Credit: All but the first, last and feature pictures were taken from Designer Vintage Sale and Glamour Inc. Showroom’s Facebook pages.
Our increasing affluence is matched by a demanding clamour for endless shiny new things. More people can afford more clothes. Here are the good news and bad news for when materialism shakes off all restraints: Manufacturers generate enough clothing to keep everyone happy (other than a few human rights activists, who are hardly placated). Unfortunately, quality is compromised because it’s *hard* to multitask when labels have to keep up with the demand.
I am under the impression that many consumer products aren’t made to last, unlike the good ol’ days. Ask your parents, they probably own something older than you. They aren’t made to be had for the long haul either. Ask any iGroupie. The articles of clothing that make it to vintage status are the ones that age like fine wine. That is because the ones that age like milk have fallen apart or have been discarded in a fit of “What was I thinking?!”
I really don’t know the last thing about vintage. However, it doesn’t take long to catch on to the hallmarks of this relatively underground pursuit. Now, allow me to walk you through my first brush with vintage shopping at the 6-year-old Glamour Inc. Showroom:
1) Wandering into this vintage boutique is certainly worlds away from what most of us are used to. It looks like the wardrobe of a theatrical production, smells like a well-read book and feels like a museum. Most importantly, it holds the promise of carefully guarded treasures now released to the public, for a fixed price, not to the highest bidder. Here are some prints from the 14th edition of their Designer Vintage Sale (DVS):
Oh yes the exclusivity of a private preview sale! Less than 10 people were in the store, which makes for browsing your way into a zen-like mode. Do try to wiggle your way into one by stalking their social media. Or you could gun for going on a weekday morning or afternoon.
2) Admittedly, vintage shopping is an acquired taste. Unlike easily accessible malls and chain stores, it makes you work for your hauls. For one, vintage stores are few and far between, especially difficult to locate. The payoff begins once you know where to go. Patience begets the adventure of oohs and aahs. There will be plenty of surprises. First, you can’t believe something so sartorially perfect has been made, and is now woefully out of production. Second, you find something that was made for you. Third, you gleefully realise that you won’t see too many people strutting around in it. HA!
Glamour Inc. Showroom’s arsenal stocks a varied range of mid-end to high-end everything. Shirts, blouses, dresses, shoes, sunglasses, evening gowns, accessories, furs, bags, coats, hats, the delightfully random iPad covers, and more crammed into one store. Names include YSL, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Kate Spade, Prada, Garcons, Paul Smith, Christian Lacroix, Chomel, Louis Vuitton, Esprit, Topshop, Versace, Burberry… I could go on, but you catch my drift. Oh there was a sneaky Marni x H&M piece hiding in there.
3) Glamour Inc. Showroom is a haven for sharp, playful menswear, especially if you’re (or the guy you’re shopping for) is a size M. Fancy a well-tailored white dress shirt, or elusive eclectic prints? Give vintage a shot! It is possible to go for safe or edgy pieces without looking like most guys who wear the same tired trends.
4) Nifty gifts galore! When we shop for someone else, we are on the prowl for something that screams the person you have in mind. Or maybe what he or she would clearly enjoy. What better way than to demonstrate how much you understand (and spoil) someone by buying them something they won’t be able to procure easily on their own? It’s kind of like how F.R.I.E.N.D.S’ Chandler sourced the rare-to-the-point-of-obscurity first edition of his then-unrequited paramour’s favourite book The Velveteen Rabbit.
In the event that you are avoiding high-risk items like pants and shoes, there are plenty of trinkets that are sure to tickle somebody’s fancy. Expect gorgeous details and futuristic shapes. They’ve definitely nailed some memorable gold-meets-floral bracelets.
Bonus points if you’re shopping from somebody who was born, lived or breathed the eras that the vintage store stocks. It’s like retrieving something from a time capsule. Behind the appreciative nods lies the trigger of those days long gone, yet no longer that far away. Or if you’re the obsessive type, you could test your knowledge on major fashion houses, “Gucci. 1997. Fall collection.” *shudders*
If you guessed Christian Lacroix, you’re absolutely right! (And maybe a bit creepy)
5) If you’re stone broke, maybe you shouldn’t be shopping. Let’s say you’re only ‘broke’ in comparison to the price tags. You know everything in the store is out of your budget when the only things you can afford are the hangers. But not all is lost! Bargain bins are to budgets what Nutella is to Internet fandom (say where’s the PB & J cult?)
At Glamour Inc. Showroom, items with defects are priced at $10-$20. That being said, it requires some handiwork on the customer’s end. Arm yourself with the stain remover, sewing machine or deft needlework. Replace all the buttons if you will. Customise it. Restore it. You might even walk away with a maligned special snowflake that has no visible defect, if there was even any to begin with.
6) The sales staff are more like curators, taking pride in their extensive collection. It is their pleasure to give each piece a new home. Customers are clearly prioritised as they’ll hold on to the pieces you want so you can browse hands-free. Having the clothes you have mentally claimed folded and put aside at the counter is choping, but in a graceful manner. Because everybody does it. They’ll be keen to offer any assistance too, where their knowledge of what adorns the clothing racks comes in handy.
8) Now for the sheer pleasure of shopping. Even if it is just looking at things you can’t afford, it is a still a visually satisfying experience. It is also a wealth of inspiration by being a guide to creating classic, not dated looks. It could give you a few ideas on how to mix it up in your wardrobe. Perhaps a cheaper, similar rendition of that $500 Prada heels is floating around somewhere. Where do you think the high street stores steal all the looks from? One another?
After a while, you get the sense that vintage is as fine as it is kooky. It can get experimental. Also, you gotta love it when it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Deliciously so, because everyone loves a fruity Dolce:
Chances are, you would want to explore the Tiong Bahru enclave, not just hit a single store and call it a day. Take a cue from the military. Not so much dress the part, as it is dress FOR the part. Garb that best accomplishes the mission. Trawling the unevenly endowed terrain on a sticky Southeast Asian day will be unpleasant in fine fabric hanging limp on your skin, Jimmy Choo inches or barely-cushioned flats. Two hours and I experienced the kind of pain reserved for the flat-footed. Best to limit your ambition to great finds than parading around in them. Happy shopping!
Glamour Inc. Showroom is hiding at 59 Eng Hoon Street, #01-55, Tiong Bahru Estate. Catch them on Facebook for updates at http://www.facebook.com/Glamour.Vintage. The 14th DVS ends on 5 August 2012 (oops!) However, they open for business all week from 11am to 6pm. Be there or be square.
Actually, if anybody calls you a square, just tell them the word they’re looking for is ‘vintage’.