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‘Small but mighty’: French Toast Vintage builds multi-market brand capital
Porschia Thomas, founder of French Toast Vintage, a Montreal-based vintage shop. Photo: French Toast Vintage

‘Small but mighty’: French Toast Vintage builds multi-market brand capital


A brain for business helped Porschia Thomas, owner of French Toast Vintage, turn a profit within her first year of operation and get on the radar of global fashion brand ASOS

Running French Toast Vintage’s e-commerce shop out of her home in Montreal while travelling to and from Toronto for vintage shows on weekends has founder Porschia Thomas maximizing three markets at once.

She’s also one of the featured sellers in the spring “Vintage Revival” fashion campaign on ASOS Marketplace, a London, U.K–based peer-to-peer selling platform for independent creators and vintage retailers owned by fashion mega-brand ASOS, and was chosen to represent one of the site’s Editor’s Picks for a week.

The campaign launched Feb. 22 and highlights products from 24 brands out of the 900-plus sellers on the marketplace. Being included in the roundup has more meaning for Porschia than just the extra exposure: French Toast Vintage is the only Canadian vintage shop represented across the entire by-application-only platform.

It’s easy to see why Porschia’s shop stands out. Amid many boutiques on ASOS Marketplace heavily geared toward the Y2K aesthetic favoured by Gen Z shoppers, French Toast Vintage offers chic timeless style with a twist.

“My brand is bohemian, minimalist with a touch of rock-and-roll street,” says Porschia. “As a millennial entrepreneur, my style edges toward the more classic and eclectic finds from before the 1990s — the ’50s, ’70s and ’90s.”

Portrait of the seller looking directly into the camera while wearing red lipstick and a vintage black leather jacket with zippers.
“To me, the name “revival” is twofold,” says Porschia of the ASOS Marketplace Vintage Revival campaign. “It is referring to the secondhand aspect of the campaign but also spring revival.” Photo: French Toast Vintage

Claiming space in the resale market

Differentiating her business in a crowded market has been a top priority for Porschia in the early months of her shop, which debuted in November 2021. She sells on Etsy, but applied to sell on ASOS Marketplace so she could access a European-focused market she may not otherwise reach.

Porschia herself boasts a varied resume, setting her up for early vintage-selling success: she’s a dual citizen of Canada and the U.K. and spent years working as a stylist, fashion journalist and e-commerce SEO specialist in Paris, London and Toronto before settling into her current role as a project manager in sales and marketing and consultant for digital brands.

While in Paris, Porschia wrote for a magazine and blog and covered big-ticket runway shows at the Paris and London fashion weeks, including for her favourite label Elie Saab. She also spent time as an English language consultant for several brands including fashion houses Nina Ricci and Christian Dior.

“I’ve had all these experiences and I’m able to pour them into this,” she says. “As a Black female entrepreneur, my voice is important and my perspective is so important. And I’m showing a diversity of styles for different Black women — there are women like me that exist, that love vintage, that dress a certain way. That representation is important.”

A fuzzy lavender zippered jacket.
”I buy based on instinct. Maybe I should be following the exact trends more. I don’t know anything about T-shirts. There are a ton of people that are good at it, but that’s not my love. I think especially as a vintage seller, you have to sell what you love.” Photo: French Toast Vintage

Choosing the right target market

Having spent the past five years living and working in Montreal, Que., Porschia runs most of her vintage business a five-plus-hour drive away in Toronto, Ont. She shuttles back and forth between the cities for vintage markets and sourcing, storing inventory at both her Montreal apartment and a storage space in Toronto.

Montreal’s strong fashion scene and European sense of street style make it an ideal home for a vintage buyer, Porschia says. The lower cost of living in Montreal means space is more affordable for shop proprietors, resulting in more opportunities for home-based or in-studio shopping and store co-sharing.

But a vibrant retail studio culture means there are less pop-ups and markets — the Toronto vintage community’s answer to sky-high commercial rent — that draw larger audiences. The high cost of living in Toronto also cultivates a work-centric mindset, making it a more desirable market for a vintage seller because discretionary spending tends to be higher, Porschia says.

In September 2022, Porschia did her first in-person market at the Hippie Market in Toronto, and the following week popped up at the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show, part of the Toronto Vintage Show, Canada’s largest vintage market.

“You kind of want to go for the big guns and work backwards,” Porschia says of attending markets. “That was my strategy for my first year, because I think it’s a way for a small company to make a big impact and expose yourself.”

A burgundy zippered purse with gold hardware.
“French Toast Vintage stocks a range of apparel including vintage designer labels like this Celine shoulder bag, furs and leather goods. Photo: French Toast Vintage

In-person sales vs. online sales

After closing out the first of two days at the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show, Porschia tweaked her strategy on the fly, pulling vintage fur coats she realized were going to be too high-ticket for most of the attendees, and replacing them with new, lower-priced inventory for day two.

It was an important lesson in the difference between in-person versus online sales. “You want to bring the showstoppers to have them, but then you want to keep things affordable — that’s how you’re going to get people in real life,” Porschia shares.

“Whereas with online, because so much time has to go into the photos, the photo editing, the listings, I have to focus on bigger-ticket items. They sell well online.”

She will be exhibiting again at Hippie Market March 18-19 and at the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show on April 1-2, with a full slate of markets planned for the rest of the year.

“I love to see people trying things on and connecting with them,” Porschia says. “It gives more meaning.”

“I’m showing a diversity of styles for different Black women — there are women like me that exist, that love vintage, that dress a certain way.”

