Success ‘Stories’

Vintage clothing shop invites customers to create and interact

Wilma 0620 Secondskin Main

Through social media sites, many users have found new ways to connect – like with old high school friends, former colleagues, and favorite businesses. Let’s be honest: Most of us barely go a day without tuning in.

Every like, share, or comment means we’ve been seen and heard, and nowa­days, in the middle of a pandemic, social media is one of the few ways we can visit each other.

For many storefront business own­ers, venues such as Facebook and Insta­gram have provided a lifeline. KARYN OETTING, owner of Second Skin Vin­tage, describes how the clothing shop­per’s experience has changed during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Before the pandemic emerged, she and her staff would greet their custom­ers upon entering their doors, perhaps followed by a fun conversation or even a story about vintage apparel.

But, lately, they’re sharing more dia­logue virtually through Instagram Sto­ries, a feature of the social media plat­form that allows users to temporarily share moments – photos, videos, ques­tions, music – via a reel or slideshow.

“We are very literal with the Insta ‘sto­ry’ concept,” Oetting says. “We are telling little stories.”

She and her staff began posting series with a theme, such as educational videos on vintage clothing history and photos of apparel with a common subject.

“For the first day or two, it was just about what people want to see right now, what do we think people want to see and how can we amuse and entertain follow­ers and ourselves,” she explains. “We just pivoted 180 degrees.”

Second Skin Vintage had already been using both Instagram and Facebook to share inventory and make online sales, but Oetting also depended on foot traf­fic from the store’s location in the Castle Street Arts and Antiques District.

As the shop’s staff began counting days of the stay-at-home order, more creative ideas emerged.

Second Skin Collage

“One week Dorothy (Reynolds, one of two employees) came in and had an idea of doing an art challenge,” Oetting explains. “She was inspired by the fact that, over the years, we’ve had customers or people who follow our account who draw or paint pictures of our clothing. Sometimes, they send us renderings of what they’ve done.”

So, she put together a vintage outfit from their inventory and challenged fol­lowers to create an interpretation of the ensemble in any artistic medium. As an example, Reynolds created a collage.

Participants were instructed, via Insta­gram and Facebook, to message the shop with their submissions. The first-place win­ner (whose collage interpretation included a dressed figure wearing a face mask) won a $20 gift certificate to the store. Oetting says she appreciated the artist’s homage to our current health culture.

“When little-to-no commerce is going on, you have to find ways to stay relevant and interesting to your customers,” the shop owner explains. “I want to inspire other businesses; you can think outside the box.”

And Second Skin Vintage is also inspir­ing its customers who are stuck at home. Early into quarantine life, Reynolds and shop employee Ella Richardson hosted at-home fashion shows in some of their fa­vorite looks, and soon others followed the trend.

Oetting also asked customers to suggest songs to be added to the shop’s “Musings on COVID” playlist, which is now publicly available on Spotify.

Many of Second Skin Vintage’s posts and stories feature its inventory but in new, sometimes quirky, ways.

In one instance, the shop hosted a 1980s mystery blouse special offer: Followers could purchase a top in their size for only $16, but the print or color they received was a surprise. The tops quickly sold out.

“Really, this is the golden age of Second Skin Vintage Instagram stories,” Oetting says with a laugh.

Reynolds describes two of her favorite themed stories. One week, she gathered outfits inspired by cats, featuring looks imi­tating lions, jaguars, etc., and even her own pets at home. In another, she curated en­sembles imitating cleaning supplies – again with a tip of the hat to COVID-19 condi­tions.

“Dorothy and Ella are the lifeblood be­hind these stories,” Oetting explains. “When we started this, I freaked out about how to turn my physical store into something else, but I have two young people … and their enthusiasm.”

Second Skin Vintage reopened for on-site shopping May 9 but with restrictions such as requiring a facemask, limiting ca­pacity, and closing dressing rooms. Ulti­mately, Oetting says, the shop will continue to rely on online efforts for the foreseeable future.

To view more of photographer Megan Deitz’s work, go to

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Categories: Features