The complete guide to vintage clothing in Hong Kong
Hong Kong isn't the first place people think of for vintage clothing -- it's a city many have likened to “one big shopping mall." A global leader in building back-to-back chain stores to foster a community of luxury brands as well as throwaway fashion, Hong Kong is an epicenter of relentless consumerism.
But in between the cookie-cutter malls, hidden in the alleyways of Central, the lanes of Mongkok and the backstreets of Causeway Bay, lurk vintage and secondhand stores whose sole purpose is to revive clothes of decades past.
“Vintage,” a word that gets thrown around a lot and is often confused with “secondhand,” describes an item of great quality and style that perfectly encapsulates a period from previous years. Much like wine, vintage goods only increase in value over time.
“Secondhand” refers to cheap, used mass-produced items that may be old and worn, but not necessarily valuable.
So try on our guide to vintage, secondhand and new vintage-inspired clothing boutiques in Hong Kong, each simply bursting at the seams with personality.
Vintage verité: Shops for the real deal
Regarded as Hong Kong's first true vintage outlet, Midwest opened in 1993 as a trading company but rapidly evolved into a retail store when its samples began selling like hotcakes.
Midwest owner John Hollander -- yes, he hails from the Midwest, from Quincy, Illinois -- traces the store’s lineage, pinpointing the moment in time when vintage and secondhand clothing began to take off in Hong Kong.
“It was when the artists started wearing secondhand fashion -- that’s when it became trendy and stylish,” Hollander says. “That started in ’94 and you had people like Andy Lau who was very famous at the time, and he was a big proponent of vintage denim.”
Midwest witnessed an evolution in its customer base, from the avantgarde to basically anyone between the ages of 12 to 60.
As the store’s fan base grew, so did its physical entity, which outgrew a single unit in Victoria Centre and expanded to the neighboring 10. American in theme, the wooden-paneled store is decorated with Mexican sombreros, cowboy boots, cowboy hats and dream catchers.
Hollander acknowledges that while other vintage shops in Hong Kong stock new items that look vintage, Midwest is not one of them:
“We try to do what we originally set out to do, which is sell the real thing –- original vintage from the USA.”
Midwest employs five seamstresses who launder, repair and size down clothes to fit the local market. They also disassemble secondhand items to remake new styles, like transforming a men’s flannel shirt into a dress or pairing the sleeves of a wool sweater to a biker vest, all of which comprises Midwest’s one-year-old brand, First Edition.
Price: HK$40-$100 for accessories,$2,000–7,000 for 1930s military
jackets, HK$500-$20,000 for leather jackets
Brands we found: Calvin Klein, Abercrombie & Fitch, Old Navy, Ralph Lauren, Lacoste
Midwest. Shop 58, G/F Victoria Centre, 15 Watson Road, Tin Hau, tel +852 2802 6886, midwest-vintage.com
Bang Bang! 70s
Tucked away on a street off Hollywood Road, Bang Bang! 70s is a modest time capsule of all things 1970s.
“I was born in the ’70s and when I grew up I felt like I had to trace back my memories because the ’70s was my happiest time –- my childhood,” reminisces owner Parker Tan.
Tan (37) established the boutique five years ago with his brother. Having moved to their Central location from Tsim Sha Tsui, the Tan brothers have made do with the small space, giving Bang Bang! 70s a cluttered homey look.
Bruce Lee posters, floral lamps and two lounging cats (lovingly named Bang Bang and Miu Miu) are the first things that greet customers. Items to browse include a whole wall of high-end bags, immaculate rows of designer shoes and antique lamps.
Tan sources his items with the help of friends in Europe, Japan and Australia. He prides himself on handling only authentic vintage items, even if that means dabbling in items from other decades.
“A lot of customers say they seldom find other stores like ours because we put purely vintage stuff here and not retro style or new designs with old style,” Tan says. “Our stuff has at least over 20 years of history and the condition must be good. This is what makes us unique.”
Price: In the thousands for bags and shoes.
Brands we found: Gucci, Chanel, Miu Miu, Bally
Bang Bang! 70s. 1/F, 16A Aberdeen Street, Central, tel +852 9045 8006
Mixed market: The old, the new and everything in between
Vintage HK will sell anything, as long as it is beautiful, unique and in mint condition, including consignment pieces from artists and designers. It really is a place where anything goes.
Open for almost four years, the shop is chock full of accessories, bags, funky ornaments, dishes and knickknacks. In the back, rows of shoes line against racks of coats, dresses and tops.
There is so much of everything. Co-owner Helen Yuen admits the store is messy, but that is all part of the appeal.
“Some people spend a couple hours here and I don’t know what they see,” Yuen says, somewhat surprised at the popularity of her shop.
The joy of shopping here is similar to rifling through a flea market, except there is no specific theme or decade focus, and everything has a edgy, bohemian feel. It is the kind of place that makes shoppers do a double take at the hidden beauty and value of what at first seem like dirty old things.
“We started to go to very old buildings to look for items," Yuen says about sourcing her goods. "Some people move to a new home, they want to get rid of old stuff. To us, it is all treasure.
Price: HK$600-$8,000 for luxury brands
Brands we found: Dior, Marc Jacobs, Tory Burch, Louis Vuitton
Vintage HK. 59 Hollywood Road, Central, tel +852 9045 8006
Sectioned off in the back of Select-18 is a makeshift faux optometry store with thousands of eyeglasses and sunglasses that could give regular optical shops a run for their money.
In brightly lit floor-to-ceiling display cases, frames of all sorts, from cat's-eye to aviators', are piled practically on top of one another. But it doesn’t stop there, drawers are also filled to the brim with glasses.
An antique ophthalmic chair that sits in the corner is the cherry on top.
