London’s fashion scene is famous the world over, but it’s not just down to trailblazing designers, thrift stores have a big part to play too. Canny shoppers in the capital have long been leading the way for second-hand fashion, whether it’s getting new garbs at swap shops or rummaging through one of the city’s many car boot sales.
Shopping second-hand ticks all the boxes: more eco-friendly, reasonably priced, and there’s less chance of someone else turning up in the same outfit. The only drawback? It takes dedication and a keen eye to rummage through those rails. But don’t lose heart, we’ve saved you some time by rounding up the best thrift stores in London.
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It’s difficult to walk into this east London institution and not be dazzled by the rainbow rails. With a decade under its belt, it’s easy to see what has made the franchise such a success: it caters for the festival teen, the trendy twenty-something and the shrewd, more mature, fashionista. For both men and women, this branch offers one of the widest selection of retro-wear in London, all under one roof. Ready for the summer shopper, the current stock includes Hawaiian shirts galore and its very own range of sleeveless cropped shirts in every shade and style under the sun.
As Rokit’s flagship store – there’s also one in Camden and two in Brick Lane – this branch stocks the most comprehensive selection of second-hand items, from tutus and military gear right through to cowboy boots and sunglasses. You won’t find many well-known labels here, but it’s still worth a rummage; on previous visits a Gunne Sax prairie dress and a Marimekko day dress were unearthed, and they were an absolute steal. There are also scarves, belts and hats galore. For men there's plenty of the usual male Americana. The shop at 107 Brick Lane is more boutiquey.
Formerly Blitz, Atika opened in 2011, and instantly put the other vintage shops in the capital to shame. This is a vintage department store, covering all floors of a glorious old furniture factory. The building itself is jaw-dropping, and has been renovated beautifully by the Atika team. Buyers Jan Skinners and John Howlin look to nearby Brick Lane for their inspiration, buying immaculate seersucker blazers, coloured denim, brogues and silk kimonos for their fashion focused clientele. The selection is all killer and no filler – and cleaned, steamed and folded before it hits the shop floor.
Reign Vintage started out in 2002 and really established themselves in the vintage fashion world, later opening two stores in London and Oxford. Handily, they have a decent, regularly updated online store, too, making it easier than ever to shop for second-hand treasures. They source a lot of their stock from Europe, and shoppers can expect to find fun logo sweatshirts and kitsch dresses mixed in with Gucci loafers and Versace blazers. Prices are fair – £25 or so for a pretty vintage shirt.
The straightforward idea behind the EETS is to provide good value vintage – which is becoming a bit of rarity in the capital. The owners come from the Topman stable, and have a good feel for current trends. Think vintage denim shirts for £15 and jackets for £25, as well as leather skirts and cheap £10 party frocks. Join the mailing list to hear about frequent sales and super cheap jumble events.
One of London's oldest vintage shops, Annie's in Islington's Camden Passage has been around for over forty years. Said to have supplied costumes for both the 1974 and 2013 versions of The Great Gatsby, Annie's is the go-to for sumptuous 1920s flapper dresses, as well as vintage lace bridal wear and delicate accessories like parasols, hats, gloves and fans. Prices may be on the higher side but certainly still compare favourably to the cost of contemporary bridalwear.
Pennies opened in 2011 in Islington, North London. Like Annie's, the shop stocks a very curated assortment of (predominantly pre-1960s) vintage eveningwear and wedding dresses, as well as unusual collectables. Pennies previously sold an intricately beaded 1920s wedding dress to Downtown Abbey, for Lily James's character to wear – this is costume-worthy vintage wear, people. For show-stopping gowns, this is your first port of call, and you can pick up a gorgeous wedding-wedding dress for around £200.
Run by charity FARA, Retromania is just a short walk from Victoria and Pimlico stations. With super fashion-savvy staff, items are priced knowledgeably and range from £15 to upwards of £200. Fun memorabilia like vinyl and magazines are mixed in amongst pretty embroidered shirts, wacky 70s dresses and eye-wateringly bright oversized sweaters.
With a spread of clothing, shoes and accessories dating from 1900 to the 1980s, you don't know what you're going to find in East London's Paper Dress Vintage. Helpfully, the shop offers alterations, and also doubles as an event venue hosting comedy, burlesque, dance classes and much more. If that wasn't enough, the Paper Dress Vintage has its very own bar to make clothes shop even more of a hoot.
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