Fashion / Feature

Second life: let’s talk about vintage fashion

Ethical fashion is personal fashion. In a landscape dominated by excess – choice, consumption and waste – it is often by returning to the heart that we can consume more responsibly. And for many stylish women, what the heart wants is original design, quality craftsmanship and a sense of timelessness – the key to unlocking these wardrobe characteristics is, invariably, through vintage.

The world of secondhand fashion is steadily on the rise. As Brooklyn-based vintage retailer Hannah Richtman of The Break tells RUSSH in the ‘Soul’ issue: “Textile waste is one of the world’s largest pollutants. And it takes 700 gallons of water, on average, to produce one yard of a raw material.” With this in mind, Richtman argues that “vintage shopping makes sustainable choices accessible and chic”.

Many of our style icons live by this message – muses such as LESSE founder Neada Deters, whose wardrobe is filled with vintage, Miranda Kilbey of Say Lou Lou, who often shares her vintage pieces with twin sister Elektra, and stylist and consultant Ilkin Kurt, who celebrates her favourite designers through iconic vintage finds. Meanwhile, Anna Gray has made a business of this with her curated vintage store Object Limited. Here, these four women share the stories behind their pre-loved treasures.

Miranda Kilbey

Singer-songwriter, Say Lou Lou

“For selfish reasons also, I like the feeling of owning something that no one else has.”

Miranda Kilbey

Singer-songwriter, Say Lou Lou

Why do you personally love shopping vintage?
Mainly for ethical and philosophical reasons and wanting to limit my participation in consumerism and fast fashion. So many beautiful, magical pieces already exist! Why make more and more and more? I love imagining who wore it before me, the life and history of the piece before it ended up in my closet.

What is your favourite vintage item?
This Japanese bolero, black nylon quilted, almost like the lining of an old military jacket but with a Matador jacket shape. I wear it with everything and it never creases or looks dirty.

When and where did you find this piece?
About two years ago in a store in L.A. called ReGeneration. I had been in the store for hours, trying on a bunch of dresses and suits. I was about to pay and spotted it last minute, pulled it out and didn’t even try it on; I just knew it was mine.

What are some of your favourite vintage shopping spots?
ReGeneration is great. It’s run by a lovely woman who’s super helpful and passionate. There’s always a bunch of 70s Issey Miyake, beautiful turn of the century underdresses and lots of 80s glam dresses and shoes. Designer vintage but reasonably priced. We also go to the Silver Lake market on Saturdays – there’s a bunch of stalls there that always have beautiful offerings like earthy linen, romantic dresses and classic Americana workwear. Found and Vision in London is lovely designer vintage, which is carefully selected and curated – we always walk away with something glam. And Rellik offers one of a kind designer vintage in pristine condition – super colourful, glam and out there.

Ilkin Kurt

Stylist / Fashion consultant

What do you personally love about shopping vintage?
I guess the most pleasurable thing about vintage is the learning process. In general, ‘vintage’ is something from the past of high quality and long-lasting value, especially something representing the best of its kind. So, the first thing you learn is how to pay attention to details. If you are a serious vintage lover and collector, it also means that you know a lot about fashion history … Before the 1970s – when polyester became king – and especially before the early 1950s, clothing was constructed to last. The end game with fashion was quality over quantity, which means that every vintage item comes with a story and has been made incredibly well. I divide vintage into two categories: Designer and Era. Both are a holistic joy.

What is your favourite vintage item?
I have a few. I really like this baroque style silk blouse from 1920s England. Handmade tailored lace blouses from my grandma’s 20s and a pair Gianni Versace heels, which is my favourite item of designer vintage ever.

When and where did you find this piece?
I purchased the GV Medusa chain heels from a collector in Paris. Apparently after launching Versace Haute Couture in 1989, Gianni V released a small portion of Medusa chain focused accessories to go with the couture pieces. And these heels were part of that collection!

What are some of your favourite vintage shopping spots? 
Unfortunately, my favourite ones are all overseas. Sielian’s Vintage in LA, Stella Dallas NYCLe Grand Strip, m.a.e in Brooklyn, Pretty Box in Paris, Neila Vintage and Design and La Mode Vintage.

“Every stitch, fabric choice, tailoring detail can tell you a lot about the specific era and its financial and cultural environment.”

Neada Deters

Founder, LESSE

Neada Deters

Founder, LESSE

Why do you personally love shopping vintage?
It’s better for our planet and wearing vintage forces one to take a more creative approach to getting dressed!

How do you feel it can help reduce planetary impact?
Buying vintage is the most sustainable way to shop … Some of the numbers on what it takes to produce just one pair of jeans are staggering, and it seems nonsensical not to consider vintage. Buying vintage also saves garments from being added to landfill. If you care about our planet, then consider shopping vintage instead of new.

What is your favourite vintage item?
A white oversized cotton Kenzo dress from the early- to mid-eighties, with these dreamy puff sleeves. It’s a piece that feels referenced by so many new designers, but nothing quite compares. The quality is incredible, which is true of so many vintage pieces. I also have a vintage patent leather faux croc bag from Courrèges that I will keep forever.

When and where did you find this piece?
I found the dress hidden away in a back room of a tiny vintage store in Rome a couple of years ago. The front of the store is all army surplus goods, but the tiny back room had pristine vintage designer goods from the 50s through to the 90s.

What are some of your favourite vintage shopping spots? Desert Vintage, Mixed Business, Lucia Zolea, eBay, Etsy, Object Limited.

“When you purchase something secondhand, you’re eliminating the carbon, water and energy that would have gone into producing something new.”

Anna Gray

Founder, Object Limited

Why do you personally love shopping vintage?
I do it for the thrill of the hunt! And because I like idiosyncrasy. It’s very rare to meet someone who has the same vintage piece as you (but when you do, it’s even more fun). Years of working in fashion also exposed me to the significant waste generated by fast fashion.

How do you feel it can help reduce planetary impact?
Our goal with Object Limited is to make secondhand shopping as accessible, fun and style-satisfying as big box stores. Being vocal about conscious consumerism is important to us – people can make better choices when they’re truly aware of their personal impact on the planet.

We all need things. It feels good to treat yourself to new pieces that improve an outfit and personify your individual style, but the impact of new production on the environment is truly horrifying. I read a statistic recently that companies made 100 billion pieces of clothing in 2015. There are only 7 billion people on the planet!

Buying secondhand is a form of recycling, and if everyone did it more often, then big companies would ultimately produce less waste.

What is your favourite vintage item?
This is a question I get a lot and it’s so hard to answer! It depends on the day – sometimes it’s my silk leopard print button down with shoulder pads and sometimes it’s something outrageous that’s only taken out once in a blue moon, like this hot pink cotton off-the-shoulder gown. Then again, sometimes it’s the antique ring passed down to me from my grandmother.

When and where did you find this piece?
The leopard print shirt I found on Etsy, I think. The gown I found while lost in Venice Italy, wandering around trying to find my way back to the hotel gondola. It was in a little shop run by two Italian men, who gave me an Aperol spritz and left me in the store to try everything on.

What are some of your favourite vintage shopping spots? 
Well first, of course, is Object Limited, because I believe we have the most beautiful stuff. Other favourites include Edith Machinist in NYC, The Bearded Beagle in LA, O. La Roche, Persephone Vintage, VSP Consignment in Toronto, Na Nin in Richmond, Nude Trump (I know, lol) in Tokyo, Vintalogy in Madrid … I really could go on forever.

“Keeping clothing in the ecosystem removes the guilt that often comes with retail therapy.”