Youths opening their own vintage clothing stores in Singapore
Loop Garms, Death Threads and EXIT are among the new wave of youth-owned stores entering the retail scene.
You might have seen youths donning apparel that were probably made before they were even born.
They can be spotted from a mile away, dressed in bright windbreakers and polo rugby shirts from established brands like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger.
The word “vintage” has become a buzzword among youths, especially in the fashion scene. To keep up with this appetite, more vintage clothing stores are starting to pop up in Singapore, and a handful are even owned by youths.
Taking their hobby one step further
“Vintage wear” generally refers to clothing that strongly represent the era they belong to, such as colour block windbreakers from the 90s.
“The term is not very straightforward. We make sure not to use it loosely because we don’t want to be misleading. For us, anything 80s to 90s would be vintage, but not everything that is old is vintage,” said Isaac Ang from Loop Garms.
Sports jackets, plaid pants and graphic T-shirts are commonly sought after, with prices ranging from $25 to $80, depending on their rarity.
The three local stores we spoke to shared that they started their businesses out of a fondness for vintage clothing.
“We started getting into vintage clothing when we were 17. At that time, it was hard to source it in Singapore, so we mostly searched on eBay and overseas,” said EXIT founder Aloyston Eng.
Together with two of his friends, Darren Yang and Charmaine Lim, Aloyston opened EXIT in June this year to create a community for others who share the same passion for vintage and streetwear.
Similarly, Death Threads owners Deon Phua, 26, Paul Dizon, 35, and Edmund Tan, 20, opened their store in June 2017 to spread their love for 90s apparel and pop culture.
“We are generally open to most styles and try to keep up with people’s changing tastes, but we also inject what we like, such as movies, music and video games,” said 25-year-old co-founder Joshua Lee.
For 26-year-olds Sai Fengjia (commonly known as FJ) and Isaac, opening Loop Garms was “eight years in the making”.
Isaac said: “When we were in polytechnic, we would browse through vintage knick-knacks on eBay. It was just a hobby until we graduated and took a trip to Japan.
“Japan was a game changer because we were exposed to the massive vintage and used clothing scene there.”
Six years after their trip to Japan, they decided to open Loop Garms in February this year.
The human connection
Despite the convenience of opening stores online, most youth-owned vintage clothing stores prefer to open a brick-and-mortar store.
As most of these owners work on a buy-sell-trade concept, operating offline has its advantages. Darren cited the convenience of authenticating purchases in person, which assures customers of their items’ quality.
“Being online makes it inconvenient to arrange meetups. With a storefront, customers can walk in and we can cash out [their clothes] easily,” explained Aloyston.
Most importantly, hosting a physical store has helped these youths go beyond transactional relationships with their customers.
Some even ended up leaving the store as friends.
“We want to create a space where customers can have meaningful exchanges and sharing sessions with each other about the history behind the clothes they’re browsing,” said Isaac.
Similarly, Joshua felt that having a walk-in space enhances the customer experience.
“People generally prefer to view clothing in real life and touch them. Seeing the clothes upfront helps them to make informed choices as well,” he said.
Some of these vintage clothing stores also chose “unique” operating hours to differentiate themselves from other similar stores.
While EXIT and Loop Garms are open five and six days a week respectively, Death Threads only opens its doors once a month.
“Opening [our store] once a month makes it exclusive. Every time we open, there’ll always be fresh things to look forward to,” said Joshua, adding that they pull in crowds every time they bring in a new ‘edition’ of items.
Taking advantage of social media
Despite only operating offline, these vintage clothing stores have thousands of followers on social media, and for good reason.
All three stores use Instagram to update their followers about new vintage apparel available in-stores. They also furnish their Instagram Stories with photos of customers with their recent purchases.
“We have a highlight labelled “#LOOPICKS”, where we give our inputs on certain apparel and the different ways in which they can be styled,” said Isaac, who engages Loop Garm’s followers through Instagram polls and stories.
Despite the high price tags, these retro T-shirts and outerwear are proving to be popular among some fashion-forward youths.
Could it be their longing for the past?
“We see so many stores popping up and it’s good that the scene is growing so rapidly,” said Aloyston.