Hello! Today we have Laurel and Rowan talking about living the vintage life! I’m actually really excited about this feature, because they are the first vintage scouters (can we call them that?) on Opinion9! They have a lovely shop called Sarah & Ludo (the name’s inspired by the cult classic Labyrinth) filled with a varied array of vintage clothing. It’s also great to see them working together on this.
Vintage clothing has always been special for me. I remember going to my grandmother’s house and finding a one piece swimming suit, cat eye glasses, old coats and blouses, sundresses, skirts that all spoke in silence; echoing an aura of a past era, filled with memories. Vintage clothing is something else, more than just what you’d pick up on a clothing rack in a mall. Like their shop tagline says, it’s ‘a hint of magic!’
So, when I saw that Sarah & Ludo was all about finding and selling vintage clothes- I had to know more! They’re a pretty interesting duo, too.
Read on to hear what they have to say!
Please tell me a little bit about yourself.
We are Laurel and Rowan, the owners of Sarah & Ludo, a small online vintage clothing boutique that we currently operate through Etsy. We live in Melbourne, Australia but still call New Zealand home.
There’s something so great about vintage- knowing that it has a history behind it. How long have you been interested in vintage?
I have always loved the thrill of searching for treasure. My dad used to take me to garage sales with him on Saturday mornings when I was young and I think it all started there. My actual passion for vintage though really took hold in my mid-twenties when I travelled to London and Europe. Every city I went to I seemed to end up finding vintage and thrift stores down obscure alley ways and back streets. I spent many happy hours in those stores and realised that I had fallen in love with vintage clothing. It is now a way of life.
Rowan used to run his own street wear clothing range, Tripod, and when initially starting out, he would thrift for well-made items that he could take apart and put back together again (to teach himself construction). He has always been partial to old school Adidas, vintage tees and denim.
I find we are leaning more and more towards simple well-tailored design. Black. White. A splash of colour. Uncluttered.
How do you balance running a creative business and regular life?
It is hard not to have the two merge together. But for now, Sarah & Ludo is a side project that we are hoping to grow organically. I have a full-time day job at the State Library Victoria and Rowan is studying Graphic Design full-time at RMIT. Sarah & Ludo is our evenings, our weekends. We both love the creative process though and are happiest being busy and bouncing ideas off each other.
What motivates you the most?
Coffee. Books. Music. Films. Melbourne. The dust, palm trees and endless sunshine of LA.
Where do you see yourself in a few years?
We would like to be making small limited run items for our own label as well as continuing to sell vintage. I would like to be living by the beach and for life to be a little quieter and serene. Rowan will hopefully be a world class graphic designer by then and freelancing from home. I also want to learn Shibori and incorporate that into both our own label and our vintage collections.
What would be the most ideal vintage find?
A lost collection of perfectly preserved dresses from the 1900s to the 1970s that belonged to the same woman (or possibly a generation of women!) and which documented her life and adventures.
What are some qualities you look for in a vintage piece?
We look for pieces that have something about them that is special; little details, an eye catching print, exquisite tailoring. We also like pieces that can easily be assimilated into a modern wardrobe. And statement pieces. We are all for statement pieces.
What’s one vintage piece that impacted you the most- and one that you are still searching to find?
We are impacted by them all! I am quite taken with a Big E Levi’s denim shirt I found on our first US buying trip (even though it is missing all its buttons!). You just don’t find that level of detail anymore. We are always searching for vintage denim, 1950s/1960s/1970s cotton sundresses, and vintage tees. No one item in particular but a multitude of labels and styles.
Your etsy shop has some lovely finds- I love the baby doll dress, the black ballerina dress and the blush pink sundress – to name a few! What is your general process for selling your vintage finds?
Thank you! I love every single item that we sell. And I make sure that every single item has been washed, cared for and fixed up before it is sold. It is extremely important to us. Rowan luckily is a whizz on the sewing machine so he takes care of busted seams, fallen hems etc. Once an item is cleaned and in excellent sellable condition, it gets put onto a rack to photograph. I try and have a general theme to each shoot – colour/style/season – but it doesn’t always work out that way with vintage! We currently have two beautiful models and are photographing weekly for now. After photographing we take measurements, write descriptions and note flaws. Then we list on Etsy. From there, we answer customer queries, and package and send orders. I must admit the Post Office is not my favourite place but once something has been sold I am always very quick to get it off to its new owner (especially as I have no patience myself!).
Can you describe a typical work day?
A typical Sarah & Ludo workday would be a weekend day, so it would start with coffee and brunch. Then it would be photo shoot preparation – steaming, pressing and organising clothes; putting up the backdrop; setting up the camera. Our model would arrive for the shoot which generally would be two – three hours. Following this, we would load the photos onto the computer and the editing process would begin! I am always keen to get started right away but often Rowan will make me take a break and we will go for a drink in the sunshine or the like. Then measuring and listing on Etsy (as above). No day is ever the same. It is all dependent on sales etc. Packaging is my one of my favorite parts of the process; I package items first in recycled tissue paper and then I use recycled brown paper which I hand stamp with little crafted stamps I ordered from New York. I then tie it up with string (either hemp or natural twine) and add a little hand written note. Every item we send off is sent with love – we want our customers to love their purchase and be happy with the whole experience!
