Poppycock! is in their own words “dedicated to saving those wonderful statement pieces known as hats”. We spoke to Poppycock! creator Ashley Webb about vintage design, marketing in an Etsy world, and the importance of a great hat.
When did your love of vintage begin?
Honestly, that’s a bit hard to pinpoint! It started during childhood as a love for history – the civil war in particular. I spent a lot of time with Omi – my grandmother – and we watched Gone With The Wind more times than I can remember. It’s still my favorite movie! I would read all of the historical fiction I could get my hands on and daydream about what it would be like to live in a different time period. You can still catch me doing that. Up until recently I had a civil war era bonnet in my possession, and when I held it I could practically feel it buzzing with stories forever lost.
I spent a lot of time growing up with one of our neighbors, a feisty old lady that I called Grandma Jean. She happened to be the historian for our sleepy southern county, and could go on for hours talking and sharing photos about what happened decades ago in places that I knew – including my very own house! The house I lived in was a huge, sprawling farmhouse that was built in 1840, and hearing it’s history and seeing old photos of it really made me realize that everything old has stories to tell. As I got older, that interest became directed towards fashion. We had to do exit projects/speeches for high school, and while everyone else chose topics like The Beatles and making aquariums, I chose vintage fashion and how it was affected by major historical occurrences. I supposed my love for vintage clothes in particular has really snowballed from there!
Do you have any favorite pop culture references for style? Icons, films, or music?
Two instantly come to mind, for completely different reasons. I adore Dita von Teese for her impeccable old Hollywood glamor and pin-up sex appeal that hasn’t been achieved since Marilyn. Her hair and makeup are always perfection. For a more everyday look, I want every single outfit worn by Chuck in Pushing Daisies! They were perfect examples of blending vintage and modern, which can be trickier to pull off than it seems.Aside from that, I adore any old Technicolor film – I mostly watch them for the fashion! Alex has gotten used to the whimpers and sighs I constantly let out as I long for the clothes on the screen.
Poppycock! is a team effort, Ashley handles stock, customer service, and marketing. Alex handles the photoshoots, photo editing, and design.
Why did you guys decide to make a store together?
My idea to launch Poppycock! came to me a few months after Alex and I started dating. I had owned an Etsy vintage shop before that was, honestly, not successful. I loved hats and knew that since many others did too, Poppycock! could really be something great. Being the dive-in-headfirst type of girl I am, I began buying hats left and right, researching fashion in every spare moment, and buying reference books about hats and vintage fashion. Being the incredibly supportive (and technology savvy) guy Alex is, he helped out by getting flashes, diffusers, and stands, and learning how to make the photos look just right. Presentation is crucial, and Poppycock! would not have been successful without his help.
Why hats in particular?
Hats are fabulous. When people look to wear vintage clothes, they tend to fixate on the dresses and shoes and accessories, but for some reason overlook hats. It’s a crime! A hat will transform an outfit – either be the cherry on top to complete the look, or be the one extravagant piece to take your look to the next level. A 1940s wide brimmed straw hat or 1960s straw boater will take your sundress from ordinary to adorable; a 1930s fedora tilted over one eye will take your suit from simply professional to mysterious; a 1960s mink pillbox will turn your bundled winter outfit into something more effortlessly glamorous (and much warmer!); a 1940s veiled tilt hat or 1950s beaded headpiece will turn your evening outfit into a real head turner! Aside from that, I’m a sucker for feathers and flowers, and hats seem to be the only article of clothing in which they’re always in abundance.
What would you say Poppycock’s philosophy would be?
It’s never inappropriate to be fabulous! These days, most people have the mindset that wearing a hat is reserved only for old ladies at church or for an event like the derby. They’re viewed as flamboyant pieces, worn only for special occasions. But who says all hats are flamboyant? Who says you can’t wear a hat to go shopping, or to school, or on a night out? If you put that hat on, and you look amazing, who cares what the social norm is. You look fabulous, and that’s always ok. Charming, smart, interesting.
How would you describe what Poppycock! offers?
Hats for everybody! Seriously, anyone. I’ve had more people than I can count contact me to say that they love hats and want to wear them, but they “just can’t pull off hats.” Nonsense! It’s all about finding the right hat. Whether or not a hat works for you is going to be based on personal style and confidence. Poppycock! has a hat you’ll look good in. Promise.
Where does Poppycock! plan to go from here?
One day I would love to have my own website, and maybe expand my selection of vintage to other accessories and clothes. I’m also in love with the romantic idea of a brick and mortar shop; a little storefront with windows filled with vintage pretties. One day at a time – right now I’d be content with a bigger office and more storage space! I’m in the process of getting a new logo design! As soon as that is done, I’ll be starting an advertising campaign in hopes to attract more hat lovers to the shop.
What would you like people to take from your store?
The realization that hats aren’t dead. They’re very fashionable, very wearable, and they’re gaining more recognition everyday. I want anyone who visits my shop to desire the hats in it, anticipate the hats they’ve ordered, and treasure the one-of-a-kind pieces they’ve acquired.
What does Poppycock! pride itself most on?
Selection and expertise! I have hats ranging from the late 1800s to the 1980s, all accurately dated to the very best of my knowledge. There’s something for everyone! For someone who is looking for an authentic cloche, they can rest assured that they’ll be getting the real deal and not a 1960s reproduction. The Internet is awash with horribly misdated hats, and it drives me a little nuts. The shop has become a resource and reference guide for costume designers, actors, vintage fashion mavens, and other sellers – and I think that’s pretty exciting.
What motivates you creatively on a daily basis?
I’m my own biggest critic. I’m constantly brainstorming on what I can do to better Poppycock! – and while it has resulted in many sleepless nights, knowing that there’s always more I can do keeps me going. I’m always looking to successful shop owners to see what they’re doing that I’m not! Aside from that, I have a great support system of family and friends who are always there to bounce ideas off of or to get me going when I’m feeling particularly blah. If all else fails, I just grab one of our three cats and make him cuddle with me – they like it, I swear! A fuzzy kitty will generally get me back on track.
Are there any stores that you are really interested in at the moment?
So many! I’ve been playing around with the idea of taking millinery classes, and ArturoRios has mind-blowing handmade hats. They’re pieces of art, all of them! They remind me of a modern day take on some of the work of high-end milliner Jack McConnell. I also love TheMadPlatters– they take antique prints and put them on melamine plates. I want to fill my cabinets with them, and eat off of something new and pretty every night. I’m also drawn to EarthSeaWarrior for their creepy, weird, and totally unique idea of taking vintage and antique broken dolls and turning them into plant gardens. I’m not sure that I want one sitting on my windowsill, but I’m still impressed with the original concept. And of course, I lust after everything DearGolden has – but what vintage lover doesn’t? I’m drawn to anything unique and visually appealing. Etsy is a crowded place, and you have to work hard to make yourself stand out! I love shops that take an old concept and make it their own, or bring something completely different and amazing to the table. Of course, I browse the vintage section daily, and I’m pretty sure I see almost every hat that’s listed!
Which social media sites do you use for Poppycock!?
I use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Seriously, I spend way too much time on my phone/computer, I look like an addict.
Thank you for taking part in our interview series! It was great getting to know Poppycock!
Jolly Bureau, April 16, 2012