The future of clothing shopping goes back in time

Liat checks out a large rack of denim shorts at one of Tel Aviv’s biggest vintage stores, already clutching a black beaded corset she’s considering buying. She says she is a regular vintage shopper.

“Sustainability is something that bothers me. But also I can find good brands of jeans in a vintage store for about a third of the price at which I can buy them new. And I feel like a lot of people I know shop at the same stores and buy the same things. I don’t want to go somewhere and find that I’m wearing the same thing as someone else. If I buy vintage, that won’t happen.

A large and growing proportion of the younger part of the Israeli population obviously feels the same way. That’s why on the country’s shopping streets, and especially in avant-garde Tel Aviv, vintage clothing stores are springing up and thriving alongside the usual boutiques.

Resale is an integral part of the future of retail. According to experts in the fashion world, it is expected to surpass fast fashion within 10 years. Over the past three years, second-hand clothing sales have grown 21 times faster than traditional retail clothing. The global market for second-hand fashion would represent 130 billion dollars. It is expected to reach $218 billion by 2026.

A vintage store organizes its clothing collection carefully. Clothes are officially “vintage” once they are over 20 years old. Labels and quality are important. Retailers source items from around the world. They can travel to find them or buy suitable items closer to home.

Currently, the majority of vintage clothing is from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Once they are over 100 years old, the clothes become antiques, which is a whole different market. Prices for vintage clothing will be much lower than a new equivalent, and there are extreme bargains, but vintage clothing stores aren’t a social enterprise – they’re like regular retailers and can be just as profitable. Globally, the vintage clothing market is expected to grow from $119 billion this year to $218 billion in 2026. The markup on individual items can easily reach 80-90%.

(It’s important to distinguish between thrift stores and vintage stores. The former are often run by charities and receive donations of clothing from the public which they then place on shelves and rails and sell at discounted prices. The Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) has stores like this across Israel, including one in Tel Aviv at 35 King George Street, donating profits to help at-risk women and children.)

“Vintage” for a reason

Maayan Yedidya is considered one of the leaders of the vintage movement in Israel. She runs her business from Rosh Pina as a physical outlet and Instagram-based online studio. Over the past seven years, she has built up a large and loyal clientele.

When asked how she decides what to store, Yedidya replies: “I choose clothes based on several parameters: quality, style, years, types of fabrics. I see vintage as the preservation of fashion history and as the wearer’s personal fashion statement. You can still buy cheap fast fashion with the click of a button – but in this world, everyone wears the same thing.

“As a woman from the world of styling and image-making, it’s important to me to engage in fashion with value and quality,” she says. “A garment that has survived 30 years or more meets the definition of vintage for a reason. It has been well preserved due to the quality of the fabric, the stitching and the person who maintained it.

Vintage outfit, Rosh Pina, September 2022 (Fawa Vintage)

Vintage outfit, Rosh Pina, September 2022 (Fawa Vintage)

Not all real-life vintage stores have survived the COVID lockdowns, and some veterans of Tel Aviv’s vintage scene appear to have closed their doors for good. But there are at least a dozen vintage stores dotted around the city, and shops are opening elsewhere – in Haifa, Jerusalem, Pardes Hana, Even Yehuda, Herzliya, Or Yehuda and Beit Shemesh for example.

For those who don’t have a vintage store handy, there are Hebrew-only vintage groups on Facebook and Instagram. They offer hundreds of items for sale every day, to thousands of members. Over the past few weeks, among other things, they’ve had a Gucci bag for NIS 100 ($29), a pair of Christian Dior-branded slides for NIS 50 ($15), and a more expensive Kibbutz shirt at NIS 480 ( $140).

Global online marketplaces such as Depop, Vinted (which currently do not ship to Israel) and eBay, which offer vintage clothing through peer-to-peer selling, have seen phenomenal growth. Depop now has 26 million users in 150 countries, 90% of whom are under the age of 26, with 32 million items on sale and up to 140,000 new listings every day. It is no longer a fringe retailer.

Addictive browsing

While many choose to shop online, there’s nothing quite like the experience of walking into Aladdin’s cave that is the vintage store and coming out with something truly unique and like.

A glimpse through the window of vintage Tel Aviv store Hayo Haya on Ben Yehuda Street, August 2022. (Danielle Nagler/Times of Israel)

The vintage shopping process of researching clothes, with each item being different and available in one size, can become addictive. Some 65% of those who bought their first second-hand item a year ago want to ditch fast fashion, and Israel’s diverse vintage offering makes it an easy swap. In a study looking at the behavior of Gen Z and Millennials (those born between 1983 and 2003) around the world, 45% say they refuse to buy from unsustainable brands and retailers, and more than 40% bought second-hand clothes, shoes or accessories in the last year.

Social media influencers are also injecting energy and excitement into Israel’s growing vintage sector. Maya Oshri Cohen (who describes herself as a fashion journalist and vintage blogger) has more than 43,000 followers on Instagram and also has a popular TikTok page where she and her friends pose in vintage finds from all over Israel.

Better.be.second is run by Or Ben Ami Adar, who buys exclusively from vintage stores, sharing her looks with over 9,000 followers, while Emily Gal alternates vintage looks with videos of her vegan recipes.

Color-coded clothes racks at a vintage store in Tel Aviv, August 2022. (Danielle Nagler/Times of Israel)

Instead of racks of the same outfit in different colors and sizes, vintage stores in Tel Aviv encourage shoppers to pick a color and explore it, or identify an item they need and browse to find the right option . Each store is different, although they understand where their customers like to hang out online, and therefore share a tendency to advertise via social media rather than more traditional platforms.

At Buy Kilo on Tel Aviv’s Herzl Street, clothes are color-coded (based on value), each color has a price per kilo, and you pay by weight. There are scales to check the price before buying.

Buy Kilo vintage store on Herzl Street, Tel Aviv, August 2022 (Danielle Nagler/Times of Israel)

Flashback is Tel Aviv’s largest vintage store, and has overflowed and expanded into a second store a few doors down King George Street.

Beyond its multicolored entrance, it offers mainstream vintage clothing options from the 50s to the 90s, and some upcycled vintage pieces (where older clothes are converted into those that are in fashion today by remaking them ) for those looking for the latest trends.

Tel Aviv’s largest vintage store, Flashback, on King George Street, August 2022. (Danielle Nagler/Times of Israel)

But it’s Aderet/Argaman that really shows the range that vintage can cover.

Jointly owned and located next to each other on Bograshov, Aderet sells everyday vintage clothing, priced around NIS 30 to NIS 80. Next door, in Argaman, designer brands are on display. You can find a hand-painted silk skirt for NIS 450 ($131) or a Marchesa evening dress for NIS 350 ($102).

Designer dress at Argaman Vintage Store, Tel Aviv, August 2022 (Danielle Nagler/Times of Israel)

Although the clothes racks in many vintage stores are full, often crammed in, in a back corner you’ll often see bags of new stock, waiting to be appraised; the only certainty is that what’s in these bags will be different from what’s already in store. Customers in vintage stores almost always buy a certain number of items, knowing that they won’t find the same one for less elsewhere and that there is no chance of coming back another day to find the same things.

There is no indication yet that the appetite for regular shopping is slackening in Israel. Shopping malls remain busy and continue to expand.

But as the age group concerned about the sustainability of fashion grows and dominates the shopping market, the vintage clothing scene looks set to continue growing.

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