Vintage clothing craze creates supply shortages, prices soar – WWD


The spring opening of Hudson Yards was a study in new and shiny things. But inside the Neiman Marcus store there, a rack of vintage clothes stood out among a sea of ​​fresh Balenciaga sneakers, straight out of Loewe handbags and polished marble and steel floors.

Archival bomber jackets and cocktail dresses, curated by Los Angeles-based Resurrection Vintage, were the latest sign that vintage clothing is now part of mainstream shopping culture. Once considered a fashion fringe, vintage has now permeated all ranks of the retail chain – spotted on the shelves of luxury retailers like Neiman’s, Harrods and Isetan; the subject of weekend destination shopping fairs, and even the basis of an eco-friendly line at Urban Outfitters.

But this frenzy for old clothes has created something of a trap for the vintage industry: business is booming, but there are only a limited number of desirable old clothes in the United States. “The only way to keep up with supply and demand is to do more, and you can’t go back in time and do more things that are old,” said Veronica Norris, creative director of the Amarcord store. based in Brooklyn, NY.

A display of vintage clothing in Neiman Marcus’ new Hudson Yards store.
Angela Pham/

In recent years, retailers across the United States have begun to see their supply chains dry up, requiring more effort and resources to unearth fewer garments. According to industry sources, the price of high-quality vintage fashion (clothes that are in pristine condition, well-constructed, uniquely detailed and emblematic of their respective eras) has skyrocketed 50-300% over the past five years, now equaling or often exceeding the price of new clothes.

See also: Vintage shows go mainstream

“Everyone wants to be an individual, everyone wants to have a special piece that stands out, and they want to be green – they save money and are more aware of the clothing cycle,” Roberto Cowan, co-founder of Tucson, Arizona. s Desert Vintage, said of the perfect storm of social trends that have created a vintage craze.

Veteran stockists tout the days they stumbled into a Brooklyn rag house and bought 1940s rayon sundresses by the pound. “That doesn’t happen anymore,” said Eileen Rosenberger, a seasoned New York-based merchant who sells directly to fashion designers looking for inspiration.

“There are more people buying and more resellers selling, and the product is no longer plentiful, so it becomes difficult to find the level of vintage that we are looking for,” said Patti Bordoni, co-founder of Amarcord, about the frantic race that has been started. in the spheres of the vintage trade, where clothes from before the mass industrial era of fashion – the 1950s and before – particularly accumulate in value.

“Things that were more common that we could have let go for $65 in the past, and you can’t do that when you pay $50 [wholesale] now,” Bordoni added. “We’re talking about a beautiful 1970s dress in perfect condition,” she said, noting that the same dress would now sell for $175, factoring in all the overhead and travel needed to find it. Amarcord says 30% of its sources have disappeared in the last five years and its remaining wholesale partners are no longer as abundant as they once were.

1970s fashion.

Here and right: 70s fashion.

The word “vintage” has cultivated an intoxicating brand awareness and its one-of-a-kind nature entices consumers to see now and buy now. On luxury vintage show A Current Affair, women were seen buying up shelves full of vintage clothes without inspecting their contents – like a mystery handbag, an arcade prize for the wealthy.

See also: Behind the “power sellers” of resale

The larger retail community is catching up. Some of New York’s better-known thrift stores, long the stomping ground of NYU students on a budget, have seen the prices of their vintage clothing double in recent months. Goodwill has even capitalized on the vintage moment – designer merchandising and high-end vintage shelving in its stores.

Vintage trading has now also become a sport for young people and entrepreneurs – with online vintage shopping portals like Depop, Etsy and eBay relying on a community of sellers who are well versed in the gig economy and consider clothing as one of their many lucrative hobbies.

Seizing the opportunity of the vintage moment, some Depop and Etsy stockists have taken liberties with the definition of vintage (which traditionally means clothing from the 40s to the 80s) to offer clothes from the late 90s and the early 2000s with labels that reflect those eras. “There are people who just cut corners and buy a Champion sweatshirt and sell it for $100; it’s exaggerated. I saw a Polo sweatshirt for $400,” said Brooklyn-based Instagram celebrity retailer Gabriel Held.

