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The Rise of Vintage Industry amid Covid19 Pandemic

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This pandemic has exposed a lot of us financially as it has negatively affected our standard of living. With that said, it was befitting for yours suitably to visit a topic about what most people know as “Kwa Dunuza” but the cool kids call it “Thrifting”.

The word is not even in the English dictionary but quite popular in the fashion world. However, I can attest that most people are quite familiar with flea markets which have also been quite popular lately, of course pre-lockdown.

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Growing up passing the streets of Jozi seeing people going through piles of clothes always rose an eyebrow. It was even more amazing that the people going through those piles of used clothes didn’t look like they were poverty stricken. Majority of them was the working class who didn’t have time to go to the malls.

Fast-forward to the recent years we have seen the trendiness of flea markets and its flamboyant entrepreneurs. The vintage style was on the a rise and in great demand and it also ignited the sartorial menswear as it paid homage to the old school ways of dressing. Even suiting in retail stores began to learn a thing or two from these dandies.

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Although I could afford to get a suit from retail outlets, there was always that element that was missing from my suits or even from other gents who got their suits tailored. I started paying attention to a group of young men who passionately dressed sartorially stylish in vintage clothing. Some were still in school and some just completed their secondary schooling.

They called themselves “The Aspiring Dandies”, inspired by our very own dandies such as Loux The Vintage Guru and Tony Mac just not name a couple. It was fascinating how sleek they looked when all suited and booted. Like the saying goes, “you can buy fashion but style is what you do with what you bought”. As much as I could afford buying a new suit; shoes; shirt and tie, there was just something intriguingly interesting about their ensembles.

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First it was the thinness of their tie-knots and the unique patterns on the four-in-hand. Then it was their jackets, the structure and most amazingly the quality of the fabrics. So I decided to have a chat with one of them and it turned out to be more than a chat. He offered to take me on a tour.

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Nhlanhla Ndlela also known as Elvis started thrifting because he couldn’t afford buying brand new clothes. As “shameful” as it was, he had no choice but went with the idea. He told me a short story when he had R500.00 to spend on clothes and went out with only one item and that was the last time he went into a retail store to buy clothes.

After years of thrifting, yes years, he started getting collectors’ items which people showed interest in. He then decided to turn it into a business as he started collecting items such as bags shoes belts which some were for ladies. His business of buying and reselling vintage items opened another door as he started styling for editorial shoots which some made it in International magazines.

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As he took me on a tour, he mentioned the stigma of this industry and how people talk ill of him and what he does. The misconceptions and superstitions of wearing used clothes of people you don’t know gave a lot of his peers the creeps. All of that didn’t deter him, instead he took it up the notch and started collecting (buying) old magazines. He told me how much inspiration he got from the old copies of international magazines such as The Rake; Vogue Homme; and British GQ.

He also told me the pleasures of wearing items that he regards as exclusive since they can’t be found anywhere else. He was fascinated by the craftsmanship from the olden days tailoring, and so did I. The unfortunate part was that some items he would’ve loved to keep for his personal use but then due to size he couldn’t and had to sell them. Modest as he was, he told me that it’s not because of pride that people don’t go there but time. Part of his work includes digging up for all the items, negotiating the price with the suppliers. The next process of taking garments to the drycleaners and then alterations. However, alterations are an option to his clients but he recommends doing the whole process even though it’s too much admin. In this way it also brings him joy seeing the final product adorned by the client. His passion and respect for clothes is such an inspiration. As much as I’m a firm preacher of taking good care of clothes, his motto is simple…”look after them and they’ll make you look good”.

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With lockdown restrictions, business has been rather slow as there hasn’t been stock coming in, even some of the suppliers are still stuck in their native countries due to international travel bans. Even with all that said, he still has high hopes that all will be back to normal and it will be business as usual.

Elvis’ future plans is to have a vintage store which does not only sells clothes but any vintage items such as furniture and souvenirs. He emphasized that the store will be a place where people can come in “unashamedly” and buy but more so to learn a thing or two like I did.

Elvis is on Instagram as @elvisnje

Until next time…

Suitably Yours

Brian Lehang

SUITABLE MAN

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19 thoughts on “The Rise of Vintage Industry amid Covid19 Pandemic

  1. This Is amazing. Most dandies have a story about thrifting especially when they start off in the sartorial world. What most people don’t know is that even some of the best dressed men in the world such as Guibo,Clyde Baron advice more thrifting as they believe some vintage elements can only be retrieved from thrift and it’s nothing to be ashamed, I myself go thrifting with pride. Well done to Mr Elvis for this boldly character and Mr Brian Lehang on this magnificent piece.