Drawing on all her skills

Porschia has always loved fashion, but her instincts for vintage selling are rooted in her education: she completed her master’s degree in fashion business management at the University of Westminster in London, U.K. and wrote her thesis on vintage clothing, interviewing vendors about how they run their businesses.

“When I did my master’s, I never planned on starting my own business,” she says. “But when COVID hit, it gave me a different perspective like it did so many other people. I started to sell some of my older clothes because I had more time — and then I thought, this actually could be lucrative.”

As she began to apply what she knew from her career in visual merchandising, marketing, SEO, photo editing and content creation to her listings, the sales followed.

Porschia was turning a profit in her first year of business.

She knows her buyer intimately — largely 30- and 40-somethings who have some disposable income and are looking for investment pieces — and has big plans on how to reach them. In 2023, that’ll include more markets, establishing a passive income source at a vintage showroom and building up awareness of her brand.

“Those two markets that I did last year — real-life sales trumped online sales, 100 per cent. I would never get rid of my online because it is a form of semi-passive income. You never want to shut down a sales channel,” she says. “But I’m looking at everything else as long as it fits into my brand story. If I feel that my customer is going to be there, I will completely try it.”

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Expanding as a team of one

While she maintains her other job, Porschia is still putting in full-time hours on French Toast Vintage. After realizing she was spending too much time on back-end work, she started hiring help on freelancing platforms such as Fiverr to assist with occasional tasks including listings creation.

“Administration is extremely important for any business, but when you are doing it all yourself it is too much,” says Porschia. “I was beginning to feel burnt out and stuck in the weeds all the time.”

“Outsourcing has helped because I really do need to focus more on the bigger picture and I just don’t have the time right now,” Porschia says. “I want to just have it all going. I’m seeing this vision. Even if my brand is still very small, it’s mighty.”

A pair of cheetah-patterned leather high heels.
“Yesterday’s baguette is today’s French Toast”: French Toast Vintage’s tagline encapsulates the ideal French Toast customer looking to dress up and feel a little bit special. Photo: French Toast Vintage

Turning business into brand

Starting out on platforms like Etsy and ASOS Marketplace can mean big gains for your vintage business. “Being on ASOS has pushed me to make my brand better — you work with a team that is supportive and gives you great feedback and suggestions. I am so thankful for this gentle mentorship,” says Porschia.

The platform advises sellers to use on-model imagery to showcase clothing, because it helps users visualize the fit of the items. “I was quite shy and not 100 per cent sure about doing it at first, but that suggestion is what has pushed me to up my images overall and apply my styling skills,” says Porschia. “I am not sure I would have done it otherwise. Being with such a mega house leader in the industry is helping me elevate my brand.”

She plans to up her social media presence to eventually direct shoppers to her own website. “With Etsy, with ASOS, you’re relying on them instead of driving traffic yourself, and there’s an insecurity there,” Porschia says. “On a website, shoppers are buying from you whereas there’s so much competition on Etsy. There’s so much competition on ASOS. There’s so much competition at markets. With a website, you’re bringing customers into your universe.”

No matter what’s next for French Toast Vintage, Porschia’s ready to put in the hard work. “You start in your own business and people are like, ‘It’s just a hobby. When are you going back to real life?’ But if I’m going to be spending so much time on this, this needs to be generating money,” she says.

“This is something I love and I’m passionate about, but it is also a business.”

Portrait of the seller wearing a blue-and-white striped blouse with a wide collar and large white buttons, paired with white pants and black leather heels.
Porschia’s been working on improving her brand photography with the encouragement of the team at ASOS Marketplace. Photo: French Toast Vintage

Porschia’s top five selling tips

Porschia Thomas, founder of French Toast Vintage, shares some of her secrets to early selling success

1. Research exactly how your chosen buy-and-sell platforms work.

“You need to be working with the system that you have in place and learn about what’s going on behind the scenes on these platforms so that you can optimize them,” Porschia says. Once you know how Etsy, Depop, eBay and other platforms surface and prioritize listings on their platforms, you can make it easier for the algorithms to find your listings by giving them what they want.

2. Watch your numbers.

“You need to make sure that more is coming in than is going out,” Porschia advises. “I’m still working out stuff like, ‘What is the pricing for this? What are people willing to pay for this?’ Getting into the real-life market, what was really interesting is that people are willing to pay a lot less in real life than they are online.”

3. Figure out where you can stand out.

“ASOS is one of the marketplaces where there’s a huge vetting process and it’s really hard to get in. I got rejected before I got accepted,” Porschia shares. But she chose that platform for a reason. “They’re very selective about the people that they bring on because essentially, once you’re there, you’re representing that you’re part of their community, and you have that badge of approval.”

4. Return on investment isn’t always about money.

As a Canadian seller using ASOS Marketplace and selling to a wider audience of European shoppers, shipping can get pricey. But for Porschia, ASOS Marketplace was worth the brand exposure, even if the initial costs meant it wasn’t going to be a primary revenue stream right away. “I have high hopes for the platform in terms of growth,” Porschia says.  

5. Keep on top of your listings.

“The most important thing, and you’re going to hear this from every online vintage seller, is how many listings you have. It’s all a numbers game with tendering. And then from there figuring out what your sell-through rate is from that.” Certain platforms encourage daily or even multiple-times-daily posts.

Portrait of the seller smiling in a long white fur coat.
“When I get a good review, or somebody messages about a product after, I always feel so good,” Porschia says. “I rehomed this — and to have that happening in real life over and over again? I love this.” Photo: French Toast Vintage

Follow French Toast Vintage on Instagram at @frenchtoastvintageca or on Etsy or ASOS Marketplace.

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