Bright with such a sight, having made my way to Godiva’s Boutique along Grassmarket. The sun was shining and people were flooding the streets. I was lucky enough to meet the owner of Godiva Fleur MacIntosh, Having had a moment I made my way around the colourful and object-jumping materials and patterns of the vintage boutique,
From the large design of painted unicorns and artistic vines on the walls to the hard wooden flooring and high glanced ceilings, there wasn’t a dull spot to be found. The smell of old wooden flooring and musk Victorian atmosphere. Godiva was brimming with creative ideas, from small, sweet-smelling ornaments to vintage old suitcases used as décor. Almost feeling as if I were in the Tim Burton “Alice in Wonderland Film.”
Godiva ‘s boutique store is unique, vintage with a high street gloom touch. Having been founded in 2002, Godiva takes the street with such charisma and exquisite clothing and accessories from independent designers and grads that are wanting to promote and sell their work.
Fleur is able to provide these young designers and artists with the opportunity to enter the world of fashion design and bring their creations to life! I felt more at ease in the environment because of the calm and collected swing and jazzy type music playing in the background. In the comfy red lounge chairs with the sun glaring through, the store which looks so small but opens up to a mary Poppins bag with its very own special studio in which they have a bespoke service with the measure in store in which you can choose a design and your fabric and have a garment made just for you! As well as where independent store designers go and create their masterpieces of collections.
Having been so sucked into the environment of the shop I later snapped out and sat down with Fleur to ask a few questions about life on the road of creating a store with such taste and creativity, The goods the bads and the all together just grad-tactic opportunities! Instead of me rambling on I will let Fleur bring you into all the ins and outs of her personal world at Godiva.
So an intriguing question most of the readers would love to know as this isn’t any ordinary high-street store, how would you describe a typical day in Godiva?
“A typical day, It changes everyday, Everyday is a different day and that is the fun of it. Different customer integrations and your daily chores in the morning, but I think the joy of having a business like this is that everyday is a different day. It keeps you on your toes different seasons come and go.”
What is it exactly you are wanting to get out of your customers in terms of within your styles and clothing itself?
“I think the thing about the shop is having a few things different and unusual, often like on off or limited edition. I think now were a quiet established and often the customers that now come in here know the products and know that is hand made by a independent designers or small scale productions and that’s kind of the unique pull towards the store. Again with vintage people when they shop at vintage shops its because they like to be different and mix and match their wardrobe, with all the new pieces so from the idea of that came all the different designers and supporting different talent.”
That was what was so eye grabbing about Godiva, How did you go about choosing designers did you go out and find people or did they approach you?
“A bit of both a lot of the time people approach the store as its very established and having a showroom for independent designers. People come to me and a lot of the time I sometimes see something that someone is wearing and ask where it’s from. I’ll go and find it or, it’s just by being alert about things around you. Occasionally troll through things. But generally its people coming to me or I notice things on the street, or recommendations a lot of people recommended designers as well.“
Who would you say would be your biggest market competitors?
“Don’t really have one. I think it’s not so much competition but I think there is a certain kind of unity in independent stores cause we all try, I really try to make things that nobody else has, So we either have round or in house designers based in the studio, which she makes all her designers here and they are always exclusively made with her and on the shop as well.
There are also a couple of labels in here that I have that other stores have but we are determined not to have the same thing. Also I ask all the designers who sell with me that they don’t sell within other shops within 5 miles within our area, which makes it kind of fair. I think the more independent shops there are the better because I think there is the need to understand this kind of type of shop. I don’t feel that I have got that much to worry about in terms of competitors. “
How many employees do you have currently at the moment?
“I have 2, There are 3 of us in total we are a small shop a unique business trade is determined around what time of year it is, obviously around the Fringe Festival we tend to have a few more people on the shop floor but generally there is only about 1 person on the shop floor a day. There is a lot of work to do, but it comes and goes determine what day it is and how busy it is.”
What was it that actually got you to start Godiva in the first place? What was the motive behind it?
“I worked in Godiva which used to be a second hand vintage store just up the road and I actually worked there during university, So I actually took the business on, But when I took it on it was literally just a room with alright vintage clothes nothing too amazing and I just bought it on for a minimum amount and it was really more of a shell of a shop and I liked the idea and completely changed it to what I have now which is more vintage it is about more 30 to 40% of the shop and the rest is independent designers. We also have the studio within the store as well.”
