In a single weekend, bicoastal attention throws a spotlight on vintage with trade shows and marketplaces, popping up on both the East and West Coasts with A Current Affair in Los Angeles and the Manhattan Vintage Show in New York City.
But while vintage shows have operated for decades in a similar capacity, today it captures the zeitgeist that is secondhand consumption. And in line with growing demand for secondhand, mainstream shoppers are increasingly apportioning new space to old clothes — including vintage. Where prior, it was only the boutique buyers, trendsetters and designers scouring shows like these for the best vintage pieces.
Founded in 2010, A Current Affair, will host its upcoming spring show in Los Angeles on April 6 and 7, with its New York show occurring May 11 and 12. A Current Affair represents a wide “cross-section of vintage sellers from across the globe,” showing three times a year in Los Angeles, twice a year in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area.
And on the East Coast, Manhattan Vintage Show will run April 5 and 6 at Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan, showcasing “over 80 of the country’s top vintage clothing, accessories and antique textile dealers under one roof.” The vintage marketplace captures the feeling of the early flea market as well as the pop-up experience, but today is enriched with a curator’s eye.
At a separate event, WWD spoke with Amy Abrams, cofounder and chief executive officer of Artists and Fleas, at her recent Vintage Showcase in SoHo to witness her community in action and learn how the vintage shopper is broadening to the mainstream.
Since 2003, Artists and Fleas has served as a marketplace for “makers and vintage curators” to be discovered and operates four touch-points across Los Angeles and New York. Artists and Fleas is celebrating its 15-year anniversary this year.
Rooted in Community
Before there was the pop-up shop or the curated marketplace, there was the flea market — with buyers swarming crowded stalls selling secondhand goods, usually outdoors, but not exclusively. It’s not a new concept, but as Abrams informs, the experience is reimagined, enriched for discovery and swathed around a broader audience today.
In its Vintage Showcase, Abrams said her goal is for “vintage and vintage shopping to be fun and playful for both experienced and new vintage shoppers.” Abrams added: “Marketplaces are a way of life where commerce, community and art interact,” and “marketplaces in one format or another will be around forever.” She also cites disposable consumption as waning and the purchasing of vintage offers a substitute being a “positive environmental impact and a unique, political statement.”
Even today, industry experts agree the “thrill of the hunt” entices nimble fingers to scour the racks for secondhand pieces at marketplaces. Be it vintage, used or up-cycled, today’s consumer is shifting consumption and ownership habits.
For vendor Natasha Halesworth, who founded The Consistency Project in 2017 in Oakland, Calif., with the goal of promoting a sustainable lifestyle through secondhand, Artists and Fleas serves as a physical presence for her online brand.
No longer a mystery, vintage is now mainstream.
“Vintage was once this very mystical genre of clothing,” said Halesworth, who is based in Brooklyn. She believes that with consumer education, sustainable options such as vintage will continue to drive demand, and it doesn’t have to be out of budget.
For boutique merchants and independent sellers, presences at marketplaces are a major gain for foot traffic and brand storytelling.
“Closet composition is changing,” according to Anthony Marino, president of ThredUp in an audio interview with WWD, and “resale is not a trend; it’s a shift in consumption.”
With 72 percent of secondhand shoppers shifting away from traditional retail, according to ThredUp’s latest resale report, secondhand fashion’s traction is akin to fast fashion, allowing the consumer the flexibility to rotate one’s wardrobe and maintain affordability.
Marino believes it’s the “beginning of the end of long-term ownership,” and retail needs to be proactive to this shift, whether by sifting out dead space to accommodate resale assortments, constructing brand cafés or materializing other creative solutions.
While fast fashion served as the crux to this noncommittal right of possession, secondhand substantialized it further.
Secondhand for Everyone
Regardless of generation, secondhand clothing is often consumed for its value. But both the appetite for experience and the growing interest in secondhand clothing was guided by Millennials, but unlike actual siblings, Gen Z graciously accepts Millennial “hand-me-downs.”
Gen Zers take the preceding generational values and run with it further. For this, the importance of the “marketplace” shopping experience, even rebirth of shopping malls, is realized.
Secondhand — including resale and vintage — will continue to drive changes in consumer shopping behavior, and at every iteration of retail, the problem becomes not whether to sell more stuff, but how to sell what is already there, better.