Think you love vintage? Think again. The stunning Jennifer Collins has us all beat. This New Jersey born, University of Wisconsin grad may be inspired by the past, but her business model is a thing of the future. Her website, PinkClouds, not only offers a skillfully edited collection of vintage pieces (shoes, apparel, etc.) but also features fashion news, editorials and frequent collaborations. Now...how exactly did this vintage lover turn her hobby into a career? It started with her move to NYC..."Right after school I moved to New York to work for Robert Burke Associates. Working for Robert was like getting an MBA in fashion because I really got a 360 degree view of how the industry works. I was consulting for brands like Jason Wu and working with department stores like Saks, assisting with brand merchandising and management. I was fascinated with e-commerce at the time and, being a vintage collector, felt there was room in the market for something that catered to the girl who wears current season but throws on a vintage piece here and there.""I decided to start PinkClouds on the side of my full time job. It was a labor of love that increasingly took up more time and eventually I had to leave RBA. It was risky, but I was excited. I felt like I was leaving one family for another. Had I not taken the risk then, I never would've."When did Jennifer realize it was really time to leave RBA? "I remember a buying trip I took to Paris for RBA. It was 8 o'clock at night and my boss was at the Hemingway bar urging me to join. I was at my computer in my hotel room trying to send out a newsletter because it was "X" time in the US and I thought to myself, 'There is something wrong with this picture!' I had just spent the day visiting the showrooms of my dreams [Balenciaga to name a favorite], yet I was fixated on my startup. At that point, I knew it was time to leave."Since leaving her job at RBA about a year ago, Jennifer has relaunched the site and built a team consisting of a content editor, an e-commerce manager, and an LA-based design director, among others. Maria Echeverri, PinkCloud's content editor, has a masters in the History of Fashion, which is a huge asset when it comes to researching the story behind the vintage pieces."When we first launched, the focus was on commerce. What we quickly found was that a lot of people were calling us for more information about the history of the piece they had bought. A big part of what we do now is educating our reader about the history of fashion and how that relates to the pieces. The reality is - each piece is one of a kind. We are a high end designer driven site and people are purchasing these pieces for an emotional and intelligent connection to them. I's similar to the process of buying a piece of art."One way to educate the PinkClouds reader and consumer is to spread the word through collaborations. In fact, I was introduced to Jennifer and PinkClouds through a collaboration with Lulu Frost."I met Lisa [designer and founder of Lulu Frost] through my friend Lesley Blume. The beauty of New York is you never know who you're going to meet... I ended up styling the Lulu Frost SS13 Presentation. She had three collections within one. Each of the three 'mini' collections were based on an iconic woman from the past: The Marchesa Casati, Nancy Cunard, and Elsa Schaiparelli. The challenge was to present the women in a visually cohesive manner while maintaing their distinct personalities. All the wardrobe pieces were available on PinkClouds after the show, along with some of the featured pieces from the collection."In addition to her styling collaborations, I was curious about Jennifers buying strategy. I'm more familiar with the buying process involving contemporary brands but vintage is a whole different beast when you consider factors such as quanitites, availability, sizing, trend forecasting, etc."Buying trips are a lot of fun! Sometimes I'll find product for a trend story or collaboration and sometimes it's clear what the story should be based on the collection I have on hand. I work with a lot of appraisers. There is one man named Fred who invited me to his warehouse in LA. He has collected over 55,000 dresses. He worked in construction and he and his wife were semi professional ballroom dancers. They traveled the country ball room dancing and started collecting dresses from all over - any dresses that embodied the feeling of movement you get when dancing."
After learning a lot about Jennifer's background, inspiration and unique business model, I had to ask her what she does in her spare time - the little spare time she has. Her response? "In my free time I do nothing related to fashion. Before I was at RBA, fashion was my hobby and then it became my job. Before PinkClouds, my hobby was vintage and now that's my job... So in my free time I hang with my dog and watch movies."
I had a really great time with Jennifer, and if you're as taken as I am, get social with PinkClouds! Follow the brand on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram, and shop here. Look for an outfit post next week featuring one of my favorite PinkClouds vintage Oscar de la Renta dresses!