Elizabeth Morgan is the owner and force behind the sustainable shop The Norah Store in Stockport, at a mere 25 years old Elizabeth has created a shop which brings together independent sellers, local brands and handpicked vintage with such an effortless ease. When I got the chance to meet her in person last month, I felt so encouraged and in awe of someone the same age as myself create a place that makes sustainable shopping inclusive and truly accessible to all. So I wanted to find out from Elizabeth what led her to set up her sustainable shop, why it was important to share her space with other creatives and why there is really something for everyone when it comes to vintage!
Photos Courtesy of @thenorahstore
What made you decide to set up The Norah Store?
"I decided to set up The Norah Store out of my dissatisfaction with vintage shops being overcrowded, full of 'filler' items and overwhelming, meaning that many shoppers who don't want to do the trawling through to find the good stuff are really put off, making them turn to fast fashion as an easier shopping experience. Working in other vintage stores I would find the most incredible hidden gems amongst the rails, and thought why can't there be a shop where only the best pieces are curated together in a delightfully simple shopping experience. I also have quite a manic personality and get bored easily, so I decided to take the leap of faith and open my own business."
Where does your love of vintage come from?
"My Dad has instilled in me a love of antique furniture, so I grew up in a home full of incredible pieces that cost next to nothing, reclaimed from skips or found second hand and up-cycled. Whilst I don't trade in furniture, I found this translated into how I shop for clothes, wanting to give new life to a forgotten or pre used item. As a teenager I loved scouring charity shops and finding great pieces. It was such a treasure hunt and that has evolved into what I do now! As a society we are obsessed with 'new', but this comes at such a cost to the environment. I believe luxury can be preloved and want the shop to show this."
Tell me a little about what it was like setting up a physical shop?
"It was a venture into the complete unknown! The most daunting aspect was the renovation of the space (an old and clinical vape shop) into a desirable luxury vintage boutique. Over time my confidence in styling the space has grown and I have learnt so much. All of the furniture and fixtures in the shop (bar 3 lampshades) are second hand, thrifted or borrowed from friends! The actual day to day running of the store really hasn't been much different to other stores I have worked in, and I have many years in customer facing roles under my belt so that was nothing new."
What do you look for when you source vintage clothing?
"When sourcing vintage the immediate thing that will stand out to me is the fabric. Beautiful fabric, to look at and to touch will entice me to study that garment longer. I check each item for wear and tear, check the size and whether it's legitimate if it's branded (there is a LOT of fake Burberry out there!)."
"I look for stand out pieces, especially skirts and dresses from the 60s and 70s. That's definitely my area of expertise. But most of the time when I see something, I'll just know! Its tempting to bulk buy when I need to get the shop replenished, but I have got more and more selective as I have gone along, to try to stick to my ethos of handpicked, carefully curated vintage. My mantra is 'if it's a maybe, it's a no!' I only choose items I have 100% faith in and try not to let my standards slip."
What do you look for when you source sustainable brands for your shop?
"I don't look for anything in particular, I love finding brands through Instagram or as they contact me. If I think they have something to add to the store, and have sustainability, and quality at their core, I'll get them on board. I try to be loyal to my independents that I work with, and don't get in brands that will compete too closely with each other."
Why was it important to you to set up the Norah Studios?
"Norah Studios was an offshoot of finding the shop unit. I hadn't planned to open a studio space, but one thing I was concerned about going into self employment was missing the company of work friends and colleagues! I love bouncing ideas of likeminded people. The shop space has a huge top floor with high ceilings and it seemed natural to lease it as artist studio space. It's been really popular as it's difficult to find affordable studio space locally. The girls in the studio have become great friends and it's amazing sharing spaces, especially for young women going into business, I'd recommend it 100%."
What advice would you give to someone who is new to vintage shopping?
"I would say, try not to be too overwhelmed! It's a different game, but it can be fun too! Take your time and enjoy the browse. This is a way of shopping that isn't trend led, so instead of focusing on latest trends, think about what colours, shapes and styles suit you, and go from there. There really is something for everyone and the golden rule - If you find something that you love that fits to a T - go for it because the next day it could be gone forever!"
Why is slow fashion and sustainability important to you?
"The impact of the fast fashion industry is nothing short of a horror story. Sweat shops, modern day slavery, unsafe working conditions minimal pay are some of the issues the factory workers are facing in developing countries. The environmental impact is also disastrous. The amount of water and natural resources, not to mention the air miles, and carbon footprint of churning out new garments. Furthermore, the shops on the high street work on a model which is literally not able to sustain itself. Constantly focusing on the next trend, forgoing craftsmanship and quality, and endorsing consumerism to its maximum capacity."
"We have to make choices that we believe in. It is no secret that I adore clothes, but this doesn't have to cost the earth. Slow fashion and vintage is the way forward, knowing the origin and supporting brands with full transparency."
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to set up their own shop?
"I would say that if you have the experience necessary, and you believe in your concept, then go for it. I would definitely recommend working for other shops or brands before launching your own, for that invaluable hands on experience."
"Before venturing into a stand alone store and quitting your day job, it's a great idea to test the concept out as a side hustle, selling online or at markets and pop ups, before taking the big leap. This way you can get good at it, with low risk, and start developing a customer basis and building your brand identity."
What plans do you have in store next for The Norah Store?
"With lockdown hitting our high street hard and changing the way we shop, potentially forever, we will be making huge improvements to The Norah Store's online presence. We are SO excited to work with some amazing local photographers and get all the vintage online, so if you are vulnerable, shielding or prefer not to venture to the store, you can have the same experience from home. We hope it will be exciting and inspiring, we love a challenge!"
Follow The Norah Store on Instagram - @thenorahstore
And check out their website - www.thenorahstore.com
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