The "Vintage" Mark Up

The current 'flavour of the month' holdings for middle class art student types, whom originally sprung from the leafy suburbs of Hertfordshire, is the catchment area known as Brick Lane & Spitalfields in East London. Once home to Jewish residents & more recently the Bangladeshi community - impressions of both which still remain thanks to the delicious 24 hour bagel shop where you can stop off day or night for a salt beef & mustard, to the endless rows of curry houses & often questionable 5* Time Out reviews which adorn the windows. 


Since the influx of creative media types (or 'Hackney hipsters' as they are more affectionately known) I have noticed there has been an increasing amount of vintage shops pop up all over the place. Many with pretty window displays featuring clothing & collectables from years gone by, with imaginative & witty store names alluring you over their threshold. 

Enjoying mixing my High Street garb with one off pieces to add my own personal twist to outfits, I started venturing into these shops. On entering your nose is immediately met with a mixture of damp from the walls which are long overdue a re-plaster, & the pong of mothballs most likely from the garments original owner's storage solutions. 



Piles of Levi denims cut offs, pill box hats, lambs leather gloves & 80's fur coats (not that I condone real fur) cram the rails of these shops. The quirky shop owner is perched on her reupholstered wing chair - reminiscent of that you'd expect to find in a retirement home - and is busy completing the Guardian crossword, all while the crackle of an old record player warbles hits of The Kinks & Bowie. It makes you feel you've returned to an era in which you haven't actually lived. It's all very enticing & makes you smile at the thought of these pre-loved clothes originally destined for the landfill getting a well deserved new lease of life...
...Well, thats until you check the price tickets. £45 for a leather gladstone bag which has more cracks in than the shop walls. Crimplene dresses for £30 & £10-15 for the average silk neck scarf. Metallic Bally stilettos will set you back £25, never mind the fact they're scuffed & in desperate need of a re-heel. To me spending this kind of money on what is essentially 2nd hand seems ludicrous - no matter how you market it. 

Having said that, the shops are heaving & the happy customers continue to flock in their droves, leaving the stores clutching their overpriced recycled goods.

Standing on Brick Lane eating my traditional Sunday morning bagel a few weeks back, I was asked for the time by two girls who were obviously every vintage shop keepers dream. After making small talk & one kindly guiding me through her outfit after I complimented her on a damask brooch she was sporting, she informed me she was originally from Kent but now rents in nearby Aldgate and loves living in East London due to the vintage & kitsch jewellery shops which were 'her thing'. I suggested that maybe she could also try scouring charity shops & jumbles for similar kit at a fraction of the price, but my suggestion was met with a mild grimace & a few seconds after a pleasant goodbye, the pair were off on the horizon onto their next vintage adventure ...with their patched up leather jackets in tow.

I can't grasp why anyone would pay five times over the odds for what could essentially be picked up from a charity shop at a fraction of the price? I certainly don't understand the mentality of people being happy to buy from trendy vintage retailers but turn their noses up at Charity Shopping. Surely everyone's a winner if a charity benefits from your custom? An argument to this, is that the vintage stores have 'buyers' who 'hand pick' the desirables from the inevitable mountains of Peacocks and Primark donations, so the sort after yesteryear gems are all there laid out for the taking...but is it really worth the 80% mark up?

For me, part of the thrill of shopping in any store, is finding a great bargain myself - not to pay extortionately for the privilege of having it handed to me on a plate ...besides, I'll bet you my vintage leather suitcase that I inherited from Jamie's Grandfather (& worth around £80-100 in the Brick Lane vintage stores!), that I can guess exactly where these 'buyers' are purchasing their picks from; Charity Shops, Jumble Sales, House Clearance, Car Boots & of course, eBay...



It is also common place for Charity shops to steam clean their donations - I doubt any of the vintage shops I've frequented do, but perhaps this is a part of their attraction? Whilst my old H&M and River Island offloads at the PDSA & Cancer Research shops would be of no use to the Hipsters, it is also worth knowing that the charities still make some profit for their causes even from unsellable donations by trading with what used to be known as the Rag & Bone Men....now The Textile Recycling Business.

I'm sure with a bit of perseverance and a keen eye for a bargain finding their first reasonably priced vintage gem would be an easy feat for these self proclaimed fashionistas.  

So ...are these vintage shop owners lovingly giving these clothes a new lease of life? Preserving good quality dress making & tailoring for a new generation to enjoy? Are they genuinely concerned about the popularity of throw-away fashion & whenever it is ethically sourced ...or are they merely shrewd entrepreneurs - fully business minded people who have seen a money making opportunity from the current vintage fads and are laughing all the way to the bank? I'd assume the latter but either way, good luck to them.

For the perfect example of dressing impeccably in preloved wears without the ridiculous 'trendy-vintage' price tags, check out the delightful Vintage Vix's blog, whom I've secretly been an admirer of for some time.

If you wish to donate any unwanted items to a Charity Shop, you can locate your local store using the Charity Retail Association website. 

It's funny what a trendy buzz word & some good PR can do isn't it?

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