Blush & Panic Interview
Our second ‘Blog Me, Draw Me” project will involve seasonal illustrations based on the beautiful stock of the boutique ‘Blush & Panic’. This project will be called ‘The Blush & Panic Raid’ & we have already created our first awesome illustrations that will be showcased at Blush & Panic in Valletta from the 13th of December. Before we get to the Blush & Panic Raid however, we thought we should get the know the story behind this shop & its owners, what’s in the name? How did it come to be? Read on to find out
When Samantha first thought of opening a vintage boutique in Valletta, Malta, she was sure it was going to be shared between her sister and herself, however things didn’t go as planned when Roxanne (Samantha’s sister) moved to London to study abroad. So where did the name ‘Blush & Panic’ come from? “Basically after a lot of unsuccessful tries and cringe worthy ideas, and just like magic …Blush & Panic came to mind…. My sister tends to blush a little more than necessary and I seem to always have something to panic about…. and by panic I mean PANIC!” Samantha admits that the name has become quite a hit and it always seems to amuse passers by – in many different ways!
When asked how Blush & Panic came about, Anna, (Samantha’s mum) describes how when she was younger she had always liked fashion design, and this was probably due to seeing her own mother at the sewing machine, “sewing beautiful dresses and garments.” As her mother was sewing, Anna used to browse through fashion magazines, and as she grew older, she started to sketch her own designs, which then materialised through her mother’s skills.
“Design and aesthetics always fascinated me – nowadays however I am more into interior design and wish I was younger to pursue a career in it. What I never imagined was that at 49 I would be helping my daughter make her dream come true at Blush & Panic.“
Samantha feels that the shop has become a big part of who she is. She confesses that it can sometimes get very tiring, however she still puts her heart and soul into it.
“I wake up thinking of Blush & Panic and sleep thinking about it and the different ways I could make it better.”
“It’s so time consuming that you learn to make your life such as hobbies, interests etc., revolve around it. Sharing what I love with others who show so much appreciation for what I’ve done makes me the happiest person ever and my interest is to continue to make Blush & Panic more stunning, innovative, diverse and special!!”
So what made Samantha want to open particularly, a vintage boutique in Malta? Like her mother, Anna, Sam expresses that she was always very passionate about clothes and fashion. As she grew older, she noticed that there was something missing in local boutiques, and that something was indeed a boutique like Blush & Panic!.
“The main reason I decided to open Blush & Panic was simply that nobody else in Malta was doing anything similar.”
“I wanted to provide customers (people like me who longed for something a bit special to the usual things offered) with something different and new creating a personal shopping experience that would focus on making the customer feel at ease, relaxed, and simply try to make their every visit a memorable, enjoyable and innovative one.”
I have been to Blush and Panic a couple of times, and let me tell you, even though they sell vintage clothes, they look brand new, so I asked Sam and Anna, what steps do they take to ensure that the clothes are clean and look this good, and how should the customer take care of the items? Sam answered that when she was thinking of opening the boutique, her main worry was that people would be hesitant to buy previously-worn items. She also states that there are a couple of clients who are still not comfortable with this idea, and she wonders whether this could be a Maltese mentality due to the vintage items being more popular with their foreign clientele.
“I aim to handpick mostly excellent to mint condition pieces, sometimes never worn pieces (dead stock)”
“…to make our vintage more appealing to the Maltese clientele. We hand wash or dry clean almost all of our pieces and this is very time consuming. Some pieces are difficult to care for and I am very lucky to have a mother with near excellent housewife skills! We try our best to present a neat, clean and comfortable environment to shop in, as stated in ‘’Lonely Planet’’ – ‘’there’s no musty second – hand feel here…’’
Here, as suggested by Blush and Panic, are the measures that one should take in order to keep (vintage or new) clothes in mint condish!
1. Leave them to dry naturally on a hanger
2. Dry clean wool, or hand wash
3. Hot water and most detergents damage wool so baby shampoo is the best alternative
4. With silk, the best way is a gently hand wash in cool water without rubbing, and dry on a hanger or flat
5. To avoid discolourations, dry the clothes inside out when it’s very sunny
6. Steam ironing is the best way to iron your clothes, or always iron with a cool iron setting, inside out, and with a cloth over the garment.
7. Hanging items in a steamy bathroom does miracles
Due to the fact that Samantha buys clothing items from many different sources, she says that she only buys items that she would want to own, and also what she thinks her clients would love. Luckily Samantha is an excellent fashion source to rely on, and she likes a variety of styles, so the stock is always a varied mix (There’s really something for every shape, and even stock for men).
“Focusing on quality rather than quantity is our aim and we are very aware that the supply is steadily dropping, resulting in steadily rising prices even for pieces which are not even worth half the price! Having connections is important. By going to vintage fashion fairs I made contacts, so if you find a good source to buy vintage from you can most likely buy from that source multiple times, but this is not always possible either.”
“Sourcing vintage (good quality vintage) is time consuming, and not as easy and fun as one might actually make it out to be.”
“Imagine having in mind all the lovely pieces you would want to sell in your shop and when you find that particular something it would be too expensive to even buy for yourself let alone sell it – that’s a big time letdown”
Samantha says that her aim is to have a well curated, aesthetically pleasing and mouth watering vintage section yet still at reasonable prices. When buying, she tries to balance out the collection with prices ranging from 15 euros to 100 euros, “so that everyone could indulge in some vintage retail therapy!”
