Etsy has a reputation for being the place to go when looking for hand-carved squirrel figurines or monogrammed decorative pillows. But if you can overlook its embarassing rep and its various controversies, Etsy is a goldmine for vintage clothing. Although it’s often overlooked and underappreciated, Etsy is becoming a hero of underground fashion, aiding those looking for the wild and wonderful finds you won’t discover at your local thrift shop.
Beyond making your closet a little more vibrant, shopping on Etsy has broader social, economic and environmental benefits. Firstly, transactions take place between individuals — the money mostly supports small business owners, rather than established companies or corporations. It’s also eco-friendly! As mass production is further expedited to meet the demands of new trends, the fashion industry produces more waste and lower quality product. Buying vintage is a simple way to disrupt this “fast fashion” nightmare. Etsy also allows you to shop beyond borders, giving you access to a truly global marketplace. Those in big cities aren’t restricted by thrift shops that only buy on-trend, and those in more rural locations aren’t reliant on second hand stores stocked with clothing from the recently deceased. The search bar allows shoppers to look up anything imaginable, meaning you can find the pieces you only hope exist, which, it turns out, often do (for example, “vintage sesame street sweater” brings up 57 results). Finally, the most obvious benefit is that you can shop through thousands of unique vintage pieces from all over the world without moving an inch. Despite all of these logical reasons to swan-dive in, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the vastness of Etsy’s offerings. To help you out, we’ve assembled a list of some of our favorite Etsy shops from around the world.
Los Angeles, USA, $- $$
With 21,150 favourites, 6657 sales and 1628 five star ratings, Junkkyard has made it clear that they really mean business. Dedicated to stylish LA babes throughout the decades, Junkkyard is a paradise for ‘80s and ‘90s statement pieces. Their surprisingly affordable prices and frequent sales make it easy to look like a forgotten character from “Clueless”.
Berlin, Germany, $$
King Kong vintage is the place to look for outwear with a sense of humor. Berliner Patrick Müller has a knit collection that is delightfully bizarre, filled with the kinds of sweaters worn by primary school art teachers in 1985. His color explosion of a shop is a hearty reminder that winter looks needn’t be drab, depressing or monotone!
Paris, France, $$-$$$
The aptly named Vintagestar Paris is stocked full of vintage pieces from designers like Jean-Paul Gaultier, Moschino, Kenzo, and Christian Lacroix. Shop owner Luz Star’s selection is full of trashy-cool pieces with significant sass. The shop’s collection of loud prints features everything from chinese communist propaganda to enlarged bar codes. Think Sex and the City meets Kate Bush… in Paris.
London, UK, $$
Shop owner Kathy has been curating vintage for over 10 years. Her store is a wonderland of earth-toned flower-power looks (minus the peace signs, thankfully). Whether you’re fiending for unusual knitwear or World War II era Japanese kimonos, there’s no question 5-6-7-8 has you covered in the billowy/floral department.
Tokyo, Japan, $$-$$$
Shopakifuu is the Etsy version of a “deep cut”. Despite being based on an island in the Pacific ocean, the curator has assembled an impressive array of deadstock european sportswear. The store offers a broad range of items in a very niche category: ’50s-’70s cycling jerseys. Scrolling through their items’ intensely satisfying typeface and robust color blocking is enough to make a graphic designer swoon .
Veracruz, Mexico, $$
Rainbows, pom-poms, llamas, and leather! Couple Gabriel and Jesus are on a mission to offer Latin American crafts to a broader market. Their vintage shop is a whimsical and hip selection of artisanal wonders. Here you can find a dynamic range of garments featuring the heritage colours and textures of Mexico, Argentina and beyond.
Sydney Australia , $$-$$$
This is not your average band tee shop. Bad Brains vintage has somehow found the rarities we’ve always been searching for, across the musical spectrum. The collection features “updated” retro tees from bands like Rage Against the Machine, the Violent Femmes and the Spice Girls. The most notable piece is a Joan Jett and the Blackhearts shirt signed by Madame Jett herself (or a savvy impersonator with a marker).
Hong Kong, $$-$$$
Lai’s Vintage is a breath of fresh air, curated to precision with a consistent color palette and tone. It features rare vintage selections from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, China and beyond. Shop owner Miki Lai’s delicate taste favors unique pieces with modest silhouettes and flowing fabrics. It’s a one stop shop for all things Garden Party.
Hamburg, Germany, $$-$$$
The owner, creator and curator of Strobe Vintage selects pieces for who she deems “risky individuals”. The shop is packed to the brim with the kinds of shearling coats you’d wear to sneak onto a Nirvana tour bus. It’s also a treasure trove of textures— fringe, wool, fur, velvet, lace, suede, leather— for those of us eager to diversify our closet’s tactility.
This list is only representative of a sliver of Etsy’s vintage offerings. A word of warning: Etsy is not the best online destination for passive shoppers. With a bit of time, research and creativity, you can hunt down specifics and uncover unique treasures. Although it’s a bit controversial to endorse internet k-holes, in Etsy’s case, the deeper you delve, the greater the reward.