Did you need any type of experience into the retail shop owning life?
“No (Laughs slightly) That’s why it’s taken me this long! I have just taken my time. I have learnt from my mistakes, I didn’t have any prior training at all; I have never really even worked in a shop. I think you just have to trust your instinct. A lot and have to be prepared to make mistakes and work hard. But that is the fun of it as well that’s where a lot inspiration came from; I like to make myself proud. It has its up and downs though, same with everything though.”
How did you get the word around and promote your business?
“Well promoting for me doesn’t come from lots of advertising because its is so expensive and I think I have tried and it hasn’t worked, I think the best thing that does work is through word of mouth, The fact I have been here so long and am pretty established I think that says it all. Word of mouth more than anything definitely.”
Was there anything you would have preferred to know getting into this industry before?
“It’s hard to say as I think the best lessons are learnt through experience, so I think they are the ones people can tell you whatever but really its up to you to make things work in your own way, in your own style, I think people have different business models and its up to you to decide what works for you. “
Are you planning on branching out further in terms of stores?
“I wouldn’t branch out further, no, not at the moment, especially after the recession. I don’t think it’s the most sensible idea. Also, everyone says businesses should go online now, which I think is what we have been trying to do, but there is nothing like coming into an actual store and the unique shopping experience. Especially with all the lovely items in here, you really have to see them and touch them; it’s not really the standard high street situation, but I still believe having the store is the most powerful thing. Maybe one day when things have picked up again. “
Just within the last six years there have been about two dips within recessions and you have to be really careful about decisions you have made, There have been situations I have been sitting on my hands a few years ago making it tick over and try and get through it, I didn’t find it that difficult within the recession as I think people care what they spend their money on more so people wouldn’t really go to H and M and spend £50 and feel dissatisfied where people could come here and feel more connected with what they re buying because you are not just supporting the shop but supporting independent designers as well. “
How do you go about financially with your independent designers? Is it through commission or volunteer?
“Originally the whole store started as it couldn’t afford stock. So I started doing everything on a sale or return so it would be like a showroom with people’s collections and you take the commission once it sells. It depends. New comers and designers we always start to test the waters and see how they get on as it’s the high risk with someone new.”
Have you got any form of events or fashion shows you have done or are planning on doing?
“Yeah we have a few people approach us we do the student fashion shows a lot, we have never done our own its always been a dream to have done my own shop one but as the years have gone by we have never got around to it. We do have customer evenings at the store where we tend to do at the end of the month/beginning of the month we do a late shopping night with some beer and wine, You find people tend to spend a little bit more!”
Do you have anything like that coming up soon?
“Yeah we do we are going to have one really soon at the beginning of June but I shall let you know! “
You have the whole unique quirky look to the whole vintage and gloom, A lot of people are so high street these days what was it that made you do something different in terms of this style?
“Because I never liked the high street. I never liked it. I always wore vintage… well most of the time, because most of the time I was brought up around second hand stores, I didn’t have a lot of money so I spent a lot of time in charity shops with my mum. I have never had a fear of something like vintage being different, I used to go to school with a grey uniform and red clogs, (Laughs) So I think for me from a young age I was kind of one of these people that wasn’t worried about the condition or standard of fashion I actually preferred it! I liked it! .
I didn’t exactly melt into everyone else’s which is what you do within the high-street, People feel they are almost accepted in terms and gripped if they look a certain way or think and now a days I think second hand is more focused towards hipsters but I don’t want to put myself into that kind of way. But yeah just to be different, its kind of a calibrations of people’s imaginations and what designers come up with that to me is really exciting!”
What advice might you give independent designers or people wanting to start up their own store like you?
“I would say DO IT, Have faith in yourself, believe in yourself and be willing to make mistakes along the way, and get over it and learn for them. It’s really rewarding, Most of the time (laughs) Money isn’t that great sometimes, but you don’t do it always for the money you do it for where you want to be in your life, if I am having a bad day sometimes the shop does cheer me up. Sometimes not all the time! That would be weird. “
With future events and opening evenings, Great way to get work displayed and shown, especially for those who want to hit it up the town designers who have a unique and quirky edge. I left the store feeling so accomplished and inspired. Godiva brings such inspiration and a key to independent designers, the gateway to your dreams, having had the opportunity to gain an insight into the wacky and jumping world!