It’s fitting that we find ourselves at the threshold of a Woodwards building street level storefront. Built in 1903, Vancouver’s historic shopping behemoth sat vacant for a period of nearly a decade before the renaissance of Gastown in 2003. Now, the revolving ‘W’ sign crowns one of the city’s most exciting boutique neighbourhoods, and the soon-to-be Hey Jude shop, in which two sharp young women plan to continue their reinvigoration of vintage aesthetic in a permanent space. And under the vaulting, industrial ceilings of their new home at 315 Abbott Street, much like in their slick heritage surroundings, old is anything but outdated.
Few pop up shop announcements have caused more buzz over the years than those of Hey Jude Vintage and now, five years in, Founders Lauren Clark, Blanche Macdonald Fashion Marketing graduate, and Lyndsey Chow are readying themselves for big moves. Every step of their growth has been a savvy one, in both business and style, and the insights they’ve collected along the way are just as discerning and covetable as their clothing. When we meet, the pair have only just picked up their keys, and we spend a moment contemplating the space, barren but promising in the pale spill of morning. The months ahead promise a whole lot of hustle, so we lock up and hightail to Prado Cafe to fuel up and talk thrift.
Congrats on your new space! Though it’s not entirely unfamiliar – you held your latest pop up shop here. Let’s start with how starting out with pop ups has helped you get Hey Jude to where it is now.
LY[ndsey]: It’s probably the best piece of market research that we’ve done to get to this point. We started doing pop ups because it was the most feasible way to have a shop. We started out with single day pop ups to ease into it, with our longest one open for three months. We opened in neighborhoods all over Vancouver: Chinatown, Main Street, Kingsway and then Gastown. We really thought that somewhere like Main Street would be the place to be with all of the walk-by traffic, but it isn’t really a shopping district. When we came to Gastown we realized that as much as walk-by traffic does make a difference, it’s also about the mentality of the neighborhood, and Gastown really has that boutique shop atmosphere. It was so clear that of all the neighborhoods we had been in, this is where we had to be.
LA[uren]: We did eight pop ups and I feel like every time we kind of evolved and figured out what our brand was. For the last couple it’s been really consistent; we get who we are, we understand our brand, and now we’re ready to open a store. It doesn’t feel like we’re starting from scratch. We put in the work and now we’re really happy with what we have, and with the store that we will be able to create.
Looking at what you’re putting out each season, you do have a strong sense of what you’re about. Your seasons are curated and cohesive – they’re collections. Which is unique in that you’re creating them in collecting existing, disparate designs. How do you develop a certain seasonal mood?
LA: Beforehand we’ll do a little bit of research – not researching any specific trend, but to get inspired. We’ll flip through magazines and articles, grab coffee, get out and walk around. Before we go buying we’ll just make sure that we’ve been filled up with inspiration and from there it kind of just comes to us. We work really well together and we often visualize the same thing. We’re very much on the same page. Often if we don’t talk it through together we’ll end up dressing the exact same!
LY: I was actually thinking about that today. I was concerned we’d both show up and…oh god. (both laugh)
Tell us a little about how you guys met, and about the moment you decided to start Hey Jude.
LY: We were actually bartending together eight years ago, and we hit it off in our common love for travel, art, thrift and music. And we were both from small towns so we were like, ‘Yes! You get me!’
LA: (I’m from Vernon and she’s from Ladner.)
LY: One thing sort of led to another. We’d talk about one day opening a shop together and that became the pipe dream. It seemed very far-fetched until we had been on a trip to New York together and saw these pop ups happening. And that was when we thought, ‘Hey why don’t we…’
LA: We wondered, ‘Why is nobody in Vancouver doing this?’ The very first one we did in my apartment. We cleared out all of the furniture, handed out invites, packed my apartment with people and sold a lot. We thought, ‘Ok we’re on to something,’ and we just started it from there.
Lauren, you graduated from Fashion Marketing at Blanche Macdonald – how did you come to it from Vernon?
LA: My high school had Fashion programs, which were hands down my favourite. I would come down to Vancouver for these ‘Fashion trips,’ going to some of the school runway shows and all that. I was always dreaming of moving down here. After high school, my girlfriend and I signed up for Blanche together. It was an exciting move. The Fashion Marketing courses were just so diverse; at first I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so it was an awesome opportunity to learn a little bit about everything!
Is there anything that you learned at Blanche that you still use?
LA: Yea actually, a lot. When I was at Blanche, I really loved the Styling, Fashion Awareness and Buying classes, and it’s funny to see how all of those things that I enjoyed in school is what I’m now doing in the business that I’ve created. I often go back to the things that I’ve learned, even from courses like Runway Production; one of the very first things we did after starting Hey Jude was put on a runway at a friend’s event. So my time spent at BMC has definitely been invaluable. Even just in the community I’ve been exposed to – so many creative people have gone to school there, Makeup Artists and such. It’s a great way to connect with likeminded people in this city.
What we love about vintage shopping is that everything can be taken out of context; you can shop in all size sections, in the men’s section, kids section… How are you allowing for the clothing to take on new context within the Hey Jude culture?
