Reconciling a love of fashion with sustainability, the easiest way to adapt to the new move towards conscious shopping is by introducing more vintage and pre-loved clothing and accessories to your wardrobe. The idea of “circular fashion” stemmed from the circular economy, an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. When applied to fashion, this means keeping products that have already been produced in circulation, whether by donating to charity, shopping vintage, or even swapping with friends.
Luckily, it has never been easier – or more on-trend – to shop vintage. Wearing pre-loved clothing is in vogue again (literally, Taylor Swift was pictured on the cover of British Vogue’s January issue wearing vintage Chanel) and looking at the autumn winter catwalks, there are a whole range of trends that you could easily piece together with some clever vintage purchases. From 1970’s bourgeois with its pussy-bow silk blouses, A-line skirts, and check wool blazers (abundant in secondhand and vintage shops) to the current fascination with all things leather, the autumn winter collections have vintage fashion wrapped up. Looking forward to spring summer, we saw designers pull inspiration from every decade that led up to the new millennium, beginning with 1970s brilliant brights and psychedelic prints at Paco Rabanne and Louis Vuitton. Moving into the 1980s, power suits with exaggerated proportions and traditional pinstripe were spotted at Chloé and Proenza Schouler that, with a keen eye, could be lifted off a secondhand rail. While the new-found love for 1990s-style minimalism has come to a head with Bottega Veneta, Gabriela Hearst and Helmut Lang making a case for pared-back separates of simple ribbed knits, mini-skirts and barely there sandals. But that’s the thing, fashion is cyclical. Trends have life cycles, they come and go, often with decades in between, meaning sometimes a vintage shop should actually be your first stop. According to journalist and author Lauren Bravo, whose new book How To Break Up With Fast Fashion is published today, it’s about adapting our mindset. “When we want something new, the process should be: always look for it secondhand first, then buy new as a last resort. The more we buy secondhand, the more comfortable we get with it, the more our friends will follow suit and the whole thing will become normalised.”
From kilo sales and swap shops to shopping through Depop and Instagram, younger generations are already adapting to the circular model. A recent report from ThredUp (a US-based online re-selling marketplace) shows that 64 per cent of women have bought or are open to buying secondhand products in the future, and that millennials (25-37) are most open to shopping secondhand. ThredUp also reports that the secondhand market will be almost 1.5 times larger than fast fashion by 2028. By then, pre-loved items are forecasted to account for an average of 13 per cent of people’s wardrobes.
While Ireland has vintage destinations to suit many styles (Jenny Vander in Dublin, Miss Daisy Blue in Cork, and Public Romance in Galway) perhaps most interesting is the new move toward pared-back, edited and curated vintage collections that nod to current trends. RetoldVintage.com releases products in mini edits, curated by owner Clare Lewis, which provide perfect inspiration for “style-conscious women with a modern aesthetic” who want to shop sustainably without compromising on style. A recent drop of 30 items had sold 25 items within 24 hours, so quick fingers are needed for this one … Instagram influencer Audrey Leighton (pictured above) sells a monthly vintage collection online, from coats to dresses, all beautifully shot in a moody, 1960s-looking Paris. And fashion crowd favourite Laura Von Behr has a by-appointment only studio in Hackney, London, where she sells vintage clothing in a visually appealing and extremely organised way – no jam-packed rails or overflowing shelves, this is vintage made luxury with a shopping experience even the most hesitant secondhand shopper would enjoy.
What’s becoming clear is that vintage selling has evolved, and in turn, so too has the way we shop. No longer do we have to root through overstuffed rails searching for the right size, shape or colour. Every vintage item we’ve ever dreamed of is available at our fingertips.
Open For Vintage is an Irish-founded company which sells vintage clothing, jewellery and accessories sourced from independent vintage boutiques around the world. Its CEO Colin Saunders says: “The trend of ‘high-low dressing’ is really visible in the luxury vintage retail space at the moment. Customers are seeking out one ‘hero’ piece that can elevate outfits that they already have, and handbags remain our bestselling category as a result of this.”
Even traditional retailers are starting to embrace secondhand selling. Selfridges recently opened a permanent shop in its Oxford Street store for industry leader French-based luxury resale site Vestiaire Collective, and Brown Thomas Dublin welcomed a pop-up from the same brand late last year. Both Matches Fashion and FarFetch have vintage collections as part of their online offering. A curated edit from London-based boutique William Vintage on Matches Fashion currently includes an Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking tuxedo suit and a 1955 haute couture beaded gown by Jacques Heim. Far Fetch also run a “second life” initiative which allows customers to sell their old bags through the platform in exchange for Far Fetch credit.
What all of this proves is that the best fashion buys are pieces that stand the test of time. The beauty of a good vintage piece is that it can both encapsulate the spirit of an era, and appear effortlessly modern in the present day. Giving one piece of clothing a second or third life really can make a difference. So as we enter this new decade, let us return to a slower pace of shopping, buying less, wearing more and looking to the past as we move into the future.