• Emily Kim

Viva Vintage: A Chat with Friperie’s Owner About Running a Business Under Quarantine

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

Click to read in Spanish

I think it’s safe to say we’re all living in a unique situation. It’s a time when we all have to support each other to get through it. For small businesses, this is essential. If you’ve taken a walk through Malasaña, you know the streets are full of vintage shops, each one with its own style. This got me thinking…There are initiatives like Cuando Volvamos, SalvemosNuestrosRestaurantes, Adoptaunbar and more for restaurants. And although clothing boutiques and shops can collaborate with Cuando Volvamos (and there are some incredible artisans and vendors there, take a look!), the platform isn’t necessarily outfitted for this sector. Of course shops could move their sales online if they hadn’t already, but I wondered, “Are people buying clothes right now?”

Friperie Vintage, touted by Vogue España as “where the cool people of Madrid shop”, is a small business that has much more to offer than its diverse selection of classic Levi’s and military jackets. It also forms a part of one of the most bohemian neighborhoods in Madrid.

I asked the owner, Xin Jing, if I could ask her some questions about the quarantine, her experience as a business owner, and her advice for rocking those Levi’s 501’s. Despite being incredibly busy adapting to the new situation, she answered immediately, “Yes, of course!”

I think her response reflects the spirit and attitude of Friperie—friendly and willing to help.

With no further introduction, I present Xin Jing, Friperie's owner and vintage denim guru. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.

When I think about Friperie, I think about versatile pieces that, depending on who wears them, can be worn countless ways. I think that your pieces give your clients the opportunity to find their own personal style.

That said, what do you think about this quote?

"Style is something each of us already has, all we need to do is find it."

–Diane Von Furstenberg

We all have our own taste, body type, favorite color and design; there’s not one style for everyone, but you’ve got to find what’s right for you based on your lifestyle, your job…your style of living. For me, there’s no such thing as good or bad style because everyone appreciates a different aesthetic. The only and most important thing is to feel good in your own skin, to love yourself and that you feel comfortable and confident with yourself and your style.

Where do you personally find inspiration?

I find inspiration online like on Pinterest, blogs and on social media. Movies and TV shows are also great resources to find out what the styles were during different time periods and across different cultures. A lot of my inspiration also comes from the street, I love people watching to see how people dress these days, young people, old people, etc. 

How would you define the Friperie look?

I would love to define the Friperie look as simple, minimalistic and casual with a touch of elegance and vintage. 

Let’s go back to the beginning, how did everything begin? Where did you find the courage to launch your own business?

I am the owner of Friperie but I don’t consider myself the founder because, in reality, the shop was passed on to me by a friend upon retirement. He introduced me to this new world. I worked with him for a while and he was my “master” of vintage fashion for many years. I fell in love with the sector, decided to stick with it and carried on his project but I started to give it a touch of “Xin’s style”. 

Since you got started, you haven’t stopped! You already have two shops in Madrid and you “recently” opened a new Friperie in A Coruña (Galicia). How has the Friperie world expanded?

I’ve been with Friperie Madrid for four years and I’ve had many good, and some bad experiences in different aspects of the business. Every day we’re more stable and more well-known. People come from cities all over Spain and from other countries. I’m a restless person, so I usually have a lot of ideas and I like to mix things up so I don’t get bored. For me, it’s an absolute dream come true to have various businesses and get to travel for them. In reality, the idea to expand first came up in conversations with friends. I told them my ideas, they supported me and I made the decision to take the risk and go for new projects.  

Have you noticed any differences, in terms of style or demand between the two Spanish cities?

I have the feeling that yes, there is a difference, but I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly. I took pieces from Madrid to A Coruña that I thought would sell really well there, but I ended up bringing them back and selling them here in Madrid. Maybe it’s because of the difference in weather; maybe because of all of the rain in A Coruña, the people look for things that are more practical. And in Madrid, people want everything. 

How have you adapted your business to the new “normal”?

Now that we can’t open the shops because of COVID-19, I’m taking advantage of social media to showcase styles and to sell online. This helps me cover fixed costs. Thank God I spent time at the beginning to build a social media presence, so now I have a great follower base (not so many, but very loyal). So yeah, it’s been a huge help to get through these difficult times. I feel really fortunate for this and I’m so, so thankful for the different ways my followers have shown their support. 

I have always admired your transparency and attention to detail every time you post something to sell. You include all the necessary photos and measurements so that clients can make a more than informed purchase. How long does it take you, on average, to upload one item for sale?