To understand vintage fashion, we need to look back to the pre-1960s, when everyone, young and old, dressed pretty much the same. It is probably in the succeeding generation of the mid/late 1960s, when aesthetic rebellion came to the forefront, that we can mark a surge in the popularity of second-hand clothes. Not to be frugal or because hand-me-downs were the only available thing to you, but because it was cool. In time, ‘second-hand’ became ‘vintage’ and eventually your dad’s old denim jacket was the coolest thing in your wardrobe.
So, of course, vintage fashion isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. Nonetheless, the internet, as it has with most things, has revolutionised the way we use, understand and buy second-hand clothes. Vintage shopping online is perfect for those who don’t have the time and can be put-off by the thought of literally going through someone’s dirty laundry in the hope of finding a gem. There’s also the added benefit of search engines, recommended buys and filters, meaning no more sifting through stale-smelling, mysteriously-stained clothes.
This combination of over half a century’s worth of fashion and the internet’s influence has made the amount of thrift shops, vintage markets, £5 kilo pop-up sales rather overwhelming, particularly in East London. Here, however, I want to argue that, whilst the novelty of vintage markets can be momentarily exciting, online shopping is the best way to shop for second-hand clothes. Anyone who has wandered over to Brick Lane on a Sunday afternoon will understand the panic-inducing environment of its underground vintage markets. For most of us, the sheer volume of clothes, accessories, art, food and, most disconcertingly, people, can be a bit of an attack on the senses.
Although there is a plethora of online sites that will satisfy your vintage cravings: Rokit, Depop, Ebay to name a few, my choice, every time, is ASOS Marketplace. In 2010 ASOS, or As Seen On Screen, launched ASOS Marketplace: a platform for small boutiques and start-up clothing ranges to sell their goods all in one place. Much like its mother company, you do have to sift through a lot of stuff on Marketplace to find some gold, but if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll undoubtedly find something individual, fashionable and reasonably priced. Not only this, but the Edits and Popular Now sections will provide you with inspiration and narrow down your searches – not to mention the different search engines and filters available to help you focus your mooching. This is the main attraction for me, at least, of choosing ASOS Marketplace over Brick Lane.
As with most vintage fashion companies, ASOS Marketplace is keen to promote its ethical values. With the fashion industry being the second most polluting industry globally, shopping vintage is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint as it helps reduce waste and unnecessary clothing production. It’s also why ASOS’s environmental awareness is so important: with the main site even running an ‘Eco Edit’ which features organic clothes and fair-trade brands and also a ‘Sustainable Sourcing Programme’ which is applied across the ASOS groups. They also advocate for other important issues within the fashion industry like body positivity, with many boutiques and brands using a diverse range of models and minimal use of Photoshop. They also have a zero-tolerance policy on the sale of counterfeit goods with their ‘Fashion Not Fakes’ campaign, and have strict regulations in place surrounding the use of leather, furs and suede with ‘Fashion Police [who] patrol the site constantly’ to make sure illegal animal products aren’t circulated on Marketplace. For these, and so many other reasons, when the novelty of East London vintage shopping wears off, online vintage shopping will always be there for you. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your bed. So, save yourself some time, money and anxiety and utilise the internet for your next vintage haul.