The fashion industry is a wasteful behemoth that needs urgent action, but what are we doing in our end of the bargain? Well, 80 billion new pieces of clothing are still bought annually, while here in the UK we’re continually sending a whopping 13 million items of clothing to the landfill every week. Whenever there’s demand, then companies will rise to supply.
To help spur on much-needed change, Oxfam has launched its second instalment of Second Hand September, a campaign encouraging people to avoid buying new clothing for the entire 30 days of the month.
This might prove a stern challenge for those regular fashionistas out there. But the second-hand clothing market has never been bigger or better. The meteoric rise of clothes re-selling app, Depop, is stirring up a renaissance within the pre-loved scene while vintage clothing kilo sales are hot tickets among Gen-Z bargain hunters.
There are second-hand gems to be uncovered beyond that throwback Tommy tee too. It’s impossible to break a book and coupled with a few pounds taken off the retail price, the second-hand market for literature is also reaching new heights. Likewise with furniture; why cut down another tree when a well-made, pre-loved cabinet will last you a lifetime?
So, to help you in your search for the best second-hand clothes, books, and furniture London has to offer we’ve decided to round up some of our favourite shops. Even if you don’t nab anything, wandering around these vintage emporiums is a glorious way to while away your Sunday.
Where To Buy Second Hand Clothes In London
Rokit began life as a stall on Camden Market specialising in vintage denim before fierce demand propelled it into a two-storey shop on the high street. Since then Rokit has truly spearheaded London’s second-hand charge with four shops now in total across London. Denim is still a forte, as are 90s styled sweats and punchy graphic tees that nicely slots into millennial’s current tastebuds.
225 Camden High Street, NW1 7BU, and other locations across London, rokit.co.uk
London’s biggest vintage store, Atika takes up two-storeys in a magnificent Victorian warehouse just off Spitalfields Market. A relative newbie in the capital’s vintage scene (it opened in 2011), its focus is on bold, colour-popping wares and coveted designer labels. Basically, anything to get you papped at fashion week.
55-59 Hanbury St, E1 5JP, atikalondon.co.uk
Paper Dress Vintage
Shop by day, bar by night; Paper Dress Vintage is one hell of a cool place to hang out. Clothes wise, the garments go beyond Rokit and Atika’s 80s and 90s treats, and aim more for the roaring 20s and swingin’ 60s. Expect Gatsby-esque blazers then and flowing paisley dresses, as well as the option of a nip-or-tuck by an on-hand tailor.
Don’t forget to return for the party in the evening, with drinks until late and a stage that has hosted the likes of Tom Odell, Aldous Harding, and Fat White Family.
352a Mare Street, E8 1HR, paperdressvintage.co.uk
The Vintage Showroom
The military has been a colossal influence on menswear through the years, from the desert boot and the parka to camo’s firm position in the streetwear canon. It’s ubiquity on the rails at second-hand menswear haven The Vintage Showroom then is no surprise, carefully positioned alongside gritty workwear and some dandier pieces than still err on the side of functionality.
It also turns The Vintage Showroom into a bit of a museum, a whistle-stop tour through the history of menswear, albeit one where you can take the museum pieces out onto the high street.
14 Earlham Street, WC2H 9LN, thevintageshowroom.com
First opened in 2002 in a disused dairy factory near Brick Lane in Shoreditch, Beyond Retro has followed in the footsteps of Rokit to become a fully-fledged second-hand chain (there is even four stores in Sweden now). It’s a big operation, which means they can be more discerning about their stock with only an estimated one in 1,000 items hitting the shop floor.
Not one for waste though, Beyond Retro also incorporates a scheme that takes the stock deemed unworthy and via a factory in India makes it worthy again, either by recycling the raw material or cropping, chopping, and tapering the existing garment.
110-112 Cheshire Street, E2 6EJ, and other locations across London, beyondretro.com
Where To Buy Second Hand Books In London
Primarily selling new books, the carefully curated selection of second-hand books at this chain of bookshops’ Marylebone branch more than qualifies it for this list. The oak-paneled, stain-glassed Edwardian building is an elegant slice of history, housing books from all over the world, organised by their country of origin (think Larousse Gastronomique next to Les Misérables for example).
Its second-hand selection continues the globe-trotting theme, from ’50s guidebooks to novels on international espionage.
84 Marylebone High Street, W1U 4QW, dauntbooks.co.uk
Word On The Water
A 100-year-old Dutch barge moored on Regent’s Canal just off the uber-modern Granary Square and Coal’s Drop Yard in Kings Cross, The Word On The Water is one of London’s more charming sightseeing attractions.
Alongside the selection of new and secondhand books (plus a huge section of reads for kids), there’s also poetry slams, jazz nights, and book launches (comedian Stewart Lee performed a reading there last year) to enjoy on its roof stage.
Regent’s Canal Towpath, N1C 4LW, wordonthewater.co.uk
The oldest shop on Chiswick High Road, a trip to Foster Books is a transportive experience. It’s hard to miss the forest green shopfront, and once inside you’ll find all manner of leather-bound manuscripts, rare novels, and monumental coffee table books. Hard-to-find is Foster’s speciality so if you’re a bookworm on the hunt for something special, this is the place to go.
183 Chiswick High Road, W4 2DR, fosterbooks.co.uk
Where To Buy Second Hand Furniture In London
The Old Cinema
A former Edwardian cinema, the Insta-worthy Old Cinema was turned into an antique store in 1979 where it has been a haven for vintage treasure ever since. The Art Deco doors are indicative of what you’ll find inside with early-to-mid century style winning out. So if you need an intricately crafted chest of drawers, you know where to go.
160 Chiswick High Road, W4 1PR, theoldcinema.co.uk
Alfies Antique Market
Alfies Antique Market is a pilgrimage-of-sorts for antique and vintage lovers up and down the country. London’s largest indoor antique market, the monumental, department-store like building houses over 75 different dealers selling everything from classic watches and middle Eastern amulets to mid-century glassware and giant Ming vases.
13 – 25 Church Street, NW8 8DT, alfiesantiques.com
There’s plenty of enclaves for antique treasure troves to find a home in London, from Portobello Road to the Silver Vaults. For decorative furniture specifically, it’s hard to beat Lillie Road in west London though, where 19 antique shops neatly line the tree-lined street.
While a sizeable force in the antiques world, the street is still a little way out of the mainstream, which makes milling around the stores a tad more pleasant experience than some of London’s more well-known hotspots.
Lillie Road, SW6 7PH, lillieroad.co.uk