The Story Behind the Site: Lesly Washington Founder of Tchoup Vintage
This vintage shop in the heart of Atlanta is named after a popular street in New Orleans called Tchoupitoulas, that is home to the founder, Lesly Washington. Pronounced 'CHOP' Tchoup Vintage was founded in 2013 as an antidote to overpriced vintage clothing. Lesly decided to fill the void by bringing rare, vintage, bold, hyper colored pieces online and to Atlanta.
We chatted with Lesly about her inspiration, influences, and why she uses Squarespace to power her vision.
What inspired you to start Tchoup Vintage?
My dad did, actually. I started thrifting when I was 13 and have been collecting vintage clothing ever since. I knew at a young age that I wanted to be a “ladypreneur.” I would spend hours in the library reading business books on entrepreneurship while trying to figure out how to make money at a young age. As I got older, my priorities naturally started to change but having my own business was always something that stayed on my mind.
My dad was always one of my biggest supporters and pushed me to work hard to be able to play harder. He encouraged me to work for everything that I wanted and to never depend on anyone else to give it to me. I would talk to him often about my dreams about owning a business, about investments, traveling, and real estate, and he was always my biggest cheerleader.
Unfortunately, he passed away in 2013 after a six-year long battle with cancer that left me in pieces. I knew I needed to do something. I thought to myself, “How can I make this grief a little bit more bearable? How can I turn this sadness into something positive?" It immediately clicked. This is the perfect time to finally launch my vintage shop. I had all of the resources, skills, and business savviness to do it myself, plus the loving support of my family and friends. I spent the entire summer working out the kinks and Tchoup Vintage was born three months later. It has been a whirlwind ever since then but the entire experience has helped me find my independence and voice in the world.
Where and how to do you gather inspiration?
I’m inspired by everyday people I meet while I'm out and about, by reading Kinfolk, by people I follow on Instagram, and by spending hours on apartmenttherapy.com and Pinterest. I also get a lot of inspiration sent to my inbox from my favorite indie brands. It’s a great way to stay in the loop on the latest fashion trends, what people are currently obsessing over, and effective marketing techniques.
You attended Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). How did studying art and design influence your approach to fashion?
I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Marketing and Management with a minor in Graphic Design. SCAD was such a beautiful, intense experience that really prepares you for life’s triumphs and struggles. My major taught me about the fashion industry, how to forecast trends, about fashion buying, and nontraditional retailing. Graphic Design taught me how to communicate through type, how to build websites, and about branding and presentation. It was everything that I needed to launch Tchoup Vintage as a one-woman team.
SCAD taught me that there are so many different places to find inspiration outside of mainstream media and what top fashion bloggers are telling you to buy. You can find inspiration almost anywhere and sometimes in the places where you least expect it. I look for the beauty in everything and SCAD helped me streamline that.
Where do you find all of the clothing you feature?
Some pieces are from my personal collection that I’ve never worn and held onto for years. Everything else comes from my travel adventures, from rummaging through estate sales and antique markets, and through vintage vendors that I work with regularly.
What’s the best vintage find you ever landed?
A 1996 Atlanta Olympics Starter Jacket with all of the tags still on it. It was so rare that I couldn’t even find an image of this jacket anywhere online or someone selling a similar one. When I found it, I literally stared at it in disbelief with my eyes super wide and mouth agape. I brought it with me to my next craft market and it sold within an hour of it being there. I can’t believe I actually sold that jacket. It was so cool and rare—I don't think I'll find anything like that again.
Where’s your dream vintage scouting location in the world?
Mexico City has been at the top of my bucket list for years because of its rich culture, beautiful art museums, historical monuments, and home to my favorite babe Frida Kahlo. I finally made the trip two years ago and fell absolutely in love. It was such a magical experience and I'm hoping to go back soon to bring back everything hand embroidered, handmade, and vintage. Next in line would probably be Los Angeles! They have some of the best vintage that I’ve ever seen. I buy a lot of my personal vintage from boutiques based out of LA. All those factories and designer sample sales are a dream come true.
Can you tell us a bit about your experiences as a female business owner in Atlanta?
It has been super liberating and inspiring. Over the past four years, I've met some of the coolest, hardest working, badass makers and curators of Atlanta. Everyone pushes each other to be their best selves and are always willing to help out. When I first started Tchoup Vintage, I wanted to be a mystery. I didn’t want anyone to know who was behind Tchoup Vintage and for the sole focus to be on the brand and products. I wanted to be the Sia of vintage clothing. After the launch, Tchoup Vintage got popular very quickly in Atlanta and I was invited to do a local craft market. I originally didn’t want to do it because my identity would be released, but I ended up loving it! It's encouraging and so nice to meet people who love your brand and believe in it just as much as you do.
What are your future ambitions for Tchoup? How does being able to sell online help support these dreams?
Being able to sell online allows me to stay behind the scenes, be in my element, focus on finding great vintage clothing, and interact with people from all over the world who share the same love of vintage clothing. My goal is to expand Tchoup beyond the online store within the next year. I have a couple of things in the works that I can't share yet but it's super exciting. I think my dad would be so proud!