slow hand salvage

Laid off personal shopper starts a profitable Toronto vintage clothing shop

After being laid-off from her job as a personal shopper with The Bay, a Toronto woman turned her online vintage shop into a full-time business from her one-bedroom apartment.

Emily Conrad started her vintage clothing business Slow Hand Salvage in January of 2020 but when the pandemic hit, she found herself without a full-time job. The work-from-home phenomenon and lack of events meant people didn’t need personal shopping as much.

"No one really needs fancy clothes anymore," Conrad tells blogTO. "I was permanently laid off from my old job so I just started working harder at this."

Conrad collected vintage items and enjoys thrifting. At the beginning of the pandemic, she began selling some items from her personal collection on Instagram.

"People were snatching it up," she says.

She finds items for sale online in bulk and now goes on shopping trips in northern Ontario. Her online business grew into a success. She now ships items around the world to as far as Australia — all from her one-bedroom apartment in downtown Toronto.

"It's actually more money than I was making at my regular job," she says.

Conrad created the shop around her style, which she describes as a rocker and western vibe with "biker jackets" and "girly prairie dresses." She feels the online shop stands out as not many vintage places have a theme.

"It's kind of cool to have more of theme and then people know to come to me for leather jackets or cowboy boots."

One of Conrad's more interesting finds was a Brimaco leather jacket – a United Kingdom biker jacket – that she sold for $900 on ebay.

"If you know the value of certain brands and what to look for when you are shopping or picking stuff, you can find gems like that," she says. "That's my favourite part of it — finding little treasures every now and then."

Conrad studied fashion arts at Humber College but has worked in retail since Grade 11 with her first job at Zara.

"I have always had the dream, in the back of my head, of wanting a vintage store like a brick and mortar."

But with lockdowns continuing, opening a physical shop didn't seem like a good idea. So for now, she packs her apartment with items she finds, cleans and photographs them before putting them up for sale on Instagram or ebay. She stores items in a small walk-in closet and in an alcove in her living room.

"I need a separate bedroom for all my clothes."

She is thinking of getting a larger apartment to add storage and so people could come over, post-pandemic, to try on items.

"My apartment is not very accommodating right now."

Conrad is also doing some pop-ups and plans to possibly have items at a fall vintage market at Evergreen Brickworks.

Lead photo by

Emily Conrad

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