I think I can safely assume that for the majority of us in the Khaleej, vintage is a new concept. It's a word we're hearing more frequently today: vintage bags, vintage jewelry, vintage dresses. I come from a family of five kids, so for us, the closest thing we had to calling vintage is a hand-me-down.
It's not that Khaleejis are arrogant or too proud, but buying something old is not something we were accustomed to. I don’t know of any secondhand shops, thrift stores or charity shops in Kuwait. And if there were, they’re certainly not being shopped by Kuwaitis, I can tell you that.
Why is that? Is it the way we were brought up? That everything new is desirable and everything old is disposable? When I was younger, I used to rummage my mom's closets for clothes and accessories to play dress up. Today, I rummage her closets to find something vintage to dress in. She kept little from the old days because she never thought that one day, we would be asking for those clothes. Whenever she gave anything away, I never asked about it. In fact, I encouraged it. I shudder to think of all the designer brand items she gave away because they weren't in style anymore.
I've tried hopping on the vintage bandwagon, but I just couldn't. I even bought a couple of t-shirts online, and they arrived looking… well… vintage-y. The colors were worn out, the seams were ratty, and my mom told me never to wear them again. I tried vintage shopping in London, because it seems like a good place to start, but I couldn't even make myself try on some of the clothes. But I'm learning. Slowly.
We can thank the Western world for this current trend. It used to be that vintage was considered dusty, shabby and moldy. Today, vintage is considered cool, trendy and – dare I say – luxurious? A 5 year old shirt is now referred to as vintage. A dress with an unknown brand (and no defined production date) from a thrift shop, is declared vintage.
Vintage clothing has become increasingly trendy after celebrities such as Kate Moss, Nicole Richie, Mary-Kate Olsen, Ashley Olsen and Chloe Sevigny were photographed wearing such items. One of the benefits of dressing in vintage is the small chance of finding someone wearing the same thing as you since most of these items were most likely produced a long time ago. An added benefit is that a lot of vintage or second-hand clothing is wallet-friendly. You can be stylish and unique without breaking the bank.
Noor Al-Shaikh, a Bahraini graduate of International Fashion Marketing at the Metropolitan Manchester University, spotted a trend growing and decided to apply it where it needed to be practiced. Her idea was to establish her own vintage brand aptly named, I Heart Vintage. She buys vintage from all over the world including London and Los Angeles. Noor believes that a lot of people collect vintage pieces knowing they were made by respected designers. She selects items based on their quality and the use of fine materials such as lace and beading. All of the items she stocks have a history behind them.
Here's a gratuitous tip from me to you: never give away anything designer that cost you a fortune because even after a long time, it will still be worth something. Eventually, it will come back in fashion because almost all designers dig back into their archives for inspiration.
Until then, and in these tough economic times, shop vintage!
Visit the I Heart Vintage Facebook group here to see Noor's latest vintage finds.
– Alya Al-Othman. Images courtesy of I Heart Vintage.