After London, Tokyo comes a close second when it comes to buying vintage. I haven’t shopped the world over to give an accurate comparison but as “select” and “curated” vintage goes, Tokyo can be hard to beat. That will sound odd as Tokyo sits in a continent that is by and large vintage-shy (fear of wearing dead people’s garments affects the swathe of the Chinese for instance, as I grew up defending vintage to relatives). But there’s got to be an explanation as to why I come home with a trunk of secondhand gems every time I go. Even my two day trip for Dior last week yielded more than a few things. There’s the secondhand designer finds of course, mainly down to the resale chains like Ragtag and Kind. But there’s also unique vintage shops, who have gone to America and Europe to scour fairs, markets and dealers, and seem to have found all the bona fide goodies with their early bird diligence. They then create specialized vintage emporiums that are a far cry from many of the 70s’ polyester and 80s’ tat ridden overpriced stores that London falls victim to. Not to say that London doesn’t have real deal vintage places – but another advantage Tokyo vintage spots seem to have is that they’re less picked over and new goodie drops feel like they’re more frequent.
I wanted to highlight a few of my favourite places and recent finds that make that pricy trip all the more worth it as I increasingly drift towards vintage that feels special and more often than not, are veritably old (as in dating back pre 1950).
Birthdeath – I didn’t find out about Shibuya vintage spot until this year when Nagi from the ever-awesome Disco Nail directed me there. Browsing the store and their website, it feels like they’ve cultivated a lifestyle as opposed to merely a vintage store, where record rarities meets pristine Victoriana and 70s-80s new wave garms. The breadth of periods covered by the selection is broad but the common thread is that every piece feels purposefully chosen. A quick browse begot me a 1930s’ ruched sleeved capelet and a 1920s’ geometric printed slip dress. They also sell new menswear labels like blackmeans, which has its own counterculture thing going on. Birthdeath is the sort of music meets fashion hub that you’d think would be more prevalent in London (or in the UK in general) but weirdly isn’t.
Shibuya NC bldg 1F, 1-9-4 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku Tokyo
J’Antiques – Everybody and their mum who has been to Tokyo will know J’Antiques. It’s the equivalent of Rellik in London. What’s interesting about J’Antiques is the equal billing that both menswear and womenswear get. Actually in general, vintage in Tokyo is freely available for both sexes unlike in other cities where it’s normally weighted in favour of women. But J’Antiques excels in sheer selection. Rare denim, seriously old workwear, beautiful Victorian to 1930s’ cotton lawn dresses, East European embroidery, old Chinese robes… basically anything that has decorative and historical heft can be found here. It can be expensive but the things I’ve found like this tartan blanket dress was fairly reasonable. And if absolutely no garments take your fancy, the stack of quality French linens by the front are definitely worth rifling through.
2-25-13 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Photograph from A Continuous Lean
Jeanne Valet – This is one of the first vintage places that I stumbled into by accident. It’s worth looking upwards inside this tiny shop where clothes hang high from the ceiling. Also ask the helpful (and English-speaking – a rarity sometimes in Tokyo!) staff if you’re looking for something specific and they’ll climb up into their turret to get it from their stockroom. Victorian, old military, 1960-70s’ designer pieces, rare scarves and men’s workwear are its specialties. The last time I was there, I was vaguely tempted by an early 20th century Shakesperean stage costume but opted for a men’s striped denim shirt instead.
13-6 Daikanyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Toro – Somewhere between Shibuya and Harajuku up on the 4th floor, Toru is a little bit hidden and in its teensy square footage, they get a lot in. Everything from a Victorian corseted jacket to a 1960s’ Oleg Cassini two-piece suit can be found and every piece has been cleaned, repaired and restored properly. I indulged in my love of intricate smocking with a dusky pink dress with beautiful folksy detailing. Actually, I’ve never not found an instant !Love! piece whenever I’ve been in. As with much of Tokyo’s shopping, bar or restaurant scene, sometimes the best places can be found on higher floors, away from expensive ground rent.
4F, 6-19-17 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
6 (Roku) – This place is a bit of a mystery to Google in English. I can’t even give you an exact address other than it’s near Nakameguro station. It’s signposted by a simple “6” sticker on the door and on the 2nd and 3rd floor you’ll find the most amazing collection of rarities – military, denim, sportswear, leathers, varsity jackets – whatever category it is, they come up trumps with brilliant examples. That might sound very menswear-centric but that’s precisely what makes it so interesting to go through meticulously (I once spent two hours here…) because every piece has its own possibilities to be worn as womenswear. When I was going through my Chinese dragons fixation, I found this blue silk shirt – the owner told me it was worn by servants in the Qing Dynasty court. I found that tale a bit far-fetched but I do like that it’s different and older than the embroidered dragon robes and shirts that you tend to find dating to the mid-20th century. If you can find your way there, you won’t be disappointed. Long may it last that Six doesn’t let itself be known with websites, Twitter updates and all of that new-fandangled promotion stuff.