Considering the atrocious quality of contemporary fast fashion (let’s be FFR, you’ll never give quiet luxury vibes in Zara), it’s no wonder that thrifting has evolved from a fringe activity to a major industry. Beyond the praise you’ll receive for your retro clothes (“This ol’ thing? I thrifted it!”), vintage shopping as a hobby is thrilling. What better way to spend a weekend afternoon than rummaging through bins and racks in the hopes of striking gold?
No one knows this better than Fed Pua, the New York and Philippines-based designer and founder of the vintage clothing store It’s Vintage, which was included in Vogue’s 2023 guide to the best vintage stores in the world. “In the early days of [It’s Vintage], I would literally travel to different countries with an empty suitcase and fill it with whatever interested me from flea markets or vintage shops,” Pua tells InsideHook. “Those early days were really crazy and fun.”
It’s Vintage — which is exclusively brick and mortar, to our dismay — is a reflection of Pua’s own personal style, love for pop culture and nostalgia, and independently-owned vintage stores like his make it possible to discover shopping experiences that align with your own style inspirations and ethos. “I loved the idea of entering a store and just knowing everything was created, decorated and curated with love from the team members down to the product selection,” he says. “I wanted a place where my friends and like-minded people could gather and listen to good music, talk to their friends, possibly make new ones and just be surrounded by nice clothes.”
New York City is awash with tastemakers with a similar goal of building vintage communities around such shared interests, down to common music tastes and interior design preferences. With such a diverse selection of personalities and stuff in this city, there’s more than enough room to experiment and explore personal style. “The vintage shops in New York are stocked with the most obscure pieces that I honestly couldn’t stock at my store,” agrees Pua, who, during his visits to New York, I’d often catch sporting a new find. “Trust that New Yorkers could pull off anything they wanted, including clown shoes from the ’80s.”
Whether you’re on the hunt for one-of-a-kind statement pieces or upscale designers for cheap, there is an NYC vintage store for you. With the help of Pua, we’ve compiled a list of eight exceptional shops that stand out from the rest. The only advice to keep in mind? “Make sure you aren’t buying something just because it’s cheap,” says Pua. “Fit the item and have fun!”
The Japanese consignment store comes closest to Tokyo’s secondhand shopping scene with its impeccably maintained items, diverse selection of designer and boutique brands, and decent prices for its city (which isn’t saying much about New York). Although they carry both menswear and womenswear, Tokio 7 is where I suggest picking up a chic and sustainable gift for the woman in your life who is drawn to classic pieces from the likes of Comme des Garcons, Acne Studios and Celine. Look out for their occasional deals — I swiped a like-new heavy knit Proenza Schouler dress for an eighth of its retail value.
Located in Dumbo, Front General Store touts a mix of new and vintage clothing, accessories, stationery and home goods at a more premium price. It’s a trove for menswear enthusiasts looking to source workwear and denim with that Japanese-Americana flare. Most notably, FGS is stocked with an impressive inventory of Issey Miyake’s Pleats Please collection in a rainbow of hues.
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This sun-drenched shop in East Williamsburg possesses both depth and breadth, so expect an abundance of “Made In Italy” tags, high-quality leathers and the kind of weighty fabric that is rare to come by. It doesn’t hurt, too, that Kalimera finds itself on a well-dressed block. Grab coffee next door from the modern-rustic Brooklyn Ball Factory before walking over to the ever-popular Win Son Bakery (where, even on the coldest day of the week, a queue extends out the door).
InsideHook’s Ryan Miller recommends LAAMS, a three-story collective with a constantly rotating artists-in-residency program. A mecca for skater and youth culture in the Lower East Side, each floor is a totally different experience: the first is a bookstore and art gallery, the second floor sells handmade clothes and records and the third floor is a boutique. It’s an experience best seen firsthand; according to Miller, “The website doesn’t do the store justice.”
More digging is required at Williamsburg’s iconic pop-up shop, which is essentially a man named Walter selling vintage clothes out his garage (weather permitting). The tightly packed den of racks carry moto jackets, oversized varsity sweaters and novelty shirts with an equally expansive price range. The only catch? Good luck finding out when they’re open, as Walter seems to be just as eclectic as his collection. A schedule posted to the shop’s Instagram reads, “Open! Most days, around 2 or 3 pm, hopefully as early as 12 noon, somedays as late as 4 or 5.”
Dusted Garments boasts truly vintage pieces with its finely curated selection of menswear from the ’40s to ’90s. Think 1950s army jackets, wool-knit cardigans from the ’70s and buttery soft Levi’s jeans from the ’80s all under one roof. Miller cautions that the shop will occasionally have a line out the door, but they also offer an online alternative.
Tucked under the BQE, 10ft Single By Stella Dallas is packed from wall to wall with racks of dead-stock vintage, slouchy leather jackets, printed bottoms and more. A large selection of accessories — bins of scarves, made-in-America boots, belts — are scattered throughout. Don’t miss Stella Dallas Living, next door, which offers home goods, globally sourced vintage textiles and more.
A mainstay, Procell has been tapped by artists, musicians and brands for their expansive vintage archive of ’80s and ’90s streetwear. Fans of the Y2K look will also be pleased to find Procell’s fine curation of early 2000s eyewear, jerseys, racer jackets and hats.
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