The vintage clothing craze is creating supply shortages,

Kim Kardashian in vintage Dior and Bella Hadid in vintage Jean-Paul Gaultier.
Erik Pendzich and Chelsea Lauren/Courtesy

“The internet and social media have made things a lot more competitive – anyone who wants to, at this point, can set up an Instagram page and say they’re a reseller. A lot of people are starting to negotiate and mess up prices, which doesn’t are unrealistic and driving the market crazy,” added Resurrection Vintage founder Katy Rodriguez – she of the vintage assortment at Neiman Marcus.

In previous decades, vintage dealers bought clothes directly from the estates of the wealthy – plunging into closets that held a lifetime of treasures. The descendants of the estate didn’t have the same respect for the clothes of their loved ones as they did for their precious works of art and furniture – but now they have understood.

Read more: The resale industry is the latest retail disruptor

“When I go to the estates now, the majority of these closets are from the 80s, and the prices people are asking are higher. It used to be that you could buy a trash bag of clothes for a few hundred dollars and now you go and the family is selling a 1950s ballgown for $250. They’re pricing it at retail,” said Southbridge, Mass.-based owner of Antique Wardrobe Jamie Viano. their material heritage, some estates also sell second-hand clothing and accessories through newly created departments at Christie’s, Heritage Auctions and 1stdibs.

At the Brimfield Antique Fair, which saw the resources of vintage fashion run dry.

The scene at the Brimfield Antique Fair in Massachusetts, a former major supplier of vintage that is experiencing resource depletion.
Elise Amendola / Courtesy

“With each passing decade and the older things get, they become rarer and more expensive,” Rodriguez said, also noting that one-time wholesalers are now exploiting digital channels to sell directly to consumers at retail prices, further changing the trade. traditional vintage. .

Instagram has given way to a new generation of influencer-looking vintage stockists who are altering their assortments to reflect current fashion trends with old clothes. Harnessing their stock from past decades (1980s to early 2000s), vendors like Procell, James Veloria and Gabriel Held have sparked renewed interest in forgotten brands. Held is responsible for leasing an archive of Dior bikinis and Chanel sailor outfits to Kim Kardashian and Lil’ Kim, further proliferating vintage resonance in social circles who would never have considered wearing old clothes.

Read more: Resale websites are gaining ground

James Veloria – a vintage New York boutique tucked away in a Chinatown mall – has contributed to demand from former Jean Paul Gaultier and Prada Sport, the latter of which was so successful that Prada re-released the brand last year in a big way pump. “It’s contradictory,” co-founder Brandon Veloria said of the vintage’s current state. “It’s great because it encourages sustainability and ethical shopping from people who normally wouldn’t be mistaken for dead in something old. But it’s a funny feeling that vintage has become a weird status thing.

The store has recently helped rekindle interest in Vivienne Westwood’s designs – to cannibalizing effect. Three years ago, the boutique was selling the designer’s Brit-punk corsets for $150 to limited fanfare, and now – priced at $750 – they can’t keep them in stock.

A vintage shop in Shimokitazawa - a shopping district in Tokyo.

A vintage store in Shimokitazawa, a shopping district in Tokyo.
Yukie Miyazaki/Courtesy

“When we started collecting Prada Sport, we were buying 50, 80 handbags at a time because we could find them at such a reasonable price. Now it’s about preserving our profit margin while trying to maintain our low price – instead of tripling, we’re doubling,” Veloria said. Just then, an intern from Alexander Wang arrived at the store to pick up an archival Longchamp bag that had been purchased for inspiration. of design – a brand that James Veloria shoppers have recently turned their attention to, so the wheels of vintage will keep turning.

This restriction of resources also affects the wider global market for the vintage. Dealers estimate that vintage products of American origin supply the majority of vintage stores worldwide. In Japan, long America’s largest vintage consumer base, WWD has steadily seen inventory dwindle and prices escalate.

“The United States, and the East Coast in particular, has always been a major source of clothing for everyone in Europe, in Japan everyone came to buy at the Brimfield Antique Fair and left with large quantities. This year my friends came from Barcelona and left with two bags, whereas before they left with 12,” Viano said.

France and the UK are now seen as more abundant sources of supply for antiques and vintage. Cowan and his business partner Salima Boufelfel are heading to France later this month in hopes of discovering new resources. “It’s like using a water well – you don’t want your source to go out, so you always have to think of somewhere new to go next,” he said.


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