A stone throw away from Tate modern, Harry Sims, is photographing vintage carnival t-shirts, rare 90s football kits and many other vintage pieces you’ve never seen or heard of, preparing for a big website drop (15/11/20 at 19:00 GMT). Harry is the sole owner of Vintage selling brand, Hartex. The 23-year-old entrepreneur ran me through the vintage scene in a covid world, his brand story and how he went from sleeping on his uni room floor, to setting up his shop in sleepy Gabriel’s wharf, along the south bank.
How much of Hartex stock goes into your own wardrobe?
I get asked this alot. It’s a weird one, people always say your collection must be crazy. I am building up a little stash of culturally relevant t-shirts, like London carnival t-shirts, as they’re really hard to find. Anything Leyton Orient just goes into a box and stays there (Harry is a huge Leyton Orient fan).
What is your favourite thing you’ve ever sourced?
There’s a Run-D.M.C. Adidas t-shirt they made in the 80s for one of their first concerts. Everyone did a clear out over the last lockdown, and this guy, who’s a designer for puma, messaged me over dm’s about one. I was like, “Oh my fucking God” and he gave me a really good price for it. It gets better, he sent me this article which valued it for $13,000! So yeah, that’s going away in the draw forever, until I look for a mortgage or something.
How did you get started selling clothes and opening the shops?
I was at uni and I got banned off Depop in summer 2018. As they said, I was doing stuff out of the app. Selling clothes on Depop was my sole income at the time, and I just woke up to this email saying my account has been banned for life. In the end I managed to get my account reinstated. They just wanted me to say sorry, I thought, “Nah fuck that”. I didn’t really want to give Depop anymore money or exposure by selling on their platform. From there on I just started looking for places to do a pop up.
I started doing these pop ups, and as much as I wanted to go into uni, I just didn’t have the time. I remember having to sleep underneath the desk in my uni halls room because there was just clothes, lighting, rails everywhere. It was never really a conscious decision to drop out of uni. I was out in New York buying, and I got offered the shop space in Vinegar Yard, London Bridge. So I asked my mate, Frank (@yobs_sport), if he wanted to do it with me, as we work well together and he was up for it. I just thought, “Fuck it, I’m going to go for it” and never looked back.
Tell me the story of how you came up with the name Hartex, and the slogan “Feels good”?
So there was this guy called John, he was a Greek Cypriot fella who opened up a sportswear skiing shop. You know one of those shops that just has everything- old skiing gear, camping gear, old army surplus, random tracksuit bottoms with phoenix suns and charlotte hornets printed down the side. Honestly everything in this place.
He opened up in Harrow, 1969. A Lot of brands back then would put “tex” on the end of the word to make it sound more sophisticated, like Mountaintex or Gortex, and the shop was in Harrow so he called it Hartex.
It was summer 2017, and me and my mates would just get on the tube and go somewhere to buy clothes to sell on. We found this shop, and it was just packed full of clothes. Loads of 70s and 80s deadstock Fred Perry. That’s the kind of shit that Fred Perry doesn’t even have in their own archive anymore.
So we got pretty pally with the owner, John. He used to let us go and have a look in the stock rooms. We were up to our fucking necks in clothes it was crazy. John kept saying he was going to close down and retire. At the time, selling on depop was going quite well for me so I was starting to think, “I should create a brand”, and thought carrying on Hartex would be a good idea. We went back to the shop early 2018, and the place was just empty, we were gutted. So I never got to speak to him about carrying on the name Hartex.
Your stores are a huge part of your brand and business, how are you coping with this second lockdown?
Last lockdown I went heavy on content, it’s a bit unoriginal but I did some throwbacks of how the brand started. So I’ve been trying to carry on the conversational, friendly tone of the brand and the stores, rather than it just being another vintage page. This lockdown I’m focusing more on getting bits on the website. I’ve got a big drop this Sunday of 100 bits. There were a few customers that kept coming back and buying four or five bits. Spending like £200 because they knew I was a small business and that really needed help in these times.
How is the government supporting you at this time?
Mate, not at fucking all to be honest with you. I wasn’t entitled to furlough as you have to have three years of books, which I don’t have yet. Something else that was so frustrating, we missed out on the £10k government grant for small businesses by 5 days of getting the keys for the shop. Realistically, the hassle it’s going to take for me calling up HMRC for hours everyday, sitting on hold, I could put that energy into coming here and getting stuff online and making money myself. Also it really feels like people want to support small businesses, which is nice.
How do you think covid has affected the vintage scene as a whole?
There’s a multitude of factors. It’s gone crazy man. Overall the price of everything has gone up, everyone wants to do vintage now, everyone wants to get on Depop and run a vintage page. There have been a lot of small makers popping up also, like evryones making rugs!
I feel it’s a mix of everyone sitting in their bedroom for months, not making any money, so everyones manifesting ideas of ways to make money. Vintage is so accessible. Everyone has clothes they can sell and a basic understanding of what’s good and what they can make money out of. But it’s really not very easy to make a living off vintage. You can do really well off it and make a lot of money. There have been days I’ve just been in the shop and just cried as I haven’t sold anything, but people don’t see that on socials, they just see the fun and the cool clothes.
Hartex are dropping 100 items at 7PM today (15th of November 2020) on their website. Set your alarms and go help a small business out by copping something.