It seems like in the past 5-6 years and influx of vintage denim, bomber jackets, and t-shirts have made their way to local street markets and thrift stores, and yet, somehow all the products look eerily similar. How is it that all of these hipster curators came to acquire such large sums of vintage clothing in the past few years and why does it all look the same?
Spoiler: It’s because it’s all fake!
what is happening?
It’s all coming from Cambodia and Thailand, and it’s all been made in the past year or so. Cambodia and Thailand are known for the superior knockoffs. Knock-offs are part of their culture and in some travelers opinions, part of the fun in shopping the street markets.
but why does it all look vintage if it’s new?
First, new clothes are made in Cambodia's cheap factories using scraps of material from other orders. Then the clothes are given to agriculture workers to wear in the fields as a “uniform”, or sometimes they are paid a small amount. The clothing is worn and not washed for about 1 month. After about 1 month of field work, the clothes have an instant vintage look. They are commercially washed and are ready to be sold as vintage. Many of these vintage jeans are actually sold in giant bags by the pound! That’s how rare they are (insert eye roll here), they sell them by the pound! They are brought back to the US by some savvy importers and are distributed, and redistributed under a vintage markup price. Most of the sellers at street fairs have no idea where the clothes really came from - we’re looking at you Brooklyn Flea.
how can you tell a fake?
Unless you are an expert in vintage fashion, it’s pretty hard. Often the trims and tags are a giveaway. Here is a great article from loomstate about spotting fake Levis
We recommend buying vintage in shops that specialize in the history of fashion and are experts in spotting fakes.
If you are buying vintage as a way to reuse fashions and to try and be part of the waste solution, the local street fair is not the place to buy into the recycled fashion practice. Do your research before purchasing.