Photo by Lindsey Mak courtesy of Esther Woo Vintage
Beverly Edmonds of Esther Woo Vintage launched her shop last week and we talked about her new venture and the name behind it, items she’s found difficult to part with, her style icon, her go-to thrifting spots in Philly, and her favorite websites. I was very excited to pick Beverly’s brain; watching her do the damn thing and hearing about her light bulb moment in a secondhand store is something a lot of us vintage shoppers, pickers and thrifters can relate to. She’s a pretty inspiring gal and Esther Woo Vintage carries beautiful, well cared for pieces with equally amazing prices. I just scored this flowery belt for $10 and have a dress and shoes all picked out for when it arrives!
Photo by Lindsey Mak courtesy of Esther Woo Vintage
Urban Casita: I know you’ve been asked this a million times, but why the name Esther Woo? It rolls of the tongue so easilyy, is memorable and is so perfect for a vintage shop; we have to hear the story behind it.
Esther Woo Vintage: Well, my aunt’s name was Queen Esther. She was a very classy woman with great style. I wanted my store to represent those things, but at the same time, I did not want to name the store after her full name due its biblical nature. While working one day at my part-time job, I rung up a customer who’s credit card read Esther Woo. Once I saw that a light bulb just went off! I knew that was the perfect name for the store. The crazy thing is I looked back at the card and it said something else. My mom told me that that was my aunt’s way of giving me an answer and told me to go with it and I did just that.
Photo by Lindsey Mak courtesy of Esther Woo Vintage
Since I know you’ve had the desire to open up a shop for some time now (and we’re all so happy and lucky that you did) what made you take the big plunge into the world of vintage reselling?
I’ve always loved vintage clothing and clothing in general. I’ve worked in retail since I was 15 years old and ALWAYS loved it. I just love interacting with customers and being able to brighten up a persons day via a good sales experience.
I always kept my dream of opening my own store in the back of my head, but I had no idea as to how I would execute it. One day while on a business trip in the middle of nowhere I went thrifting and just had an epiphany. There were so many cute items that I couldn’t fit and I had to justify a reason for buying them! I looked at the items I had chosen and realized that while unique, a lot of the items looked so much like items that stores charge an arm and a leg for, and thought to myself, “I really should just sell this stuff.” I knew my friends would love the items so I figured why not… That was YEARS ago, though–two and half to be exact.
I was concerned that people wouldn’t share my vision and it took me awhile to get my confidence in order. I showed a few friends and their reaction really motivated me to move forward.
There has to be at least one item in your shop that was super hard to give up. How do you part with your wares? Do you ever initially plan to list something as for sale and then change your mind after trying it on?
Great question! I recently sold this item and it was tough. I can’t even fit this top, but I love looking at it!
I must say I am surprised at how easy it has been for me to give stuff up. There are definitely items that I hold onto but honestly, I don’t keep a lot of items. Whenever I feel the urge to keep something I think long and hard as to whether or not I will actually wear it. I know that there are people who would LOVE to have the items that I sell and it’s not fair to keep things only for them to collect dust in my closet.
Also, this is a business and I know that in order to continue to do what I love, I will have to let some things go. For me selling items is almost like putting a pet up for an adoption. I’m fine with letting go of items because I know they’re going to somebody who will really appreciate them. I always ask people to send me pictures of them wearing the items. I love seeing people wearing something I sold them and knowing that I played a role in them being able to put together a great outfit. That alone makes it worth it!
Judging from your stock, I can tell you have a serious sense of style. Who/what are your style inspirations?
Growing up I would always refer to myself as being a “clothes whore.” LOL.
I knew EVERYTHING about fashion. I lived for it. As I got older my focus shifted from name brands and what was hot at the moment to items that were both timeless and appealing to the eye. My mom would always tell me to invest in items that are timeless and that’s what I always try to do.
I’m a serious people watcher. I love looking at people. When I walk down the street I always make it a point to see how people are putting their looks together. I really don’t look to anything for inspiration as far as magazines and websites are concerned, I just buy what I think is cute. Once I’ve purchased my items, I will go onto different sites and magazines just to make sure that I’m on the right track.
Other than my aunt, I would say that Kelis is my style inspiration. I absolutely adore her! As far as I’m concerned, she’s responsible for a lot of the movements that are going on in street fashion nowadays, from the natural hair to the clothes. When she first came out people thought she was a total weirdo, but I loved EVERYTHING about her. I was around 18 at the time and going out into the world on my own and she just represented everything I was feeling and wanted to be. She’s classy, sexy, funky all at once and does a great job of always keeping her individual style apparent in whatever she’s wearing which is very important to me.
