Buying vintage is as sustainable as it gets with clothes on. Here are some of the world's best vintage stores and online resellers to explore this Sustainable September.
Fashion is big business. But while it can make us look and feel good this US$1.78 trillion industry comes at a huge environmental cost.
Did you know that the fashion industry is the second most polluting and wasteful industry on the planet, after oil? In fact, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions. On top of that, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the UNEP, textile production accounts for the use of around 93 billion cubic metres of water annually for the production of some 100 billion pieces of year. To put it in perspective, that's enough water to meet the consumption needs of five million people.
According to the UNECE 85% of all textiles produced —about 21 billion tonnes a year—are sent to the landfill every year! That's a shocking figure, right? Clothing production has roughly doubled since 2000, so that the average consumer nowadays buys 60% more items of clothing compared to 20 years ago. However, each garment is kept only half as long—usually disposed of in under a year—and 40% of clothes in our wardrobe are never worn at all. Think back to your parents' fashion consumption habits, and it's likely quite a contrast to yours. They would probably have bought a good quality winter coat and kept it for years, wearing it winter after winter. Today, with the fast rotation of production line seasonal collections from many fast fashion brands— some produce over 20 collections a year— and the pressure to keep up with trends, it's likely you have much more clothing than you actually need, or will ever wear.
About 21 billion tonnes of textiles are sent to the landfill every year!
The current fashion system is incredibly unsustainable, and it's costing the earth. Throwaway fashion culture is depleting natural resources and overfilling landfills. We all contribute to this—after all, we all wear clothes—but we also have the power as consumers to change it. As awareness grows about the impact of fashion on the planet and of sustainability, attitudes towards fashion are beginning to change, with scrutiny and pressure building on fast fashion brands to take responsibility for their wasteful—and exploitative— production. And it's causing a rethink about how, and why, we consume the way we do. The best thing we can do, of course, is consume less and reuse more. As we look ahead to the future of our planet one simple solution can be found in the past.
Buying vintage is nothing new (badoom!) but it's as sustainable as it gets, next to walking around naked (and we don't all have access to a Berlin park in summer). Not only do you get the thrill of discovering a gem from decades past that nobody else has, but by buying something pre-existing you're extending its lifespan, and you avoid contributing to the production of yet more stuff on the planet.
Interest in second-hand and vintage fashion is increasing year-on-year, proving that it is more than a passing trend. According to ThredUp’s 2020 Fashion Resale Market Report, the second-hand apparel market is expected to reach $64 billion in the next 5 years, and in 2019 grew at a rate 25 times faster than the apparel retail market. In fact, the total second-hand market is projected to grow to almost twice the size of fast fashion by 2029. The future of fashion is about value and sustainability.
The second-hand market is projected to grow to almost twice the size of fast fashion by 2029
Vintage fashion offers a welcome respite from fashion trends, allowing for individuality and a unique style that sets you apart from everyone else. And let’s face it, there’s nothing like the thrill of a treasure hunt. Fashion is cyclical and designers often get their inspiration from vintage, so why not go directly to the source? Whether it’s a hand-painted Oscar de la Renta; a slick, elegant Yves Saint Laurent smoking jacket; or beautifully embroidered kimono or kaftan, vintage shops and flea markets really are a treasure trove of gems. And by buying something well made, high quality and that has stood the test of time, you are truly investing in your wardrobe. Good quality vintage pieces are highly sought after and are appreciating in value. And they have a history and story behind them!
Here are some of the world's best vintage stores (including a few fave secrets shops—you're welcome!) and online resellers that prove that vintage and second-hand is not just sustainable but also chic, sexy and luxurious.
Wear your values on your glamorous, vintage sleeve!
Valois Vintage, Paris
Valois Vintage has some serious vintage clothing, carrying couture and pieces from luxury brands like Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Givenchy, Hermes, Alaia, Celine, you name it. They’re renown for their rare collection of Chanel jewellery, so if you're a bit of a magpie and like a sparkle you'll find brooches and glittering jewels galore.
