March 30, 2014

State Of The Vixen

It's 3 PM in the afternoon on a Friday.  I am sniffling and sneezing - yet again - due to a sinus infection brought on by a whiff of mold five days ago.  And I'm sure I don't know what to do about it.

I do know mold is my kryptonite.  Over the last couple years, I've unfortunately had to learn more about mycotoxins and aspergillus that I care to recall.  But I've bustled through the week without a complaint until yesterday, when I crashed and cancelled Friday's agenda and stewed a bit about my situation.

It's not a big deal that I have developed a hypersensitivity to mold.  But it is a big deal when you consider my job.  I deal in old clothes, ones that have sat in mildew and mold and who-knows-what for decades. 

And it's been my job since I was seventeen.

I built VintageVixen.com myself back then, in 1996, and launched it alone as one of the first vintage clothing sites in the world.  Since then we've done a huge business, developed the best relationships with stellar customers the world over, and been in lots of films and magazines.  I've had one long-suffering husband rallying me the whole way, and two magical children toted along for the ride.  It's been loads of fun.

It's also been in-the-trenches work, sweating and pawing over literally millions of garments in search of the good ones.  And occasionally the great ones.  And sometimes a hit of aspergillus along the way.

I've loved it.  And I still do.  But in 2012, fifteen years into the life of Vintage Vixen, something changed. 

Of all the things in the world that could've happened, I had a tick bite. 

Most people don't get Lyme disease from ticks.  A few do.  Most who do get Lyme can resolve it with a month of antibiotics.  Some don't, including me.  I was one who had to deal with Lyme the hard way, for most of a year.

I am lucky.  Some people with Lyme disease never get better, and for those souls, unfortunately the top cause of death for chronic Lyme is suicide.  When I realized that, I realized I'd better begin to care for myself better.

I am lucky.  I got well.  It took a year and a lot of effort.  But in unraveling all that illness, I discovered how incredibly serious mold is for me. 

In 2012, my Lyme doctor handed me a lab result and told me to stop working with vintage clothing.  I told him no.  He said to wear a mask.  So I donned my 3M Tekk Protection Mold and Lead Particle Respirator every time I went to work.

After I got better, I got complacent.  Don't we all!  And issues started right back up.  I couldn't always attribute it to something I'd handled in cleaning inventory, and I didn't want to sound alarmist, so I ignored it sometimes.  But if I walked into an estate sale I knew instantly if there was a mold problem in the house.  My eyes watered and my throat felt closed up.  And I didn't have an easy way to explain wearing a respirator to every wide-eyed person in the sale.

Other times, like today, I couldn't ignore the pounding headache or fluctuating fever.  And I can wear the mask only so long, before I feel I'm getting a nose job executed by pressure and sans anesthesia.  I'm not a victim type, but dang!  Poor me.

So what's a girl to do?  I'm able to hand off a good bit of our work to my right-hand gal, Cassie Rebok.  She's been a Vintage Vixen for a couple years now, and she's among the best I've seen in our many employees over the years.  That way I can avoid the mold to a degree, and she can handle most of daily operations.

I can transfer the inventory to another venue (Ebay and Etsy thus far), which we have been doing since January, with the goal now of clearing VintageVixen.com of most of our stock and readying it for a total makeover.  Separating the stock from the site is fairly important as I own VintageVixen.com and plan to continue developing it, but can hand the vintage inventory to someone else if need be.

I could keep the inventory and outsource cleaning all these clothes to a professional laundry, but they just don't know all my tricks.  Nobody does.  There's a lot in the vintage clothing world that's proprietary (i.e. top secret!) and it's difficult to walk away from such an idiosyncratic business when you're totally engaged in this way.

I can re-invent Vintage Vixen in some way.  My brainstorming list includes everything from a social media hub to a sellers' venue to vintage-inspired clothes.  I'd love your ideas.  I know one thing - I'll still maintain an excellent site for vintage clothing enthusiasts at VintageVixen.com.  We're too much of a destination to change that.

Lastly, I can re-invent myself.  I'm an adept programmer, a marvelous seamstress, and pretty darn good at online sales.  I can step away from the dust and mold and old clothes.  I don't want to do it, but I know I can.

I'll be figuring this out, Vixens.  Just wanted to keep you updated.

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