Are you aware of how many cool second hand shops are around, and how this has changed in the last years?
Today a second hand shop sells, well, used clothes of course, but may also have a cold coffee brew to offer ... or records, organic beauty products, new magazines and art books, or all of it together. It is much more about lifestyle than an exotic dress or a bargain. You can choose your favourite vintage store according to their values and aesthetics, not only their products and prices. You can go there to hang out with people, not only to go shopping.
While in the 90’s you had to face (bravely!) a small and dirty shop or church bazaars with strictly old or very weird pieces to buy vintage, in the early 2000s it became fancy shops where Kate Moss, Sarah Jessica Parker, or Sienna Miller could purchase a Chanel 2.55. Nowadays, there is another change: in second hand “boutiques” (not simply “shops” anymore), you find casual clothes, and it is even possible to define a seasonal trend as if it was a regular brand launching a collection. Take note: in 2015, everything is about Levi's 501, from Germany to South America!
Why have these changes taken place? A guess: an increase in environmental thinking, which includes reducing the impact of production by reusing and extending clothes' life cycle or supporting local businesses. Further decisive factors are prices, exclusivity, and social media. From traditional vintage stores (yes, they have survived!) to high-end-trendy-cool-whatever, all have websites and blogs, many with clever e-commerce, and all the other tools: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest...
“Everybody is digitally available. It is possible to spread your message from your couch at 4 a.m. without paying anything”, pointed out Stefan Siegel, founder of the platform for new designers NOT JUST A LABEL (NJAL), during his visit to Berlin in early July for a lecture at Greenshowroom/Berlin Fashion Week.
For an independent business, as most vintage shops are, this was perfect to get one step ahead in this lifestyle approach. “Social media is just another avenue of advertising and information distribution. It is tremendously valuable for us”, says Carrie Peterson, president and founder of Beacon's Closet, in New York City.
Of course it still isn’t paradise. Disposable fast-fashion makes the vintage market less vintage, since there are also many offers for recent collections by H&M, Zara, and Topshop, for example, on the market. And the charity donations shipped to other countries bring trouble to local textile industries as it is happening in West Africa etc., but all this is a subject for another article.
Here, I conclude with my favorite stores in five different countries, with five different styles. Because it is all about style. Enjoy!
Berlin – Repeater
For me, choosing just one second hand shop in Germany's capital would be worse than death. There are so many good options around, from the cheap Humana to the sophisticated Das Neue Schwarz, but my personal choice is always about what I want to wear. And this summer (and last summer, or even next summer...) I want easy clothes. What does this mean? That I go to Repeater in Neukölln. But there is another reason why: this shop is usually open (a quite tricky point in comparison to the other second hand stores in Berlin).
Well-located near to Canal Saint Martin, and with an amazing selection of luxury vintage and fashionable window displays, TGV is the kind of store where you can spend money in timeless fashion. Opened in 2008, you will find treasures by Valentino, Burberry, Pucci, Gucci, Hermès, Prada etc. in really good condition, and also (kind of) affordable. And, well, it’s Paris, so you must go for fashion! Plus: if you sign up for the newsletter, every Friday you will receive a podcast by DJ Amnaye Nhas and Sylvie Chateigner, the owners.
Female and male collections.
Look for: all the classics, such as trench coats by Burberry, printed dresses by Pucci, and coats by Pierre Cardin. Instagram: @thanxgodimavip
London – Found and Vision
Although people say that it’s possible to see Kate Moss wearing something bought from here, this is not the first reason to look here. For me, it’s a vintage shop in West London that is, first of all, not at Portobello Road (but nearby), and has the same kind of label selection as TGV, but with an edgy disco vintage spirit!
Mainly female collections, but who cares about gender nowadays?
Look for: everything that shines. Sequined jackets, Versace trousers, golden boots etc... Instagram: @foundandvision
New York - Beacon’s Closet
It’s famous (almost a cliché), it’s big, and it’s still my favorite. I can’t remember at which one (Williamsburg or Park Slope) I spent more time during my summer in New York in 2008. Beacon’s (and its pink bags) has good prices and trends and an easy ambience. The first flagship store was opened in 1997. Now, there are four units around NYC, including Manhattan.
São Paulo – B.Luxo (also called B.L & Co. South America, in California)
I saw B.Luxo being born and growing, and I can tell you with my eyes closed that it is one of the most successful businesses in the second hand and vintage market. The owners, Paula Reboredo and Gilberto França, started in 2006 with a kind of delivery system – they had a bag with good vintage and stylish clothes and they were selling them door to door. Today, they have a 100 square-meter flagship store and a bar in the cultural heart of the city. It is no coincidence that the place was chosen for shopping by actress Sarah Jessica Parker and singer M.I.A. when they visited Brazil. The online shop is coming soon!
Female and male collections.
Look for: rock band T-shirts from the 70’s and 80’s, souvenir jackets and special dresses that make you feel like Florence Welch.