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The Way to Sell Vintage Clothing Online: The Ultimate Guide

Summary

Ah, the thrill of the search. If you get it, you get it. If you do not, selling classic clothing online may not be for you. That’s OK–you can sell pretty much anything on Shopify, from noodle recipes and swimwear […]

Ah, the thrill of the search. If you get it, you get it. If you do not, selling classic clothing online may not be for you. That’s OK–you can sell pretty much anything on Shopify, from noodle recipes and swimwear to activism and makeup .

But if you live for the high of scoring a very sweet classic dress at the local thrift shop and bragging about how little you paid, you could have the ability to turn that fire into a small business. Having an eyeand the patience–for sourcing and curating classic is a skill that could pay off your very distinctive wardrobe.

With rapidly shifting consumer awareness about where garments come from, selling classic clothing is a great sustainable business opportunity in 2021.

Fashion has always been motivated by history. Denim cuts from the’70s, dress silhouettes in the’40s, and’80s colour palettes have moved in and out of style over once each since their beginning. While quick fashion outlets are quick to pick up on vintage-style trends on the runways, pumping out $20 variations of these corduroy overalls you loved in the’90s, there is something special about finding the real thing. In your size.

OMNIA

Vintage shoppers rely on shop owners to perform the tedious sifting, curating a painless browsing experience of only the best things, in the very best condition. And with rapidly shifting consumer understanding about where products come from, selling classic clothing is a great sustainable business opportunity.

The Way to sell vintage clothing online

The secondhand market is projected to reach $64 billion by 2024. The demand has led to the success of brands such as ThredUp and the rising number of antique clothing vendors popping up on Etsy and eBay. That’s a good deal of competition. But if you’re considering getting into the classic game, there is no reason you can not create a special brand to define your specific taste, away from the crowded marketplaces.

In this guide, we will help you through every step in building your brand and selling vintage clothing online: where to find vintage goods, photography ideas, pricing plans, and much more. Plus, we consulted successful classic sellers for their tips on sourcing and achievement.

 

Meet the merchants

Naomi Bergknoff, Creator, OMNIA

“I feel really fortunate to have been able to make a business from my retail experience and lifelong love of vintage clothes,” says Naomi, whose interest in vogue ignited with Barbies and climbed when she found thrifting in high school. She launched OMNIA in 2010 and conducts it full time from Brooklyn, where she has built strong ties with the classic community.

Dayna Atkinson, Founder, FYRE VINTAGE

“I began selling classic in 2015 after studying #Girlboss,” says Dayna. The book inspired her to pursue a career in fashion, and she began her vintage clothing company, FYRE, as a side hustle while still in school. She runs it full time, selling a mixture of classic and reworked pieces.

Seán Domican and Oisín Manning, Founders, Durt Co.. Vintage

Seán and Oisín began their classic business in 2020 from”boredom in lockdown.” Seán had plans to travel last year–the pandemic hit. “I wanted to do something with my money that was successful,” he says. The friends initially launched Durt in their shared flat, self-funding with fresh travel savings. They have since moved to a dedicated centre but still work fulltime when running Durt on the side.

Azeezat Owokoniran-Jimoh and Damilare (Dare) Jimoh, Founders, COAL N TERRY

Since Azeezat and Dare established their brand in 2010, COAL N TERRY has gathered a devout following, including many celebrity clients. They carved out a niche in the classic market with an unmistakable look that combines vintage finds with their own branded designs.

Getting started as a classic clothing sellerBurstEvery successful business starts in precisely the exact same place: with a excellent business idea. Before we enter the more strategic suggestions for sourcing clothes or setting up your shop, we’ll hang out here in the think phase for a short time. This is the area where you ask yourself critical questions that will inform your decisions moving forward. Do not skip this step!

Creating a good brand for your vintage company can allow you to find a relevant audience, create a manual for prospective hires as you expand, and maintain your focus consistent.

Defining vintage

Before we go any further, however, let us talk terminology. What clothes are considered”classic “? And how can the term differ from”classic ” or”retro“? Vintage clothing is broadly described as anything produced between 20 years back and 100 years back.

