Lauren Hayes, Need Vintage

Lauren Hayes is the founder of Need Vintage, which features hand-modified vintage clothing and gear targeting fashion-forward urbanites.

How did you start your business?
My boyfriend, who owns legit vintage, got me excited about it. Both of us have always been into thrifting—we always know when there are the 50 percent off sales and the deals. We also both work retail and wanted to branch out to do our own thing. We started our own thrift stores together; his is more sportswear driven, and mine is more driven toward a female audience. My main thing is to have the stuff that’s unique for a more urban customer. It’s not your grandma’s vintage.

What’s your professional background?
I’m actually a trained pastry chef, so I should be working in a bakery, and I started doing retail through working at the bakery. When I started working in retail, I realized that I love interacting with people. Today, I want the image of this business to be reflective of this part of me.

What defines vintage, and what sets Need Vintage apart?
Anything 20 years or older is vintage—I define it the same way Etsy defines it. So, anything from 1993 counts, as crazy as it is to think that that’s 20 years old.

What makes me different is that I’m not your typical vintage. I don’t want my shop to seem like it’s just a little piece of a thrift store, I want it to be more of a cultivated overall look. I have a lot of crossover, because I do a lot of character tees and stuff that was big in the '90s, but it’s a little more edgy than your normal vintage store. Yet it’s still vintage, and it still has that loved feel. And everything I buy is something I’d wear myself. When I find things, I debate: Should I keep this or should I sell it?

What outside resources did you take advantage of and how did they help?
Etsy’s a really great resource. They have a tutorial and a community forum; the Etsy business tips help, too. Locally, I focus on building connections in Cincinnati, as far as social media and in-person events. The good thing about vintage is the community here in Cincinnati. I often go to other vintage shops—we all collaborate with each other. I might do something at someone else’s shop, or we’ll collaborate and sell something together. 

What are your best tips for vintage shoppers?
Go with your first instinct. When I go down the aisle [at a thrift store], it can be intimidating. Personally, I don’t look at everything in every aisle, but there’s usually a shoulder detail or a fabric that draws my eye. When you’re shopping for denim, especially, it’s important to look for fabric that’s 100 percent cotton, real denim; Jeans with a little stretch in them aren’t going to last as long.

Finally, be willing to go home empty-handed. Sometimes, you’re not going to find anything. It’s also just hitting up the same locations over and over. The turnover is just so much faster [than at conventional stores]. You never know what you’re going to find.

What inspires you?
Thrifting is an art for me and a sport to me. I get a lot of satisfaction just going to the store. It’s also more exciting when you find something at a thrift store; It’s more of a treasure and a one-of-a-kind piece.

I’ve also always wanted to start my own business, and I really love retail, so there’s a lot of inner drive to do what I want to do and not have anyone else tell me how to do it.

What’s next for you and your company?
Getting more product. Most of my stuff is sourced locally right now, and I haven’t been to any estate sales yet, so that’s the next step, along with going forward with social media. I also try to have great customer service. I have my phone all the time, so I can respond immediately if someone asks me a question.

Interview by Robin Donovan