BABE #120: JAMIE LEE, Owner @ Blossom Vintage
If you live in the Southern California area, chances are you've seen today's babe posted up with her 1970s Safari Airstream which houses Blossom Vintage, the well-known (mobile) vintage shop that she owns and curates. Jamie's hard work and passion for all things vintage is what drew us to interview her initially, but it's her attention to detail and love of adventure that really sealed the deal. Thanks for chatting with us, Jamie - you are an absolute delight and we are so inspired by your work!
Hometown: Torrance, CA
Current city: Long Beach, CA
Alma mater: UC Irvine - Zot zot!
Degree: B.A., English; Minor in Educational Studies
Very first job: Dairy Queen (in a mall food court.)
Hustle: Owner @ Blossom Vintage
Babe you admire and why?
Babes who hustle despite what society may expect of them. All the babes out there who are making it for themselves while building a community of strong, supportive, thriving females.
How do you spend your free time?
Hunting for treasures in all sorts of places, near and far.
Favorite app, website or blog?
Airbnb, Craigslist, Ebay.
Must-have item in your purse?
My small notebook that I keep my outrageous ideas/thoughts/dreams in.
Go-to coffee order?
Hot, tall, black.
Go-to adult beverage?
Margarita or a big glass of wine.
Favorite beauty item?
Smith’s Rosebud Salve.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
My favorite Korean meal (Seolleongtang) and all of my favorite banchan (side dishes.)
Favorite social media account to follow?
It changes often, but currently @stylelikeu, for their ability to address a wide spectrum of issues that we face in society through individuals who aren't afraid to speak up and be transparent in their own stylistic journeys of discovering themselves.
Three things we can always find in your fridge?
Kimchi, fruit, and leftovers
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
Europe. I’m hunkering for a new adventure, and I have yet to visit!
What is something not many people know about you?
From middle school to high school, I had a huge poster of Ja Rule, shirtless, over my bed.
Tell us about your hustle:
I am the owner and curator of Blossom Vintage. My shop is based in California, in a 1970 Airstream trailer filled with vintage clothing ranging from the Victorian era to the 1980s. I also maintain my online webshop where I research, style, photograph, edit, measure, package, and list 10-15 new arrivals every week.
What does your typical workday look like?
A typical day of mine starts off by turning on KCRW with a cup of coffee in hand. After a hearty breakfast, I am either online or on the road sourcing unique pieces for the shop. I would say 50% of my time is spent sourcing while the other time is spent maintaining the online shop, booking and researching popups, and staying relevant on social media. Packaging and prepping orders is also a tedious yet therapeutic part of my day. At night, I like to either put on some night jams or Netflix and mend any vintage pieces that need some extra TLC. Over the years, I’ve learned to not work all day long, and to set aside time to spend on other parts of my life as well.
Have you always had a love for fashion, boutiques and retail? Where do you think that stems from?
I had a few jobs in retail when I was younger, however I wouldn’t say that my love for vintage or retail stems from them. When I was living in Korea after college, I was immediately drawn to how meticulous and thoughtful Korean boutique owners were in creating such a unique shopping experience for the customer; it was as if you were entering their dream world. My best friend and I would wander the streets of Seoul spending hours at a time discovering and admiring an array of charming boutiques. It wasn’t until then I started to have a deep appreciation to what a shopping experience can be- to create a space for people to come and enjoy the same things you do, and ultimately inviting them into such an intimate portrayal of your own creative, dreamworld.
What draws you to vintage goods specifically?
When you wear vintage, you’re wearing a piece of history, a past life lived. It's a top reason why I continue to fall madly in love with collecting vintage. I can’t help but imagine the life a dress from the 1920s once had: who it belonged to, where it's been, what it experienced to survive all this time. It’s a romantic thought to give a forgotten piece of clothing a new life, a rebirth, especially in the hands of fashion designers who take much of their inspiration from vintage. Do I have to mention the quality and workmanship that went into each piece? From the Victorian era through the 1940s, the work and detail are drool-worthy and incredibly inspiring, compared to the fast-fashion junk that’s mainstream today.
