Cool Boutiques

Sophia Amoruso - Headshot

Fashion history is littered with iconic boutiques. Fiorucci, Mary Quant, Granny Takes A Trip, Hung On You, and perhaps above all, Biba—a ‘jumble sale in the pleasure dome of Kubla Kahn’ and 1960s hangout for Twiggy, The Rolling Stones, Brigitte Bardot, New York Dolls, David Bowie and Marianne Faithfull. Seemingly an age gone by, today’s business innovation comes from e-commerce rather than physical retail stores. But Sophia Amoruso, ‘the Cinderella of tech,’ and her online enterprise Nasty Gal are about to make their first foray into brick and mortar with a dedicated selling space in Los Angeles this fall.

Flashback to London in September 1964, when radical changes were happening in mass culture and teenagers had money to spend. Cue Biba, the number one destination for ‘mod gear,’ launched by Barbara Hulanicki with her husband Stephen Fitz-Simon. Their small Abingdon Road store quickly became known for a fin de siècle vibe and art nouveau interior design. The second store on Kensington Church Street opened in 1965, and by 1969 Biba moved once more into a space with a unique mix of nouveau decor and decadent rock ‘n’ roll glamour. The shop finally relocated to the former Derry & Toms department store in 1974, attracting up to a million customers a week. Author Alwyn Turner chronicled Biba’s rise and fall in his book The Biba Experience, and says of the store’s rapid demise: “At the peak of the dream, there were plans for a Biba car and a Biba cinema. Sadly those didn’t materialize, lost in the property crash that hit Britain in 1974-75. The sudden closure was heartbreaking for many, including Hulanicki herself, but it ensured the survival of the legend…Its legacy is the example it left of an alternative approach to business, where the emphasis was on the creative rather than the corporate. In an increasingly homogenized world, such individualism remains inspiring. Even to those who weren’t there at the time.”


Jump to 2006, when Sophia Amoruso (then a 22-year-old community college dropout) began selling vintage clothing online while working as a security guard at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University. Amoruso discovered she was getting a multitude of requests on her MySpace page from eBay followers asking for the designer items she found by rummaging through Goodwill. Amoruso styled and photographed the items herself, creating a cult following with her vintage venture. Amoruso saw a tipping point. “I held the Academy job for about three months. I was twenty-two and never held a job for longer than that, before I started Nasty Gal. I was on one of my frequent buying trips to LA. I was buying vintage there mostly and I was watching the bids on eBay for my vintage. One day I made $2,500. I never made that much money before. I thought, ‘Oh My God! I’m rich!’”

Nasty Gal is a cultural phenomenon with over half a million customers in sixty countries, and Amoruso recently published her first book, #GIRLBOSS, which offers insight on entrepreneurship and career advice to millennial women. Her core message? “That the straight and narrow is not the only way. Be the best version of yourself. Don’t compare yourself with other people.”


By Keanan Duffty
Photo courtesy of Nasty Girl