1990’s Versace Jeans, Ungaro’s Butterfly top, Prada’s “sac baguette”… Vintage fashion’s popularity has been skyrocketing for over a decade, especially in Europe and the US.

Described as part of the reaction to the “negative publicity and effects of fast fashion”, in a research piece published by Tracy Diane Cassidy and Hannah Rose Bennett in November 2012, the trend is today nothing short of a fully fledged market and is growing fast – although it’s still counted as a part of the resale market, which is following the same trajectory. In the US alone, the secondhand fashion market is expected to more than triple in value in the coming years to reach US$80 billion by 2029, according to a 2021 report by ThredUp.

Surfing in the trend, more and more brands are re-releasing some of their famous old collections –  usually designated as retro fashion (new products designed to look as though they are from another period). Used correctly, vintage fashion refers to clothes and apparel that are between 20 and 100 years old. Beyond 100 years of age the item enters the antique category.

To inspire

In the Arab world, the trend started to kick in a couple of years ago, according the three specialized resellers FTA talked to in the Emirates, Lebanon and Morocco, and for whom vintage fashion is a passion, as well as a promising business line.

One of these resellers is Tatiana Fayad, founder of the Nouvelle Vague Store, a vintage store in Beirut. “I have been passionate about vintage fashion since a very young age (…) I have been collecting and handpicking unique finds since I was very young, and in 2018, I felt that the Lebanese market was ready, and that the demand for unique vintage and collectible fashion was starting to grow. Therefore, for my first pop-up, I built a collection full of eclectic pieces that I selected for their style, quality and wearability. A year later, I opened my permanent store and launched my online shop that targets the MENA region. My aim is now to inspire others to re-think their fashion choices and consider vintage as an alternative to buying fast-fashion and mass-produced items,” she tells us. Today, she sells 50% of her goods to customers in the Middle East, through both her physical and online shops.

Nouvelle Vague Store

History of a piece

A year ago, Zineb Ismaili opened Ayam Zamane (which means “Good Old Days” in Arabic), an online shop dedicated to vintage fashion. She mostly restocks from the French market and her products are usually pieces designed and sold before the 2000s or earlier. “The major difference between a second hand item and a vintage item is its lifespan. If it’s 20 years old or more, as well as second hand, then it can be categorized as vintage,” explains Ismaili, “The value of each item depends then on the fabric, the design, the materials used, the quality of the sewing, or even the history of the piece – especially if someone famous wore it.” One of the hardest things in her line of business is to convince local customers that buying a used piece is not, in itself, “cheap” behavior, she said.

Ayam Zamane

This is a point of view shared by Lina Sabry, an Egyptian fashion marketing graduate who also decided to let her passion drive her when she opened her own online shop, Reeborn Vintage, in Abu Dhabi. “Middle East customers usually like to spend more than European buyers, who tend to prefer finding the best bargain for quality items. But vintage fashion nevertheless started to become a trend a year ago. At first, a customer saw vintage as luxury pieces at lower prices, but the tides changed,” she says. In her experience, sunglasses and bags are the fastest sellers, mostly because people can buy them online without fitting issues or size mismatches.

Reeborn Vintage

Restored

Although they operate in their different countries, some common points can be underlined between each market the three retailers operate in. The vintage fashion pieces they sell are restored before being displayed. Restocking is easy, mainly because the second hand market is very well developed in US and Europe – whether it’s from retailers or wholesalers, used items or deadstocks (unsold vintage collections). Their customers are mostly women, mostly aged between 18 and 50, but men are slowly becoming interested too – some of them are even comfortable buying women’s pieces, according to Sabry.

Finally, all three retailers agree that that awareness about sustainability and the search for quality fabric and materials are the main key-drivers for the vintage fashion market.