Know Your Clothes: Vintage Deception



Have you ever thought about where vintage shops source their stock from? Everyone knows how high-street shops play this game, and it's a public secret that people pay with their lives to make cheap clothes for the high street. We can no longer pretend we don't know about it. Yet not much is being said about vintage shops. It's strange how casually the word 'vintage' is thrown around, this lovely little word used to make clothes sound more fashionable. But just because something is old, it doesn't mean it's special; there's a difference between something that's just old and something that's truly vintage.


It would be nice to think that every shop gets its stock from local old ladies and gentlemen who just happen to have hidden treasures stored in their attics for years and years. But to think in this way would be naive. There are lots of ways to buy second-hand clothes; clothes sold in vintage shops could have previously been owned by charity shops, could have been found in markets, car boot sales or other places. Often, it could also be unsold stock from tiny retailers, stored in a warehouse for weeks, months or even years - these can be called 're-found originals', basically a nice term for unwanted clothes.




Other ways to get merchandise include buying it in other countries, especially in America where wholesale companies and thrift shops sell merchandise by weight. The price per pound depends on the quality, but it is generally dirt cheap. This is part of the reason why amazing buys are hung right next to ruined ones in vintage shops; if shop owners don't pay the extra cost to choose which clothes they're actually buying, they simply get a mix of gems and grime.


So these clothes have already travelled from one continent to another, but that's not where their journey ends. Unsold clothes travel all over Europe, where there are shops called 'English outlets' or 'English second hand fashion'. But in 90% of cases you may only find clothes labelled 'Made in Cambodia', and again, it is not cheap. Is this ethical? Is this fair?There have even been cases of donated second-hand clothes from recycling bins and charity shops being sold to popular vintage shops, which is very concerning. We like to think that it does not happen often, and no shop would ever admit to this, but we fear the worst.


In some shops, ruined shirts and jumpers with holes sell for unreasonable amounts of money with the added 'vintage value', which seems ridiculous. Of course, nobody is forced to buy faux vintage, but a well-meant purchase can lose its shine when you discover a half-unstitched H&M label. It is much nicer to go to a shop where the staff know their stock, and everything is handpicked and clean - especially if it's expensive.


It is always best to read labels carefully, and think twice before buying and investing in good quality vintage clothes which you will love forever, or at least for years. Hopefully, this way fashion waste can be reduced, and your vintage will stand the test of time.


Iva Moutelikova

Brighton Fashion Week blogger