If hip-hop’s your thing, then you’ve seen that video. That Wu-Tang Clan vid for Can It Be All So Simple, the one that defined 90s hip-hop. If you haven't seen that video, you’ve definitely seen that jacket.
Well, anyway, it’s a navy, red and yellow pullover that now fetches up to a grand. Ralph Lauren even re-released it earlier this year, prompting Lo-heads to race to stores with the devotion of Cher Horowitz to yellow tartan.
Ralph Lauren’s Snow Beach Collection (the collection that, 25 years ago, blessed NYC with said jacket) was the thing to wear in ’93. This primary colourway became the defining wallpaper in the hip-hop hall of fame. Head to toe Polo was the total dogs. Actually, it still is.
That’s one of the reasons why the global resale market is predicted to be worth $41 billion by 2022. We can’t get enough vintage. We’re buying more second hand clothes than ever before, and (unlike when we hit the high street) we’re buying to keep.
Intrigued as to why we’re looking backwards for wardrobe inspiration, I had a chat with Ed Perkin, founder of vintage clothing reseller Emporium Supply. Hunting out one-off vintage pieces with luxury labels, Ed puts together an iconic look that runs consistently throughout everything he sells (and wears himself). This is an irresistible blend of the two things we’re hooked on - luxury and vintage. 20 years ago, the idea that one item could be both of those things was as impossible as a sixth spice girl. But now, among few others, Emporium Supply is leading the way for a new kind of vintage shopping. We’re talking exclusive, fun clothing that’s been loved for years for a reason. Shopping at Emporium isn't the thrift store rummage that’s synonymous with the words ‘second hand clothes’ (recall the hour-upon-hour spent in Barnardo’s single-handedly shifting through M&S floral cardigans, in attempt to find a gem that might or might not even be there). But it doesn’t have to be like that anymore. ‘Cause - wahey - Ed’s done the rummaging for you. That’s the charm.
Having sifted out the dodgy cardies, Emporium Supply is proving that second-hand clothing doesn’t mean naff quality. In fact, often, vintage means a premium label for half the price. 66% of vintage shoppers say they buy second-hand to grab a piece with a price tag that’s only a fraction of what it once was. And, added bonus, your friends definitely won't have one the same. Cue intense outfit envy. Instant relief from any niggling concern that you may-or-may-not-be dressed just like every other 20-something in the surrounding area. With 18-24 year olds being both the most avid trend followers but also the lowest earners, it makes sense that, last year, 40% bought vintage.
But this sweeping shift in the way we shop goes way beyond convenience. There’s something irresistible about that effortless, i-dont-give-a-fuck cool that only old clothes have. Shopping vintage is a new rebellion. Okay, weird, but hear me out. The takeover of second-hand apparel is totally destroying the fast fashion industry - which, coincidentally, is doing a pretty good job of destroying the planet :). We’re pretty tuned in to how the production of clothing harms the environment and the people in it, (if you’re not, go watch The True Cost. Or even just the trailer. Bring tissues). Buying pre-owned clothes is a guilt free wardrobe update, and luxury vintage breaks the mould for sustainable apparel (this isn’t ‘organic beige linen trousers & tunic’ sustainable). Sought after second-hand stuff is the epitome of rebellion against a system of high speed consumerism that’s been built by an overnight revolution of the fashion industry. We’re young, skint and trained to frantically chase after every cheap high-street trend, devotedly sprinting at the heels of the industry’s glossed-up advertisement bait (picture Amancio Ortega* with a fishing rod, and you at the other end of it). But, its 2018, and Gen Z won't be anyone’s catch. Looking insanely cool in a one-off outfit that hasn’t fed high-street fashion decidedly sticks two fingers up to a globally destructive consumer system. And that’s kind of what our generation is about, right?
*Amancio Ortega, founder of Inditex (i.e. Zara, Pull&Bear, Bershka) & richest man in Europe