(Editor’s note: In the past two years, shopping thrift stores and vintage apparel have become a thing as consumers across all economic strata look for quality clothes at bargain prices. So, this is the second in a series as we curate the best of the best preloved fashion across Europe starting in Paris, of course.)
Forget the terms “thrift shops” and “second hand shops.” They’re out of fashion, forgive the pun, but we are talking about fashion here. These words have been replaced by the recent trend of “preloved” or “re-loved.”
Some shops selling preloved fashion items have been around for many years, new ones are opening in London and elsewhere in the UK like mushrooms after a heavy rain. Just think about Oxfam, their first shop opened in 1947. But London still is the center of the preloved trend.
Many of the shop are run by charities such as Oxfam and no one is looking down their nose anymore if you mention that you only buy from what was formerly called thrift shops.
Not only are you helping charity, you are helping your bank balance too because you can find great bargains.
And a note: Some of these stores sell wildly expensive retro apparel and one-off couture pieces from fashion designers such as Dior, John Galliano and Lagerfeld.
British Royalty and their clothes are very much in the limelight because of the recent coronation of King Charles III and Queen consort Camilla. One Royal who does not shy away from preloved fashion is the Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton. Last year she wore an eye catching, green gown to the Earthshot Awards in the USA. The dress was actually rented from the Hutt Agency.
Yes, High Society is definitely getting in on the sustainability front and thus making this important concept popular with everybody. It’s one of the reasons why these trendy and well stocked shops can be found in posh sections of London such as Kensington. Knightsbridge and Chelsea that were in the past more known for high-end – and very expensive – designer boutiques. Thanks to the preloved trend, they are available at an often far more economic price.
To make this event more popular, Oxfam stages their own fashion show of the London Fashion week in February.
Browse with us in these best-known London shops:
You can’t miss this rather small shop because of the two red benches that flank the entrance and the square windows, that allow a glimpse at the vintage treasures you find inside.
If your favorite designers are McQueen, Lanvin or Alaia, you have come to the right place. Not only will you find exclusive dresses, but also funky hats and extravagant shoes with sky high heels. Or maybe a Jean Paul Gaultier bodysuit? Most of the clothes are from the 80s or 90s. The friendly, chic assistants will be happy to help you.
This is not exactly a bargain destination … the landing page shows an Alexander McQueen skirt suit for 1,200 pounds.
8 Golborn Road, London W10 5NW
This much bigger shop is located in Notting Hill of movie fame. As the owner explains, the stock( for men and women) is brought in by a steady clientele and changes daily, sometime hourly. It spans from vintage Vivian Westwood to trendy modern fashion.
If you are after a Chanel handbag, you might also get lucky and be surprised by a reasonable price.
This is a very busy place, with customers coming in and out all the time, bringing in clothes or buying or just browsing. Asked about celebrities who might shop here, the owner said that yes, they also come by, but, naturally for reasons for confidentiality, he could not divulge any names.
Retro Clothing Exchange also sell vintage records, so this is a treasure trove for fans of everything retro.
Retro Clothing Exchange
28, Pembroke Road London W11 3HL
This shop is located in one of the red brick houses that are so typical of the King’s Road in Kensington/Chelsea. It extends over two floors where you not only can see and buy clothes, but also shoes, handbags, accessories and vintage jewelry. The moment you step into the shop, you feel a distinct retro vibe.
Another high-end spot, with 1,500 pound -plus Celine bags.
299 Kings Road SW6
One of a Kind is much more than a shop – it basically consists of two parts; an archive of more than 5,000 items that is available to. and coveted by, museums, industry people and private customers. Open since 1994, it really is a fashion archive.
Then there is the front of the store with ready to wear vintage items mostly from the 30s.
The collection is for the well-heeled, with 10,000 pound Vivienne Westwood and Dior originals.
One of a Kind
259 Portobello Road, London W11 1LR
The original store opened in 1979 in Chelsea before anyone talked about pre-loved fashion or sustainability. Since then, the shop has vastly expanded and is a leader in all things pre-owned designer
Sign of the Times
5 Elystan Street, SW3 NT
This shop in Islington is a secret tip for in the know Londoners and serious bargain hunters. Chanel. Westwood etc? Just go and look and you are bound to come back with a designer item that didn’t break the bank, such as an Hermès scarf for a couple of hundreds pounds instead of the full retail price of 500 pounds.
Dress for Less
391 St John St. EC1V 4LD
Not only is this shop a paradise for bargain fashion hunters, but they also have sales from time to time. You couldn’t ask for a better place to satisfy your cravings for designer fashion. The owners say they pay particular attention to vintage and current fashion, quality and materials.
Lots of high-end Prada, Bottega Veneta, Pucci and Dolce & Gabbana at sort-of bargain prices.
Pandora Dress Agency
16-22 Cheval Place London SW1 1ES
Here is the latest outlet in increasingly popular and fashionable Birmingham. It’s called Reloved Revoltion The shop, also run by a charity, is very special insofar as it resembles more an exquisite department store than a thrift shop. It features three stories and offers bargain that include items ranging from Primark as to the designer brands, though this isn’t the place to find that 12,000 euro Dior frock.
They not only have apparel but also vintage furniture, accessories, children’s toys, records and much more. Best of all, the shop features a café with quite an ample menu, where you can have a rest and ponder in peace which items to buy, take home and relove.
While the first store is in Birmingham, it is anticipated that a branch will open in London.
48-50 Harborne High Street, Harborne Birmingham.
Read more about London here in Dispatches’ archives here.
Inka Piegsa-Quischotte is an international attorney-turned-travel and lifestyle writer based in Spain. She has contributed to BBC/Travel, several in-flight magazines, TripSavvy (Spain) and TravelAwaits among many other publications.