Fresh as a Vintage Rose: Meet the new female fashion collective looking to inspire
Fresh as a Vintage Rose is an exciting new collective formed by a trio of Sheffield businesswomen, friends and Exposed Awards winners who came together and found solace in each other during the difficult days of lockdown. Sam (Miss Samantha’s Vintage), Niamh (Gypsy Rose Hair Salon) and Louisa (Freshmans) decided to pool their considerable experience in the fashion industry, uniting in the name of empowerment to work on a series of creative projects and photoshoots.
Their inaugural venture took place inside Orchis Floral Design at Hagglers Corner, with clothing from Freshmans/Miss Samantha’s and hair styling by Gypsy Rose. Bringing together a wider community of talented female creatives – Lou White and Emily Burkett provided photography and Laura Jessica provided makeup – the experience and results were so powerful that they now want to help others enjoy that self-expression, working on a range of fashion shoots that promote diversity and ‘being real’.
We caught up with FAAVR over a coffee last month to discuss the group’s inspirations and plans for the future…
First of all, how did you three come together?
N: Sam pestered me for an appointment, and after about a year I got to meet her.
S: Then I just followed her around and asked her to be my friend. *Laughs*
N: Then I met Lou at the vintage fairs. She’d have her stall, and I’d have mine, then I’d come and nick all her dresses.
S: After the Exposed Awards, I messaged Louisa to say congratulations as I didn’t want there to be any ‘us vs them’ mentality. She got straight back to me, which was lovely, and we didn’t really speak again until we started talking about this collaboration. Niamh put us back in touch.
N: When all three of us won at the last Exposed Awards, we thought it made sense for us to do something together, put aside any sort of ego and do something really positive.
L: This is the spin-off from that night! We found that we were all very much on the same page on a personal level. We’d talk to each other very openly about our businesses and the struggles that came with it. We found that really helped us.
More so than ever with the difficulties faced by independent businesses over the past two years, I’d imagine?
S: Yeah, I think when you’re running your own business it can feel quite insular. This became a small network to go to for advice and support, and that was really helpful for me.
N: Being in business on your own is hard. When you’re the person that makes all the decisions, especially with the last 18 months, you just think, ‘Who can I talk to?’
L: And also, how can you talk about business worries – something that might seem quite trivial when you’ve got people dying from covid? So having this connection has been important.
How did the first photoshoot collab come about?
N: I’ve loved working on the Exposed fashion shoots, where Sam and Lou provided clothes, and I thought, ‘I wear their clothes!’ so we started talking about coming together and doing our own thing, in our own image.
S: It was really about having the balls to do it. For me, I always wanted to be able to say to other women, “If you have something you want to do, just do it.
L: That’s what we want to inspire other women to do. When we put together the first shoot, it felt so empowering: the stories behind the faces, the background to it all and getting these beautiful photographs from it, too. The high went on for a while, and we decided we wanted to carry this on, to really make something out of it.
N: It’s not just about us. The potential for what this could actually be is massive. We want to able to put other vendors in touch with each other, and help them to do what we did. We had a second photographer working with us on the shoot, who was initially quite nervous about getting out there. But following that, she’s got back to us and told us that she feels more than capable of doing this moving forward. The make-up artist from the shoot has left her teaching job and is now going to be a full-time make-up artist!
Wow. Off the back of the first shoot?
N: Yeah! It’s fantastic. A model from the shoot, Katie, that’s her first shoot she’s done in a long time, and now she’s gone straight into back into it, doing and trying new things. Irrelevant of gender, we all need those sorts of opportunities.
L: During the shoot we asked the make-up artist if she’d like to get in front of the camera, and at first she was a bit shocked, she’d never been in front of camera in that sense before, but she went for it and ended up loving it. She was buzzing afterwards.
S: I didn’t go with any intent to have my photograph taken. But when I saw the girls having theirs taken, I got a little bit jealous and went for it.
And that’s a big thing Fresh as a Vintage Rose offers – a space to make those first steps?
N: It’s about giving space for other people to shine. We want to start something that’s inclusive and very Sheffield-centric. It’s a special place, it’s a very diverse city, and we’re very proud of that diversity and our ability as independent thinkers to come together as a community.
What ideas are in the pipeline?
N: We’ve got a few different ideas, particularly ones which promote the diversity of our communities. More will be revealed soon. But one thing we’d really like to say to the Exposed community of readers who pick this up is this: if you’d like to be part of something that’s non-comformist, integrated and open-minded, then that’s the community of people we’re wanting to build – people using their skills to create something, whatever that is.
L: We’ve got a few ideas we’d like to work on, but we also plan for it to grow organically; we’re hoping for certain projects to come alive through the people and businesses we speak to. Fundamentally, we want to use our experience of breaking away from the stereotypical expectations of what we should be doing at our age and funnel that into others.
S: We’re not looking at this to make any money, none of us got paid for that shoot. We did it because we wanted to see what would happen.
L: Everybody’s got stories to tell, and we’re wanting to tap into that, hoping to help people express themselves and feel better if they’ve lost their way. We want to provide the empowerment that we felt on that first shoot. We want to give that to someone else.
How can people contact Fresh as a Vintage Rose with any ideas, or just to make a connection?
L: We’ve got an Instagram page (@fresh_as_a_vintage_rose), which we’d point people towards initially. But we’ll have organised the rest of the admin stuff by the time this issue is out. We come across lots of people and stories in our day to day working lives, so we’re hoping for projects to grow out of conversations in our day jobs too.
N: When you’re an independent retailer, you build a real relationship with your customers.
S: You go on a real journey with them. Sheffield, as a city, is a very supportive of its independent businesses and the people behind them. The people will come to you because they want to buy from you, not a chain. We’re wanting to build on that trust.
L: More than ever, people want a more personalised experience. I’ve got customers that call me ‘The Vintage Momma’. I’ve got a customer that’s actually going to have that tattooed on his arse cheek – true story! It shows that it’s more than just a shop to people, or more than just a hair salon.
But one thing we’d really like to say to the Exposed community of readers who pick this up is this: if you’d like to be part of something that’s non-comformist, integrated and open-minded, then that’s the community of people we’re wanting to build – people using their skills to create something, whatever that is.
It’s the independent businesses such as yours that truly define a city, right?
S: Yeah, you might look at a fancy new shopping centre in Leeds, but at the end of the day, it’s bricks and mortar. It’s all about people. Being based out in Walkley, I get a lot of students that chose to stay in Sheffield to do masters degrees or put down roots, and independent businesses are an important choice to have. It’s interesting how many people who move away from Sheffield come back to see us.
N: My aunt works for a big corporate billboard advertising company, and she’s worked on getting her billboards in Sheffield. She’s often said that people in that big cheese corporate world say the same thing, that Sheffield is a special place and it’s like there’s a dome over it. I really agree with that – and that’s not a bad thing. It’s down to that pride.
S: I’ve always said, if you had two piles of horse manure and one was for free and one cost a pound, a Sheffielder would buy the one that cost a pound – because nowt’s for free!
On that superb note, I feel like we should start wrapping up the interview. Anything else to add?
L: Just to really say again that something that might seem silly, like doing a photoshoot with your friends, what you can get out of that is incredible. It can be a huge boost and we’re really passionate about making this work. We’ve all been behind closed doors for a long time and if someone needs help getting back out there, get in touch!
Give ‘em a follow and look out for upcoming projects @fresh_as_a_vintage_rose