A Los Angeles Afternoon With Toni Walker.

Toni Walker is a vintage dealer and store owner who specializes in denim. She lives and works in LA.

Q / Hi Toni! How long have you lived in LA and what brought you to California?
A / I moved to LA from New York three years ago. A few different things brought me here, both personal and professional. On a basic level I was just ready to leave New York. I grew up a few miles outside of Manhattan, then moved to NYC after going to college upstate. My whole life was spent on the East coast and I felt ready for a change. I was also wholesaling to a major retailer through their LA buyer, and I felt that there were opportunities for me on the West coast.

Q / How did you start out selling denim?
A / I’ve always been into denim and I’ve stocked it in my online shop since the beginning. I started to notice that every time I listed overalls they would sell right away. I paid attention to that, started stocking more denim, and it took off.

Q / Did you always have an interest in vintage clothing or was it something that grew?
A / I’ve been thrifting since I was a teenager, and my wardrobe has been mostly vintage since then. It’s a passion that turned into a business.

Q / Was there anyone in particular who shaped your career in a big way?
A / I have to give myself credit. I’ve taken a few leaps of faith over the years and they’ve brought me to where I am now – doing what I love.

Q / What are your biggest inspirations?
A / My customers are at the top of the list. I have relationships with women all over the world. Clothes are so personal, and I love to see them feel good in something they bought from me…it keeps me going.

Q / Where and how do you find most of your pieces?
A / I shop the major fleas in and around LA, and I have several vendors that I see regularly. There’s a lot of digging.

Q / What are your favorite things to do in or outside of Los Angeles to relax?
A / I’m very into Joshua Tree. I go there whenever I can. It’s a magical place. The park feels like another planet. It’s beautiful, strange, and peaceful. In LA, I really like Echo Park Lake. Laying down on the grass is very relaxing.

Q / How do you stay organized?
A / I have a calendar with lots of checklists and reminders in it. I keep lists in my phone. I talk to myself a lot. In general I’m an organized person, so my inventory, shipping supplies, etc. are all well kept.

Q / Do you have a routine that keeps you grounded?
A / Mornings are important to me. I’m a habitual coffee drinker, and I need food with the coffee. Nothing starts until I’ve had breakfast.

Q / Do you keep any collections?
A / Besides my jeans & white tees, I’m starting a record collection which is really fun. I can never say no to a plant either.

Q / Do you have any tricks to getting things done?
A / Rewards! I set mini-goals for myself all day, and after I check a few things off I’m allowed to switch tasks. I sit in front of the computer a lot, so I break that up with doing something physical or creative.

Q / What time of day you feel most productive?
A / I like to do most of my work during daylight hours. Once it gets dark I take care of other things that I don’t have to think critically about, like repairs or packing orders.

Q / What time do you usually wake up and go to sleep?
A / I’m usually up before nine and I go to bed between midnight and 2am.

Q / What is your favorite thing in your office?
A / I work from home so everything is multi-functional. I don’t have a dedicated office space, but I do love my sewing kit. I’ve had it for years and it holds lots of things that I need and use all the time.

Q / Is there anything that helps you focus?
A / Morning coffee and public radio all day. I don’t like to work in silence and having the news on keeps my brain going.

Q / How does working at home affect your day?
A / It’s a blessing and a curse because I have a lot of freedom with how I use my time, but that usually means a very long work day. It’s the lot of the small business owner I think. We don’t really stop working.

Q / How often do you take breaks at work and what do you use them for?
A / I take breaks every couple of hours, or I should say I switch what I’m working on. If I’m editing 200 photos, I have to rest my eyes and sort new merchandise that needs washing. I rotate through tasks all day. A lunch break is definitely on the timeline. I can’t concentrate when I’m hungry.

Q / Do you like working by yourself?
A / I like working alone, I’m just more focused that way. I do have a big group of entrepreneur friends that I tap into regularly if I have an idea that needs working out.

Q / What is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made at work?
A / Taking things personally. I put everything I have into my business, and if a customer isn’t 100% happy, I’m hurt. I would like to be less emotional in that way.

Q / What is your method for keeping your business running smoothly?
A / I have a physical calendar, a calendar on my computer, lots of to do lists, and reminders. I’m a neat person, so I’m always re-organizing merchandise, sorting through shipping supplies, and cleaning up in general.

Q / Do you travel for work often?
A / I shop at least once a week, mostly pretty close to LA. I thrift wherever I go, but I’m definitely due for a proper buying trip soon.

Q / Where is your favorite place to work?
A / At my dining room table. There’s plenty of space and the room is bright.

Q / Do you have any siblings? If so do their careers relate to yours?
A / I have an older sister and a younger half brother. Both of them are academics, so they’re on very different paths to mine.

Q / What is your first memory of work?
A / My mom. She raised my sister and I while also pursuing a demanding career. She always came home looking polished in a suit and makeup. I didn’t know what a career was but I felt she was strong and that made an impression.

Q / What has been the proudest moment in your career so far?
A / I can’t say there’s been one proudest moment. I get excited every time I get feedback from a customer. It’s the little accomplishments that make me feel good about what I’m doing.

Interview & Photography
Catherine Litke

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