By Camy Mortimer
Dressing in vintage and what has been simply described as ‘thrift’ has become increasingly trendy over the past decade, especially amongst young people. Of course, buying premium designer vintage has been a luxury trend for decades, but now it seems we are perfecting, appreciating and in many ways normalising the art form of hunting through old thrift stores and finding amazing second hand and vintage pieces for everyday wear.
But not so fast…
Recently when shopping at some of our most popular fast fashion retailers, I found clothes labelled as ‘vintage Tee’ and ‘the retro mini dress’, and may I just say…. What the hell!? An authentic piece of vintage and/ or retro clothing, by definition, must be over about 20 years old and clearly representative of the era in which it was made. It seems as if the “vintage” or “thrift” look is being exploited by the fast fashion industry and to be honest, it baffles me how we as consumers continue to just tolerate that level of hypocrisy.
Think about it! In any other industry if you were to mislabel an item as something it isn’t, you could get in some serious trouble. Take groceries as an example, mislabel items and you are in breach of (possibly) multiple health and regulatory rules and policies. Or think about if you were dishing out thousands of dollars for a premium vintage car, in perfect condition? I’m assuming that you would expect that that car is, in fact, a premium vintage car (I know!). How is it that we don’t accept hypocrisy and duplicity in other industries but we continue to tolerate it in the fashion industry?
I am an avid second-hand shopper, but I am obviously not perfect so yes, I do have a fair share of pieces in my wardrobe that I bought firsthand, some even from fast fashion retailers. On average though the lion’s share of my wardrobe has been carefully curated through shopping in Op-Shops, secondhand stores, vintage stores, online pre-loved clothing marketplaces and my Mum’s (and my Dad’s) closet. The reason I love to buy second hand or vintage is because vintage and retro fashion isn’t really a specific style, or a particular piece of clothing, it is relative to the age and authenticity of the pieces and there is absolutely no limit to what you may find and what you can do with them. Which I find so exciting.
Those who determine a trend is a trend have ensured that the demand for vintage and retro fashion items is increasing, which has in turn resulted in an increase in shoppers in the second-hand market. This is a good thing (obviously), but demand and supply being what it is, this has also meant that vintage and retro items are getting snapped up quickly in the secondhand retailers like Op Shops, which in turn is driving prices upwards to a level that is becoming a little out of reach. Enter the fast fashion retailers, who in many cases can produce and sell a ‘vintage- look’ shirt for less than the price of an actual vintage item being sold in an Op-Shop or second-hand clothing store. So, I guess in many ways, it is understandable why many people are starting to source these items from fast fashion outlets who offer the ease of having the choice of dozens of styles and sizes. Less hassle, less hunting and in many cases, less money. But we must ask ourselves, is it honestly worth it?
Allow me to explain. Below I have pictured two t-shirts from my own wardrobe. Both are in perfect condition, both cost me about the same amount of money, and both are considered ‘vintage’ style. However, one is authentic vintage Harley Davidson merchandise that I bought from a vintage retailer, while the other I bought firsthand. Both are great T-shirts! I love and wear both heaps, however when comparing the two there’s some things that we must consider.
The manufacturing of each t-shirt would have taken approximately 2700 Litres of water and had additional costs associated with labour and energy. Although one of my t-shirts is from a fast fashion outlet, by choosing to purchase a vintage t-shirt from a second-hand retailer, rather than buying another shirt from a fast fashion retailer, I am helping to reduce carbon emissions, save resources such as water and energy, and importantly keep clothing in circulation for longer and help to reduce the 800,000 tonnes of textiles that are added to landfill each year in Australia.
Today with the rising popularity of swapping, renting and reselling clothes, as well as the development of marketplaces such as ours here at Populace Threads, the second-hand market is so accessible. So next time you are shopping around, trying to fit in with the trends and you’re thinking of spending over $50 on a mislabelled “vintage” clothing item… Perhaps think again and embrace the fun of the hunt while you search for an item that is truly yours, and truly unique. And remember, fashion is what you buy, but style is how you wear it!