Fashion

Is the term ‘vintage’ a swindle?

4 Mins read

The rise in online fast fashion has created a demand for vintage clothing from shoppers who prefer to buy second hand. It is a fact that buying vintage is economically superior to investing into the throw away fashion culture, however through this growing popularity of vintage markets and online marketplaces such as Depop, some would say the term ‘vintage’ is being used inconsiderately.

London is home to some of the most iconic markets; and so, it is certain that anyone visiting the capital who enjoys vintage shopping will make a special trip to see what timeless pieces they can sort out.

However vintage shoppers will know that when something is labelled ‘vintage’ it often means you’re going to be paying more than you would sometimes like to admit.

Markets such as Brick Lane and Camden have been around for decades and with thousands of shoppers and tourists flocking to them every day, it makes you wonder whether these markets simply want to appeal to the trend of vintage shopping rather than being authentic.  

El, a previous part-time sales assistant at a vintage shop in Central London, has noticed this more: “In a normal high street store, they bulk buy items and sell them for one price, in vintage shops every item is a different price.

“You do have to expect the worst and hope for the best.”

Eva – Vintage shopper

“In the store that I worked in, they had a rail on the shop floor full of items with no price tag on them. So, when customers would approach me and ask for the price of a particular item, I’d then have to take it to my supervisor and ask her, to which she’d just make it up on the spot. The supervisors had a lot of experience, but they would look at it for what it is, if it looks expensive then it’s expensive.”

El did think some items were overpriced: “There was one section of the store that was full of remastered old shirts. They had been cropped with elastic and turned into Bardot tops, which are more trendy than old cheap shirts. They were valued between £40 and £50 which I thought was a lot for how much they were probably bought for.

“We also had a lot of items that had rips or stains on them. You had to assume that people had managed their expectations, if they found an item, that they liked but it had a fault on it, you had to expect that they would notice it before deciding to make the purchase. I highly expect many customers didn’t though, and we wouldn’t ever tell them if there was one,” El told us.

“I would say it was a mixture between genuine vintage and simply just old stuff. Sometimes it felt very costume orientated, like they’d remade old stuff with polyester and bad materials, to me that’s no longer vintage its simply remastered old clothes made to looks ‘vintage’ to appeal to buyers.”

While many true antique dealers would spend a long time trying to obtain authentic items of vintage, bulk purchasing is one quick approach to get stock.

Job lots are a collection of goods that have been manufactured in bulk and can be sold at a discounted rate due to a variety of factors, including discontinued product lines, retail clearances, or minor product flaws. Anybody can purchase a job lot of clothing, household goods, or mixed stock items from marketplaces such as eBay for a very low cost.

Screenshot taken from eBay showing a wholesale job lot selling bulks of vintage Levi jeans. 50 pieces for just £125
eBay often sells wholesale job lots for Vintage Levi’s [Summer Shannon]

One example of this when it comes to vintage shopping is Kilo Sales. These are a new way to buy clothes and are an opportunity to buy second hand clothes at a discounted rate. Owners may charge £15 per kilo weight of clothes the buyer wants; however, some would argue that its overpriced and full of low-quality second-hand items.

Eva enjoys shopping on vintage marketplaces, at car boot sales, charity shops and kilo sales to find good quality second hand pieces. She recently visited a kilo pop-up in Central London with high expectations due to the company’s large following on social media.

“It was chaotic,” she said.

Kilo sales are a growth industry [Instagram: Worth the Weight]

“The whole room smelt musty, it was unorganised and most of the items I picked up were stained. I was expecting good quality vintage, it’s always shame when it happens, but you do have to expect the worst and hope for the best.”

Eva however did say that this isn’t always the case for kilo sales: “There is one Kilo sale that I enjoy visiting called ‘Worth the Weight’ that travels around the UK. It came to my hometown, and I found a lot of good quality vintage, it just depends sometimes.

“The thing is with vintage sales and shops if you’re into that, that’s great, but it’s very expensive. More recently I find myself leaning towards charity shops, because they also have vintage pieces in them, and the money goes to charity rather than someone who’s just found the item cheap and sold it for triple the price,” Eva said.

There are concerns that online marketplaces such as Depop are adopting the same tactics: “It used to be a place where people sold second hand stuff to make a bit of money, like eBay only for clothes but now it’s profit driven. I once bought a ‘vintage’ skirt from there for £40, there was no details on where it was from, but this is usually the case when it comes to vintage,” Eva told us.

When it arrived, the label on the inside said Atmosphere, which is Primark, I was gutted because I know the skirt would not have cost that much brand new and it was not worth £40.”

In response to Eva’s complaint, I conducted an online experiment where I looked at Depop, eBay, and online charity shops to determine whether Depop vendors are really overcharging for their used goods.

The item I decided to hunt for was a leather jacket as it is a timeless piece of clothing and can range in price depending on where you purchase it from. I discovered a vintage leather jacket by Diesel.

Screenshot from Depop showing a genuine leather jacket by Diesel priced at £160
The leather jacket I found on Depop

After searching on Oxfam’s online shop, I found a Diesel leather jacket for £59.99.

A screenshot taken from Oxfam's online shop showing a genuine leather jacket by Diesel for £59.99
The Diesel leather jacket found on Oxfam’s online shop

If, however, you are on a tight budget, eBay seems to be the place to shop, with sellers offering genuine leather jackets for as little as £6.50.

A screenshot taken from eBay showing a vintage mens leather jacket for £6.50
A leather jacket found on eBay

Vintage shopping seems to have developed significantly over the past decade, from vintage markets to online marketplaces there are now a variety of ways to access it.

For many it’s simply a matter of knowing where to go and how to identify superior pieces of vintage at a fair price without being left feeling like they’ve been swindled.


Featured image courtesy of Ella Browning
Edited by Sophie Patrick  

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