The future of clothes shopping is going back in time

Liat is checking out a large rack of denim shorts in one of Tel Aviv’s larger vintage stores, already holding a black beaded corset top she plans to buy. 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 I can buy them new. And I feel that a lot of people I know shop at the same couple of stores and buy the same things. I don’t want to go somewhere and find 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 Israel’s population evidently feels the same. Which is why on shopping streets across the country, and in particular in fashion-forward Tel Aviv, vintage clothing stores are opening up , and thriving, alongside the regular boutiques.

Resale is integral to the future of retail. It is set to outsell fast fashion within 10 years, according to fashion world experts. Over the last three years, sales of preowned clothing have grown 21 times faster than mainstream retail clothing. The global secondhand fashion market is said to be worth $130 billion. It’s predicted to hit $218 billion by 2026.

A vintage store curates its clothes collection with care. Clothing is officially vintage” once it is over 20 years old. Labels and quality are important. Retailers source their items from around the world. They may travel to find them, or buy from suitable items closer to home.

Right now the majority of vintage clothing is from the seventies, eighties and nineties.  Once it is over 100 years old, clothing becomes antique, which is an entirely different market. Prices for vintage clothing will be well below a new equivalent, and there are extreme bargains out there, but vintage clothing stores are not a social enterprise — they are like regular retailers, and can be just as profitable. Globally, the market for vintage clothing is expected to rise from $119 billion this year to $218 billion in 2026. The mark-up on individual items can easily be 80 to 90 percent.

(It is important to distinguish between thrift shops and vintage stores. The former are often run by charities, and receive donations of clothes from the public which they then put onto 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 the profits to helping women and children at risk.)

‘Vintage’ for a reason

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

Asked how she decides what to stock, Yedidya says, “I choose the clothes according to several parameters — quality, style, years, types of fabrics. I see vintage as the preservation of fashion history and as a personal fashion statement of the wearer. You can always buy fast fashion at cheap prices with a click – but in that world everyone wears the same thing.

“As a woman who comes from the world of styling and image making, it is important to me to engage in fashion with value and quality,” she declares. “A garment that has survived 30 years or more meets the definition of vintage for a reason. It has been well preserved because of the quality of the fabric, the sewing and the person who looked after it.”

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

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

Not every real-life vintage store survived the COVID lockdowns, and some veterans of Tel Aviv’s vintage scene seem permanently to have closed their doors. But there are at least a dozen vintage stores scattered through the city, and stores are opening up elsewhere — in Haifa, Jerusalem, Pardes Hana, Even Yehuda, Herzliya, Or Yehuda, and Beit Shemesh for example.

For those without a vintage store within easy reach, there are Hebrew-only vintage groups across Facebook and Instagram. They offer hundreds of items for sale each day, to thousands of members. Over the last few weeks, among many 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 Kibbutz shirt, more pricey at NIS 480 ($140).

Global online marketplaces such as Depop, Vinted (which doesn’t deliver to Israel at this point) and eBay, which offer vintage clothing through peer-to-peer selling, have grown phenomenally. Depop now boasts 26 million users in 150 countries, 90% of them under the age of 26, with 32 million items for sale and up to 140,000 new listings each day. It is no longer a marginal retailer.

Addictive browsing

While many choose to make purchases online, there’s nothing quite like the experience of entering the Aladdin’s cave that is the vintage store and emerging with something truly unique and beloved.

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

The vintage shopping process of hunting through clothes, each item different and available in one size only, can become addictive. Some 65% of those who bought their first thrifted item a year ago want to quit fast fashion, and Israel’s diverse offering of vintage possibilities makes that a straightforward swap. In research looking at the behavior of Generation Z and millennials (those born between 1983 and 2003) globally, 45% say they refuse to buy from non-sustainable brands and retailers, and over 40% have shopped for secondhand clothes, shoes or accessories in the last year.

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

Better.be.second is run by Or Ben Ami Adar, who shops exclusively at vintage stores, sharing her looks with more than 9,000 followers, while Emily Gal intersperses vintage looks with videos of her vegan recipes.

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

In place of racks of the same outfit in different colors and sizes, Tel Aviv’s vintage stores encourage consumers to pick a color and explore it, or to identify an item they need and browse to find the right option. Every shop is different, although they understand where their customers like to hang out online, and therefore share a trend for advertising 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 according to weight. There are scales to check the price before you buy.

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 extended into a second shop a few doors further down on King George Street.

Beyond its multicolored entrance, it offers mainstream vintage clothing options from the fifties to the nineties, and some upcycled old pieces (where older clothes are converted into those that are fashionable 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 is Aderet/Argaman that truly shows the range that vintage can cover.

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

Designer dress in 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 a back corner you will often see bags of new stock, waiting to be evaluated; the only certainty is that what’s in those bags will be different from what is already out in the shop. Vintage store customers almost always buy a number of items, knowing they won’t find the same for less elsewhere and that there’s no chance of coming back another day to find the same things again.

There is no sign yet that the appetite for regular shopping is slacking in Israel. The malls remain busy, and they continue to expand.

But as the age group that worries about fashion’s sustainability grows up and comes to dominate the buying market, the vintage clothing scene looks set to keep growing.