In fashion, what comes around goes around. Just check out Gucci's SS16 collection, which takes its inspiration straight from the archives. Yup, that latest 'It' bag is often little more than a reinterpretation of the past. So why wait for the designers to tell you what's stylish? Why not get a step ahead of the trend and look directly to the past to empower your style with vintage fashion?
I know vintage fashion means different things to different people. Purists would say that it's limited to pieces from the 1920s to the 1970s, with anything older being antique, and anything more recent being contemporary. This definition is better than the one that slaps a vintage label on anything that is not a current collection, but it feels too static and outdated. I prefer Nicky Albrechtsen's dynamic definition in her book Vintage Fashion Complete, which perfectly embodies the modern vintage shopper's attitude: "The term vintage reflects a style that is not defined by a particular decade, fashion era or designer. It encompasses the collective of fashions of past eras that are worn today simply because they are beautiful and therefore always desirable."
Shopping for vintage fashion is not only about the pursuit of original style, it has the ability to elevate shopping to a whole lifestyle experience and these are five top reasons why:
1. The future is vintage
As Buro 24/7 Singapore's contributing editor Tracy Phillips so poignantly describes in her series on Sustainability in Fashion, the garment industry is among the biggest polluters in the world. So how do you reconcile your love of fashion with your very real concern for the environment? Shop differently. Shopping for vintage items means that you are doing your part to protect the future of the planet without diminishing your style quotient (quite the opposite, in fact). I say it's a win-win.
Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring. — Marilyn Monroe
2. Vintage shopping is an adventure
You know that excited feeling you get when you are queueing for your favourite brand's yearly sales? The suspense of the hunt that is about to begin, the uncertainty over scoring something that might revolutionise your style. That is, until you realize that the item you coveted was on sale because of massive overstock and you bump into your best friend wearing the same thing at the next party. With vintage shopping, that thrill of the hunt never fades: You never know what you are going to stumble upon so you have to be on your toes. Or you might have already studied your prey, analysed the piece inside out, and are just waiting to pounce. Even then, a moment of hesitation could cause you to miss the opportunity. It might take you years to hunt it down again. Vintage shopping is unpredictable, it's an adventure, and it's a lot of fun.
3. Vintage shopping is a form of expression
The way you dress up communicates to the world something about who you want to be on that particular day and what makes you different. Like it or not, consciously or otherwise, we all do it. Which is why the idea of being dressed exactly the same as someone — especially at events where it matters such as weddings or parties — is so repulsive.
In contrast with current collections or fast fashion, shopping vintage means that you are selecting from decades of fashion and countless collections, and the chances of that happening are close to nil. What's more, vintage fashion pieces are very often conversation starters and the pieces that you are remembered by.
4. Vintage collectors invest in their style
While investing in your style and your individuality, you're also investing in a very real sense — in your wardrobe. It could become a mini trading operation, much like if you were collecting and trading art. One day, you will look up and realize you have amassed an enviable collection of vintage Christian Lacroix jewellery and you want to embark on a discovery of Yves Saint Laurent. When your style changes, your collection is tradable and can permit you to build the next one and then the next. Of course not every vintage piece is an investment and not every piece will necessarily increase in value, but being of limited and diminishing supply, you know it will never decrease either.
5. Vintage is wearable art
Are you the type that is scared of using your most precious pieces for fear of damaging them? Do you keep the protective stickers on the hardware of your bags or inside your wallet? More than half of our collectors tell us that they — ironically — are afraid to wear some of their most exceptional pieces. While the discipline and commitment is admirable, it's also somewhat regrettable and a whole lot less fun. You have spent your hard-earned money on a piece that should bring you joy, only to limit your enjoyment by not wearing it. Even worse, it turns into a source of stress because you start worrying about proper storage or fussing over the ventilation just to avoid humidity stains.
Vintage fashion pieces should live; they already had a life before you bought them and should have a rich second life as part of your wardrobe. They've proven their ability to withstand time and, no, they are not perfect — no one or thing worth your attention ever is — and that's the point. Knowing that a vintage fashion piece has its imperfections should make you feel more at ease enjoying and wearing them as vibrant and living pieces of art. Don't be afraid to add your gentle mark to its identity.
Need inspiration to get you started? Browse the gallery and begin building these pieces into your wardrobe by clicking on the links below:
Hermès ostrich Bolide 35
Thierry Mugler leather trimmed knit sheath
Snake embossed clip on earrings
Chanel Chevron shoulder bag
Victor Costa peplum dress
Gucci Bamboo backpack
Hermès canvas sailor belt
To shop other pre-loved luxury fashion items, head to The Fifth Collection.
To read all articles in our Sustainability in Fashion series, click here.