To mark this year’s Second Hand September – Oxfam’s brilliant initiative to encourage fashion-lovers to shop only second hand for 30 days (or more) to reduce our impact on the planet – there’s never been a better time go vintage. Here, esteemed stylist and self-confessed ‘Queen of Thrift’ Bay Garnett reveals the best vintage shops in London, as well as her tips on how to source the finest pre-loved pieces and be a more conscious consumer.
“Rellik is the place to go for designer names – I always see a lot of Saint Laurent there, as well as vintage Gaultier, vintage Vivienne Westwood, old Margiela and Norma Kamali,” says Garnett. “They also have a great range of 70s frocks.” Set up by three former Portobello Market traders – Fiona Stuart, Claire Stansfield and Steven Philip – in 1999, it’s a treasure trove of vintage delights. Alongside popping in to browse their rails of designer pieces you can also organise a private shopping experience, where you’ll have the store all to yourself.
8 Golborne Road, Notting Hill, London W10 5NW
Found and Vision
Situated just off the Golborne Road, Found and Vision was set up by top stylists Karen Clarkson and Oxana Korsun and tailor Rosie Meres in 2012 and quickly became a mecca for those searching for high quality vintage pieces – particularly from the 1970s. “If you’re looking for a great denim shirt with studs, you’ll probably be able to get it there, or a San Francisco tourist sweatshirt, or an old Bruce Springsteen t-shirt. They’ve got a real mix of stuff, all from the 70s up until the early 80s.”
318 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London W10 5RU
Portobello’s vintage clothing market is famous all around the world, drawing specialists from across the UK and Europe to come and show their wares every weekend. Head there early on a Friday or Saturday to find the best pieces. “If you go often enough, you get to know the dealers and what sort of eye they have. One of my favourite stalls is Selfish Maids, run by Caroline Turner, who’s well known in the vintage world – she curates it every week by colour and style. Other more specialist dealers sell incredible pieces by Ossie Clark. The more you go, the more you learn about it.”
Under the Canopy, Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London W10 5RU
British Red Cross in Chelsea
Tucked away on Old Church Street, a few doors down from Manolo Blahnik, this British Red Cross is one of Chelsea’s best-kept secrets, full of high-end pieces discarded by well-heeled locals. “It’s one of my favourite charity shops in London – it’s got great men’s shirts and cashmere, because you’ve got that kind of clientele. I also once found an incredible Saint Laurent safari suit from 1969 in here. It’s quite conventional, which can be a relief sometimes for a charity shop. Whether it’s your style or not is a different matter, but all the stuff is high quality.”
69-71 Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3 5BS
Lime Green Bow
Run by vintage dealer and creative consultant Clemmie Myers, all of the pieces in this carefully curated Notting Hill store have been hand-picked by Myers herself and sourced from all over the world, from statement-making sequin blazers to Christian Lacroix denim jackets and Comme des Garçons dresses. “Clemmie’s got a great eye. There isn’t loads of stuff in there but I really like her edit, which is full of proper vintage pieces – there’s always something you’ll fall in love with, like an amazing 60s leopard coat.”
18 All Saints Road, Notting Hill, London W11 1HH
There are three Goldsmith stores in London, with branches in Covent Garden and Charing Cross, but it’s their Notting Hill shop, situated in the heart of Portobello Road’s hustle and bustle, that’s Garnett’s favourite. A real rabbit warren of a store, they own the largest vintage warehouse in the capital and the LGBTQ+-run business is known for its boundary-pushing aesthetic. “This is the place to go if you’re looking for Levi 501s or 80s denim jackets. It’s great for kids as well – if your son or daughter is into vintage, take them here because it’s cheap and fun.”
176 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2EB
Housed in an enormous former dairy factory, this east London classic is the largest in the Brick Lane vintage clothing scene, with over 20,000 pieces to peruse. Selling everything from 50s dresses to classic Levis and American lumberjack shirts, you’ll always pick up a retro bargain here. And any outfits that don’t make it onto the shop floor are upcycled into the store’s own Beyond Retro Label. “It’s always full of great stuff. You’re not going to find high-end designer pieces here, but it’s a question of rummaging through the rails and something happening to be there that you love.”
110-112 Cheshire Street, Bethnal Green, London E2 6EJ
Mairead Lewin Vintage
Top vintage dealer Mairead Lewin is something of a legend on the vintage scene, having dressed everyone from Kate Moss to Liberty Ross in her exquisite 1970s dresses and lavish crowns. Available by appointment only, this is the woman to turn to if you’re looking for a truly head-turning piece. “She has an incredible eye and lots of amazingly beautiful vintage dresses, including some very old lamé pieces from the 60s and 70s.”
By appointment only
Bay’s Tips On How To Shop For Vintage
Start out with the right attitude
Go into a vintage shop or a thrift store with a sense of direction and a sense of purpose – ‘I’m here, I’m connecting.’ It’s like switching on a button. Plus, it will bring you thrifting karma – which I fully believe in – and you will find something. Even if you don’t find that one thing you’re looking for, you’ll find something because you’re tuned in.
Think about something specific you want, or a picture you’ve seen of someone – I saw an image of Sharon Stone that I loved the other day, wearing gold chains and a big chunky knit. If you go thinking I’d love to find a camel coat, or an oversized men’s cashmere sweater, then you’re musing and your brain is engaged, and looking through the rails becomes a task that’s quite enjoyable. I think that’s key if you want it to be productive.
Have a hit list of designers
The more thrift shopping you do, the more you learn about what you like and what you don’t. For example, I’ve got some amazing old Jaeger pieces that I’ve collected over the years. Jaeger in the 70s made things beautifully, with these incredible tweed coats. Now I always keep an eye out for Jaeger pieces when I’m vintage shopping. It’s also good to look out for pieces made by the original designers who founded the labels – I get a thrill if I see Calvin Klein clothes from the 80s or Emanuel Ungaro silk shirts, and early Barbour pieces are always great too.
Find a good tailor
If you really fall in love with a piece but it doesn’t fit quite as you’d like, remember you can always get it altered – a good tailor can make all the difference. I usually end up getting tops taken out, because I’m not a sample size, and I’ll ask my tailor to add an extra panel in. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect; that can be part of the charm.
Get to know the staff at your local charity shops
I have a great relationship with the staff at some of my favourite shops, and it means they’ll let me upstairs or into the backroom to look at pieces that aren’t on the shop floor yet. I get tips from them, too, and hear about when the best stuff’s coming in. Plus, it just makes the experience a lot more fun.
When all else fails, go online
Part of the reason why I love charity shops and vintage stores is because you don’t know what you’re going to find, but if you do want to get specific with what you’re looking for then I’d recommend going online. The other day I was looking for a particular leopard print Supreme shirt – I typed it into eBay (ebay.co.uk) and when it came in, I bought it. I also love Vestiaire Collective (vestiairecollective.com), which is more for the fashion crowd – that’s where I’d go if I was looking for some 90s Gaultier, for example – and Depop (depop.com) is brilliant for democratising the world of second-hand. My daughter uses it to sell her stuff and I love how it’s empowering kids to embrace fashion circularity.