Some of those very affordable second hand shops are run by Oxfam Solidarite, which is a non-governmental organization for development cooperation. It was founded in 1996 and it has fought against poverty since then.
Clothes are only one section in which Oxfam Solidarite works, but it is interesting though, because their second-hand clothing shops are getting more and more customers every year. In early 90’s a typical customer was usually someone living in poverty and trying to find cheap and warm clothes for winter time. Nowadays they also have a lot of customers who want to buy second-hand clothes for many other reasons. For example, customers appreciate environmental values; they don’t want to buy new clothes all the time.
Also, second-hand clothes are an increasing thing in street fashion. Young people want to represent their individual personality with clothes and accessories that have not been mass-produced in poor countries at the other side of the world.
Good quality in second hand clothes
Saint Catherine station in the centre of Brussels city and Marolles district are the best places to find interesting vintage shops in Brussels.
Second-hand business is not always profitable, but it has become more popular during past couple of years
Jean-Pierre is a seller in Foxhole vintage shop, which is located very close to the popular flea market of Marolles. He tells me that the second-hand business is not always profitable, but it has become more popular during past couple of years. Foxhole vintage shop has been there for 12 years, so he knows what he is talking about.
"Lot of tourists come here during weekends. It is very good. We have more customers nowadays than before", he says.
Clothes and accessories in the shop are in very good condition without an exception. The quality of the materials is important for sellers. Prices are not always exactly cheap: if one wants to buy a nice leather purse or a pair of jeans, price can easily be something between 30 to 60 euros. Sellers also know the value of their products very well and they don’t easily give you lower prices.
"We buy our clothes from retailers. We don’t get clothes from citizens or anything like that", Jean-Pierre tells.
“This is huge in Brussels now”
Vintage shops close to Saint Catherine seem more luxurious than shops in Marolles. I walk into a shop owned by Oxfam Solidarite. The racks are full of beautiful dresses for women and exclusive slipovers and jackets for men.
Paul is a regular customer in this shop. He lives in Brussels but is originally from United Kingdom.
Second hand is a huge thing in Brussels now. I know people from UK who come here (in Brussels) just because of vintage shops.
"Second hand is a huge thing in Brussels now. I know people from UK who come in Brussels just because of vintage shops. And I also know that Wednesday is an important day in these shops, because that is when the dealers come and check shops for the best findings", he explains.
"Brussels is the best place to buy second hand clothes and stuff", he adds and goes on checking the clothes in the shop.
Some shops order clothes from United States
I find another big second hand shop close to Saint Catherine. This one seems to be more suitable for young customers.
The seller of the shop, Lou, tells me that this particular shop was opened only 9 months ago. The shop owner has also a shop in Bordeaux, France, and according to Lou, they wanted to open another shop exactly in Brussels because there is such a big demand for vintage clothes right now.
"We have many customers from this neighbourhood and they can be of any age. But also young people come here a lot."
But where do all these shops get their products? It seems like there is a mysterious infinite source of good quality second hand clothes and accessories somewhere.
"We are dispatching between our two shops. That means we get new stuff in every two weeks. But we sell only clothes that come from United States. We get a large dispatch from US once a year. They have big factories in there and the whole second-hand thing is big in US", Lou explains.
"This is starting to be something big also in Brussels. There are many people who wear only second-hand clothes."
Check these vintage shops in Brussels:
- Oxfam vintage shop in St Catherine, Rue de Flandres 102-104
- Docks Caviar (vintage clothes from U.S.), Rue de Flandres 72
- Foxhole Vintage Shop, Rue des Renards 6
- Oxfam Kids, Rue des Chartreux 37
- Shop Rue Haute, Rue Haute 243