carol Holmes is the proprietor of RetroThreads, one of Etsy's many wonderful vintage stores. It's a fun mix of clothing, jewelry, accessories, supplies, and little of this and that. She graciously agreed to share with our blog readers a little bit about her background and her store.

You mention in your profile that you’ve been fascinated with fabric and knitting since a young age. Tell us a little bit about your growing obsession and how vintage came to be a part of it.
Ever since age 8, I have always craved sewing, knitting, or any activity involving fabric, thread, or yarn. My dad first showed me the old 1919 sewing machine that belonged to his grandmother, which I used all the way into my 20s. My grandmother, aunt, and various sewing teachers gave me sewing lessons and I sewed all my own clothes in high school. Later in college, I became a die-hard thrifter after my roommate showed me the bountiful selection of wonderful vintage dresses and clothing I could find (not so anymore, but that was 25 years ago!).

Your shop, RetroThreads, has such a charming mix of items. Could you describe for us the types of things you like to carry.
Thank you for that compliment! I like to mix interesting pieces of vintage clothing with related accessories and artifacts. I'm fascinated with the lives of women at a time when beauty and industriousness in the home were the most highly valued attributes. I can't pass up an apron, which always speaks to me about the woman who wore it while cleaning or cooking, or stored it carefully only to be taken out for a special occasion. I had such a large collection of aprons that needed a new life, that I started restyling them into tote bags, which will show up in my shop next week.

It sounds like your store is going to be expanding soon, with the closure of your vintage clothing store. Can you share some of your experiences as the owner of a B&M store, and the pluses or minuses of selling clothing online?
I had a vintage clothing booth at an antique mall for 4 years and I loved watching customers try things on and ooh and ahh over certain pieces. I got great pleasure in looking at my sales sheet and having my taste in clothing validated. Online, you don't get that until you have a sale and receive feedback (if you do). Also, it takes me forever to put new items in my Etsy shop because of all the photographing, measuring, and write-up work that's required. I have never been able to get a good shot of anything black, and I have tons of gorgeous black dresses. Anyone want to model for me ? I pay in vintage !

You’re also a very accomplished bead weaver. Tell us a little about your other Etsy shop, AmbrosianBeads, and other hand-made crafts you’re involved in. What inspires you?
Ambrosian Beads carried over from a harp and violin duo called Ambrosian Strings. I was the violinist (that's my career), and my harpist friend introduced me to gemstone jewelry in 2001. Shortly after, I found my niche with beadweaving because it is a needlework skill. I get a lot of inspiration from the friendly, caring, and above all, fabulously creative group of beadweavers on Etsy (http://etsy-beadweavers.blogspot.com—come vote for your favorite piece in our monthly challenge—I know, shameless plug!). My beadweaving etsy shop is AmbrosianBeads, and I also belong to a co-op fiber art gallery in Alexandria, Virginia.

Do you have a favorite style or era? And does what you would pick out or create for your shop differ from what you love or wear yourself?
I used to wear a lot of black dresses, skirts, and blouses as my orchestra formal wear. My all-time favorite piece I wore for some special concerts is a late 30s bias-cut silk velvet gown with draped sleeves. (I call them batwings!) I use an image of it as logo. I wore a 60s cocktail dress on my first date with my husband. Then at a certain age, my vintage stuff didn't fit well anymore (boo-hoo !), but I still love to collect it. I tend to go for items that define a style trend or go overboard in the trend (check out my mod seersucker suit!).

What is your favorite part about selling vintage clothes or related items (the search, the repairs, the research, etc.)? And what do you find most challenging?
My favorite part is the search and only the search. I'm like a bloodhound. Point me in the right direction and I'll be sure to sniff out some cool vintage piece. And it has to be dazzling if it needs repairs or I'll pass on it. I love sewing, but hate repairs.

In your 6 years selling vintage clothing, I’m sure that you’ve learned a lot from a lot of different sources. What has been the most helpful in terms of expanding your expertise? And do you have any advice for someone who is just starting out in the business?
My business knowledge is limited to two things: (1) don't buy anything that you can't charge at least 3 times for, and (2) pay your retail sales tax on time or else it will cost you a $20 fine (off to pay my overdue retail sales tax now!). I have a fear of getting burned out on my obsessions if I know too much about them, so I never spend much time researching. I just know what I like and hope that others will like it too.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I'm thrilled to find such great vintage on Etsy, and to be able to make a connection with other sellers and shoppers. I hope to be able to devote more time to my RetroThreads shop in the coming weeks and months. Thanks for letting me share my obsessions with everyone !

Thanks, Carol, for sharing your passion with us. Be sure to check out RetroThreads, and mention this interview to receive free worldwide shipping.


Some Like it Vintage said...

What a lovely interview! I will definately be checking out the store soon!

Anna said...

A wonderful interview about a very talented artist! I feel like I know Carol just a little bit better now! Thank you!

thebeadedlily said...

I very much enjoyed this. Thank you both!

Anonymous said...

Great interview!

Melody said...

Wonderful interview, I really enjoyed reading it.

GrandmaMarilyns said...

Cool interview. I think it is great when I can learn more about my EBW friends.

retrothreads said...

Thank you all for reading ! I enjoy sharing my obsessions with others.