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Subcultures, Nostalgia and Art Influence Vintage Fashion Curations

Aug 04, 2023

As thrift and resale become more ubiquitous, a strong point of view and eye for future vintage have never been more critical for collectors and boutiques owners looking to stand out from the mainstream.

“There’s stuff that I put in my store that I bought for $15 from a kid on the side of the street and I sell it for $80 to $100 because people trust my curation,” said Luke Fracher, co-founder and owner of Round Two, a chain of vintage and resale stores located in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Miami. “Once I put my stamp on it, people see it as vintage or archival.”

A confluence of changes in consumer behavior is fueling growth in the secondhand and resale apparel market, which Statista projects will almost double from by 2027 to $351 billion. New mindsets are making used clothing less stigmatized, expressive fashion more acceptable and placing value on specific designers or eras of fashion.

At Project Las Vegas, Fracher and David Casavant, a stylist, collector and consultant, shared their vintage buying processes and how they’ve been affected by resale’s post-pandemic popularity.

Though many traditional retailers are adding vintage and preowned clothing to their assortments as part of their sustainability strategies, Fracher doesn’t see sustainability as a factor in its popularity. Treating clothes as being disposable is still part of the mainstream thought process, Casavant added. Keeping clothes away from landfills through resale is a bonus.

Instead, the vintage and resale categories benefit from their uniqueness and ability to evoke emotion from buyers.

“I think anyone who is selling vintage clothing is trying to leverage nostalgia in some way to sell it, and that is part of my approach,” Fracher said. For example, when he’s sourcing vintage tees, he’s looking for teams, bands and Disney franchises that people like, but he’s not interested in selling any regular tee. “I’m trying to find the best stuff. I source more based off wear and how unique it is as opposed to what’s on the shirt.”

For Casavant, buying vintage clothes was born from a desire to own things that don’t feel homogenized or like they came from a single factory. Social media and the internet have made it possible to buy anything from anywhere. That unlimited access is driving consumers interested in cultivating their uniquely individual style to embrace vintage in hopes of unearthing items that are a little more exclusive. “Pieces from the past just stand out more because of that. The way things are made… a lot it [can’t] be replicated,” he said.

“Finding something that no one else has, means a lot to a lot of people,” Fracher said.

Similarly, the internet has altered the way subcultures form and flourish. Fracher recalled how in the early 2000s consumers from different cities belonged to different subcultures with distinct, singular style. Social media has blurred these points of reference on how to dress, however. “I want to have my hand on the pulse of these subcultures, but I just feel like the era of the true subculture is dead because everybody is seeing everything in real time as it happens. So, it’s difficult for an actual subculture to develop outside of the bubble of everything else,” he said.

Casavant argued that subcultures are present, but they’re living decentralized on the internet. “I think people just don’t realize it’s a subculture until time gives them the ability to look back and see it more clearly,” he said.

Vintage is evolving as it becomes more valuable. Casavant likens the future of vintage fashion to the way art collectors pay millions for a Warhol.

“I think it’s going to become more like that because younger people grew up viewing it differently. As time goes on, I think [they’re] normalizing the idea of collecting and the idea of paying high prices for things,” he said. “I think designers will be viewed more as artists, which I think they already are.”

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