Clothing can be considered antique if it is over 100 years old. These bits are more rare and frequently found in museums or private collections.

Any merchandise produced today or within the last twenty years might be created in a classic style, but can’t be considered vintage. Typically these would be known as decorative or repro (short for reproduction).

Locating your angle

COAL N TERRY

Though you might just elect to select and sell what you like, consider picking a market within the classic clothing world to help your company stand apart. Your shop may choose to focus on:

  • A decade or years, state the 1920s or the 1980s
  • A specific purpose or event, like evening wear or athletic wear
  • High-end designer classic
  • A market item, like classic band tees
  • Reworked fashions (adapting antique clothing into new bits )
  • New retro clothes in a classic style (read our guide on starting a clothing line)
  • Trending fashions, like’90s revival

Dayna found her groove in reimagining classic pieces by cutting them apart and stitching them back together in new ways. “I have a fantastic mix of normal vintage and reworked classic, making my store unique,” she says.

Durt similarly found a solution for bits which were unsellable. Resident fashion graduate Saoirse Mulvany salvages usable bits from these clothes and sews them into brand new things for the brand. “We’ve bucket hats made from ruined sweatshirts,” says Seán. “We are getting bags made, also.”

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Reworked vintage clothing is a sustainable solution to throwing out bits that are damaged or stained. Durt

While building your brand and narrowing in on your attention, consider the following:

  • What is your style? You will obviously find sourcing easier when you play up your own aesthetic. You are already familiar with the brands, and your eye will obviously spot fantastic finds one of crowded thrift racks.
  • Is the market too restricted? If you opt for a too-specific slice of classic (such as: 1930s evening wear), you might have difficulty sourcing enough clothes. Be certain you are able to set reliable sources for your stock.
  • Conversely, is it overly saturated? Are there already too many stores doing the same thing? If so, how do you distinguish your offering?
  • Follow tendencies –or start one. What is happening on the runways any given season, or influencer tendencies, can help dictate your direction. While vintage could be desired, it fares better if it pertains to a contemporary style or way of life. You’ll also have the ability to draw a broader audience if your specialty is in demand.

Building your classic brand

Do not confuse”brand” with”branding.” The former will inform the way you move with the latter. It is important that you define your brand at this early stage. Answering a few questions can allow you to inform your brand story, split out your visual aesthetic, catch your assignment, and much more clearly envision your perfect customer.

As soon as you’ve got clear brand guidelines, you may continue to mention them as you design your website and curate your own collection. As you scale and even hire employees, these tips will help keep your messaging consistent, too.

Dayna’s brand helps her maintain her collection tight and constant. “Be extremely picky with your own inventory. Ten great pieces is far better than 50 OK bits,” she says.

 

Funding your antique clothing company

In 2021, following a year of lockdowns, new technology has emerged to make learning, interacting, and doing business much easier from anywhere, virtually. You may launch your classic business from your house with hardly any initial investment.

That is, however, a company that needs you to purchase stock up front–unless you go for a consignment model (you only pay for the items when they are sold). As you scale, consider the length of time your living space will have the ability to manage your storage needs. Plan ahead for when you might need to upgrade to a dedicated office or warehouse space.

Because of the nature of the company, having money on hand is crucial for purchasing one-way stock as it becomes available.

Seán and Oisín began Durt with private savings and bootstrapped since they climbed. They are careful to carefully manage cash flow. Because of the nature of the company, having money on hand is crucial for purchasing one-way stock as it becomes available.

Other financing sources include: small business loans, VC and angel financing , crowdfunding, and bootstrapping. Once your Shopify shop is up and running, you might also be eligible for Shopify Capital.

Sourcing classic clothingOMNIA

When you are starting out in the world of selling classic clothing, possibly as a home-based company , local thrift stores can be excellent sources of vintage finds. In case you’ve got the patience and attention for scouring racks and do not require a bunch of inventory, begin there.

