VNTG — Leiden
Nestled between some of Leiden’s loveliest cafes and kitchenware shops you’ll find VNTG: a vintage and secondhand clothing store with a collection that reflects the fashion highlights of several decades [Think anything from black biker boots and leather skirts to floral dresses and ’90s jumpers]. The shop was created in 2015 when its founders, Marieta and Saskia, stumbled upon the future home of VNTG whilst looking for an office space along the Botermarkt. Perhaps inspired by the ambience of this popular market street, they ended up scrapping their initial office idea and setting up VNTG instead.
Long-time vintage fan Marieta says the store was established primarily as a response to there being an overwhelming supply of good-quality secondhand clothing, but a lack of ways to get them into customers’ hands.
“I think a lot of people have gotten over the idea that secondhand [clothing] is dirty, but that sometimes it just isn’t easy enough for them to find [secondhand or vintage clothes]. ‘Hey, let’s get that velvet dress for 15 euros from Primark or H&M’ then becomes an easier option,” Marieta says.
The women decided to put their contacts, skills, and experience in social entrepreneurship and vintage retail to good use by setting up shop in the centre of Leiden.
“We figured, we’ve got the brains and the means, let’s combine our skills and just go for it. And things went really fast. And well,” Marieta says.
“We are all a product of society; of course I’d prefer it if people would buy less, and that is a message we are trying to spread, but in the meantime, we should make it easier for people to buy vintage.”
Over the past years, the number of vintage shops in Leiden has increased rapidly, with about four shops vying for clientele in the Pieterskerk Choorsteeg alone. However, all of the stores have their own unique vibe and work together closely to promote vintage fashion in the city, for example by publishing a handy city map showing the different vintage venues or by referring customers looking for a specific item to the vintage shop most likely to have it in its collection. Moreover, VNTG occasionally partners up with other businesses in Leiden to organise events such as vintage kilo sales.
Marieta has a clear vision for what VNTG offers its audience.
“I want to be able to say that people who buy vintage from us won’t lose out on money because our price range is similar to that of Primark and H&M, or lower; they won’t lose out on style because it’s not droll or over-the-top,” Marieta says.
She adds that the aim of the online store is “not to have a boutique-style web shop, but one with thousands of items: so, say you’re looking for a pair of jeans, you won’t just find one in your size, but so many that [the shop] becomes like an H&M, but for vintage.”
Both VNTG’s online and retail store feature colourful, complete collections, each varying in material, era, size and style. This wide range of fashion fits in nicely with the store’s clientele. After opening the store in Leiden, “it became apparent that the vintage market is not just ‘big cities, young girls’, but includes all walks of life. I would say about 25 percent of the people who visit our shop are over 65. I never really considered this group while I was buying clothes, but [this group] really appreciates fabrics, often knows the brands, and has worn them in the past, which they like. [They also appreciate] the fit [of vintage clothes], because more thought has gone into the bodies in the clothes.”
Throughout our conversation, Marieta’s genuine love for (vintage) fashion shines through in every word. “I’m waiting for Saskia to send me a message telling me the next load of clothes is ready to be picked up. The way [these items are] constructed is just so special. Nowadays speed and production costs are deciding factors, but a lot of the stuff we receive is beautifully lined, well designed, and that really shows. Even though I don’t know that much about how clothes are constructed, you can just tell how well they are crafted.”
VNTG is not motivated by high turnover or massive profits, but by a genuine passion for finding loving homes for quality clothing. “We often say to customers who can’t decide whether or not to buy a piece: ‘Do you see yourself wearing this piece 30 times?’ If the answer is no, don’t buy it. This surprises people; they wonder why we would say this, potentially ruining a sale,” Marieta says.
In every aspect of its business, VNTG tries to promote sustainability and wield a positive influence on the community. For example, notes are added to items bought online, telling the purchaser how much water or other resources they have saved by buying secondhand. In addition to this, VNTG supports local artists and creators by featuring their wares in their collections — think handmade bags, repurposed jewellery and self-published novels. “We all have to start somewhere,” Marieta says.
“Sure, we’re a clothes shop, but we can be more than that,” she says further on in the conversation. “We choose not to photoshop our items, work with regular girls, we want to maintain our credibility and create a space in which everyone feels welcome and included.”
As Marieta notes, working in a socially responsible manner should not be seen as something special; it is a minimum standard.
“Ultimately, I would love to set up a venue where people can hand in their old clothes [for repair and reuse],” she adds. “I imagine it would be a huge warehouse where people who might otherwise not so easily find employment could use their talents. A place people can bring their old stuff to be reused, repaired, or made into new items such as tote bags.”
But for now, running VNTG and the affiliated online shop is the main priority. “We’ve only been open for a year, and everything has gone so quickly. So let’s just see how things go,” she laughs.
The True Cost and De Slag om de Klerewereld are absolute must-see documentaries on the pitfalls of fast fashion, Marieta says.
Address: Botermarkt 11, 2311 EM Leiden
Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/VNTGlabel/
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