The second-hand fashion scene in the UAE continues to expand with the arrival of two new ventures — Thrifter and Les Spot.
They join the ranks of established thrift and vintage shops.
Catering to the fashion-savvy, who crave something unique and know their Balmain from their Belstaff, these additions mean there are plenty of places to get your hands on vintage must-haves.
With many shoppers eyeing the environmental cost of fashion — particularly fast fashion — an increasing number are choosing to shop in a more responsible manner. Plus, in a city as style-conscious as Dubai, buying vintage removes the risk of scrimping and saving to buy a stunning piece, only to arrive at a party and see someone else in the exact same look.
With vintage offering luxury items often at a heavily reduced rate, it's not only easier on the pocket, but also friendlier to the planet. Also, as the most stylish across the city know, the key to forging an individual look is folding a one-of-a-kind vintage piece into an outfit that, ideally, mixes high and low prices.
Here, we round up the best places to source high-end, mid-price and bargain-basement pre-loved fashion around the UAE.
Thrifter launched in the UAE on Sunday. Billed as an “affordable thrift shop”, this store sells past-season stock, with prices starting at just Dh5 ($1.36) for a teddy bear keychain.
Despite having just opened, Thrifter has received a flurry of positive comments on Instagram as it looks to bridge the gap between quirky and covetable, offering everything from a decorated iPhone cover to a mini Superman bag.
Clearly aiming to offer out-of-the-ordinary items, this is worth keeping an eye on to see what drops next.
More information can be found on its Instagram page @thrifter.uae
Hidden away in a villa in Al Wasl, Dubai, is Les Spot, a treasure trove curated by Hunoof Hamad. With more than 12 years experience in the fashion industry, Hamad uses her instincts to pick out the best pieces.
Having opened in May, Les Spot taps into Hamad's love of the 1990s and is filled with retro pieces such as hot-pink, zebra-patterned trousers by Dolce & Gabbana, Ed Hardy jeans and even knee-high, studded Chanel boots. Like all good vintage stores, it is an eclectic and glamorous collection, which is brimming with pieces found nowhere else in the country.
More information can be found on its Instagram page @lesspot.ae
Thrift for Good
Partnered with Gulf For Good, this social enterprise scheme aims to build the circular economy by rehoming pre-loved items. With a mission to "reduce waste and help children around the world", it sells donated items — often for just Dh10 ($2.72) or Dh20 ($5.45) — and donates 100 per cent of proceeds to Gulf For Good, which helps provide better access to healthcare, education and housing. It also offsets its carbon emissions through TreeNation.
Reliant on donations and volunteers, it offers a wide and ever-changing array from high street to designer names, including Chanel, Gucci and Lanvin. With luxury items verified by The Luxury Closet, shoppers can be confident that pieces are genuine.
With a website and two physical stores, on Palm Jumeirah and at Times Square in Dubai, this is the perfect opportunity to shop and help make the world a better place, all in one go.
More information can be found at www.thriftforgood.org
Garderobe is a well-established shop in Dubai and is located in a charming villa on Jumeirah Beach Road, Dubai. Filled with a staggering assortment of pre-owned luxury pieces, its online store is neatly arranged into brands to speed up the search process.
Given its solid reputation, customers know they are getting what they pay for. It stocks gems such as a Dolce & Gabbana Devotion top-handle bag in dusky pink velvet for Dh2,718 ($740).
Garderobe also offers the handy Shop Edit tool online, which lists items below headings such as “luxury items under Dh2,000", and items from the wardrobe of well-dressed faces in Dubai, such as the Dinz Sisters
More information can be found at www.garderobe.ae
Running since 2010, The Closet specialises in high-end bags, shoes, jewellery, accessories and what it describes as “authentic pre-owned designer luxury”. Reputable, long-standing and with a reliable validation process, customers can be sure branded pieces are genuine. Additionally, both pre-loved and consignment shoppers can pick up pieces at prices that are hard to beat.
While consignment stock isn't strictly speaking vintage, as it is usually only one or two seasons old and is sold on behalf of the owner, who typically takes a cut, it is often available in a range of sizes and should appeal to a wider range of shoppers.
For fans of designer fashion, The Closet carries collectable pieces from brands such as Bottega Veneta, Hermes and Chanel. The website is divided into three sections: the UAE, Egypt and rest of the world, and it ships globally, though buyers are recommended to check where beforehand.
To give shoppers greater clarity, every item comes with a description outlining if the items come with, or without, a box, dust bag or both.
More information can be found at www.theclosetonlineshop.com
The Luxury Closet
The Luxury Closet in Al Barsha, Dubai, is another gold mine with a huge collection for both men and women divided into easy-to-use sections, including a fabulous modestwear section.
Pieces from Gucci x Balenciaga, Dior, Chanel and Hermes can be found alongside watches from Rolex, Bulgari and Patek Philippe, each carefully verified to adhere to its code of “pre-loved, authentic, sustainable, circular”.
The checks provide peace of mind to shoppers looking to purchase pricier items, such as the Hermes Bleu Hydra Clemence Birkin 25 handbag, which is priced at Dh92,116 ($25,078).
The sale section does mean some serious bargains are available, with a Saint Laurent Paris leather Cassandre flap shoulder bag in burgundy for Dh3,000 ($820), down from Dh8,285 ($2,255). The original retail price is close to Dh10,500 ($2,858). The Luxury Closet also offers payment by instalment on purchases above Dh1,000 ($272).
More information can be found at www.theluxurycloset.com
With a new location in Warehouse 11, Al Quoz, in addition to its outposts in Jumeirah Lakes Towers and Al Ghurair Centre, Retold is a boutique filled with a mix of high street and high-end fashion. With more than 6,000 items in stock — and more added each week — this one needs to be watched closely until the perfect piece pops up.
The store has an easy-to-navigate website, with only one drop-down bar, and everything is divided into simple, self-explanatory sections. The only downside of the site is that when pieces sell, it does not reorder the images, so sometimes users have to scroll through sold items to find things that are available.
While frustrating for some, there are some truly lovely pieces to be found for those who persist.
More information can be found at www.shopretold.com
Fashion Rerun is a website offering vintage, retro and thrift clothing for men, women and children. Great for basics such as simple tops and T-shirts, this is the best place to stock up on wardrobe staples at low prices.
The website offers information such as size, brand and cost, with many items priced between Dh20 and Dh40.
Offering information under each image, such as size (often in multiple systems), brand (if known) plus price, and with many items in the Dh20 to Dh40 price range, there are plenty of bargains to be had.
Offering both new and second-hand pieces, its vintage section has a good selection of cheap T-shirts.
More information can be found at www.fashionrerun.com
Ukay ukay stores
At the other end of the scale are the beloved ukay ukay shops scattered along Hamdan Street in Abu Dhabi and throughout Satwa and Deira, Dubai.
These all sell second-hand clothing for men, women and children for between Dh5 and Dh20. The name comes from the language of Tagalog, which forms the basis of the Filipino language, and translates roughly as “dig”. And, that is exactly what a visit entails — digging through bins filled with second-hand clothes.
With endless racks of clothes from floor to ceiling, and additional piles on the floor, ukay ukay shops are not for the faint-hearted. But if you love the thrill of the unexpected, and don't mind diving in with your hands, they are incredibly good fun.
Haggling is practically mandatory and those prepared to bargain hard can snag things for as little as Dh1. Fresh stock arrives regularly, so delving through the heaps can become a weekly ritual.
A version of this article was first published in June 2020