What inspired you to incorporate Blossom Vintage with your 1970s Safari Airstream? What has the experience of having your mobile business been like?
Owning my own vintage shop seemed like a distant dream until one of my friends sparked the idea to follow the mobile business phenomenon. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and it gave me the push to commit and really see it through. I had $10,000 saved up from my job in Korea, and I knew I wanted to invest it in my next endeavor. While incessantly looking for trailers online, I finally came across one I liked that was in my budget. The trailer was picked up by a towing company, and as it turns out, had abandoned in the desert for years. (They were too afraid to even open the trailer door, terrified of what they may find inside.) The windows were all broken, the inside was filled to the roof with trash, and all the furniture inside was rotten to the core. I haggled the price down to about $1,000 (yep, $1,000,) and left screaming my head off while driving down the freeway as the proud owner of a run-down, beaten Airstream trailer.
As you also work as a substitute teacher in LA, how do you balance the transition between teaching jobs and managing your business?
Being a substitute teacher is awesome because it gives me flexibility to maintain my own schedule while being able to pay the extra bills and past student loans. I have my teaching credentials and a love for the classroom and working with young teens, but I didn’t see myself fit into the bureaucracy of the public education system. Subbing allows me to be in the classroom, while also remaining focused on my business.
What is your work environment like?
I’m lucky to have a partner who happily lets me use the second bedroom in our house as my office/studio space. I like to say that my office culture is functional yet beautiful. I have a collection of my oldest vintage pieces (mostly Edwardian dresses and 1920s beaded gowns) hanging next to my work desk, and a wall of memorabilia, photos, and other trinkets that provide constant motivation and also remind me of how far I’ve come. To keep me company, I usually play a podcast or an episode of Sex in the City in the background.
How do you manage all of your responsibilities in your work? Have you always been organized?
I do not have a background in fashion. As I was trying to do both teaching and running a business, it was clear to me where my passion and energy lie. I’ve always been somewhat of an organized person, but I’ve learned on the job how I need to manage my time so that I am the most efficient. Although it’s a constant hustle, the community of people (both shoppers and shop owners) I’ve met through Blossom are some of the best people I’ve met; those who are creatively driven and not afraid to go against the grain.
How would you say your gender and/or ethnicity has affected your professional experience?
In towing a 23-foot trailer across the country and to events mostly by myself, I’ve had countless men assume that I don't know what I'm doing, and would rather move or drive the trailer themselves. The “compliment” I often receive is, "I’m impressed that a girl can do that!” (Yes, we can. And sometimes even better than you.)
What are some common misconceptions about your job(s)?
I find gems in all sorts of places including thrift shops, but the digging gets real dirty and tiresome at times. I usually wake up at 3 a.m. when I have a flea market event or an estate sale to rummage through. I get to the sales at least two hours early, and wait in my car - usually with donuts and coffee. My last big haul was in central California in two separate storage lots filled with unopened boxes that had been sitting there for 10+ years. It took me two separate trips of 8-hour days of unearthing all kinds of things covered in dust, but I left with some of the rarest pieces I’ve had in my collection to date. That's the kind of stuff most people don't really see.
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Meeting people from all walks of life and sharing stories about travel, vintage, and everything in-between.
Unhitching and parking the trailer after a long day.
What would you say is your biggest strength in your role?
The passion I have to keep going, and shift when necessary. The most liberating aspect of owning my own business is that it is solely up to me to produce the quality of work that I am proud to present. When you put yourself on the line, you do everything you can to be the best you can be. Blossom pushes me to grow in too many ways to count.
What’s next for you?
Potentially another long road trip across the country with the trailer in tow. My affinity for travel is just as deep for vintage, and I am constantly looking for ways to explore new places. Whenever I am in need of inspiration, being on the road brings me light. The fact that I can do this while making an income is special, and I am thankful.
What are your goals for the future?
Continue expanding Blossom’s clientele and move to a larger studio space where I can host events and gatherings for women who are looking for a community of strong female support and friendship. I want to give back to this ever-growing community of fellow babes who help each other rise.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Take pride in how far you've come, and have faith in how far you'll go.
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