And how does one buy ‘trendy’ vintage, I wondered, do runway trends affect what vintage stock you bring in for the season? Samantha expresses that she used to buy all the fashion magazines religiously every season, and scanning every page to study runway trends but despite this, she says that everyone should follow the rule of dressing for one’s shape.
“Shape, fit, material, cut, colour, texture etc is what I tend to focus on as well as buying ‘’feel good’’ pieces for the women who want an instant confidence boost”
“– Having said this, with every new vintage collection, I try to look at some upcoming trends for the season and select a few vintage pieces that will fit in nicely within the season’s popular trends. Fashion always goes back to yesteryear’s archives, thus it’s not that difficult stumbling on some vintage pieces that happen to go hand in hand with this season’s trends!”
When Blush and Panic opened, it solely stocked vintage clothing, handmade, and other unique pieces. Eventually Samantha started to introduce specialised brands due to authentic vintage not selling as much as she had hoped. “I started searching and booked tickets to fashion fairs. The main concern and what is of utmost importance is the quality. Nowadays many things are so poorly made and you still get to spend quite a lot of money, so quality was our top priority. I also wanted something different and unique.”
Samantha decided to start selling three particular brands that she had already bought from for personal use, and that offer an affordable luxury product with an emphasis on quality and attention to detail.
”Many of our clients keep coming back as apart from loving the collections they also love the quality. I am not saying that our brands are perfect, however one can notice and feel the difference..even the simplest of things, like lining in garments!”
How does it feel to be surrounded by all these beautiful garments every day, I asked Sam and Anna, don’t you ever find yourself forming a special bond with particular items?
“I remember when we first started stocking our brands, I was like a total maniac, drooling over and trying on every single piece from every collection of all 3 brands. ‘’This I will keep, this too, this I love…’’ and so on. My father would just sit and stare at me, without saying a word yet his facial expression would say it all. I adored everything!”
“All stock was carefully hand picked with love by myself…every single piece, so obviously I was bound to feel a little bit attached to all the beauties that surrounded me.”
Well, that is definitely understandable, however as time went by, Samantha reveals that it got easier. “More time went by and more seasons too and I can say I am now in my right state of mind (or maybe not!!)” When asked which vintage-inspired brand she prefers, Sam says that she has a lot of ‘Fever’ pieces in her wardrobe, but she does have a soft spot for ‘Darling’s’ delicate and feminine side, and this season she’s particularly fond of Bielle’s AW13 collection, which is a brand she doesn’t usually go for.
“The collection is inspired by word travelers, having a relaxed and comfortable feel to it, yet designed for those jet setters who still want to pursue utter style and chicness. It has an androgynous feel to it which is what won me over and am in fact dying to get my hands on Bielle’s straight – cut over coats (I might have already done!) Also this year Fever’s collection is simply amazing. Fever literally returned to true elegance capturing with great vigour the graceful 40s, glamorous 50s and groovy 60s perfectly. Darling has some beautiful party dresses ad funky coats too.”
Anna and Samantha know their stock inside out, and this is evident when one asks for a particular piece that they’ve seen on Facebook for instance.. “Our attention to our customers is what I think has made us unique and sought after. We know our stock so well, so we can often suggest pieces for clients, showing them different ways on how they could make an outfit more versatile and it’s so much fun when you have open minded clients who allow you to show them things and make them try on things they normally wouldn’t….”
“Sometimes I get too over excited, so much so that I end up selling a dress that I would have wanted to buy for myself that same evening!!”
What is the difference between vintage and second-hand?
“Strictly speaking a piece of clothing is considered to be ‘’Vintage’’ if it’s at least 20 to 25 years old.”
“Just a few years ago ‘’Vintage’’ was just another word for ‘’second-hand’’, however the definition of ‘’Vintage’’ today varies all around the world. Perhaps not everyone would agree, but I feel that “vintage” is a little more upscale and unique than “secondhand.” Second hand refers to mass produced clothing found in thrift stores, garage sales etc”. ‘’Secondhand’’ basically means that it has been worn before, but is not necessarily old or valuable. It’s true that vintage can be a lot more expensive, but in most cases it will retain its value.”
When one visits Blush and Panic, it is obvious that it is more than just a boutique. Blush and Panic also sells beautiful vintage/vintage inspired home items, which also makes it verge a bit towards being a concept store. Samantha stresses that Blush and Panic is indeed a concept store, or ” at the crossroads of a shop and a place where anyone could discover and unearth a treasure in his or her own personal way”
Blush and Panic was designed to look like a cozy, welcoming house, where one can find anything from books, jewellery, homeware, novelty gifts, jewellery and accessories to frilly knickers and ultimately a wardrobe full of clothes.
“Even though the shop has more clothes apart from anything else it doesn’t mean that we get less stock from homeware etc. We have plenty, and plenty of homeware items in our store but the only problem is that we have no space whatsoever in our shop to display everything. This is a bit of an issue especially when I seem to want more – meaning that I am constantly trying to source new, innovative brands that would make the shop more exciting and fun to be in. So…”
“…our aim is to make it more of a concept store. I guess we need a larger home (shop)!!”
Blush and Panic is a vintage & vintage-inspired concept store / boutique in Valletta, Malta.
Address: Blush & Panic Boutique, 47A, Melita Street,, VLT1122 Valletta, Malta
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/blush-panic