Classic thrifting tips:

  • Go often and on the ideal days. Many shops get shipments or place new things on the ground on specific days. Ask the shop staff for this advice and plan your visits around those days.
  • Have a strategy . Save money and time by clearly defining the items you’re looking for before you begin sourcing. For those who have staff or others assisting you, create a transparent style guide with useful identifiers that they need to search for.
  • Carefully inspect things before buying . Thrift shops often don’t possess the same quality criteria as curated antique shops, and items might have stains or other damage. “Take time at the end of your shopping trip to examine everything in your cart to get any imperfections,” says FYRE founder Dayna.
  • Know your stuff, says former classic reseller Emilie Martin, who analyzed classic Vogue magazines and store catalogs. “I always looked for a few telltale signs of antique clothes, like a union tag, the cloth used, zipper placement, and, of course, the type of the item.”

“Always carry additional IKEA luggage in your vehicle and have money,” says OMNIA founder Naomi. OMNIA

Naomi still hits thrift shops whenever she travels, and her clothing is chosen from numerous sources, including her clients. Irrespective of the source, she says she is always selective. “I am always thinking about what I am attracted to and what I know my clients will love to see.”

Additional sources for classic clothing:

  • Auctions: Subscribe to receive notifications for auctions in your area. Some of them take place in person, but there are numerous online auction sites like eBay and MaxSold which permit you to browse and bid on your own time from home.
  • Estate sales: These can be a goldmine for a great deal of vintage items in 1 place. Stay on top of upcoming sales by getting on the email list of local estate sale management firms. “Oftentimes you can haggle with the estate sale supervisor on prices if you are purchasing a large volume,” says Dayna.
  • Online marketplaces and classifieds: Websites like Craigslist may turn up some antiques, in addition to listings for garage sales, moving sales, or estate sales.
  • Pickers: After you have built your business, contemplate outsourcing by employing a picker. This might be a person (with a excellent eye) who simply makes the rounds to local thrift stores on a regular basis.
  • Wholesalers: Subscribe to a trade client with wholesalers to acquire access to classic in bulk and at wholesale prices.
  • Consignment programs: Source classic from others interested in selling their private collections and resell them on their behalf to get a commission. Establish a program to purchase or consign vintage items from the customers or website visitors. Consignment is a low-risk arrangement which involves paying the owner only in the event you sell the merchandise.
  • Flea or outside markets: Showing up early means first dibs, but you will find the best prices at the end of the day and the end of flea market season, when traders want to unload stock.
  • Collectors: Private collectors may be interested in working with you to unload some of their inventory. These are people you may meet as you begin building contacts in the classic community.
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Working with wholesalers

Durt

I am calling out this source specifically because it might be the least intuitive and toughest to browse for new vintage clothing resellers. Wholesalers generally obtain their inventory by picking from thrift shop cast offs that wind up in overseas rag homes. Pickers then cull any items which may be sold to antique stores through wholesalers.

Seán and Oisín landed wholesalers as a solution when starting out. In Ireland, where they state vintage has not quite caught on the way it has in other areas of the world, the choices were slim.

However, their first experience using a wholesaler was a tragedy. “They offered us the fantasy we were going to get all this unreal inventory,” says Seán. “It was a bunch of the worst possible things that nobody could ever want.” It was a $2,000 reduction which they could not afford. The UK firm accepted returns but the return postage was too costly. Though Ireland was on lockdown, business travel was allowed. “We put all of the inventory into the back of our car, got the ferry to England, and delivered a box of these in person,” he says.

Ever since that learning experience, Durt’s founders are more discerning. Wholesalers will now work together to perform choosing by movie telephone (an industry standard since COVID). “Someone has a tripod with a camera and they simply go through clothing and pick for you,” Seán states.

They know what kinds of things we’re looking for. Occasionally we get high-fashion brands.

Azeezat Owokoniran-Jimoh, COAL N TERRY

The group behind COAL N TERRY also constructed wholesale connections to free up their time and expand the company. “They already know what sorts of things we’re searching for,” Azeezat states. “Occasionally we get high-fashion brands.”

