Businesses in Shoreditch have proved that there are ways of riding out the recession: by providing cheap clothes for savvy shoppers.
Fashion being fickle, shoppers who are tired of wearing the same as everyone else have honed in on vintage shopping.
“At some point, everything has become the same and people want something unique, something different. Some of our clients even find the mass-produced fashion vulgar,” said Angela Jamison, manager of Absolute Vintage in Shoreditch, a secondhand store that boasts one of the largest shoes collections in the UK.
More than a 1,000 pairs of previously owned shoes lined up in rainbow order fill up the boutique, where a pair of Bruno Magli pumps in good condition can be purchased for £22, although style and character come before brand names at this eclectic shop.
“My friends and I come here at least once a month to check out the new stock,” said Sakurai Keiko, 19, a design student, perusing rack after rack of vintage dresses at Blondie, the sister shop of Absolute Vintage at Commercial Street.
It is hard to establish exact sales figure as the vintage shops tend to be small business operated on small scale, but business is also brisk at Rokit and Beyond Retro, two of the leading pioneers in Shoreditch, a popular destination for secondhand shopping.
“I’ve only just started shopping at vintage stores actually, but there are so many different choices, and I like how it is like going through the attic of my grandmother,” said a shopper at Beyond Retro. “But it also means that these clothes and accessories are getting a new life, with me.”
Given the ethical and environmental advantages to recycling clothes, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is promoting “reusing clothing at end of life on the second hand market” as part of its Sustainable Clothing Action Plan.
According to the plan updated last month, about 2 million tonnes of clothing, worth £23 billion, are purchased per annum in United Kingdom, and 1.5 to 2 million tonnes of clothing waste is generated, only 16 percent of which is recovered.
A report published Wednesday by Waste and Resources Programme, a government watchdog, supports this. Annual expenditure worth £143 billion on goods could have been used for longer. Clothing, for example, is only being used for an average of 66 per cent of its potential lifespan. Using items for their full lifespan would save consumers £47 billion a year, it is claimed.
Faced with the current bleak economy, many retailers have been seriously hit. Topshop owner Sir Phillip Green said they are facing “one of the most challenging retail landscapes”, yet some of the industry are reporting excellent sale figures.
Earlier this week, discount clothes giant Primark posted £252 million profit, an 8 percent rise from last year, and Marks and Spencer also reported a small gain in profit as well as a £60 million bonus pot for its staff.
Fast fashion and high street fashion has already become “high fashion”, especially with the numerous limited edition collaborations with designers and celebrities. This month alone, GAP unveiled its kids collection designed by Stella McCartney and H&M will launch bags and shoes by Jimmy Choo next weekend.
However, with global warming an ever-present figure in the news, it could be time to look at different ways of shopping.