What are some values you’d like to convey to your customers?
How do you manage to find the vintage clothes?
We go to America! It is a great excuse for us to go on holiday once a year and also a way for us to get vintage in bulk. Also, we find that the older vintage is incredibly hard to find in Australia, and though still tricky in America (as it becomes rarer and starts to wear out) that there is more opportunity to source the items we love. This year we went to LA, Austin, Houston, then back to LA (with a little side trip to Palm Springs). We stayed with friends in Austin, which was awesome, especially as my friend Andrea is a vintage-lover from way back and took us to all sorts of wonderful places. Houston was a mecca for vintage warehouses but was also hard work. It was hot and humid, no air conditioning and the warehouse bins were tough going. We sourced some real gems though so it was definitely worth it in the end. And we stayed in a super cool Airbnb loft studio down the road from the Last Concert Café.
We love to escape Melbourne winter for a week. It gives us a burst of much needed sunshine that helps push us through to spring when we get back. We are still dreaming of Palm Springs, bottomless mimosas and swimming pools…
Simply because they don’t make things like they used to.
Also, vintage clothing has a history, a story, a previous life. There is a certain whimsy in wearing something from another era.
Just for fun: what’s your favourite city, food and book/movie?
City: Paris. Granada. Dubrovnik. Melbourne. L.A.
Food: Avocadoes. Everyday.
Book: I can’t pick one! Here are a few – What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt (actually, everything by Siri Hustvedt, starting with The Blindfold), Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan (again, everything by Francoise Sagan – I find her books the best size for carrying around in my bag and most of my books by her are slightly battered from over-reading), Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon, anything by Haruki Murikami (I especially love Norwegian Wood). I read my favourites over and over again so they are like old friends. I never tire of them and always pick up something new every time I read them. I often find it difficult to read a book I haven’t read before. It is like starting a new friendship; a little awkward, disconcerting, but also lovely if that connection is there.
Movie – This changes all the time! A few I love for different reasons: Labyrinth, Princess Bride, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Ruby Sparks, Begin Again, Across the Universe, Almost Famous, Dirty Dancing, Reality Bites, Fight Club, Midnight in Paris, The Notebook.
City: apart from Melbourne, I really like LA
Food: can’t go wrong with a good pizza but lately I have been really keen on a soft Taco
Book: The Walking Dead Compendiums (graphic novels count right?)
Movie: too hard to narrow down… so for now I will say a director, Wes Anderson, as I could happily watch any of his movies at the drop of a hat.
I like that you guys are working together. How do you complement each other’s strengths when it comes to running a business?
Rowan is endlessly patient while I tend to run on adrenaline and at times work myself into a panic. Rowan brings me back down to earth. In essence, I am a perfectionist and a bit of a control freak, while Rowan is creative and visionary. I turn my perfectionism towards cleaning garments, editing photos, and packaging orders. Rowan built the website, takes majority of the photos and does most of the sewing repairs. We love that we are building something together. Also, he doesn’t get bored searching for vintage with me! And on our American road trips, he drives (which is no easy feat, especially as it is the opposite side of the road from Australia and New Zealand!).
What interests you about the 50s-60s period?
They are two such different eras, but both had such great fashion. The 50s silhouette was so alluring and then the 60s was revolutionary. From full skirts to mini dresses. From understated prints to psychedelic. As well as the clothes I am also very partial to the music from the 1960s. Rowan is great at finding records from this era for me.
Any advice for people who are just starting to scour markets for vintage finds?
Start at the beginning of a rack and touch every item (make sure you have clean hands and handle delicately!) – the fabric is important – also, look out for items that catch your eye. Inspect for holes, stains and odour (especially the underarms). Check the label (if there is one). Check the seams/ tailoring. Check the zip if there is one (a metal zip is a good indication of age).
What do you guys do in your free time (when not working)?
We like to eat at our favourite cafes and restaurants, binge watch our favourite TV shows, ride our bikes (Rowan more than me, I need to bike more!), read, work on projects. We love coffee. We enjoy beer and chips in the sunshine on a Sunday afternoon. Rowan makes great crepes with lemon and sugar and strawberries and chocolate chips. We listen to records. Rowan makes music and goes to gigs; he has drum n bass tattooed on his arm – his first love.
Are you seriously living in a ex-chocolate factory apartment? Okay, that’s the coolest. What’s your take on life and art in general?
We sadly just recently had to leave our ex-chocolate factory apartment which still stings a little. The owner decided to sell it just before we left for our last US buying trip so we had to move out two weeks before we left and put all our stuff into storage. When we got back though we found our new apartment very quickly (it was the first and only we looked at). It is another warehouse conversion (we seem to gravitate towards those!) and is in Northcote, which we find to be a very creative inspiring community. Also we are seconds from the Westgarth Palace Cinema which is art deco and amazing.
We both strive to live creatively fulfilling lives and not get too caught up in the daily grind. Of course, that’s not always easy or possible (and sometimes seems impossible!) but we will continue to aspire to it and will never give up on our dreams.
Art is all around us in all shapes and forms and defines us for better and for worse.