Fashion king’s designs on global clothing market

Glass Onion Vintage owner John Hickling at his Gilroyd based unit, Barnsley, South Yorkshire
Glass Onion Vintage owner John Hickling at his Gilroyd based unit, Barnsley, South Yorkshire

A vintage clothing enthusiast has converted a small student enterprise into a global business working alongside some of the world’s biggest brands.

John Hickling, from Barnsley, started selling his charity shop finds on eBay about 12 years ago and now runs a company which employs 14 people, operates a 23,000 sq ft warehouse and distribution centre supplying more than 200 customers with recycled, upcycled and remade clothes.

It wasn’t a job as such, just a way of making a bit of beer money.

John Hickling

Sales at Glass Onion Vintage have increased ten-fold within the last six years, and look set to increase again as John and his team expand their customer base and court new suppliers as far afield as the USA.

He said: “I am off to the States next month to try and develop relationships with clothing recycling companies over there. Recycled clothing is becoming big business globally – vintage has evolved over the years and interest in good quality rescued or re-fashioned garments has become more mainstream.

His business expansion is now being supported by Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre (BBIC) through the Enterprising Barnsley programme, funded by Barnsley Council.

The company, set up by John in 2006, moved to a new HQ at Strafford Industrial Park, Stainborough, last year, after outgrowing its previous home in Barugh Green.

Existing customers include High Street giants Urban Outfitters, River Island and Lush cosmetics, to whom Glass Onion supplies vintage scarves to wrap shoppers’ handmade purchases in, as an alternative to bags.

The firm sources over 20,000 kilograms a month from major recycling companies across the UK and Europe.

It then recycles, upcycles and remodels - vintage jeans, jackets, dresses and skirts and sells them on in ten kilo bulk packages to a range of vintage clothing retailers and market traders.

John, who began the scheme as a hobby said: “It wasn’t a business as such, we just loved doing it and it was a way of making a bit of beer money instead of getting a bar job or something like that. We had no idea we were doing the groundwork for a future business – getting to know what sells and understanding the market and the product.”