From affordable thrifting to beading practices: Len’z Bootiek

We’re in the midst of a pandemic and while things have been unstable and tough for so many – a lot of people have fully thrown themselves into new ventures.

So I thought I would do a series where I speak to people who have pursued personal projects after being laid off or dealing with financial stability and creating what they felt was missing from the industry.

This week I spoke to Youlendree Appasamy, Africa is a Country fellow and writer, about why she put her thrift collective on pause to start beading.

You started off with thrifting items and had an ethos about making thrifted items affordable. What prompted the shift to beading and beadwork?

My lil’ apartment was overflowing with clothes, and during one of my many lockdown-induced closet purges, I made the difficult decision to pause with thrifting clothes and accessories. It became unsustainable in my own life, given the small space I work, live and sleep in.

On a more emotional level, in the past year I saw so many thrift, vintage and second hand clothing stores pop-up on Instagram, and I kept comparing Len’z BoOtiek to other places that I thought were doing better. The second hand/ thrift industry is becoming pretty saturated and I internalised the logic of capitalism and competition.

Standards are set pretty high by online thrift stores too e.g. Are these brand name pieces? Is it a curated collection? Are you homies with the more established thrifters who can help? Are you on rotation at the market scene?

Linked to that, I also felt like the store was at a resource disadvantage, and so couldn’t always hit what I thought were benchmarks in online thrift circles (e.g. not being able to pay and hire models, not being able to pay for market stands consistently, or be regularly uploading and sourcing clothing). 

When I started Len’z BootiEk in 2017, I was so green to it all, and put things together more enthusiastically – setting up my own garden photoshoots, incorporating digital collage in how I presented images, thinking of interesting captions, and generally having fun.

Because Instagram has become more and more like one big marketplace where we’re all jostling for our time in the spotlight, continuing a thrift store that demanded so much was overwhelming for me.

All-in-all, it has been better for my home life, my pocket and ultimately, my state of mental wellness to opt-out of Len’z Bootiek being an online thrift store.

The online beading and jewelry-making industry feels a lot smaller and intimate, which are spaces I immediately gravitate towards. There is a distinct energetic difference when you are re-selling something that someone else has made, and when you are selling something your own hands have made.

I’ve sold beaded earrings in the store before, but it always came second to the clothes. Making beading the top priority now has allowed me the freedom to explore this intricate artform and its importance in Black and brown communities, learn bead-weaving techniques, and just vibe out when I’m creating.

The pandemic has changed a lot of plans for so many people. Did this impact your business change?

If Coco V didn’t roll through, I think I would’ve been less inclined to pivot to jewelry-making and beadwork solely. Due to the lockdown, my mode of sourcing clothing was shut down, and tbqh even when charity stores and the like were open, I didn’t (and still don’t) feel it was safe enough to buy stuff in-person. But we move!!

Who inspires your beading aesthetic and is there a specific kind of piece you’re trying to make?

I have a whole Pinterest board of inspiration! Madison Holler, from Rubinski Works, was one of the first beaders who opened my eyes to the world of beading contemporary and high-fashion earrings. Only Child Handicrafts is another beadworker I love. My mother is a huge fan of beaded works that include gemstones and crystals, so that’s something I’m also looking to incorporate more (again, about the energy exchange!). Azola Anele Goqwana, Noemnoem jewellry and Githan Coopoo are current local favs in earring-making (although Githan is moving towards larger-scale clay works), and I’m constantly inspired by bold use of colour and shape from beadworkers The Herd and Bedoo Original, and textile workers, The Ninevites.

Currently, I’m working on a series of beaded tapestry earrings, like the Agni earrings, which draw on Afro-Asian signs, symbols and soft tissues.

How can people get hold of you and order your pieces?

Follow me @lensbootiek on Instagram 🙂 I take orders from comments on posts, or DMs, and I love making custom designs.

And finally, will you return to thrifting? And can you rec some online shops you love? 

Currently I’m a Yaga girlie – mainly because it’s easier to find what I’m looking for, and the prices are good. My favourite stores on Yaga at the moment are: Snappy Gals, African Thrift Shop, Side-KiK Vintage and Pre-loved Loveliness. 

Thrifting is such a vital part of how I shop that it’ll never go away in my personal life – but I’ll be back to it with Len’z Bootiek when I’m ready 😉

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