Oxfam Fashion Interview: The Future of Vintage Fashion

Whether or not you call it a trend, vintage fashion has clearly made a resurgence over the last few years. Of course there are the vintage trends on the high street, but more and more people are actually choosing to seek out the real thing second-hand. This is of course sustainable, encouraging the principles of recycle, make do and mend. Oxfam have done a fantastic job at making vintage fashions cool again, far more so than any other charity shop. They regularly take their second-hand pop-up shops to festivals and events, as I saw first hand when I went to the Clothes Show with them last December. To find out more I spoke to Thea of the Oxfam Fashion team:

1. Do you think vintage fashion is a passing trend or a permanent shift in people’s shopping habits?

The good thing about vintage is that it is effectively never out of style, although vintage trends can often change according with what is ‘in vogue’. For instance the collections of Gucci, Miu Miu, and Jonathan Saunders for A/W 11 heavily referenced the 1940’s and 1960’s. Go back a couple of years ago in 2006, however, and Alexander McQueen was referencing Nineteenth Century bodice jackets, whilst Marc by Marc Jacobs played with both twenties and sixties silhouettes.

Moving away from high design onto the high street, the pattern of consuming second-hand and vintage items is certainly widespread. Looking at vogue.co.uk’s street style section, a majority of those stopped wear a mix of high street and vintage or second-hand to create their unique looks.

In my opinion, fashion almost always plunders previous era’s for inspiration, but the high street also relies on vintage trends to create their collections and encourage buyers to invest in particular era’s according to the trends of the season.

Whilst popular vintage trends certainly affect people’s shopping habits and the acquisition of certain items, vintage clothes themselves retain a certain wearability, as they can be stored, passed down through generations, and re-worn at a later date. This is why I believe that vintage will not loose its desirability or its place in people’s shopping habits.

2. Do you think there has been a shift in consumer’s perceptions of charity shops and wearing second-hand pieces?

A recent survey produced by Charity finance which highlights that profits in the charity retail sector have risen by 12% (the third consecutive year charity shops have reported a rise in profit in this survey), suggests that consumer perceptions to charity shops are certainly changing. Whilst some may point to the recession to this rise, it is also my belief that it is not just austerity which drives people to charity shops. Charity shops are certainly upping the ante when it comes to changing the face of second-hand clothing, and I believe that the creativeness enacted by the charity sector in creating specialist stores, (such as the Oxfam and the Red Cross Boutiques, and the Oxfam shops at festivals) are examples of presenting second-hand clothing in an attractive way in order to persuade previously disinterested shoppers into charity shops.

3. Does Oxfam fashion have any exciting plans for 2012?

Oxfam Fashion is currently working on a number of exciting projects. We are also really looking forward to Oxfam’s Clothing Conference where we will hear talks from Frip Ethique, and learn more about what happens to our clothing beyond the charity shop. London Fashion week, International Women’s Day, and Fairtrade Fortnight, are also all things we will be involved in, and look forward to! To learn more see @oxfamfashion where we keep our followers updated on all our goings-on!

Follow the Oxfam Fashion blog: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/applications/blogs/fashion/

Post to Twitter

What motivates you to shop second hand?

To buy and sell second hand counters many labels that mark out a consumer society – consumerism, materialism and the desire for something new. There are many outlets for purchasing second hand items – charity shops, car boot sales, Ebay, vintage/antique shops, local classified ads etc, with of course saving money as a key motivator. That said, cost is not the only motivator, particularly when it comes to vintage fashions or antique furniture which are desirable for their authenticity and uniqueness (making them often more expensive than purchasing new).

Research on the subject of second hand consumption is sparse (cue moi) but a French consumer study by Guiot and Roux (2010) did attempt to list the motivational factors, which are as follows,

1. Search for fair price
2. Gratificative role of price
3. Distance from the system
4. Ethics and ecology
5. Originality
6. Nostalgic pleasure
7. Treasure hunting
8. Social contact

As you can see, price and the pleasure gained for capturing a bargain comes first. Indeed it has been suggested by other researchers that ‘getting a bargain’ is more important than the actual item bought. How often have you heard someone say, ‘I got a great bargain!’ before they even say what they have bought. In terms of buying second hand, this is not such a bad thing, but purchasing new items just because they are a bargain (as so many of us do) is more worrying.

‘Distance from the system’ is the idea that by buying second hand you are shunning mass materialism and brand advertising and going against the grain. Consumers who shop second hand primarily for this reason will go out of their way not to line the pockets of multi national corporations. It links to the concept of recycling and reusing for the sake of the environment, indeed if you can get it second hand why add to the waste in the world by buying new?

Then there is the satisfaction of ‘treasure hunting’. This might be pleasure gained from simply rooting out a bargain, or it might be hours/weeks/years spent looking for a collector’s item. The rise of the vintage fashion store means that it is now fashionable to wear garments from the past, and why not when new garments in store are simply reinventing the fashions of previous decades. Real vintage pieces are authentic, unique and have an inbuilt biography. This is where social contact can provide more than could ever be gained from a first cycle exchange. At car boot sales for example, buyers and sellers can discuss previous histories and find a common bond over goods. Although this history can work both ways, with a key reason given by shoppers for not going into vintage or charity shops being that they don’t know where an item has been before and who has owned it. And this is seen by many as an inherently ‘risky’ activity.

Guiot, D. and Roux, D., 2010. A Second-hand Shoppers’ Motivation Scale: Antecedents, Consequences, and Implications for Retailers. Journal of Retailing, 86(4), pp. 355-371

Post to Twitter