Seller Visit: Collectif

We met up with Collectif and went behind-the-scenes on their latest retro-inspired shoot, as well as quizzing them on their new collection of flirty '40s and '50s style dresses. Find out what they've got coming up for spring, as well as learning how to perfect those victory rolls and cat-eye flicks...

Tell us about Collectif! Who, where and when?

Collectif was the brainchild of owner and founder Ramiro Torres, born on the dawn of the Millennium from one of the most exciting retail destinations in the world - Camden Stables Market. Starting off as a punk rock and alternative brand, Collectif has grown in strength and integrity over the past 12 years into to what it is today. Inspired by the 40s and 50s, Collectif features a wide range of garments and accessories that were inspired by genuine vintage patterns, knitting patterns, and fabrics from our extensive archive. We also design our own prints and embroideries in house, which gives our brand a unique edge. We are a small head office team of eight members of staff, which creates a great family atmosphere during working hours. 
We are a brand with several London stores, and thousands of wholesale customers all over the world. With over 16,000 loyal Facebook users and countless retail customers on our online store, our collection is one of two halves: 
partly authentic reproduction 1940s and 50s style bringing glamour and sophistication to proceedings,
and the other the exciting pin-up and Rockabilly collection- which is more contemporary, but also inspired by the same era.

You are known for your vintage inspired shapes and patterns - where do your customers wear their Collectif pieces?

Our dresses have been mostly seen at vintage fairs, swing dance events, family events, and even on stage. We are really lucky to have a large pin-up and vintage artist fanbase, and plenty of which are adding new photos to our Facebook nearly every day. We feel really proud to have the lovely Imelda May as one of our followers, she has worn Collectif on stage many times! Some of the bigger fairs and events that we know our garments are worn to are The Blitz Party, Goodwood Revival and Twinwood Festival. We had a small range of vintage reproduction military items a few seasons ago, and the response to these has been great.
 We have had one lovely customer wearing our Diana Suit in Pink Pastel Houndstooth as a wedding outfit, and many brides choose our brand for their bridesmaids, because our dresses are both affordable and made to suit every girl and shape. 

Is it only vintage enthusiasts that can get away with wearing your pieces, or can you mix and match?

For me, from leading the last four seasons creatively, it was important to give the brand a trendy edge that can work for the ASOS customers as well as our niche group of Rockabilly and vintage Lovers. We are now featuring bomber college jackets which have been a big mainstream trend, as well as being typical Rockabilly attire. There is plenty of room to mix and match our dresses, and accessorize them in a variety of different ways in order to give them a new character. Mostly, we style the shoots for our Marketplace Boutique a little edgier in order to give our Marketplace customers a hint of what is possible with our garments. 

For example, last season, we matched an elegant dark green 40s velvet dress with chunky wedged creepers and a skull necklace, and this became one of our best selling items for the period. It looked almost like a modern grungy outfit, in contrast to that on our website, where we kept this style simple as a 40s cocktail dress. This proves our garments are multifunctional, for both evening and daytime, and for a multitude of different looks. 

Tell us about your typical working day...

Working days at Collectif are anything but typical, and every day brings new challenges and tasks. We have a 10am start, and I get to work by walking through East London every morning, listening to my iPod. Upon arrival, I'm often overwhelmed by new ideas that our Managing Director John Alston has. This is always a good start to the day, as he has a big passion for even bigger ideas. These plans have helped us massively improve the brand, and they also bring laughter to the office! 

I start my day answering emails to suppliers, plan the buying for our collections, and checking quality if we have received a new delivery. Depending on the stage of the collection, and where we are within the season, I can begin researching and designing something new. On days before shoots, my days are mostly taken up with model sourcing and planning. On a shoot day (which is the most exciting part of my job!), I am styling and directing the shoots for our website, as well as ASOS Marketplace. 
When I am abroad to visit our production Far East, my days are filled with fabric sourcing and fittings. 
I think we can all agree at Collectif that all our roles have no boundaries, due to the small size of our company. It is always important to stay flexible!

We want to hear what you've got coming up next season!

Collectif's SS13 collection builds on everything we have achieved over the past decade. 
The new season focuses on styles that have been inspired by Alice in Wonderland and Vintage Tea Parties- and intertwining these with both current and vintage styling. We have taken colour palettes from current trends, and translated them across to Collectif’s needs. It’s a repro vintage collection where all of the patterns, fabrics and prints are unique and exclusive to us alone.

This season, we have brought silk to our core styles. We feel that we would like to bring more luxury and natural fibres to our customers, as these contributing factors are high in demand currently. SS13 introduces linen, new silk blends, crepe fabrics, and vintage inspired embroidery for our new range of knitwear.

Key prints include the "flamingo pastel dreams heaven"- for all kitsch lovers- and hibiscus prints in muted vintage tones. Along with this, we always keep our core prints ticking along, also- such as our famous range of polka dots and rockabilly embroidery- along with our all time favourite red and white gingham, which makes a strong appearance this season.

Any top vintage-inspired beauty tips to help us match our Collectif outfit?

For our customers’ hair, I suggest sleeping in pin curls with setting lotion applied, and then brush them out in the morning for the perfect 1940s hair. Keep brushing until you have the perfect coiffed style! Some other hair styles you can choose from are victory rolls, a Bettie Page fringe, quiffs and pompadours, or combine a faux fringe with a bandana.

Choose your eyebrow shape well! Eyebrows are very important to get the perfect pin-up or vintage look. Go more Rita Hayworth for a perfect 40s shape, or fuller and thicker like Elizabeth Taylor for 50s vixen eyebrows.

Winged eyeliner and bright red lipstick are THE classic accompaniments to match our style. Visit Hula Nails in East London for a perfect half-moon manicure, or even do it yourself if you have a steady hand! To make an even bigger impact, add some false eyelashes to add some extra oomph.

Best thing about ASOS Marketplace? Any tips for sellers?

We have found that using ASOS Marketplace is an important retail portal for us, it has given us a great way of expanding our reach to a wide variety of new customers. It is great to create brand awareness on a variety of retail platforms, and to experiment with different styling elements for the different customer bases. We have also not had any outdoor shoots before we started at ASOS Marketplace, and this is a fantastic chance for us to create more images for our collections- which we now use as our editorial images for the season. 

We suggest if you are an existing brand, start your ASOS Marketplace Boutique by featuring a wide range of styles. From our experience, we found that our bestsellers from our website weren't automatically what the ASOS Marketplace customers went for first, and vice versa. It is definitely worth experimenting with your styles so you are able to reach out to a wide range of target markets.

Suitably inspired? Check out the Collectif Marketplace boutique and take your pick from their retro range.