Zaina Hassan talks to the founders of Grandma’s Closet, Sold, and Vecchio to trace back how vintage clothing became must-have pieces and why they each got into their line of work.
I never thought of my grandma as a style icon until I caught myself trawling through racks of her clothes; stealing bombshell pieces from the 70s, 80s, and even 90s. We don’t just show up to our our grandma’s doors for wara2 3einab now; their closets have become major pit-stops before all our big nights out. Recently, there's been a resurgence of old-school fashion trends in Egypt; the vintage look has become the absolute height of style – so yes girls, keep squeezing into that tight rayon skirt.
A few years ago, the idea of wearing a secondhand outfit from the wardrobe of a person possibly long dead was unappealing to say the least – fast forward to today and realise how a vintage outfit makes people stand up and take notice. In the bizarre world of fashion brands and influencers on Instagram, Egyptians are getting much of their inspiration from hashtags and handles. Vintage is now worn to make a statement.
“Wearing vintage makes me feel unique, every piece just screams ‘I have it and nobody else does. I’ve always been intrigued by everything about vintage clothes, everything from the structure to the quality to the colour,” says fashion blogger, Radwa El Ziki, who has sealed her love for the apparel of passed times.
Photo from Radwa El Ziki
Many young Egyptians go shopping for vintage clothes in El Wekala, an open secret hub of shopping for vintage great pieces, nevertheless pop-up and concept stores have contributed to the rise of the vintage trend and the 'hippy' style in Egypt. “Vintage clothes used to be so hard to find; I’d have to wait to travel and go to vintage markets abroad or just depend on my mother’s closet, but now I find cool vintage pieces here in Egypt in places like Sold and Grandma’s closet,” added Ziki.
It may seem like a silly question but I’m sure you’ve thought of it too: where do Egyptian vintage retailers find all this stuff? Every retailer has their own ways, it seems. Some go to local wholesalers located in areas like Sinai; others fetch items themselves off ships that port in different cities around Egypt once or twice a month when a ship handler that they’re in contact with informs them of it. Certain retailers buy their full collections from abroad and/or attend full actions on wardrobes. Sounds fun? Well, I heard it's actually pretty hectic.
Photo from Grandma's closet
Grandma’s Closet, Sold and Vecchio are specialised vintage stores in Egypt with a cult-like following. And I got in touch with their owners for some first-hand insights on the current and rising vintage trend in Egypt.
Grandma’s closet is a treasure trove of vintage gems, opening once or twice a month in a little basement, which looks exactly like a cozy living room, taken out of a 90s sitcom. People don’t even have to visit with the intention of even buying anything, you can simply walk in have a drink and chill. “We have young people coming to look for specific items in the vintage style, like the Adidas tracksuits, I mean we love them we even own them – but there are people who authentically love vintage style in its entirety and people who are buying specific pieces because they saw them on a friend or a media personality” explain, Alya Salah and Amina Geoda, co-owners of Grandma’s Closet.
Photo from Grandma's Closet
Sold and Vecchio are very similar in concept, customers book an appointment and meet with the owners in a designated space, in Yehya Karali’s own living room in the case of Sold. Karali, co-owner of sold, doesn’t market or advertise the brand in attempt to keep it “all organic". He told us, “I’m also doing it for the cultural aspect and not for the profit. I don’t want it to be a trend, I want people to buy vintage clothes because they appreciate the value of the item and not because of the hype or because of a friend is buying.”
Photo by Baher Khairy
Recently fast-fashion stores have been offering replicas of the same pieces for thousands of pounds. “The rise of vintage came hand in hand with the flotation of the pound, people felt they’re not getting what they’re paying for in fast fashion chains. People have become more fashion conscious. Back in 2012, wearing vintage was a taboo,” explains Karali. It’s seemingly becoming more reasonable for millennials to buy better-quality pieces that no one else owns; and they can sometimes lay their hands on affordable designer pieces. “There’s a sense of richness in the quality of vintage clothes, that cannot be produce from scratch,” Karali says. The rise of vintage trends is so globally and locally eminent, that fast-fashion brands like Zara and TopShop are producing clothes that look vintage, but aren’t really vintage. “I can tell the difference because of the quality, the quality of vintage clothes cannot be recreated today,” Karali adds.
Photo from Vecchio
After speaking to Seif El Attar, co-owner of Vecchio, an important element of logic comes to mind. Attar was inspired by a documentary titled The True Cost, which claims that the fashion industry is second only to oil as the most polluting industry on Earth – not to mention that it has engendered entire economies to the bottom and raises the issue of of child labor. “We try to be as sustainable as possible, we only use paper bags and had a collaboration with a movement called ‘Dying out of Cold Sucks,’ where customers would receive 25 percent off purchases if they donate their clothes to charity,” he told us. Attar’s love for vintage started a long time before he even opened Vecchio. “There’s something special about vintage items that no mass-produced product could embody. There’s this element of, ‘I was meant to be there at this exact time. This item is meant to be mine, and if I was to arrive 10 minutes late to this store, it could have been someone else’s.’ Every vintage piece has a story, one that’s historical and one that’s personal," he added.
Our Uggs and Juicy Couture tracksuits couldn’t stand the test of time; but in contrast, fancy brooches, Peter Pan-collars, floral patterns, and shoulder pads are back - they don’t seem to be going anywhere and we’re not complaining.