Garment Modern - Austin, Texas
Garment Modern mix vintage from the 1920s onwards with modern including jewellery designers who produce small collections which are often handmade, and cool retro sunglasses and handbags. Pieces from designers like Gucci, YSL, Chanel, Versace, Halston, Alaia, Oscar de la Renta, and Geoffrey Beene hang alongside gorgeous vintage embroidered Chinese coats, beaded boleros, and dramatic velvet capes.
Thanx God I’m a VIP, Paris
Stepping inside this Parisian treasure trove, where racks of mint condition pieces are meticulously arranged and colour coded, will have you feeling like you've stepped inside a Pantone colour chart. The owners— a stylist and a DJ— not only have a flair for merchandising, but also for throwing parties that bring together the worlds of Paris' music, fashion and media. You know you'll find something cool here. And after looking through their vast selection of designer and ethnic vintage pieces— all in natural fabrics like silk, wool, cashmere, no synthetics— you can chill out with a coffee while listening to music, personally mixed by the DJ and owner himself.
William Vintage, London
This London vintage shop owned by William Banks-Blaney is a go-to destination for the fashionistas, models and pop-stars alike (Lady Gaga and Rihanna are fans). His extensive range, which includes vintage couture pieces by Courrèges, Balenciaga and Dior that span the '20s to early '90s is spread over two floors. A far cry from the clutter and chaotic madness of London's flea markets (which I nonetheless love), this high end vintage shop is by-appointment only, and you'll be served with a nice cup of tea or even champagne if you fancy. While there's no website you can check out their enviable pieces on their Instagram page.
Vestiaire Collective has made a name for itself as a fashion lover's online reseller of luxury fashion and accessories, showing that re-commerce is the way forward in fashion. Pre-loved pieces are consigned from sellers direct from around the world, including fashionistas and fashion editors like Anna della Russo who sold her vintage jewellery collection. If you're spring cleaning your wardrobe, get online and give your old designer clothes a new lease on life.
1st Dibs has everything from vintage clothing, watches, jewellery, art and furniture—it is a design addict's dream come true. Here you’ll find runway pieces from Alexander McQueen, Oscar de la Renta and Tom Ford, to collectible mid-century modern design pieces from Perriand, Prouvé and Jeanneret, to name a few. They've brought together numerous vintage stores from around the world including some of the best vintage dealers in the industry. This is the next best thing to scouring the vintage shops of Paris, New York, or Milan. Beware! This is a rabbit hole of design porn.
What Goes Around Comes Around, New York
A must on every vintage junkie's list, What Goes Around Comes Around stocks the most sought-after Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton handbags and accessories. Ready-to-wear offerings including Gaultier, Dior, Saint Laurent, Gucci, Fendi, Alaïa, Chanel, Hermès and many more. There’s also an extensive selection of heritage archival vintage, such as vintage Levis, rock-tees, and period-era vintage.
Decades, Los Angeles
Decades founder Cameron Silver isn't called the King of Vintage for nothing. He made vintage hot and sought-after by top stylists and celebrities with a curated selection of collectible 20th century designer fashion. Since opening in 1997 this vintage shop, located on Melrose Place (of course) has been a staple for Hollywood’s red carpet events, and of the awards season best dressed lists. It's chic to repeat!
Didier Ludot, Paris
Located in Paris' beautiful Palais Royale, Didier Ludot is an institution in the world of vintage and probably the worst kept secret in the fashion world—it's on every fashion editor and fashionista's list. This little black dress of vintage has specialised in, well, the little black dress since the 1970s, and is a destination for Paris’ chicest women. Ludot is something of a fashion archivist. Here you can also find perfect condition vintage Hermes bags, jewellery from Chanel and Dior, and singular couture pieces from Hermès, Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Madame Grès, Dior, Balmain, Schiaparelli, Gucci and so many others.
Das Neue Schwarz, Berlin
A fan of monochrome? Soooo Berlin. Das Neue Schwarz (The New Black) specialises in collector’s items by Belgian and Japanese brands such as Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe, Vivienne Westwood, Maison Margiela, and Dries van Noten from the '90s and 2000s. If it's black, deconstructed and requires an architecture degree to figure out where the sleeves and neck hole are, chances are you'll find it here. You'll have to pop into the Mitte shop in person to get your Berghain-ready outfit, or check out their Facebook page.