If you are a vintage trader, chances are, pretty much all your friends and family have said to you (for a few years now) that the problem with your business is that “vintage is dead”. “It’s not fashionable anymore, retro isn’t as cool as it was 10 years ago”.
One thing about owning a shop is that everybody you talk to thinks that if they were running it, they would do it all differently and be much more successful at it. ‘Why don’t you advertise more?’, ‘have you tried putting more signs out?’, ‘why don’t you get a place on the high street?’ etc etc. After a while you get bored of repeating the reasons why you do or don’t do things. When people bring out the “vintage is dead” line, it’s kinda hard to know how to respond.
Chances are, if you trade in vintage, you already know that vintage is not as fashionable as it was 10-15 years ago. Gone are the days when you can buy a load of £2 eighties jumpers from the charity shop near your nans house and sell them for £30 within moments of them hitting your shop rails. There is no longer a load of youngish men buying tweed jackets to look a bit like Doctor Who. Nobody needs an outfit for a Mad Men theme party anymore. So vintage is not so fashionable to the mainstream at the moment, there is definitely some truth in that.
So where does that leave a shop like ours? Well, for a lot of small vintage businesses it means shutting shop and moving on. A lot of traders I know are no longer selling vintage. Shops have closed down. There are not half as many vintage markets running as there used to be. A few years ago, a lot of people where trying their hand at setting up little vintage businesses, trading online and from market stalls. But many of the people behind these businesses did not have a real genuine passion for what they were selling. It was more that they saw a little opportunity to make some money and soon gave up when it didn’t work out. For me, selling vintage is far too ingrained in who I am for me to consider trading in something else.
There will always be some people who never stop wearing vintage, regardless of whether or not it is fashionable. When I was a young teenager in the nineties I spent nearly every weekend walking round different parts of London looking for vintage shops. I didn’t have the internet to Google search, they weren’t all listed in the yellow pages and generally there just were not so many of them. I found a couple around Carnaby Street (including 'Yesterdays Bread' pictured above), there was Camden and I remember Pop Boutique on Monmouth Street. There were others of course but if I didn’t happen to walk past them I never new they were there. There was no ebay (at least that I was aware of) so I couldn’t buy vintage online. I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you wanted to get hold of vintage clothes in the 90s, you had to put in the leg work. In recent years, following a more mainstream acceptance of ‘vintage’, vintage shops sprung up everywhere making it very easy to get your hands on vintage clothing if you wanted to. Now these shops are disappearing and we are heading back to a time when you had to make a little effort to be into vintage.
So is vintage dead? Well, the wave of fashionable mainstream vintage interest has passed us. The shops that will survive it will be the ones that sell quality vintage items for genuine enthusiasts who will make the effort to get them. From a personal perspective, I don’t care if vintage is fashionable or not, because it's what I love. If you are the sort of person who wont wear vintage because you think it’s dead, you’re not really ‘getting’ it anyway. Vintage fashion has always been a sub-culture and a way of standing apart from cultural norms.
Our shop is stocked with great 50’s 60’s and 70’s clothing, that I’m really proud to be selling, whether it's fashionable or not.
Frankly I never liked selling eighties jumpers anyway.