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New York Vintage Shopping

On my recent holiday in New York I discovered what is possiby the world’s greatest vintage shop.

The sad thing is, I didn’t stumble upon it until the last day of my trip. I’d heard so much about the treasure troves nestled away in the Big Apple that I was expecting to be knocked off my feet by a tidal wave of rare and beautiful vintage delights the second I touched down at JFK – and all within my weakened pound budget, of course.

Well, not quite so. What little vintage I could find on the island of Manhattan was eye-poppingly overpriced, falling apart at the seams and just, well, not that great. It soon became apparent that to enjoy SJP-style shopping you need an insatiable appitite for big designer brands and an uninterupted cashflow. And if you don’t? Well, I ended up spending half an afternoon in Topshop…

Fast-forward to the last day of my trip. I’m over the bridge in Williamsburg, Brookyn, meeting a friend from home who’s living here. She’s promised me great vintage shops. I’m not holding my breathe.

We walk along the main strip, cafes and bars bustling either side of us. It’s a Saturday and the road has been closed off to traffic, so the streets are full of life – bands setting up on corners, homemade stalls perched in the middle of the road, people just sitting out to bask in the July sun. We turn a corner, away from the tall red-brick Brooklyn buldings with their steeply-climbing staircases and shady rows of leaves. The street is a bit tattier, with less signs of life, and many homes that look like they need some love and attention. Then we draw up to a huge warehouse painted a dark shade of maroon, with two large glass doors, and stepped into the foyer.

And how good was it? Well, you know how normally have to rumage for ages in vintage stores to come across those diamonds? I’m not complaining about it – it’s half of the fun – but in Beacon’s Closet you will never have to do that. Every single thing in there is near-enough amazing. And there’s A LOT in there. The whole warehouse is filled to burst with rails and rails of spectacular garments, all organised by item type and colour. It was the biggest vintage shop I’ve ever been in, but also the easiest and least stressful to shop in.

What is their secret? How do they find all these things? I don’t know for definite, but I think it might be to do with the fact that they operate a swap-shop policy. Thanks to ebay, anyone with a decent wardrobe tends to get pound-signs in their eyes every time they have a clearout – none of it’s destined for the local charity shop anymore, it’s all going straight online. Beacon’s Closet have a heavily-publicised policy of buying or swapping clothes – either vintage or ‘ultra modern’ – from anyone who brings them in. And it’s made itself into a little Brooklyn institute in the process – a kind of community wardrobe where everyone’s clothes get passed around, always finding their back when their new owners tire of them.

Would it work in the UK? Definitely, although the downside would be charity shops suffering in the face of such strong competition. But I guess they already have ebay to deal with, and with the amount of stuff I’ve bought off that site which either doesn’t fit properly or turns out completely different to how it looks in the picture, I say – bring on Beacon’s Closet!


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