Instagram Meets Ethics: The Influencers Making Vintage Shopping Easy

Buy the most perfect dress – and don't feel bad about it. Alice Casely-Hayford surveys the vintage Instagram scene

Vintage influencers

by Alice Casely-Hayford |

Once, vintage shopping meant trawling through musty rails at a second-hand store or car boot sale. Now it’s as easy as the tap of a finger, thanks to the rise of vintage dealers, fashion editors and influencers on Instagram, selling a personal curation of pre-loved fashion finds on their feeds.

The movement makes sense. With a million tonnes of clothes disposed of every year in the UK and over 20% of that ending up in landfill, the idea of buying pre-loved clothing is ever more appealing. Even more so if you can do it in just a few easy swipes.

Charon Cooijmans, founder of @theceiling.shop – which offers ’80s and ’90s vintage – was one of the pioneers of the booming vintage Insta scene. Having worked as a model for a decade, initially her Instagram account was a way of upcycling her personal vintage collection. ‘After living in Paris and New York, I returned home and based myself in Amsterdam. Over the years, I collected so many beautiful pieces that I thrifted from all over,’ she remembers, of setting it up in December 2017. Today, she sources pieces direct for the account – with highlights including Céline mules, a YSL slip dress and Versace oval sunnies.

‘With The Ceiling, I want to offer a curated selection of vintage with an edge; pieces that you’ll keep for a long time, or better, a lifetime. Pieces you want to wear over and over. It’s not necessary to desire new things all the time.’

Buying vintage directly via Instagram, where the sellers often model, photograph and style the items themselves, perhaps makes sense – not least because you can correspond directly with the dealer about what piece you’re looking for. ‘Obviously, I know [my regular customers’] sizes and preferences, but I’m also up to date on their holiday destinations, pregnancies and other highlights that need special occasion dressing,’ Charon explains.

The majority of traders will post new items at specific times, so find out when these are and turn on your notifications so you don’t miss out

It’s a similar story at @retold_vintage, which was spawned from a love of vintage matched with a desire to offer a fast fashion substitute. ‘I was going through a period of change in my consumer values after leaving a high-street retailer job I’d had for 15 years, and I was turning to vintage more as an alternative to buying new,’ London-based founder Clare Lewis explains.

Offering ‘a mix of tailored blazers and trousers, as well as gorgeous blouses that you can throw on with jeans,’ Retold is perfect for anyone with a penchant for ’90s minimalism and a muted colour palette. ‘I know when I’ve discovered a treasure, I can’t wait to share it with all my followers [17K and counting]. But there are also times when my customers really surprise me. Sometimes I post items I may not have been so sure about, and the response is amazing. Each time, I learn a little bit more about what they’d like to see and it takes me out of my comfort zone.’

For those daunted by the prospect of shopping for vintage virtually, Clare Lewis has tips to ensure you make the best purchases. ‘The majority of traders will post new items at specific times, so find out when these are and turn on your notifications so you don’t miss out. Invest in a tape measure and know your measurements. Most vintage traders will describe the garment in inches/ cm rather than standard sizes.’ And find the ‘vint-influencer’, who suits your style.

Queen of the printed dress, for example, stylist and fashion editor Florrie Thomas, announced last month that she would be selling vintage dresses that she’s collected throughout her career through her Instagram @florriet. ‘Unfortunately, we’ve all been programmed to love the thrill of the new, which is something I battle with as much as the next person. Aside from the obvious advice to buy less and be conscious of choosing better quality pieces that aren’t simply fads, buying something that has had a life before is a way of indulging in something new whilst recycling.’

But for all the pros of Instagram vintage dealers, Florrie does warn buyers that they might need to be willing to adapt their purchase. ‘Don’t be afraid to buy things that need taking up or in. I use my local dry cleaner for this,’ she explains. ‘A lot of the ’70s sweeping dresses I’m selling look more modern when they’re taken up to show a little ankle, and this can normally be done very inexpensively.’

If you are looking to try before you buy, however, peer-to-peer social shopping app Depop has just opened a space in the Selfridges Designer Studio. The pop-up, open until the end of October, features a curation of Depop’s top sellers, introducing their otherwise digital inventories to people in the real world. Throughout September, they will ‘introduce a roster of individuals who are focused on upcycling, reworking and extending the life of garments within a sustainability narrative’, Peter Semple, Depop’s chief marketing officer, tells Grazia.

However you chose to find your vintage treasures, though, as Florrie Thomas affrms, ‘the thrill of finding and wearing something totally unique is really like no other’.

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