Another person I LOVE is Roxie Roker. She played Helen Willis on The Jeffersons and is also the mother of Lenny Kravitz. I wake up every morning at the crack of dawn to watch that show just so I can see what she is wearing. Not only do I love what she wears, but also how she wears it. She carried herself in a way that screamed class and sophistication at all times.
Fashion to me is about so much more than clothes. It’s about self expression and being able to show the world who you are when you’re not able to say it with words. Life is boring when everyone looks the same, so being able to express yourself whether that means being super conservative or totally out of the box is something that I support 110%.
Money Green Blazer, $22
What are your favorite three items in your shop right now?
I love this Money Green Blazer. This is one of those that I struggled to part with. It actually fits me perfect and the tailoring on this piece is amazing.
I also love, love LOVE these Etienne Aigner Oxfords! Sometimes when shopping I will find a really awesome item just sitting there out in the open and will wonder why it’s still there! That was definitely the case with this item. It’s also a deadstock item which makes it even better. This craftsmanship involved in making this shoe is absolutely amazing. This item represents what I love about vintage. Not only is it a beautiful shoe that is made very well, but it’s also a shoe that was worn completely different when it was originally produced compared to how somebody would wear it now, style wise. I love the stories that vintage items tell.
The Zig Zag Dress may be my personal favorite. The material is so soft and light. This dress is super comfortable and will look good on just about any body type.
I know you’re based in Philly and I know you thrift for house stuff, too. What are the differences you’ve noticed between shopping secondhand Philly and other East Coast cities?
Philly is a good place for more mod pieces. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone thrifting and saw mid century style buffet for dirt cheap. People live here for generations, in the same home even, so a lot of the time when a house is passed down from one generation to another the person will just call somebody to clean it out or have an affordable estate sale instead of selling it in an expensive antique store.
I always find great lamps here. I have at least four in my basement waiting for a home, including a GIGANTIC crystal chandelier lamp with the most dramatic lampshade you have ever seen that I am deathly afraid of putting up because I’m sure somebody will break it!
Most of my house is furnished with thrifted finds priced no more than $30. Most of the good home decor items/furniture can be found in places that are basically dusty open spaces in warehouses or old row homes, which may catch some people off guard, but it pays off in the end because of the great prices.
Also, the people who run these place are very friendly. Philly is a blue collar city and the benefit of that is that people treat you equally across the board. When you go thrifting here you will almost always see people having conversations with one another. It’s not uncommon to run into a shop and end up having an hour long conversation with the owner about a particular piece or absolutely nothing.
Blue Diamond Dress, $22
Any favorite Philly shops to shout out or is that giving too many trade secrets away?
Haha, no I have few I can name without giving away too much.
My favorite place to go for clothing is Astro Vintage. The decor is absolutely adorable and the owner is very friendly. This shop is good for statement pieces and home decor items. If you’re in the mood to go on a treasure hunt I would suggest the Antiquarian’s Delight –the name says it all– located in the South St. area. This is like a retirement home for thrifters and lovers of vintage! It’s actually an old church where people set up booths and sell their vintage pieces. The great thing about this place is that all of the items represent the various personalities of the individual sellers. There are booths for costume jewelry, fur, furniture, books, war memorabilia, etc. I honestly can spend hours in this place. The various booth owners are so passionate and knowledgeable and enjoy talking to you about the various pieces. If you’re ever looking for a statement piece this is definitely the place to go!
Crocodile Dundee Bag, $24
What websites do you check for on a regular basis?
As far as websites are concerned I’m a Tumblr gal; I have a zillion fashion sites bookmarked on my phone and computer, but I rarely get the chance to go through all of them.
Some of the sites that I frequent…
Aureta’s blog for when I want to daydream about the clothes I would buy if I were filthy rich.
I also love Natural Belle’s Tumblr. She has some great images.
Fly is awesome! I love the features on creative women who are turning their dreams into a reality. I’m so honored to say that both she and Natural Belle featured my store on their sites and truly grateful being as though those are both blogs I frequent often.
I LOVE Nadia Aboulhosn’s blog. I love reading her personal posts and seeing how she embraces her body. I recently gained a few pounds and really struggled with it in regards to figuring out what clothing items worked best for me. Seeing women like her and Gabi of GabiFresh (formerly Young, Fat and Fabulous) really inspires me to be more comfortable in my own skin.
I am Jennifer-Le is a great Tumblr as well. This woman has a great sense of style!
I love DIY projects. I get a lot of great ideas from this Tumblr.
And last but not least, Deep Kolor. This Tumblr is AMAZING. I’m a color girl. I know the names of colors that people probably don’t even know exist! When I was a kid I would sit and memorize all the names of the crayons. This site is great when you need some color in your life!
Thanks for chatting, Beverly!
Folks, be sure to check out Esther Woo Vintage with your credit card at the ready. I’m sure there’s something you’ll have to have!