High on a morning coffee buzz I was walking along Broadway in Glebe when I stumbled across Playground Vintage. A sucker for corduroy jeans and vintage T-Shirts, I was lured in by their 90’s influenced display while trying only to window shop. Despite my frugal intentions, the caffeine was tapping into my impulsive tendencies and I accepted the likelihood that my card would tap their EFTPOS machine on exit. Particularly after finding a t-shirt that had a print with a pirate ship on the back. If you’ve read my previous article, ‘I quit my corporate job and fled to Costa Rica’ you might conclude I seemingly have an affinity towards anything involving a boat.
The store attendant that day, Rae Oswell happened to be one of the two owners of the store. The other being her partner, Daniel Farnham. Noting my interest in the t-shirts Rae brought out stock not yet out on the floor. When I learned she was one of the owners my curiosity peaked, considering she was quite young. I asked about the story behind Playground Vintage as we sorted through the t-shirts, each print different from the last. Inspired by their self-starter story I reached out to Rae and Daniel directly to capture it here on Pointing North. I have come to realise there are certain personality traits shared by entrepreneurs, artists and idealists within creative industries that’re necessary to survive. It takes an enormous amount of tenacity, dedication, perseverance and self-belief to sustain a living from something of your own making, particularly in the beginning. As the nature of the industry is so competitive it’s easy to become closed off, which is why Rae and Daniel’s openness is so refreshing.
Despite being the backbone of cultural influence, modern society rarely allows creative minded people to pursue their interests without social trepidation. This is what makes stories like Rae and Daniel’s so important. So without further ado, here is the inspiring and motivating story behind Playground Vintage.
Take us back to the beginning!
Originally it all started from a trip we made at the beginning of 2017 to the US/Canada. At the time we weren’t extremely invested in fashion we were just there for a holiday but to see the varieties of clothing and styles, particularly in places such as LA was amazing and made us question why Australia didn’t have some like this? From there we became more invested in fashion and this growing interest kind of just grew into us deciding to start our own clothing label. We started out creating our own designs and screen printing them onto T-shirts and selling them at markets but this was costly and to supplement our income we also sold vintage clothing on the side. However we quickly realised through this how the majority of donated clothing is sent straight to landfill and how damaging it is to the environment to produce clothing in the first place so from there on we focused solely on second hand clothing. As we were really inspired by the novelty shops in the US we were keen to replicate that here, hence the name “Playground Vintage.”
How did you know where to begin?
We didn’t really, we had no idea where to begin, we didn’t know how to write a business plan or work a spreadsheet plus many other things. A LOT of time was spent making mistakes, I think in our first year of Playground Vintage it took us about 10 months until we actually made our first sale. The only things we felt sure about is that we knew nothing about business and we were completely out of our depth but just knowing this meant we weren’t too hard on ourselves when we did stuff up. I think for us finding out where to begin was a learning experience in itself.
What are the biggest hurdles you faced as an independent business in the beginning?
Money and self-doubt. The business for the most part has been funded by a bunch of odd jobs and it was quite difficult in the beginning. We didn’t pay ourselves and then there were times when we were losing money or made a costly mistake that starts to make you doubt whether this is viable or whether you are competent enough. You start thinking about your weaknesses and whether or not you are wasting your time, you don’t know if tomorrow will be good or bad. You sort of walk blindly a lot of the time and that unknown can really stress you out if you’re not careful.
What are Playground Vintage's milestones to date?
I think in August of 2018 we started to do markets more regularly and we were doing well. We had learnt a lot more and I think it was at that point where we thought, “wow, maybe this could be a full time gig.” The other instance was definitely opening up a shop in September of this year. It was a huge risk, very scary but definitely makes us feel more like a legitimate business.
What inspires your collection? if any.
I think the whole 90's/early 00's era is our core we love the baggy jeans, the graphic tees, the music it's all so cool. A lot of the time we might just see someone on the street or in music and really dig their style and think “we really need some of that.” What inspires us changes month to month but our roots are definitely in the 90's.
What advice would you give aspiring creatives looking to create something for themselves?
That's a difficult question but probably the first thing is to just start. The cliche, “you don’t know if you don’t try” is very real. It's very easy to get bogged down in planning and never get anywhere. If you take very small incremental steps which are seemingly insignificant at first, over time you end up being much further than if you never started. The second is to allow for a lot of room for mistakes, keep risks and expectations low, the chances are you will fail a lot more than you will succeed, at least at first. I think our attitude has always been that we aren’t guaranteed anything and therefore we have a tendency to plan for the worst but hope for the best, it's a win-win scenario. If the worst comes to pass you have a plan for it and anything more than that is a bonus. Also if you can do it with someone else, it's nice to have different perspectives sometimes.
Playground Vintage is not only active in supporting the environment through sustainable fashion but also in the community. Having recently donated 20% of their profits to the Rural Fire Services and The Foundation for Australia's Most Endangered Species which is an incredible contribution for an independent business. To check out their online offering head to https://www.playgroundvintage.com/ or come through and meet Rae and Daniel yourself at 259 Broadway, Glebe, Sydney.