the telegraph, november 2011

UPSTYLER_2066670a

“Ginny Hepburn, the host of tonight’s party, is steaming last-minute creases from a black floor-length frock. Her kitchen-cum-dining-room at her home in east London has been transformed into a little boutique. Antique lace collars are draped on chair backs beside old silk scarves, there’s a mirror propped against a wall, and there are clothing rails jammed full of vintage dresses and blouses. Hepburn, who used to work in marketing before having two children, now eight and five, was introduced to the UpStyler website by a friend. Upstyler.co.uk launched last year and sells a mix of vintage clothes, thrift finds from charity stores and new stock, with lots of suggestions as to how to style your own outfit to fit your look. Hepburn had the idea to bring rails of clothes to her home and sell from there to her friends and friends of friends. The idea has caught on and since starting up last November she has hosted about 20 parties at her own home and at other people’s homes around London. So far, she is a one-woman band operating alongside the website; the parties are publicised by word of mouth. If she holds the sale at someone else’s house, the hostess is allowed to keep an accessory or piece of clothing from the rail. ‘My husband works away in the week, the children are in bed and this is a good way of spending an evening, and making a little extra money.’
The stock, priced from £15 for a scarf to £150 for a collectable top, is sourced from upstyler.co.uk as well as friends and her own shopping trips. ‘I came back on the train from Hastings, which has great secondhand shops, with bin bags crammed full of stuff, and I can take, on average, £500 a party, minus the cost of the stock and food and drink and the 15 per cent commission to UpStyler.
There’s cava in the fridge, bowls of crisps and slices of bread and smoked salmon on the kitchen counter as Hepburn’s guests arrive. ‘I think people like the idea of recycling old clothes: it’s environmentally good, it makes economic sense, and it’s a move away from fast, throwaway high-street fashion,’ she says as she neatens up a 1950s apron.
All of which is true, but judging by the polite scrum of 18 friends – many of whom are working mothers who might not usually have time during the day to shop or to spend time browsing in charity or vintage shops – taking things off hangers, and sashaying towards the mirror, catwalk style, it’s the dressing-up aspect that makes this evening so much fun. There are giggles from the front room as women try on dresses and skirts, encouraged to go for outfits they wouldn’t normally choose. ‘I hate shopping,’ Dawn Morpeth says, ‘and I hate the changing rooms, but this is lovely and relaxed and glamorous; it’s more like a night out.’
The stock is varied to suit a wide range of tastes: a pussy-bow blouse, a severe grey dress with a high neck and a decorous pleated skirt, and a biscuit-coloured leather tunic that would suit Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour. It’s a fluted, elegant Ossie Clark jacket, priced at £150, that gets the most attention; it is passed from hand to hand and tried on by everyone. But it looks as if it was made for Kira Phillips, a filmmaker, who buys it after everyone else tells her she has to, even though she was reluctant at first. ‘I know I’ll be wearing it for the next 40 years.’
By the time I leave, Mel, a graphic designer, has bought a bold printed skirt, Gabriella has a leaf-print dress, and Joanna is holding a delicate pink hand-sewn blouse. The average spend per head was about £40, and Hepburn’s takings were £750.”

Read the rest of the Telegraph article by Eithne Ferry about home selling.

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