Nicole Tocci has had one goal since opening her upscale Nikki Tans airbrushing-tanning boutique a decade ago: to offer her clients destination wear and accessories they won’t find anywhere else. Traveling across the country to Florida or to overseas destinations like Italy, she had always sought out small shops and designers for unique items to fill her shop.
She also developed a wide network of social influencers, designers, clothing retailers, and consumers on social networks to enable her to tap into emerging trends in fashion. A few years ago, she spotted that shorts made from old Levi’s jeans were popping up on the Instagram accounts of social influencers. The shorts heralded a trend toward taking older fashion items and repurposing them, giving them new life while capturing what made them special in the first place.
“That got me thinking about one of my favorite classic fashion logos – Chanel,” Nicole says. “It’s so simple but evokes so much. There’s an elegance and beauty to it. It is timeless.”
In fact, in her own closet were some older pieces from Chanel that she just couldn’t part with. They were worn, but she loved their look – especially the buttons with the Chanel logo. It dawned on her pretty quickly. The buttons would be perfect centerpieces for necklaces that would appeal to consumers who wanted repurposed, or upcycled, jewelry.
With a partner, Nicole designed and made a number of the necklaces and displayed them in Nikki Tans pop-up stores to see what reaction they would receive. They sold out almost immediately. That led to the necklaces being sold in the Nikki Tans boutique. To get honest feedback, Nicole credited the necklaces to her partner who, after all, was doing a good part of the work even if the partner preferred to stay in the background.
“I wanted the necklaces to stand on their own,” Nicole says. “I didn’t want my Nikki Tans clients to be influenced by the fact that I helped design them.”
She needn’t have worried, as the necklaces sold fine in the store.
Then the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns hit. Nikki Tans closed its physical location for safety reasons and relied on online sales for the duration. The store’s website had been running successfully for years and didn’t require full-time management, leaving Nicole with time on her hands for new ventures.
“Like many small-business owners, I was forced to look for projects that could be done remotely,” Nicole says. “I immediately thought was that this would be the perfect time to focus on bringing the necklaces to a wider audience through the Internet.”
Onevintagebutton.com was launched to showcase the necklaces. Since the website’s debut, sales have been brisk enough to keep Nicole and her partner busy sourcing buttons and creating necklaces.
Nicole was kind enough to answer some questions:
Q: Why were you so sure that there would be a market for these upcycled necklaces?
Nicole: I knew there is always room in the marketplace for quality items that carry a touch of old-style class. My clients at Nikki Tans want pieces that are unique but have a timeless elegance, and these necklaces certainly do have that. Also, there’s been a strong trend toward upcycledpieces by environmentally-conscious customers who gain extra pleasure in wearing pieces that have been recycled into something new and fresh.
Q: How has your experience of owning and running Nikki Tans, an upscale airbrush-tanning boutique, helped you build the One Vintage Button business into a success in such a short time?
Nicole: One way I have served Nikki Tans’ customers over the past decade has been to seek out unique and one-of-a-kind boutique items from around the world that enable each of my clients to have a look that fits their personalities and lifestyles. Each of my clients likes her individuality and wants items that are out of the ordinary, but that also are classy. I knew necklaces fit the bill perfectly. I knew they would be a winner!
Also, Nikki Tans has sold destination wear and beauty products online to customers worldwide for years, so I had a lot of experience with how to set up a website and provide strong customer service. With the downtime that was forced on all of us during the pandemic, it was simply a matter of applying the knowledge and skills I learned from the Nikki Tans website to the One Vintage Button website.
Also, I have years of experience as a photographer and as a model so I know how to take photographs that bring out the best qualities of a subject. I am well-versed in film developing, creating prints, and doing layouts. All the photos you see on One Vintage Button were taken by my hand to make sure they were done just right.
What made it especially easy is that the necklaces are so beautiful that they pretty much sell themselves. That enabled us to keep
the layout and design are simple and the website is easy to navigate.
Q: How much of One Vintage Button’s success can be attributed to the social media audience that you have built over the years?
Nicole: My online audience has always given me lots of feedback on what is hot and what accessories go together. The Levi’s shorts were at the start of a trend that I think will last a long time. It’s clear that repurposed and recycled pieces are gaining a wide audience among people who are understandably concerned about the environment. These consumers don’t want faddish items that will go out of style and end up in a landfill. They want to build a collection of upcycled accessories that they can wear for a long time. I could tell from their comments that these necklaces would meet their needs.And from the feedback we are getting, I was right.
The other way social media has helped One Vintage Button is that a number of social influencers have discovered the necklaces and shared them with their audiences. Word of mouth is still the best marketing, even in the age of the Internet.
Q: What do you see as the future of repurposed jewelry? Is it a trend that will pass or do you think it will be enduring?
Nicole: I think these upcycled necklaces will stand the test of time, because brands like Chanel are timeless. Their look is classic – even if someone doesn’t recognize the logo years from now they still going to recognize that they are beautiful. I also think that the number of consumers who look for repurposed items will continue to grow. They are committed to protecting the environment and are willing to back up their principles with their money.
Q: Will One Vintage Button broaden its offerings beyond its range of necklaces?
Nicole: We might at some point in the near future, but for now we are focusing on sourcing beautiful designer buttons to create unique handmade necklaces to grow our client base. If we were to add anything, it would need to have the same quality and beauty of our necklaces.