Byronesque: The Antidote to Fast Fashion


Sophie Doran | February 20, 2013

Gill Linton, founder of Byronesque, explains how the banality and homogeneity of contemporary fashion sparked a sleek online commerce venture focused on vintage

Inventory on Byronesque

Vintage is perhaps not a word associated with big business. It’s connotations more musk than money, small shops over scale. Whilst just about every aspect of the fashion industry has been fully industrialised, the market for vintage has remained fragmented, dominated by independent thrift stores and low priced auction sites and search aggregators.

Despite the fact that vintage garments by Chanel or Dior can command prices in the tens of thousands, little has been done to optimise, nor monetise, the true vintage fashion world. At least not on a global scale, and not with deliberate brand architecture in the vain of Vogue or Net-a-Porter.

“Vintage stores are scattered around the world and poorly merchandised, on and offline,” explains Gill Linton, founder of Byronesque, an online marketplace of inspired vintage pieces. "The experience is an unsophisticated, and uninspiring rummage, marketed around clichéd retro imagery.”

“Byronesque came from a personal frustration,” explains the New York-based, British-born entrepreneur. “About the banality and homogeneity of fashion and how ‘vintage’ has become an abused marketing buzzword misappropriated by faux-vintage brands, thrift stores and resale boutiques.”

Instead, Linton’s online platform displays a carefully edited selection of authentic vintage apparel and accessories, from retailers and private showrooms around the world. The aim is to give consumers, stylists and designers – who rely on vintage fashion for inspiration – unprecedented access to inspirational garments and content. Goods are shipped from a host of suppliers, in Byronesque branded packaging.

Byronesque has attracted investment from leading fashion and technology partners, such as Andrew Rosen, the late Marvin Traub and Morty Singer from Marvin Traub Associates, Gucci board member, Keith Miller, and King & Partners, who were charged with building the site and its fulfilment facilities.

“King & Partners are obviously an invaluable tech partner to have,” confirms Lynton. “The back end system that they created, Sellect, is incredibly simple to use and has streamlined the entire process so that all the retailers have to do is ship directly from their stores in Byronesque branded packaging.”

“ Vintage stores are scattered around the world and poorly merchandised, on and offline. The experience is an unsophisticated & uninspiring rummage ”

What specifically attracted you to the vintage market?

It’s easy for people to dismiss fashion as being frivolous and superficial (frankly most of it is) but when you look back at some of the most seminal subcultures in history, how people dressed played an important role in shaping identity, attitudes and beliefs.

You only have to look at teddy girls, mods, punks, skinheads, new romantics etc. They all had a point of view and you were either with them or against them. It created diverse groups that creatively inspired each other – it’s how subcultures morph, bifurcate and grow.

Magazines are chasing the same trends (and advertisers), and fashion has become so driven by ‘corporate profit first’, that it’s hard to be really inspired anymore – you only have to look at how flat the recent New York fashion week collections were to see that.

Right now the dominant culture is ‘fast’ and I wanted to slow it down and create something better, something polarising.

The Byronesque interface

So how did you go about addressing these concerns with your business model?

Firstly we created a brand specifically to modernise the vintage industry, aimed at a sophisticated, avant-garde fashion crowd, who appreciates the quality and stories behind vintage clothes and accessories.

Our first goal was to create a combined e-commerce and editorial brand dedicated to vintage fashion and culture with a dark, provocative and contemporary point of view – avoiding the cost of entry “best-practices” that the fashion retail industry is trapped by.

Secondly, we now aggregate a carefully edited collection of vintage items and connect retailers with a broader consumer and B2B audience.

Vintage stores are run by passionate individuals who don’t have the time or resources to create and manage a successful e-commerce business. Byronesque manages the day-to-day operations that they don’t otherwise have the financial or administrative resources to take on.

Byronesque also provides a contemporary online environment for like-minded retailers who don’t want to sell on sites that compromise their authenticity and creative integrity.

Finally, we provide inspirational content and product for designers who don’t follow trends, who are underserved online. They’re under pressure to design more and more collections each year with less time to be inspired.

Later this year we are launching ‘The Back Room’, a paid subscription service for independently minded fashion designers. The best vintage stores and showrooms have a ‘back room’ where they keep their really special pieces. Often these items aren’t for sale but are an important source of knowledge and inspiration for designers.

A subscription to ‘The Back Room’ gives designers unique access to inspirational vintage and editorial content, without having to invest significant amounts of time and money on research and travel. We don’t knowingly sell subscriptions to The Back Room to fast-fashion brands.

“ Right now the dominant culture is ‘fast’ and I wanted to slow it down and create something better, something polarising ”

What are some defining characteristics of the Byronesque brand?

We’re subversive and irreverent, dark and discreet, intelligent and androgynously chic – everything you wouldn’t expect from a brand about vintage fashion.

We exist to provide a more meaningful alternative to bland, aspirational consumerism. An antidote to fast fashion and out dated, nostalgic vintage that pushes our imaginations and inspires us to buy better clothes, so we don’t look like everyone else or add more waste to the planet.

Our editorial pays intellectual homage to the lives and minds of the most important people in fashion history, whose work inspires us to challenge fashion and popular culture mediocrity.

Editorial content on Byronesque

How do you manage the editorial process, given that you are working with a wide variety of sources and individual pieces?

Brands have been using stories in their marketing for decades. It’s only recently that the fashion world has caught up and online retailers have added ‘magazines’, as magazines add retail with more intention than affiliate programs.

It’s still an emerging model, and it’s getting better all the time, but unfortunately, for the most part, it’s an afterthought, and the user experience is derivative and unsophisticated.

Our goal from the outset has been to create an alternative way for editorial and e-commerce to co-exist online, where there’s a complete overlap between editorial and e-commerce, without it feeling like a promotional look book where users are being given the hard sell.

At every point of the experience, users can access related editorial content while they’re shopping and vice versa. The beauty of vintage is that every item has it’s own unique story; the history and provenance of the piece itself, the designer and sometimes it’s journey from owner to owner. It adds a lot of emotional value to something and makes it more meaningful than a fast fashion knock off.

Consequently, our product pages provide historical context for every item we sell. We have a team of fashion historians constantly researching the authenticity and history of each piece, and we have plans to expand this in the coming months.

“ Brands have been using stories in their marketing for decades. It’s only recently that the fashion world has caught up ”

Finally, tell us some more about the Back Room concept…

Our initial research told us that very creative, avant-garde fashion designers, and stylists, who don’t follow trends, are massively underserved online. It’s my hope that we will provide directional designers and stylists with the inspiration and tools to be the next fashion troublemakers, because without them the fast guys will win. That’s why we don’t knowingly sell Back Room subscriptions to fast-fashion brands.

We’re not driven by trends. That b2b market is very well catered to and Byronesque is a complementary service, not a replacement.

The difference is that while most trend sites report and forecast mainstream trends our editorial and product inspiration is based on hidden or forgotten subcultures told in a very contemporary way and designed to engage design teams, not the marketing or sales departments. They have very different needs.

Our writers and the people we feature on the site did things better the first time around. If we haven’t been inspired or surprised by a story or item then we won’t run it or sell it. We’re not concerned with reporting what every else can see, we’re a creative solution and our priority is to inject creativity back in to the fashion industry by supporting real designers.

To further investigate Fashion on Luxury Society, we invite your to explore the related materials as follows:

- Do We Really Need The Fashion Show?
- Menswear AW12: Extreme Luxury in Climatic Austerity
- 8 Must Know Fashion Show Producers