For this week’s Spotlight On feature we’re focusing on Irish fashion entrepreneur Grace Collier.
Grace founded Limerick vintage store Spice Vintage, which supplies the nation with festival-ready, wearable and sustainable fashion finds year-round. She began with a pop-up and an Instagram account in West Cork, before moving to her permanent premises in Limerick.
Grace retired from marketing after realizing that she wasn’t feeling fulfilled from her 9 to 5, and embarked on her successful vintage endevour as a means to express herself and re-establish her creative freedom.
1. What made you become interested in fashion and the fashion industry originally?
My auntie got us into thrifting, because when you’re younger you have no money but you have this keen interest in fashion, so I started shopping in charity shops and going to flea markets because I had a flair for it and I didn’t have any money, so it was the only way I could express myself and be able to afford the clothes.
In terms of Spice, I never actually thought I would be doing what I am doing now, I never thought that fashion would be what I do for a living, I just always was interested and my friends would be like “girl, how do you put that outfit together?” and people always come up to me and say to me about my outfits, and I never really thought it was a gift or thought that was something special about me, so I was always looking externally and looking in other places for what I wanted to do with my life.
I quit my last marketing job, moved from Dublin to West Cork to get away from everyone and just figure the hell out what I wanted to do with my life, and it was actually one of my friends, she was like “Grace, there is a pop-up space after opening up, and you should definitely take it and open a vintage shop.” I contacted them…I had two weeks to get the shop open and that’s basically how it happened.
2. How did you conceive the idea for Spice Vintage?
I was working as a personal assistant to the CEO of a marketing group, and I was desperately unhappy and I hated my job… and I was just trying to come up with ideas. I was always into festival wear and I made festival headdresses for my mates and I always felt like Ireland needed a festival clothing line, so I created the brand Spice and started an Instagram. I put it on ice then when I was trying to figure out what I actually wanted to do with it, and I decided to open the shop under the branding I had for the festival clothing line and call the shop Spice. Spice also stands for Special People in Creative Energy.
3. What are the pros and cons of running your own business?
The pros are having the creative freedom to do what you want with your own brand, and I just love that, because when I had my marketing job, I was always trying to convince people in the company to do something different or try something different, and they just never really wanted to try something different because they were too afraid of the risk. And I just love doing the social media and my campaigns, and I actually get excited in Spice thinking “what am i going to do today? Is there anything fun I could do that would promote the business?” to keep me alive and creatively inspired. Knowing that you can take this in any direction depending on your motivation.
Cons don’t really exist – because if it does come up as a negative thing or as a con, I just rejig it in my brain and be grateful for the experience and see a con perhaps as an opportunity to learn something or into grow. It’s more an opportunity. If you create something yourself, then really there is no room for cons.
4. What advice would you give to anyone hoping to launch their own start-up?
I feel like this is super overlooked in terms of entrepreneurship, but self-development is everything. I feel like people our age launch into projects and launch into opening up cafes and doing their own thing, which is fantastic as you have to have that drive and ambition to do that but at the same time, I really feel like you need to be ready to deal with whatever the business throws at you and whatever the world throws at you. If you’re not in a good place, then how do you expect your business to be in a good place?
If you’re worrying all the time and you’re negative, I feel like people think that being negative and worrying will protect you from what could happen, but it doesn’t. I think it pushes it further away from you, and in the end you’re actually creating situations in your head that are not real.
5. Why do you have a passion for vintage over ‘new’ clothing?
It’s a passion and it’s the joy of thrifting. Its the joy of finding something no one else has. When I’m in a fast fashion shop or a high street shop or whatever, and i see something that I like and its gorgeous on me, I just cant do it. I cant follow through to purchase because I’m just like “if I saw someone else wearing this, it would just make me so sad,” so that’s what stops me from doing it – and the price. Pricing is a big thing for me. For example, i was in Nice back in May tried on a slip dress, it was €60 and I couldn’t actually go up to the till… I went back to the campsite that night, went on Depop and bought it for €20.
I just get so happy and so buzzed. Knowing its one off and no one else will have it. And then there’s a little story behind the garment and the time frame it came from, all that gives it more personality and makes it more personable.
6. What has the most exciting moment been for you on your Spice Vintage venture?
It’s really funny, there’s exciting moments nearly every week, and nearly every day. I get excited all the time. One of the coolest things I did was I spoke to the final year marketing class in UL and I loved that, just sharing my story and public speaking about how Iv’e come to be where I’m at.
I get this feeling in my belly and it’s like an excitement and a gratitude for what Spice is and what its given me and what it can be. Thinking about the future of Spice, it’s like when you sit with the feeling of spice, that is exciting for me. It’s just a little semi-constant state of excitement.
7. What’s next for you?
I would love to open another Spice. I just have so many ideas in my head and I just want to stay moving with it. A website is the next thing. For me it’s about staying growing, nurturing the customers that I have and still keeping it as genuine as its always been. It’s never been about money, it’s never going to be about money, it’s about growing and learning and growing with the business and letting Spice grow on its own and coming along for the ride.
I would love to do my own clothing line and start designing.
8. Do you have any vintage shopping tips?
I would say get in a frame of mind – make sure you’re having the nicest day, there is no point in going to a vintage shop stressed out. Take your time, don’t be under pressure. Visualize things outside the shop – the way I look at it is that people are always like “ah yeah, but will I get enough wear out of it?” I just think if it makes you gasp, it’s the gasp-o-meter, and if something makes you gasp or gives you a reaction you have to buy it.
Something that you cant stop thinking about when you leave the shop, go with your gut and just buy it straight away and know that it can always be sold on, someone else can always wear it, you can give it to your friends, whatever, just move forward with the purchase for vintage because it is so worth it and you do have them for years.
Definitely charity shop as well, get some inspo of Pinterest, and try to find your own individual flair.
When you’re looking at clothes, and think “oh God, this is really nice, I really like the fabric and the shape,” but maybe you would like it as a two-piece? To take something to a dress makers and get it made into a two-piece is like twenty euro and it’s so worth it.
Push your boundaries, don’t care what other people think, I know its so hard, but in terms of wearing what you want, be vibrant and be bold. It makes other people happy when they see you wearing something that’s a bit mad and out there, and you inspire other people to push boundaries, and wouldn’t it be great if every single person was wearing vintage, imagine the colour that would be in the world, what a joy.