In just 14 years Beyond Retro has gone from side-street treasure trove to the most recognised vintage clothing store in the UK.
The brand’s influence has spread far beyond the Brick Lane base – it’s opened eight more shops, made it in Sweden, and dressed everyone from rockstars to style editors on London Fashion Week FROWs.
As always, there’s a secret behind the success and Beyond Retro’s isn’t just tapping into an increased demand for less ‘throw-away’ fashion, they’re also tapping into trends before anyone else.
The brand’s dedicated buying team scours runways, global street style snaps, magazine editorials and – most importantly, they say – the store’s own customers to suss out the Next Big Thing.
All the info is poured into an internal system, providing staff with weekly updates. And as clothing is only sourced up to six months in advance, what you see in store is ‘what’s hot’ right now.
Beyond Retro vintage buyer Scarlet Eden tells The Huffington Post UK her team spend hours each week researching trends, but it’s finding ways to translate them into vintage fashion that’s the real hard work.
Eden says sourcing finding vintage gems is like “finding a needle in haystack” – only one in 1,000 items the team come across will end up on the shop floor.
Affectionally referred to as ‘treasure hunters’, the brand’s 30-strong team of vintage clothing pickers scale (literal) mountains of secondhand clothes in rag houses to find items that meet the brand’s trend, quality and fit requirements.
But what about the clothes that don’t make the cut? Keen to recycle even more ‘unwanted’ garments, Beyond Retro launched its own LABEL clothing range in 2012, saving 60 Olympic-sized swimming pools full of fabric in the process.
“We’re addicted to fast fashion so we have to come up with new ways to provide that product for our customer – but in ways that are more environmentally sustainable” Beyond Retro MD Kate Peters tells me. “Recycling is an obvious choice.”
LABEL clothes are made in the brand’s factory in western India, which Peters proudly states is fully traceable. “We know who all of our employees are, we know what they’re being paid, we know when they’re being paid, we know how well they’re looked after – because they’re our own team,” she says.
Sustainable fashion is hugely important to Peters, who cites the shocking fact that 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes to waste in the UK every year.
Her top tip for budding vintage shoppers? Try it on.
“You’ll be surprised at things on the hanger, you’ll think ‘I’ll never wear that!’,” she says. “Take an arm-full to the changing room, try it on, and you’re bound to find a gem.”
This September The Huffington Post UK Style is focusing on all things sustainable, for the second year running. Our thirst for fast fashion is dramatically impacting the environment and the lives of thousands of workers in a negative way. Our aim is to raise awareness of this zeitgeist issue and champion brands and people working to make the fashion industry a more ethical place.
We’ll be sharing stories and blogs with the hashtag #SustainableFashion and we’d like you to do the same. If you’d like to use our blogging platform to share your story, email ukblogteam@Fitnesstremblant.com.