A Vintage Column – What Is Vintage?

What is vintage, well that is an endless debate, but one worth getting an expert opinion on, and who better than Clerkenwell Vintage Fair to give us some thoughts on the subject. It is my fave fair, and will always have a special pace in my heart as it introduced me to one of my dearest friends, Olivia, take a bow. 

Anyway back on topic, when you get the chance to ask an industry expert, its the best thing you can do, so have a read.


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With vintage fashion becoming so popular over the last decade or so we’ve seen vintage shops, markets and fairs growing in popularity. Some of this has been really positive and opened people up to the stylish and sustainable world of vintage but along the way, some have forgotten the true meaning of vintage…

We started Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair in 2009, at the height of the recession, providing a great quality vintage shopping event supporting authentic traders and helping customers have an enjoyable experience where they could find the real thing.

We define vintage as anything that is at least 25 years or older. More than that though, the pieces our traders select are iconic of their era in terms of cut, colour, print, construction and fabric. Garments need to speak of their era and that is the true meaning of vintage. We work with traders whose pieces are in good to mint condition from as early as the 1800s-1980s so that our customers can find wearable fashion that will hold its value.

We vet every trader at our fair very carefully to make sure they fit the values and style of our fair. Some of them specialise in particular eras or designer labels and some even sell just one product category like fur coats, spectacle frames or workwear. We try to keep a good mixture from womenswear, to menswear and accessories from every era of vintage but the thing they have in common is a fantastic eye for genuine vintage and a wealth of knowledge on the topic.

We’ve had some incredible pieces coming through our fair in the past, including a 1930s pearly king outfit which we sold during the Queen’s jubilee and a dress that had been worn by Audrey Hepburn (including a photo of her wearing it). That dress was bought by a dealer who then sold it at auction for thousands!

Many of our traders worked in the fashion industry previously as designers or stylists, so have a really key understanding of design history. As a result of this, a lot of design teams from the fashion houses visit our fair to buy garments for research for their new collections. You always see pieces on the high street or the catwalks that have been inspired by past eras, and that journey begins at fairs like ours!

With the rise of 1990’s fashion as a trend, we have received requests from traders who specialise in only selling pieces from the 90’s. Even though there’s a big demand for it right now, we don’t try and keep up with passing trends, we consistently sell 100% authentic pieces to maintain the reputation we have built. 1980’s is strictly our cut off point.

For those who are new to vintage it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to look and what to look for. With people slapping the word ‘vintage’ on second-hand high street clothes found in charity shops, it can be a bit off putting! Our best advice is to take recommendations from people who know about vintage (it’s a very close community) and to ask dealers about their background, their particular areas of interest and what they know about the pieces they currently have in stock. You’ll quickly know if they really know what they’re talking about.

You can also come along to our next fair to discover what vintage really means! With over 50 traders selling quality vintage apparel there is something for everyone. It’s taking place this Sunday, 12th April, from 11am until 5pm at The Old Finsbury Town Hall, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4RP.  (Nearest tube: Angel)

About Ross Pollard

Since starting writing on my 31st birthday in 2011 I have held a number of positions at magazines and websites as well as regularly producing articles for numerous publications alongside contributing to TV & radio shows as a freelance fashion journalist including Hoxton Radio & Fashion One TV. Alongside writing, I have worked in other industries helping to design & grow digital platforms, develop businesses and support operations practices. This experience has proved invaluable in building an understanding of how businesses work, and the landscape in which retail, B2B commerce and other commercial operations develop. Knowledge of commercial interests has helped shape my fashion industry insights beyond critiquing of garments


  1. That’s really interesting, hopefully I’ll be able to find something that’s perfect too at the next fair x

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