Storage and inventory for classic clothingFYRE VINTAGE

Without a plan, classic inventory may begin to feel like a cluttered thrift shop. Unlike shops with limited product listings (and many components within each), classic items are usually one of a kind.

Develop a system to help sort, store, and identify things to simplify shipping and fulfillment. Processing incoming classic garments in batches, Durt stores items using a numerical system–every new piece is labeled, numbered, and placed on racks in order. “We know where it is if someone orders it,” says Seán. “We did not do that originally, and it was a nightmare.”

Classic inventory tips:

  • Shop antique items in temperature- and humidity-controlled surroundings (not musty basements), protected from moths and other fabric pests.
  • Garment bags can help prevent dust from settling on things and protect them during handling, but prevent plastic–it may trap moisture that contributes to mildew and may even stick to some kinds of material. Opt for bags made from cloth.
  • Use padded hangers just . Wire hangers can cause undesirable rips, creases, or even stains if they rust. Some wood hangers can also cause damage, based upon the wood finish.
  • Keep classic items from natural light–sunlight can fade colors.
  • Use clear bins/baskets (never cardboard boxes) for open and accessories racks for clothes so that everything is visible and accessible.
  • Be mindful of sequins or embellishments that may catch on the delicate fabrics of different garments.
  • Stay organized. COAL N TERRY sorts its racks by kind –trousers, shirts, denim–and then by colour so any of its employees can easily find items.

Cleaning and repairing classic clothingBurst

Despite the fact that you’re selling classic clothing–basically a used product–clients will expect that your items arrive clean and in the condition described. If there are permanent stains, rips, or other harm, they might still have value and be desired by a customer. But, be certain to clearly describe and photograph the damaged areas to prevent surprises–and yields .

✂️ Tips for cleaning and repairing vintage clothes for resale:

  • Check the tag, and follow care instructions. Commonly, care labels will be missing. In cases like this, assess the product’s fabric composition, soil level, and condition, and study the best method and products for cleaning. “We made the mistake of placing a puffer coat in the dryer,” says Seán.
  • If the product is relatively clean, a clothing steamer can remove odors and wrinkles, and is preferable to ironing.
  • Hand wash and eliminate stains the Smithsonian manner .
  • Locate a reliable dry cleaner who has experience with classic fabrics or specializes in delicate fabrics. Note: some things may be too delicate for the dry cleaning procedure.
  • Locate a respectable tailor or learn basic sewing methods to fix easy damage like loose buttons and sequins or dropped hems. “Know what you can fix before buying it,” says Naomi. “And invest in some tools like a sewing machine, an industrial steamer, a stocked sewing kit, and fundamental leather tools.”
  • Remember what your mother taught you: different your colours . Durt found this the hard way when a red thing turned an whole load of pink.
  • If you are interested in upcycling classic , it is a terrific way to use bits of classic clothing that are too damaged or soiled to market. If you are creative, you can design and sew these yourself, or you can outsource to someone who can.

Classic clothing photographyBurst

Merchandise photography in a classic company is a continuous task. Unlike other clothing stores which may schedule shoots once a year or as new sets are published, classic merchants have a steady consumption of inventory, all which has to be individually taken.

Building an in-house picture studio

COAL N TERRY’s owners do all their clothing photography in-house using a standard fixed studio setup including a DSLR, tripod, easy lighting kit, and white seamless background. The installation is permanent, meaning the photography appears consistent on pages that are set, though the items might have been taken weeks apart.

I plan out the outfits a day or 2 prior to the shoot and put them on the rack in the order I wish to take them in.

Dayna Atkinson, FYRE VINTAGE

Shooting in tiny spaces

If you’re beginning from a tiny space like your flat, a permanent setup could be unrealistic. In this case be sure to:

  • Keep your gear stored in one location for simple set up/tear down.
  • Take notice of tripod positioning, camera settings, and light conditions so that you can recreate the look every time you shoot.
  • Take in batches (say, weekly or biweekly) rather than item by item.
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Durt

Outsourcing photography

You could also decide that your photo skills are not up to scratch and you would rather work with an existing studio. Do a little upfront prep to make the most of your studio time. “I plan out the outfits a day or 2 prior to the shoot and put them on the rack in the order I wish to take them in,” says Dayna. “When traveling into a studio for a shoot I use garment bags to keep my clothing protected.”

