OSU alum and former architect creates a new fashion blueprint.
When you walk into Vamp Official on High Street, you’ll quickly notice all the street wear influenced pieces as well as a wave of chic and trendy European inspired threads. The former gift shop turned boutique is minimally designed with white walls complimenting the gray accent wall behind the counter and large windows that face High Street to invite natural lighting. You’ll find the prices to be fair and that the clothes aren’t just a one time use situation, rather, the pieces are handpicked to be versatile with any outfit.
But, what you won’t notice is the store is founded and operated by an Ohio State graduate who studied architecture during her time as a Buckeye. While most people don’t think of architects when they think of fashionistas, for Ellen Shirk, it’s a collision of design and art.
“I think there’s a lot more in common between the two than people think,” Shirk explained. “Architecture is a mixture of art and design and taking 2D drawings and bringing them to real life. Although I don’t have to design the clothes, a lot that goes into merchandising, marketing, and the graphic side of my brand came from what I learned when I was in architecture school.”
Before opening up shop in the Short North in the summer of 2017, Shirk and four friends from college were running Vamp Official as an online store and they would do pop-up stores around Columbus in areas like the Sunlight and Moonlight market in downtown. The friends came together and began taking classes at Ohio State geared towards fashion and business to help them better their understanding of what they were getting into—plus, they were just trying to have some fun.
“We had this idea of Vamp Official, and in [those fashion] classes, we learned about the business side of things; we learned about buying; we learned about the website, marketing, and photography. The goal was at the end of the semester to launch the website and start making sales.”
The plan was for the girls to run Vamp Official online until some members would have to move on for things like optometry school and other post-college plans leaving the operations to Shirk once it was all said and done.
After graduating in 2016, Shirk secured a full-time position with an architecture firm in New Albany; but meanwhile, she independently launched the Vamp Official website in May of 2016, continuing to dip her feet into the fashion scene. For most people, finding a job in your career field is reason enough to settle down and see where that path takes you. Not so much for Shirk.
Her passion for fashion was building and an irresistible opportunity presented itself to her, forcing her to make a decision. She could either continue working at the firm or get out and bring her online store to life with a boutique residing in the Short North. She made the leap of faith, left her day time job, and started operating her own business full-time. Like Shirk said, it was kind of like 0 to 100, real quick. Did we mention she’s doing all of this before the ripe age of 25?!
“It was so weird quitting my job to do this, I was like crying and so scared!”
Since opening the doors, Vamp Official has been an affordable spot for young professionals and shopaholics to stop in and pick up trendy pieces that you won’t find at your run-of-the-mill department store. She finds pieces for the store by spending countless hours searching Instagram for fashion bloggers from across the globe and contacting larger labels about having their items in the store. This system is a win-win for all parties involved too. While Shirk is able to add unique pieces to the shop, the fashion bloggers from afar are able to have their designs put on blast in a different market. The fashion sense is a mixture of the American street style trend with European flair coming from parts like Australia—both having extremely large impacts of the fashion world right now.
“I feel like [European countries] care a lot more and take more risks,” Shirk explained. “Everyone just goes for it. But here I feel like everyone is like, ‘I love this piece, but when would I wear it? How would I wear it? People will be staring at me if I wear this!’”
So how does she combat this? Updating the store constantly with more trendy and neutral pieces that you can mix-and-match in addition to statement pieces that some people might not wear on the reg.
“But a lot of what I go for what is stocked in here is thinking about I have to have a good mixture because some girls come in and only want what’s really wearable; things they can wear and feel comfortable in. But some girls come in and they are like, ‘I want that crazy statement piece that no one else is going to have!’”
Regardless if you are stopping in for the latest statement piece or just a new pair of shades for summertime, Shirk says her favorite part about running the boutique is finding new pieces for the shop and seeing the joy on people’s faces when they stop in the store and fall in love with something Vamp has to offer.
“My favorite part is definitely the buying, but with that comes getting new stuff in here, seeing repeat customers and making relationships with them, meeting a bunch of new people, and then just seeing people leave happy when they like what they get or when they are like “Ohh! This is so cute! The store is so cool!”—I love that part.”
To find your next favorite piece, check out vampofficial.com or pop into the store located on 997 N High St.