    1. It was one great experience and it was heart warming seeing old timers looking all dapper going through those piles of clothing. As Elvis mentioned that some items are exclusive, I came across suspenders that one can only purchase in Europe and it was amazing how in good condition they were.

    1. Apart from the lockdown affecting the international travels, the business of thrifting proved to be quite sustainable. There’s always new shipments of re-usable items.

    1. While I was on a tour, I scored precious items that’s worth a fortune if I were to purchase them online.

  2. This is an interesting article to read especially during this tough time in the world, with so many financial strains, I think it is about time that people consider thrifted clothing as an essential part of their lives. The markets downtown in the CBD have not stopped buzzing even with the lockdown restrictions, suppliers kept providing the clothing essentials as we can now proudly call them. The markets have been a warm home for many Dandies with so many of them opting to rewrite the rules by purchasing used clothing items and altering to fit like a glove on their skins whilst a variety of their peers were against this idea, they have done it and raised the flag up high with no shame at all, which is something so beautiful. Elvis has laid the foundation for future generations and been a good example for anyone that thinks living the life they desire is impossible, thank you and keep on shining brother.

    1. I mentioned fabric quality and garment structure, I got myself a military jacket which I wore at the last Suitable Sunday. I bought it as it is and never did any alterations. I can safely say that was one of the very few and best fitting jacket I’ve ever owned. In your experience, have you ever got a jacket that didn’t need alterations? And again with fits dating from different generations, which generation do you prefer?

      1. The jackets at the markets tend to fit like a glove on most days, as I got my first blazer at the thrift markets but I did have to alter it because of my lean body frame, it is quite hard to find the perfect size but when I find something I do not have to alter, you shall be the first to know. There is so many fits going back across so many generations with many teasers in past and modern-day menswear, but with that being said the 1920s is my favourite era. That was the era of long jacket hemlines than today’s era and with my height I always prefer a longer jacket hemline, with a touch of Neapolitan tailoring of a free flowing structure with no use of shoulder pads. That era is the time when Edward VIII ‘The Duke of Windsor’ was still making trips abroad still carrying the title of The Prince of Wales. The Duke of Windsor broke rules for fun and changing menswear rules, introducing a new jacket fit altogether that has stuck with me till this day. Which era do you gather your inspiration from in terms of your jacket fit and style inspirations as I have noticed of late you gather a lot of your style inspiration from David Nevin?

  3. I’m also a fan of the 1920 era that’s where most of the inspiration for my golf attire is drawn from. That’s the structure that one can’t get when going to buy a suit off the rag and even from a lot of local tailors. Nobody is using those patterns lately. I suppose that the reason why the old timers are still thrifting even when they can afford a new suit or jacket. I’m still trying a couple of tailors to get the desired structure and fit for plus-fours. If you can look from the from knickers to the last one I posted, you can see the difference. One of the international tailor house that has mastered those patterns from the 1920 era has got to be B&Tailors and Ascotage just to pick a couple.

    1. Well with B&Tailor do not forget that Jungyul Park (Head/Master Tailor of B&Tailor) has many years of experience under his belt dating back to the time when he lived in a factory in 1967 where he would heat up irons at 4 AM everyday as the factory had no electricity, what a time it was in the 1960s seeing that we can’t last a couple of hours without electricity in modern-day with irons now automatically heating up when plugged to a plug socket. Jungyul went to various tailoring houses to learn the art of tailoring as he first learnt how to hand-sew so he deals with the bespoke suits at B&Tailor often wanting to be hands on mixing the different era’s into one garment. It is said that experience cannot be bought which is something that is evident with B&Tailor as Chad Park has learnt the art of Saville Row Tailoring, often mixing both worlds when dealing with B&Tailor and Chad Prom garments. The fit of plus-fours may be a difficult one given that they extend precisely 4 inches below the knees of the wearer, but I trust you will soon be lucky in your quest and I think you should share your journey with the audience as they shall know where to find the best-fitting plus-fours, what do you think?

      1. It’s on of the reasons why I had created this platform. To document and share my journey in the menswear world.

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