Since the first Goodwood Revival, interest in vintage fashion has found favour with a new younger audience.
“Interest in vintage is absolutely growing,” says Sue O’Donoghue, Goodwood’s former Theatrics and Costume Curator. Over the last 20 years, Sue has amassed 12,000 vintage costumes for Goodwood Revival, scouring ebay, boot fairs, vintage stores and auctions in search of quality pieces from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s to add to the collection.
Many people also donate to her, enamoured with the idea that precious things belonging to their mums and grandparents will be seen at Goodwood. “Revival has been a big part of the vintage resurgence. People come to the event who have never dressed up before and absolutely fall in love with it.”
The funny thing is that it all happened by accident. At the inaugural event in 1998 only the actors were dressed up. “We’d have a family of actors with a vintage picnic basket,” remembers Sue. “Then the next year guests started dressing up as well. We didn’t expect that.” Goodwood Revival had caught something in the public imagination. Two decades on and vintage has cornered a share in the market that, post pandemic, rivals mainstream fashion.
The pandemic has made us rethink the way we shop
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports that the clothing market fell 21.5 per cent in 2020, and it remains at pre-pandemic levels. Enforced closures caused a host of once-loved fast fashion brands, including Topshop, Oasis and Warehouse, to collapse leaving the already beleaguered high street an even bleaker place to shop. “[During the pandemic] there was literally no reason to buy new things,” says Sue. “And after months of sitting at home and thinking about how people want to spend their money, people want to shop in a more considered way. Vintage may not always be cheaper than high-street fashion, but breathing life into old things is better for the planet.”
It’s not simply that we didn’t need new clothes during the pandemic, it’s rather that a perfect storm of crises caused fast fashion to lose its lustre with the climate crisis weighing on our environmental consciousness.
Big brands and influencers are paving the vintage path
Bay Garnett, author, thrifter and stylist has long pioneered vintage fashion. In the 1990s, she edited Cheap Date, a London-based, anti-establishment fashion magazine dedicated to thrift shopping. She’s the stylist who put Kate Moss in a vintage banana-printed top for British Vogue in 2003. Now she’s an author and Contributing Editor to British Vogue, as well as Oxfam’s Senior Fashion Adviser. Last September she spearheaded a pop-up Oxfam store in Selfridges, where a curated selection of clothes, accessories and homewares sourced from Oxfam’s warehouses were showcased in between Gucci and Miu Miu.
It’s partly Bay’s influence that has caused big brands to take notice of the vintage resurgence, and push it further into the foreground. Last autumn, Miu Miu itself debuted a collection of 80 upcycled holiday pieces in its 57th Street Store in New York, each made from vintage items from the ’30s to the ’70s. Levi’s also unveiled a new website, Levi’s Secondhand, to sell exclusively vintage and secondhand jeans. “These things have made a huge difference as it makes vintage and second hand cool and current for a lot of people,” says Bay. “It brings it into a whole different luxury-loving audience, too. The people who buy the big brand names, and always have, won't stop, so those fashion brands need to provide a more sustainable alternative. I want people to see that secondhand can have the gloss, glamour and originality that you see elsewhere in high fashion.”
And it seems to be working. According to Lyst’s Year in Fashion Report 2020 (Lyst is the world’s largest fashion search platform) in September 2020, “vintage fashion” generated more than 35,000 new searches, while entries for secondhand-related keywords increased 104 per cent. After Princess Beatrice wore vintage Norman Hartnell to her July wedding, searches for “vintage wedding dress” went up 297 per cent in 48 hours.
Vintage fashion supports individuality
“Vintage fashion is all about individuality,” explains Sue. “The thing that people love about it is that nobody else is going to have it. You’re going to find something unique to you.” Whether you want to have a completely unique dress to wear down the aisle, recreate an era-defining look or build an outfit around a vintage shirt, there is nothing like an amazing vintage find.
“For style and excitement, nothing beats vintage,” says Bay. “Go to the charity shops with a mission or an idea of what you might love. It’s important to have focus and be engaged with the task! Take your time. Absorb yourself in it.” Sue agrees: “The popularity of vintage means it’s harder to find really good pieces. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. When I am looking, I stand back from the rail first and wait for the print or colour to sing to me. Then I touch it to check the quality.”
Now, no matter where you are in the world you can source the things you want and love. Depop, a social app targeting Millennial and Gen Z shoppers that sells second hand and vintage clothes, now has 13 million users and revenue growth of 100 per cent year-on-year for the past few years, since its launch in 2011.
“I think it’s amazing – this huge new wave of young thrift lovers,” says Bay. “Vintage fashion has always been about celebrating individuality. It’s about finding something away from all the noise and price tags that you love. It’s about stepping away from trends and commercialism and making up your own mind. Setting your own trends!” Sue concurs, “At the end of the day, it’s fun. You don’t have to look like you’ve stepped out of Vogue. If you’ve got a little black dress and a string of pearls you are half-way to being Jackie Onassis. It’s just one of the things I love about Goodwood Revival.”