It is undeniable that the second hand trend has arrived in Europe. From Kreuzberg to Camden, the number of second hand stores seems to rise each day, as well as the number of online sites, offering second hand or "vintage" clothing. Personally, I try to avoid the term "vintage" since I still can't really tell the difference between nice, already worn clothes and vintage clothes. It sometimes seems to me that stores only use the term to justify higher prices.
Thinking about the pros and cons of online second hand shops and "real life" stores I decided to ask someone closely in contact with the subject matter about her opinion on the new trend and about her online competition. Kindly agreeing to do an interview in her own store "Edel-Second" in Rosenstraße 29 in Stuttgart Mitte, I got the chance to look behind the scenes of a very new business trend with an suprisingly profound history.
V: When and why did you decide to open your own second hand store?
B: I decided to open the store in 2001 because as I was walking through the city I noticed that there only existed chain stores with a very simliar offer. Let's say you had a special occasion coming up and wanted to have something unique, it could likely happen that someone else was wearing the same thing. At a second hand store, however, especially a high quality second hand store, where the garments are still barely worn and one of a kind pieces, everyone has access to extraordinary products. After this realization I just asked everyone I knew if they had things in their closets they didn't wear anymore and that were still in good condition.
V: Where do you get new clothing from and how does the second hand system work?
B: I fortunately get the garments from clients that also shop here. You often start to chat while they are looking through the racks and some clients mention "I have something similar at home". Then I just tell them to bring it by my store some day. When they do so I ask them what kind of price they have in mind. There for instance were these Dolce & Gabana pants that had been a few years old but never been worn - you can tell if something is still new by the tag - we agreed to a price and the client got 70 Euros for the pants after they had been sold. The clients who bring me clothes also get a bill of delivery, which says "if the garment is not sold or taken back within one year it will be donated to welfare services".
V: What piece of clothing in your store represents your and your store's identity best?
B: I really can't tell you one specific piece of clothing, since there are so many interesting and unusual ones. There's for example this amazing Haute Couture jacket by Escada or this Haute Couture white velvet coat by Alberta Ferretti. Not to forget this leather skirt by Issey Miyake, which is probably about 15 years old - all of these are pieces, that you won't find anywhere else and that are one of a kind by now. I really don't want ordinary clothes or accessories because I'm not ordinary as well.
V: How was your initial reaction hearing about the success and trend of online second hand stores?
B: In the beginning it did worry me a bit. I thought everyone only shops in the internet nowadays, no matter whether they buy books or shoes. A lot of brands are offering special deals like "buy one get one free", which I have to admit created a certain insecurity, almost fear, if I could continue exsisting in the future. The great advantage of my store, however, is that you can try on anything you like, create your own outfit pairings and even have a nice little chat. There are even new friendships made and clients come back again and again.
V: What do you think are other advantages of a real life store in comparison to an online shop? What are disadvantages?
B: A big disadvantage of my store compared to an online store is, that especially the young generation spends a lot of their time online and is thereby aware of the incredibly low prices and the wide range of products offered, which I can't keep up with. Still, the big advantage of my store is, that if a young person falls in love with one of my pieces and maybe even finds a second one, we can still talk about the price and I can give him a discount or we can agree on him paying it in two or three instalments.
V: Have you ever thought about creating your own online shop in addition to your store?
B: Some of my friends did actually suggest I should launch an online store, but I am still against it and simply do not want it.
V: You stick to your unique concept then?
B: Exactly, I love my store and want people to come to me and not to a virtual site.
V: What does the future hold for the second hand movement?
B: I think that the second hand movement will continue growing in the future, since it offers a way of having access to unique pieces you wouldn't normally find on the highstreet or couldn't afford full price. This is also why I decided to start a high quality second hand store, which mostly sells designer lables and antique accessories and why I promise myself a bright future. I am constantly getting in new and better pieces - let's hope it will continue this way!
V: Thank you for taking the time!
B: You're welcome, it was my pleasure.
(The interview was translated from German)
About the respondent: Brigitte Durst has been working in the beauty and fashion industry since she was 12 years old, starting as a hairstylist, then working as photography assistant at the age of 16. She continued going to beauty school and working at various prestigous fashion stores in Stuttgart. This is where she was booked for her first styling job, which she continued doing as a professional set stylist for ten years. She then decided to found her own business and started selling antiques in her two stores in Stuttgart, but her love for unique fashion eventually lead her to opening her own second hand store "Edel-Second" in Stuttgart. She was kind enough to let me try on some of the pieces in her store shown in the following pictures.
Special thanks to Klaudia Urban Photography for taking the pictures www.klaudiaurban.smugmug.com
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