Interview with Marina, vintage store owner

Marina is the owner of MarinaDeProvence, formerly AuGrenierDeCerise which you may have seen on the blog last year, an online vintage store based in the South of France. I’ve grown fond of her since our collab so it only made sense to have her as my first guest for the small business owner interviews.

Hi Marina! First of all, thank you for taking part in this little experiment. I have already introduced you on the blog but could you please tell us a bit more about yourself, your path and what makes your heart sing? You launched your online vintage store. How was this idea born?

I have always loved searching through my grandmothers’ closets and try on clothes that were too big for me or borrow patent handbags from them. That’s how an oversized dark grey velvet sweater (that belonged to my grandmother when she was young) became my favourite garment when I was 15. That was in Russia. Years later, in France, I enjoyed going to second-hand stores in Paris, but I thought the price tags were horribly expensive. Besides, I always continued dressing with second-hand clothes as a large part of my wardrobe; clothes I got here and there. And I would give the ones I wasn’t wearing anymore to other people. All this was… how to say… subconscious. I wasn’t thinking “oh yes, I would like to grow it or do this and that”, no. It’s when I arrived in the Var department, 5 years ago, after quitting my job at Air France, feeling a big void inside of me, that I discovered the many flea markets here in the South. I had a thing or two to sell so I gave it a shot. A friend of mine introduced me to small local nonprofits (not Emmaüs – I don’t know them too well) that employ people in professional reintegration programs through second hand clothing. Their workshops are open to the public and you can purchase directly from them. Through them, I started to find great pieces and sold them on flea markets. After a few months, someone told me about Etsy – an American platform dedicated to vintage and handmade goods. So I said to myself “why not?”. Let’s try!

I love your finds! Is there any you are particularly proud of?

Yes, my most beautiful finds were a vintage 1959 Hermès scarf I bought at a yard sale in my village for 2 euros, a vintage croc embossed faux-leather coat by Weill (like your red blazer!) at a flea market in Hyères for 10 euros, also 2 vintage hand embroidered white provencale blouses from the 20’s-30’s for 5 euros each and a 1980’s “les Fonds Marins” silk and cashmere sweater by Hermès with gorgeous fish on it. There’s been plenty more…

What do you like the most in what you do?

Finding THE piece of clothing and finding it. Staging it. Taking pictures. I have a good DSLR camera and use the manual settings. In 2013/2014, back in Paris, I took photography classes at the EFFET audiovisual school. As a result, taking pictures for my website was something familiar from the beginning But what I didn’t know when I got started with my store was that selling clothes from a photograph is a job in itself. I can’t count how many times I had to do it over, retry and change everything… and it continues: I constantly review my way of doing things, and not just with photography, also with the styling, the presentation, the choice of garments, it’s always in motion.

How about what you like less or find the hardest in your work?

The hardest for me is to be careful with quality: I force myself to check multiple times if the garment is in condition good enough to be uploaded. If I take this step too lightly, I miss defects. And I am someone who takes my time (taurus), in what I do and what I learn, I need time to master something. I like things to be done right, so it takes time and I make mistakes and start over.

In the current environment, we see that more and more people turn to conscious consuming. Vintage and second-hand clothes offer a very interesting alternative. Do you notice it in your daily work activities?

Yes, I see it especially at an international level because my customers come from all around the world. It really is a global alternative movement and I like it a lot. The fact that a girl who lives in a remote spot in the USA, where there might not even be clothing stores except maybe sportswear, can buy from my store, something she could never have found without the internet, is a joy.

If you had one piece of advice to give to all those who would like to become self-employed, what would it be?

Persevere. Question yourself all the time. Calculate yours costs and earnings well. Persevere again. Try again. Continue where others have given up.

And finally, if your wildest dreams could come true, what would your goal be for the upcoming years?

Buying our own house. Becoming a real pro at what I do. Organize events and workshops for women in that house of ours where sustainable fashion, photography, gardening, art and cooking can meet.

Anything to close this interview?

I would like to add that I’m a buddhist practitioner and that this daily practice since years supports me, helps me move forward and guides me in the choices I make. And there is my Jean-Louis (5 years together and 2 years married in April) who supports me unconditionally and kindly looks upon what I do. It’s also thanks to him I was able to take the time to grow my business and for that, I would like to thank him.

Follow Marina on Instagram: @marina_de_provence
Shop from Marina’s store: MarinaDeProvence