Having opened the store in 2007, owner Thomas Lee considers his eyeglasses collection a part of the reason why Select-18 stands apart from other vintage shops in Hong Kong.
“Part of Select-18 is like a flea market because you can negotiate the cost, part of it is like a glasses store and part of it is like a boutique,” Lee says. “It’s all mixed together.”
As a former hairdresser, Lee has found love in all things vintage. His store is a jumble of jewelry trees weighed down with chandelier earrings, walls embellished with antique mirrors and Barbie dolls, and walls lined with stacked leather luggage trunks.
Items on display are mostly through consignment. Lee estimates that 60 percent of the store’s contents is secondhand, 20 percent is handmade (some dresses and leather bags) and 20 percent -- mainly jewelry pieces -- is new).
And you can count on Lee to convivially point out the difference.
Price: HK$50 for earrings - $31,000 for Chanel tweed
Brands we found: Chanel, Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Ann Demeulemeester
Select 18. Shop A, G/F, Grandview Garden, 18 Bridges Street, Central, tel +852 9127 3657, select-18.com
A form of flattery: Imitation vintage so good you can't tell
Retrostone is a mix of vintage, secondhand and imitation vintage, all with a rock 'n' roll aesthetic, like owner Thomas Chui's personal style.
It’s hard to tell the difference between the real stuff and fake. Grandpa cardigans, leather biker jackets, flannel dresses, Star Trek figurines and rows of embroidered patches give the 13-year-old store its flair.
Also see The new vintage in Hong Kong
Chui says he originally decided to sell secondhand music band tees imported from the United States and United Kingdom, and he struck gold.
The tees were in high demand, which prompted the launch of his second Retrostone store on Cannon Street. Here, the majority of clothes are reproduced band tees that feature the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Ramones and The Who.
Chui takes it to the next level and stocks new music posters, key chains and mugs. Secondhand clothes line the back.
Price: HK$80 for shirts - $1,500 for leather jackets
Brands we found: Wrangler, Levi’s
Retrostone. 1/F, 504 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay, tel +852 2838 6419; 2/F, 1 Cannon Road, Causeway Bay, tel +852 3107 9131; Basement Trendy Zone, B28, Mongkok, tel +852 2152 9697
Oldies Co. is famous for two things: its vintage-inspired leather jackets and t-shirts.
If anything, Oldies Co. owner Michael Tsang understands the mindset of Hong Kong people.
“Many Hong Kong people don’t like secondhand or used stuff, so we decided to import new clothes done in a vintage style,” Tsang explains.
Clothes come from the US and Japan. Despite the popularity of the imitation vintage items, the store is first and foremost a genuine vintage shop, with used flannel, military jackets and uniform buttondowns hanging from racks.
There’s no specific decade declared, but if Tsang had to choose, he’d say the 1980s, as evidenced by the rows of men’s and women’s leather biker jackets.
Tsang has also created an exclusive Oldies Co. line of “vintage” leather jackets, which sits on racks now holding its own alongside the authentic stuff.
Price: HK$60 for shirts - $3,000 for vintage leather jacket
Brands we found: Topshop, Oldies Co.
Oldies Co. 1/F, 28 Yiu Wah Street, Causeway Bay, tel +852 2575 8775
All in the journey: When the search for the good stuff is half the fun
Me & George
From the outside, Me & George (also known as Mee & Gee) doesn’t look like much, but to the locals, it’s a trove of invariably cheap secondhand clothing. Located in the backstreets of Central and Mongkok, Me & George is famous for its racks upon racks of Japanese and Korean vintage -- from maxi dresses to barely-there shorts.
You can probably find any style at Me & George, but it might take a while to find something worthy to take home. Some of the clothes are stained or coming apart at the seams, but with time and a great deal of rummaging, you can come away with great finds.
Compared to other secondhand or vintage shops in Hong Kong, there’s no contest that Me & George is the cheapest; but there’s also minimal service, and no trendy knickknacks or expensive decorations prettifying the walls.
Rather, there’s harsh flourescent light and neon-colored price signs, slashed and slashed again.
Price: Most items are less than HK$100
Me & George. 64 Tung Choi Street, Mongkok; 9 Li Yuen Street West, Central (no phone).
It's called Beatniks, but there's little relation to the 1950s cultural movement.
The store is tucked down a tiny alley -- blink and you'll miss it. Inside it is clean, well-kept, with spotlights aimed at neatly arranged racks of floral pattern dresses, blazers and cardigans. Menswear is near the back and includes printed buttondowns, denim jackets and colorful pants.
Price: Around HK$500 for dresses, blazers
Beatniks. 31 Staunton Street, Central, tel +852 2881 7153
Charitable buys: Secondhand and socially conscious
Oxfam Hong Kong
Oxfam Hong Kong opened in 1976, dedicated to bring volunteers together in opening and running a secondhand store to raise money for charitable projects.
The store is painted in green and white, the official colors of the organization and feels as if several families with varying tastes held a garage sale together.
Shelves are filled with everything from Oriental sculptures to stereos, clothes, books and DVDs; the pricing is determined by quality and value of items.
Oxfam Hong Kong. B/F, Shop 8, Jardine House, Central, tel +852 2522 1765, oxfam.org.hk
One of the Salvation Army's many services is the Recycling Program, which aims to reduce waste, protect the environment and offer secondhand goods at affordable prices.
The Sally Army runs three collection centers and 17 family stores selling used items that range from fake floral arrangements to golf clubs to wedding dresses. It’s amazing to see the collection of so many random items sold in one place.
The family store is like a warehouse, with only plastic bins separating one category of products from another. It’s a little chaotic. Menswear and womenswear are lumped together, so it takes time to rifle through the racks and bins.
For a full list of Salvation Army family store locations: salvation.org.hk, tel +852 2332 4433