LY: That is a challenge that we often face. Sometimes we’ll pick an item and looking at it, it could be either an absolute bust or it could be this incredible piece. For us it comes down to our tools – the photo shoots that we do, Instagram, our inspiration boards… it really helps to get our idea and our story across, which draws people in. Once they’re in the shop we definitely try to help them pair pieces up and explain our reasoning behind our picks. We have a lot of oversized men’s silk blouses this year and it did take us talking to people for them to understand how to wear it, and that it actually does look cute; that you can make it look sexy, and it’s not just this oversized bag!
LA: We do get asked about sizes a lot and there are people who have only been to shops with a full, standard size run. They’re used to thinking, ‘Oh, I’m a medium,’ and then grabbing at it. Even if it isn’t ‘their size,’ it doesn’t mean that it won’t look good on their body. We urge people to try stuff on.
It makes the shopping experience more of a conversation.
LA: Yes, and I think also it makes the items more unique. A lot of our pieces can be worn by many different sizes, and the look will change each time. It makes everything a little more personal.
So we’ve been talking about how Hey Jude is making the idea of thrift and vintage more widely celebrated aesthetically. The other side of this is that thrift shopping is eco-conscious, which has it’s own preconceptions to tackle. You’re bringing green to cool in an entirely new demographic. Was being eco-conscious an important factor in starting up Hey Jude?
LA: It was always at the back of our minds, but it wasn’t until we did our first presentation at Eco Fashion Week, when we sat in on the seminars and were around all these like-minded people, that we really became proud that we were choosing to go an eco-conscious route with our brand. Today, everyone’s talking about fast fashion and third-world factory conditions. People are more aware and are trying to make smarter choices, even with food. So the timing is right to highlight this.
LY: One thing that we’re super proud of is that we keep challenging ourselves each year to make our company evolve and stay with the times. With this, it’s become a part of our being; we’re more health-conscious and eco-conscious in our lifestyle and in our values since starting up Hey Jude.
Going back to the pop ups, do you guys have a pro tip for pop up eclat?
LY: Make a list. (laughs)
LA: Every time we do a pop up we’ll think of, and write down, absolutely every possible thing that we could do, should do and who would want to hear about it – all the logistics from ceiling to floor. We’ll both work off of it to make sure we’re not forgetting anything.
LY: And I would say too that you have to really need to make an effort to get the word out. When we first started out in Chinatown, Chinatown wasn’t ‘cool’ yet. There were no other shops around. And this was before Instagram was as big as it is now. We actually walked around the neighbourhoods handing out flyers. You can’t think that you’re just going to pop up in a space and people are going to come. You have to do whatever it takes – go visit stores, tell you friends, tell your friends to tell their friends.
It’s interesting that you bring up your early Chinatown adoption, because these pop ups were probably a really brilliant way to familiarize yourself with the lesser known characteristics and characters of Vancouver. There’s quite a lot going on when you look for it! What is it about Vancouver that makes it a good launch point for Hey Jude? And is there a beyond in the works?
LA: We both just love this city. There is an amazing creative community here and there are so many entrepreneurs starting up and doing their own thing. Everybody is willing to support each other and connect with each other, and we’ve made this amazing network of friends and peers. This is definitely where we want to have our base. Our goal is to grow from here and expand further from Vancouver but for now, it’s just big enough that we can dig in our feet. It’s exciting to be bringing something fresh and new to Vancouver. This city needs to be spotlighted more.
It’s exciting to have you two doing what you’re doing here! Talk us through your magic, ie: your picking process.
LY: Picking is the most exciting part for us. These past couple of months have been so much screen time, so much paperwork. As much as a buying trip is exhausting, with the 15 hour days, we love it. It’s when we get to see the collections coming together. We’ll have those moments where we find things that we just can’t wait to see in the store. We’ve done so many of these trips, but we still get excited before we leave!
LA: We do a lot of our buying down in the States so we’ll put in the twelve-hour days of picking and then we’ll always make a point of ending up in a city – whether it’s Seattle or Portland or wherever – to treat ourselves to dinner and a cocktail.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever unearthed from the pick piles?
LY: I think it still has to be this silk kimono that we found for our first or second pop up in Chinatown. It was this stunning cream piece with beautiful tassels…
LA: … all embroidered. It was ridiculously cheap. We couldn’t believe it!
What’s your top tip for thrift?
LY: Go in openminded. Don’t be thinking, ‘Ok I need to find this colour of blouse today.’ Be open to finding something cool and unique. You can have goals, and then maybe you’ll find a version of it. Also, I would say touch the fabrics. Fabrics are a big thing, especially for us. We’re mostly natural fabrics, silks and wools. We’re at the point where we can spot them from across the room!
LA: And also make sure to look in every section instead of just going to the tops and the dresses. We’ll go into the Menswear area to look for women’s pieces, or even into Holiday and Maternity. We look in every area because you never know what you’re going to find, and where!
And lastly, your top three current wardrobe must-haves?
LA & LY: Wide leg culottes for fall, frayed denim, and silk tees and tanks for easy layering with interesting statement jewelry! Our favourite is @karenn.la for minimalist jewelry inspiration. (Find these trends in Hey Jude’s upcoming Fall shop!)