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Here are the best curated vintage sites to help you shop secondhand well

Illustration by Twylamae
Words by Hannah Cole

That’s hot.

Can fashion ever really be sustainable? It’s the question that lingers on my lips, niggles at my mind. I’m a fashion fan and a self-proclaimed urban-hippie, so I’m constantly trying to find ways to balance those teetering scales. 

After much research and deliberation, it seems that vintage is the safest way to go. Even Virgil Abloh has jumped on the wagon: he’s flagged the next decade as one of exhibiting self-expression through the adaptability of vintage. Thanks to this recent widespread revival, it’s never been easier to buy.

Just a few years ago, ‘vintage’ meant we would head to the local Vinnies or Savers to scavenge moth-ridden sweaters and over-worn shoes. Don’t even mention the huge time investment: hours are required to trawl through racks to find one hidden little gem. It’s not an activity for the faint-hearted; it’s in the too-hard-basket even for the most saintly of us. 

We were too young to know the difference between preloved items and genuine vintage pieces.

But trawling second-hand dens is no longer ‘too hard’. Enter a new breed of online (and occasionally physical) stores: curated vintage shops. 

While the local op-shop is typically a mass of donated goods – meshing various aesthetics (or not) in the one space – the curated vintage store takes a more tailored approach. The hard work has been done for us; it’s just a matter of finding the store that matches your aesthetic. 

Don’t get me wrong, a curated purchase often comes at a higher cost. Whilst a knit from Vinnies may cost you $5, you’re looking at upwards of $50 (at least) for these dug-up goods. 

Gaby Dillon of BackHere explains the additional cost simply, “It’s the time taken to find the garment (time that lots of people don’t have nowadays), mend and alter the garment, style it, shoot it, list it and package it.” You aren’t buying a problematic piece with holes, frayed hems and missing buttons. You’re purchasing a pre-loved, made-over garment minus the hassle. 

SWOP Clothing Exchange also offers an innovative approach to this. According to co-founder, Brigid Gordon, prices reflect an ethical labour force and an offering of “fantastic quality items that you’ll treasure for years to come.” The store also boasts a buy, sell, trade model whereby items accepted for resale benefit the donator: a payment of 25% of the garment’s set price in cash or 50% store credit. As Gordon notes, “some savvy SWOP-ers shop all year round without handing over a penny” using only store credit and exchanging their pieces. 

It’s safe to say there is a strong trend of Instagram-based vintage stores setting up shop. In many instances, the owners of these stores are burgeoning micro-influencers in their own right, drawing in a following of like-minded shoppers. Mori Market, The Drobe and Nine.co are just a couple of local examples taking this track. Purchases are fast-paced, and fans closely follow new uploads with an always-on approach. It involves stealth (and a lot of push notifications). 

Dillon, who initially launched her store on Instagram, has made the switch to completing sales via her Etsy shop instead, preferring the slower pace. While Instagram offers an aesthetically-pleasing relationship with buyers, she now prefers to use the app for “sharing inspiration and connecting with likeminded folk.” 

With the current state of our country, it’s never felt more right to embark on creating a vintage wardrobe. Dabble in the vintage, add in a couple of new pieces from sustainably-minded labels here and there, et voila! 

Now there is nothing to hold you back – you can purchase old wares from the comfort of your bed. The shopping options are endless, but here are a few local stores I’m keeping a close eye on. 

SWOP Clothing Exchange

Visit: Physically in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, or online.

Aesthetic: “A mix of unique vintage and quality on-trend items, the best of old and new.” Expect to find yourself amidst a rainbow of clothing, perfect for colour-loving pals. 

Prices: Starting at $30.

Designers: Stumble upon iconic labels such as Burberry, Issey Miyake and Christian Dior if you’re lucky; otherwise you’ll find an abundance of vintage pieces from all decades. 

Top points for: Charity support. In 2019 SWOP raised over $10k via their Brisbane “OPY” store where 100% of profits go to charity. 

BackHere

Visit: On Instagram and Etsy.

Aesthetic: According to Gaby, she will “become obsessed with a certain film/book/artist and go out in search of pieces that remind me of it.” You’ll find a plethora of silk and cotton pieces, mixed in with knitwear and beautiful hand-sewn pieces. 

Prices: Approximately $30 for vintage basics, up to $175 for a prairie maxi dress.

Designers: Primarily vintage pieces from the ’70s, 80’s and 90’s. 

Top points for: A kick-ass Instagram full of inspiration and a love for handcrafts. (Bring back embroidery!)

Mori Market

Visit: On Instagram.

Aesthetic: This is one for the fashion girl. Think well-cut blazers, oversized shirts and a colour palette boasting black, white and beige.

Prices: Upwards of $50.

Designers: A mix of international designers like DKNY, Michael Kors, Calvin Klein and Christina Dior, plus key unbranded vintage looks. 

Top points for: Being included in Vogue Australia’s ‘Future Sixty’, outlining the game-changers who are set to bring big change. 

The Drobe

Visit: On Instagram

Aesthetic: Put simply, It-Girl. Oversized blazers, trousers, cropped tops and slinky dresses. Bella Hadid would approve. 

Prices: Operates on a bidding basis, so be prepared!

Designers: Vintage pieces by Adidas, Versace, Nike, Prada, Calvin Klein, and more.

Top points for: Taking it offline with exclusive pop-ups.

Milly & Wolf Vintage

Visit: On Instagram and the online store.

Aesthetic: Vintage tees and ripped denim; this is one for the rebel at heart. 

Prices: Tees from $40. Denim from $60. 

Designers: Levi’s, Calvin Klein, Nike, and an abundance of band tees. 

Top points for: Taking the stress out of buying an old tee. Goodbye musty smells.

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