Natasha catches up with the weird and wonderful proprietors of Cockspurs Vintage.
Why did the chickens cross the road? To get to Cockspurs Vintage!
The local gang of chooks, based in Auckland’s Titirangi Village, certainly have good taste!
“They’re like our village security, says Labretta Suede, one half of the dynamic duo behind Cockspurs Vintage. “So, they fit in well with our theme and love of the odd-zotic, “
Titirangi’s that kind of place. Cars stop to let chickens cross the road, everyone knows everyone, and the roundabout is a place to spruik your local businesses, the odd garage sale or display a protest banner.
It’s a very friendly area to set up shop, says Labretta.
“There is much waving and chatting to our neighbouring stores and locals. We have a wonderful community in Titirangi, so there are a lot of laughs!
“Even our dog Zero has become a well-known celebrity and is synonymous with our store and community. He spends most of the day by my side and greeting customers. Only to be reciprocated with a “NAAAWWWW, he’s so cute”….
It’s the only reason he comes to work with me. We are well-known as a pet-friendly store, so people love to bring their animals in adding to the quirk of it all. “
How did the idea for your business come about?
Both my husband Johnny and I are avid vintage lovers and collectors with a fondness of the bizarre.
We’ve both loved classic styles and design along with B-grade art and rock ‘n’ roll culture since we were young. We’ve been obsessed with hunting for junk from birth really.
When we moved to New York City with our band ‘Labretta Suede and The Motel 6’ we were transported into another world – a world where the holy grail of vintage was staring you right in the face; from exotic fineries, rarities and the odd-zotic to the just plain cool.
Then I started working in a very large and popular vintage store where I soon became manager.
As we toured the USA with the band Johnny and I would barely sleep as we were driving from town to town to playing shows by night, while stopping to check out every thrift, salvation army store, antique stores and estate sale by day.
We dragged our poor bandmates along and filled the tour van up with treasures around them. On one tour we couldn’t even see our bandmates in the back anymore. It was seriously amusing.
So, after seven odd years of filling our little NYC apartment with all kinds of crazy with a wall of boxes holding the whole place up, I guess we were on a mission.
Were you selling online or at markets before you made the plunge into opening a bricks and mortar store?
We started Cockspurs Vintage out of our home when we first returned to New Zealand because we returned as broke and unemployed musicians returning to what felt like a retirement village for arts and culture.
So, in typical Labretta style, I found a shop space in an area that needed a face-lift and the council again were trying to rip down all the heritage buildings in the area. I not only opened the store there but I also began an all-out campaign against the council’s idea to rip down the 1920’s Oags building in New Lynn. So this area really struck a chord.
However, there was not a lot of foot traffic but we did get a lot of support from friends and vintage lovers. I think the excitement of us returning after a very successful and long time abroad was a selling point.
The shop survived two years before we went into stall-and-market mode only for a few years.
How difficult was it to achieve your vision?
The vision came very naturally for us – manifesting the culture and aesthetic of the store with the stock that encompassed our personal style and taste.
We handpick each item, so we know the back story of each garment and aim for A+ condition. I feel we were well ahead of the curve here in New Zealand with the next wave of vintage and what that looked like in the form of a store and attitude. After closing the New Lynn store, we’re now located in Titirangi.
It’s a tricky business in New Zealand as it’s a conservative country. The Auckland landscape has also drastically changed too with the raising of rent prices and lack of shopping and cultural hub areas. They have all been taken over by restaurants and mall culture.
Thus, many of us weird and wonderful stores that do exist have been spread out all over the city, or the just don’t exist anymore. So, unless you find the right hub that supports you, you become a destination store and that’s not ideal. Also, seeing the shift away from a generation of self-expression in youth culture comes into play.
What other products or services do you provide?
We stock authentic men’s and women’s wear from the 1920s – the late 70s for the most part.
The services we provide include dressing musicians and actors for red carpets, shows and events.
We are also are a wee hidden secret to many film productions costume departments and designers. Therefore, you can book an appointment if you can’t make it during our shop hours for larger events.
Where do you source your products from?
The United States is where we have collected the bulk of our stock but we have now been branching out while on our European tours too.
You kind of need to know your stuff too as things are not so easy to source. Also, a lot of people are into the vintage game of wheeling and dealing, so it’s not as easy and as fun as it sounds.
How do you promote and market yourself?
Markets are one of the best for advertising for us – as you are a real-life magazine. People get to view and touch the stock while meeting the owners.
Facebook and Instagram are always your friends in the retail game but we are reluctant to do too much online as with vintage you really need to feel, touch and try it on.
I would hate to get the backlash of a bad reputation because the description did not add up to the buyer’s expectation.
One bad review can be so damaging to any small business.
We still value customer satisfaction and offer a full service experience. Vintage stores can be magical and can transport you to another creative time and place. It can really open up the imagination or sparks a memory. It’s quite charming so why take that away from it all by becoming just like the rest of the fast fashion industry.
Can you describe the aesthetic you try to achieve with your interior/ window display etc?
It has a warm western flavour with a lot of quirk, complete with a local gang of chicken.
I play the music I like which works thematically in the store as it is all a representation of our taste and flavour but possibly the more milder and poppy side of our music taste.
Our little Titirangi store has a flood of natural sunlight on a summers day. I use warm lighting and simple tones as to not detract from the merchandise. We hand make our own price tickets, labels, store signage, sign writing, fonts, logo. I have an ace artists up my sleeve with Johnny Moondog by my side and he brings my ideas to life. So it really is a cottage industry. A true Mom & Pop Store. Ha!
What do you find the most satisfying about what you do?
Transforming peoples days or lives through a magical find or an outfit that can make them the belle of the ball. I believe in our excellent grade of stock and how unusual our pieces are. Along with stand-out, knowledgeable service. I still love the trade and sharing that with others.
From a buyer’s perspective it is so satisfying finding those supernatural pieces that make you cream your pants a little. Knowing that piece will add to the culture of the store. Squeal!
How do you see the future of retail?
Retail will always be strong but shopping locally and in stores has definitely changed with the swipe of the finger on your phone.
I don’t claim to even complete with the internet or online retailers. I actually don’t buy much in the way of online shopping personally and don’t really see the appeal.
There has also been a small swing back to people visiting actual stores. So if we can contribute to making it normal again then we ain’t going anywhere but you do have to support small businesses like us.
Liking us on Facebook doesn’t cut it! Which means actually visiting the store, writing a review of your experience at the store and buy something no matter how big or small.
Do you sell online as well as maintaining a bricks and mortar store?
No – the odd things sell from a post I might put up from time-to-time but I feel I spend enough time online with everything else in life.
I enjoy interacting with people face-to-face because god you can have some laughs. An online presence is important though but so is a community of like-minded people supporting one another.
Word of mouth is GOLD!