Insider’s Tips on How to Shop Vintage in New York and Paris

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Vintage shopping is about more than a great price tag–it’s about finding the special piece not on offer from the top global fashion brands and buying and collecting unique moments in fashion history. With the craving for vintage always a la mode, we turn to Chloe Johnston, a vintage expert, who organizes fashion and beauty shopping excursions to Paris (she is fluent in French and keeps an apartment in the 7th arrondissement) and curates vintage finds online. Johnson also organizes New York tours, but wherever her travels take her, she is always on the lookout for that next fabulous find. (http://chloejohnston.com).

RESHOP

VINTAGE SHOPPING NEW YORK

1. Rise and shop early. Like Black Friday, it’s the early birds who get the best goods.

2. Do your research to maximize your time. You don’t shop for vintage, you hunt for it. Don’t get me wrong, the romanticism of vintage shopping lies in stumbling upon a beautiful piece when you were simply in search of something for your next Great Gatsby party. There’s an interesting beauty in wandering down a side street and finding the unexpected. But before you go, research your stores and what they specialize in. Do you like accessories, eighties styled go-go boots or perhaps vintage handbags? Like most boutiques in the city, small vintage stores curate (there’s only so much shelf space), to a theme, for example vintage Chanel, and try not to have too much going on within the racks. 

3. Shop mid-week. Best pro-tip of all time: shop for vintage on weekdays. Our greatest Chanel finds have been while everyone was working away at their desks. Weekends are when people tend to sell their items to the vintage stores or when the store’s buyers attend estate sales. So Monday to Wednesday are the days where they’re cleaning, pricing and presenting fresh items on the sales floor. Also–avoid the crowds and get exclusive access to the good stuff by visiting a store mid-afternoon.

Chloe Johnston, vintage expert
Chloe Johnston, vintage clothing expert

3. Kill them with kindness. If you’re visiting New York, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to make buddies with the sales associates during your vacation. However, all New Yorkers know that if you want the good finds, you have to get to know the associates. Engage with them and tell them what you want. Describe your style. Be as open and friendly as possible because believe me, all vintage stores have about 20% more items in the back waiting for space in the front. How cool would it be if a conversation about a shared passion for kale smoothies lead to a mention by an associate about a piece they just brought in but hadn’t had a chance to stock on the floor.

RESHOPWINDOW

4. Know your stuff. As with anything, there can be pitfalls with vintage shopping. The biggest drawbacks are misrepresentations of a piece’s year or authenticity. Unfortunately, counterfeits can date as far back as you can imagine and sometimes you’ll think you’ve stumbled on a cool and unique piece and instead it’ll be a replica cousin. Inspect, inspect, inspect. Avoid getting too excited about your find and end up missing tell-tale signs that may indicate trouble. Vintage items tend to be heavier, especially jewelry, as materials were of the highest quality. Feel comfortable questioning the sales associate. If they’re working at a New York vintage store they should know their stuff. Inquire about a store’s policy for returning counterfeits. 

5. Take the path less traveled. It’s hard to stumble upon a “hidden gem” of a store in Manhattan. Believe us, we locals have found it and tend to keep it to ourselves. Think like a native and expand your reach by going to Brooklyn. Here’s where you’ll discover those hole in the wall shops with fabulous vintage finds. Brooklyn has many indoor and outdoor markets along with vintage store boutiques.

6. Consider thrift stores. Before you write them off hear us out. Many vintage gatekeepers and older generations of New Yorkers aren’t aware that they can sell their vintage pieces in curated boutiques, or they just don’t want to go through the hassle. So often  when they are cleaning out closets, they simply call the nearest Housing Works or Goodwill to pick up their items. [Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Society Boutique has a designer section.] Many of these pieces are unworn or preserved in their original boxing, yet all that’s missing is the luxury price tag that accompanies similar finds in Soho. You’d (hopefully) specialty clean the items you purchased in that pricey boutique and trust us the same can be done once you discover a gem in a thrift store.

RE EARRINGS

VINTAGE SHOPPING PARIS

Although vintage shopping in New York and Paris share many similarities, there are distinct differences, too:

1. Check out the flea markets. Beyond the vintage Paris boutiques, there are several flea markets where you can uncover great vintage finds.  However, the large flea market with the best items is Porte de Clignancourt (Les Puces de Saint-Ouen), and it is only open on weekends. 

2. Map it out. There are several hidden areas within the flea market for finding your treasures so you should map out your allees, vendor stalls, shops and transport (e.g., metro, driver).

3. Take your checkbook or cash as some vendors do not accept credit.  You can barter better with cash.

4. Go early to scout and return to those vendors who interest you and can ship if you have larger objects in mind.

5. Paris boutique vintage shopping is an entirely differentbexperience. You can DIY with research and a well thought-out plan or (mini plug for Chloe Johnston Experiences) hire a specialist to curate your adventure!

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