Vintage clothing photography tips

If you can not afford to hire models, get creative with shooting classic clothing styled on mannequins or dress forms. OMNIA

  • Catch every angle. When you sell vintage clothing online (or some other clothes, for that matter), it is crucial that you recreate the personalized shopping experience of an in-store buy, as customers won’t have the ability to touch, feel, or try on your own clothing. Remember to capture an assortment of images: the complete garment on a model or mannequin, zoomed-in details like buttons or stitching, a close-up of the initial tag, and any noted defects or harm.
  • Supply inspo. Shooting lookbook-style lifestyle photographs might be more unrealistic for classic businesses, but it’s still possible to inject fun and inspiration into fundamental product shoots. If possible, show the things on a version (even if that is only you and a camera timer!) And accessorized to demonstrate how each item can be styled.
  • Take in batches. “Dividing the inventory into weekly collections makes it much easier to handle as a batch process,” Naomi says. She does weekly”drops” on her website after measuring, prepping, and shooting a heap of things at once versus a continuous flow. “It feels far more attainable.”

We noticed that our clients tend to react better to images taken with our mobiles as opposed to expertly done photo shoots. More enjoys, more involvement, more sales.

Azeezat Owokoniran-Jimoh, COAL N TERRY

  • Work with everything you have got. “Shooting with versions is perfect, but it could also be tricky to do for each collection,” says Naomi. It may be cost-prohibitive for smaller companies. During the pandemic, Naomi could not shoot models and found other ways to be creative. “I will do the rest on dress forms, which, if styled with caution, can also look really great!”
  • You do not always need expensive gear. Azeezat gets things even more quickly to her fans and clients by shooting and posting candid behind-the-scenes shots on her iPhone for the brand’s Instagram. “We noticed that our clients tend to react better to images taken with our mobiles as opposed to professionally done photo shoots,” she says. “More enjoys, more involvement, more sales.”
  • Do not skimp on light, though. “I enjoy using natural light, but that may be inconsistent,” says Naomi,”I invested in some flashes also.” Standard lighting kits and off-camera flashes could be relatively cheap and are an integral element of your photography toolkit if you are going the DIY route.

A assortment of shots which catch the bit styled on a design or even in movement can assist your clients visualize how to wear the garment or the way the fabric might stream. OMNIAPricing vintage clothing

Follow the same basic principles for pricing goods for ecommerce–be sure to factor in the cost of the merchandise and other overhead and expenses. But forget standard pricing formulas (multiplying wholesale cost by X), as you should also factor in vintage clothing worth. Each piece will have to be considered independently, but you might need to stick within a particular range depending upon your ideal customer. “I make an effort to keep my pricing consistent so my clients know what to expect,” says Dayna.

It is rare that we have a bit that needs appraisal. But once in a while I’ll ask fellow classic traders for their experience.

Naomi Bergknoff, OMNIA

Price vintage based on rarity, age, wearability, demand, condition, trend, and tag. The best way to determine selling price would be to look for similar items on classic marketplaces such as eBay or Etsy. Are there a ton of the same? Your selling price declines. Is your thing in better condition than many others like it? Your selling price rises. For quite old, rare, or couture products, consider an appraisal service or consult classic experts. “It is rare that we have a bit that needs appraisal,” says Naomi. “But once in a while I will ask fellow classic traders for their experience.”

Also check Google tendencies and keyword research quantity to find out if there’s actually demand for the product. Your piece may be infrequent, but if there is not much need, that could affect your pricing.

Setting up your online shop

This could actually be the easiest aspect of running your business of selling classic clothing online. There is no risk in establishing a free trial on Shopify (the first two weeks are on us!) And it might be the incentive to ramp up your sourcing and really get this thing started.