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Fashion

An Insider's Guide To Shopping Vintage

Out with the new, in with the old.

17.06.2021

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2020-2021 (so far): not a great year for forming new relationships. That said, pandemic life does force one to square in on the ones that you already have. Cherish the good, out with the toxic. The same logic can be applied to our closets; celebrating the seams that mean something. That hold us together when life pulls us in all sorts of embittered directions. The clothes we wear, contrary to unpopular opinion, serves as a source of armour, art, comfort and identity (as the Netflix docuseries, Worn Stories, beautifully and humorously conveys). And now, the ‘all dressed up and nowhere to go’ disposition is rerouting itself, to somewhere. For vintage shopping fiends? Let these fashion insiders inspire your next weekend mooch.

Georgie Hyatt

CEO & Co Founder of fashion rental service Rotaro

"If I'm not renting from Rotaro and investing in good basics, I shop vintage. My favourite charity shop in London is Mary's Living & Giving in Primrose Hill, it is run by community volunteers and profits go to save the children. It has such a friendly atmosphere. They have superb designer womenswear but my best buys have been from the men's section - oversized leather blazers and collared Ralph Lauren shirts. I also spend a lot of time on Depop!"

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LAUREN BRAVO

Journalist and author of How to Break Up With Fast Fashion (available to buy here).

“While I love how social media and digital platforms have made second hand shopping so much easier and more accessible in recent times, with search filters and carefully curated 'drops', I still really love an old-fashioned rummage. My very favourite London vintage shop is Somewhere in Hackney, an attic treasure trove above an equally brilliant mid-century furniture shop in a London Fields railway arch. Owner Mel just has the best eye, especially for early-70s glam (my spiritual era), and she manages to source pieces that feel fresh and current while also somehow timeless. Her prices are really reasonable, especially considering the £5-for-a-loaf-of-sourdough locale, and playing dress-up is very much encouraged. My favourite finds include a lilac felt baker boy cap, a highly kitsch gold necklace and an embroidered cotton shirt with vast balloon sleeves that I wore endlessly through lockdown. My best tips for successful vintage shopping are to keep an open mind, have an imagination (hemlines, necklines, shoulder pads – they can all be tweaked!), prioritise fabric that feels good, and give yourself time to comb every rail twice. You never spot the best things the first-time round.”

BASMA KHALIFA

Stylist, Writer and Filmmaker

“I would go for fashion rental platform Hurr Collective. I’ve known the owner, Victoria (see below), for some time and watching her passionately go from strength to strength in delivering a brand to the mass market, that speaks to so many people who just don’t want to end up with a landfill mountain of clothes, has been amazing. I once borrowed a Jacquemus dress for an event. I felt so special and, most importantly, my pockets didn’t feel any lighter!”

FLORA MACDONALD JOHNSTON

Junior Fashion Editor at Financial Times

“I have always loved vintage stores, and growing up in the middle of the countryside only made me covet undiscovered clothing gems further. When on holiday or travelling I always keep a keen eye out for vintage shops and recently found a great one tucked away down a little cobbled street in the picturesque town of Saint-Malo in Brittany. Antirouille is everything you want in a vintage store, an eclectic mix of eras - wooden Dutch clogs, 1980's Armani blazers, Chanel tweed skirts - there were even genuine white US Navy trousers from the 1950's. I bought the most amazing ankle-skimming Gucci-esque green dress. Made of silk it has a plunging V-shape neckline, slightly padded shoulders, with a sash that cinches in the waist, I instantly fell in love. Despite its beautiful cut and colour it was not designer, and upon looking at the label I had a pleasant surprise. It was, in fact, from Debenhams. Oh, the beauty of vintage.

BINA DAIGELER

Costume Designer for Mrs. America and the new live action version of Mulan (available to watch exclusively on Disney+, September 4th).

“I am a life-long vintage lover. I had the best introduction to Portobello market through my friends Carlo Manzi, owner of a great rental house for costumes, and (garment researcher) Graham Cassie. A stroll through Portobello is always inspiring. My favourite place is is Selfishmaids; not only does Caroline have exquisite taste for vintage - her displays every Friday are pure joy - shopping with her is just a pleasure. I purchased some pieces from her vintage shop for Mrs.America and for myself personally too (a super chic olive green raincoat). Another great, fun vintage collection is Lucinda in Portobello. And I purchased my red carpet dress for the Mulan premier at Oliver Vintage.

ESHITA KABRA-DAVIES

Founder of fashion rental app, By Rotation

“My second-hand picks are a mixed bag: By Rotation app for the perfect on-trend and affordable outfit, Brick Lane on a Sunday and Brooklyn NYC for vintage gems and Depop for independent and curated sellers. Top second hand fashion purchase: I bought an amazing silk dress at a vintage fair in Brooklyn last year. It's the most delicate and feminine dress I own.”

ELIZABETH ILSLEY

Artist, fashion designer and DJ

“I love vintage clothes for their originality. Also to have a really old piece is like having an artifact in your wardrobe; each second hand piece I've ever had has lasted the test of time. Like a pair of snakeskin trousers I bought from Rokit vintage for £45. I would say my number one tip to have a successful vintage shop is to keep it original, don't conform to what you think people want to buy, find something that is unique and exciting! People who pay good money for a one-off vintage piece want something totally different to what anyone else is wearing. A real show stopper.”

VICTORIA PREW

Co-Founder & CEO fashion rental platform HURR Collective

"Charity shopping online has never been easier. Thanks to eBay's "Charity" section - you can find the perfect vintage pieces from the comfort of your own home. For someone that doesn't have much time but still wants to shop second hand, eBay is the perfect go to. Last year I bought a Max Mara Camel Trench coat from the eBay Charity section - with an original price tag over £1,000+, I picked it up for £250, which is still a huge investment, but I know I’ll wear it for years to come!".

JOY MONTGOMERY

Shopping Editor at Who What Wear UK

"While I am very much partial to a good charity shop rummage (Mary's Living and Giving in Blackheath is a winner), it's Pop Boutique in Covent Garden which has been the site of most of my second-hand success stories. Small but perfectly-formed, it's rare for me to pop my head in and not come out 20 minutes later armed with a new - well old - fashion item. Their edit is pretty much unrivalled for the '70s fashion-lover, and almost all of my purchase history consists of dagger collar shirts and '70s jackets. Best of all, they're very reasonably priced, and nothing I've bought there has cost more than £70."

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