Old news and Bruce
Portrait: Linnea Syversen. From shop: Johanna Siring
Åsa Formark is the owner of Velouria Vintage in Grünerløkka, Oslo. She is a former TV-producer, a super fan of Bruce Springsteen, and a self-declared feminist. The Doyennes had a chat with Åsa about both life and work, from being the boss of a Vogue-recommended vintage store to queuing for The Boss outside concert arenas!
Your store Velouria Vintage was recently described by Vogue as «unmissable» if you’re visiting Oslo. How does it feel to get compliments from the world’s biggest fashion magazine?
It definitely created a bit of a buzz! It was of course very flattering, but for us it was also, more than anything, a reminder that we have to continue doing our very best and work hard for our customers. They expect a great selection of vintage clothing at Velouria. So we celebrated a bit, but then quickly got our eyes back on the ball!
You have previously had other kinds of jobs, for example worked at NRK (the Norwegian state channel, ed. note.) Can you tell us a bit about what you were doing there?
I worked in TV production for many years, both freelance and at NRK. I started off as an assistant and then learnt the craft step by step. It was a fantastic opportunity, I ended up working as a production manager and executive producer for many years. It was a very dynamic and fun career. My 15 years of working in media can be used in a lot of fields.
When and how did you decide to start a vintage store?
I started Velouria around nine years ago. I was just selling some clothes at a vintage market and it just grew a bit out of proportion... First into a small shop in Markveien, and then to the location that we're at now. I really didn't plan on starting a shop, but it all just happened very naturally.
In addition to having working with TV and running the store, you also do some styling jobs. What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt from having such a varied career?
That it's all pretty much the same! What you bring to the table is your approach, knowledge and enthusiasm. The rest, you can learn. If you want something, you should just go for it. Life's just too short to stay in the same position. I truly believe I can do anything - IF I want to. When it comes to styling, I believe that clothing should reflect your personality. So when I feel that I connect with a person, I think it's interesting to interpret their personal style.
A lot of people shop vintage because it’s cool, but these days, with climate change in the news every day, green fashion has also become very relevant for ethical reasons. What was your biggest motivation for going into the second hand business?
I think there's a longing for individual style in today’s society. It's more interesting to wear something unique. And of course, there's the quality issue. I’m a very strong believer in sustainability. I think it was a combination of those two factors that opened my eyes to vintage fashion. The green thinking came as a bonus. Let's face it, we all have to change the way we use the resources of the Earth!
You’re also known for being a super fan of Bruce Springsteen, and have been interviewed on TV and in newspapers about this. What’s the best thing about being a fan?
For me, it has evolved. In the beginning, I found a lot of comfort in his music. It was a fantastic feeling to, in a sense, feel at home in a musical universe. Now, it's more like a rollercoaster ride; it's pure happiness when I'm at a show! But long before the shows, there's a lot of frustration concerning the tickets. They're unfortunately never easy to get. Then comes the queuing before the concerts. Why, you say? Well, to be right in front of the stage on the first row, you have to queue for days. So you're always stressing with how many days in advance you should go to a show. The fan community is fantastic and it's so much fun to queue. That's the thing, most people don't get it, but it's almost the best part. Once you get into it, you just want more. I'm a Springsteen addict. It's a very special kind of crazy!
Many people might be scared to take the risk and live their dream by starting their own business. What was the biggest challenges you faced, and how did you get through them?
I have inherited this fantastic worldview from my father, he always says: nothing is impossible. And he always focuses on the positive, and forgets the negative very quickly. A bit like a goldfish! That helps in all situations, because it stops you from dwelling on things. You just get on with it and work until you have solved the problem. It can also be very frustrating for people that I work with, who maybe see more obstacles. I'm the kind of person that goes to IKEA in a Ford Fiesta and buy 2 bookshelves, a small table and some flowers. Any normal person would give up fitting it into a small car. Well, it did fit, after I worked on it for about 45 minutes. I just had to sit a bit cramped up. So, of course there has been ups and downs when it comes to running a business, but I can't pinpoint any particular difficulties! We have also been incredibly fortunate to have so many people coming by the store from day one.
What are the pros and cons to being an entrepreneur?
In spirit: Freedom. In reality, it means that you work more or less all the time. You can't just go home and turn it all off. There's a never ending list of things that should be done. It's more of a lifestyle then a job. I like that part of it, but I don't think it's for everybody.
How do you find stuff for your store, and what does a normal workday look like to you?
We handpick all our clothing, so we have a carefully curated selection at Velouria. That involves some traveling, both to USA and to other places in Europe. I love that! Finding all the gems for the store! When I'm in Oslo, my time is spilt between the store, the warehouse and the office. I also do all SoMe and press for Velouria. Working with customers in the store is a privilege and very rewarding. I can honestly say that no day is alike. Never a dull moment!
The last question is a political one: as a self-declared feminist, what do you think is the biggest challenge to achieve gender equality, and what can we do about it?
To stay awake, meaning that we have to be alert to what's happening around us. Women’s rights aren't something that we can take for granted. The patriarchy is not resting. Recent events in for example America and Poland has shown that a backlash is always a possibility. And when the backlash hits, it usually hits quickly. We have to acknowledge that many women worked hard to achieve what we have to day. We have to remember that. Know your history! In doing so we can also push further, both for ourselves and for women in other countries. Always speak up when somebody is being sexist, racist etc. It's very easy to let comments slide because it's more comfortable than to confront them.