With fashion such a key element of the UAE lifestyle, it will come as no surprise the country has a thriving second-hand clothing scene, where pre-loved designer pieces can be picked up for a fraction of the original price.
As the true environmental cost of the fashion industry is becoming clearer, second-hand is fast becoming the preferred way to dress. Not only it is kinder on the wallet, its definitely easier on the planet. Also, as every truly stylish person already knows, the key to forging an individual look is folding one-of-a-kind vintage piece into an outfit, which ideally mixes high and low price points. Here we round up the best places to source high-end, mid-price and bargain-basement pre-loved fashion around the UAE.
Located in an old villa along Dubai's Jumeirah Beach Road, the Garderobe boutique is home to a staggering assortment of pre-owned luxury pieces. Thankfully, things are sorted (online at least) into brands, so if a customer has their heart set on, say, a Louis Vuitton bag, the pieces are divided accordingly. It speeds up the process no end.
It even has a circa 1994 Hermes Kelly bag in Potiron Alligator, which costs Dh71,604. Even though I am vegan (and therefore anti leather, fur and exotics), it is so beautiful that if I had the cash, I would buy it.
Online it also offers a Shop Edit dropdown, which lists items by useful headings such as Luxury items under Dh2,000, or items from the closet of that well dressed duo the Dinz sisters, including a fabulous pair of black Carat mules, a steal at Dh310.
Garderobe, Jumeirah, Dubai; 04 394 2753; garderobe.ae
The Closet in Dubai is a treasure trove boutique of high-end bags, shoes, jewellery and accessories. With a reliable validation process, customers can be sure that what all the branded pieces are genuine, and with both pre-loved and consignment (selling a brands out of season stock) items, shoppers can pick up pieces at hard to beat prices. While consignment isn't strictly speaking vintage, as it is usually only one or two seasons old, the bonus is that more often than not, it will be available in a range of sizes.
Aimed as serious fashion-heads, it carries highly collectable pieces, including a stunning Hermes yellow Kelly Mini Picnic Osier Bag, for Dh155,381, and a 18K White Gold Camellia Diamond ring by Chanel for Dh250,000, making this at the very top end of pre-loved.
It isn't all eye-wateringly expensive however. The sale section means that a Tiffany & Co heart pendant necklace can be picked up for Dh900, while a Burberry Dave The Fox cashmere bag charm is a steal at Dh360.
Every item offered for sale comes with a clear description on what (if any) box and / or dust bag is included, so shoppers can be assured of precisely what they are paying for. Reputable and long standing, it offers in-store shopping via its Sunset Mall location in Dubai, or online with delivery.
The Closet, Sunset Mall, Jumeirah, Dubai; 04 321 4515; theclosetonlineshop.com
The Luxury Closet
The Luxury Closet is another gold mine of pre-loved, high-end fashion, with a huge collection for both men and women, divided into easy to use sections, including a fabulous modest wear edit.
The sale section means some serious bargains are available, including a Dior pink crystal embellished iPhone 6 Case for Dh209 (instead of Dh1,481), while a beautiful strapless Lanvin palm leaf print dress is down from a retail price of Dh11,719.87, to Dh895. The upside of The Luxury Closet is that instalment payment is possible on those bigger purchases, while the downside is that free delivery does not kick in until you spend Dh1,000.
The Luxury Closet, Al Barsha, Dubai; 800 589; theluxurycloset.com
High end and mid range
Retold is a boutique in Umm Suqeim area in Dubai, filled with high street and high-end items. Boasting of having 6,000 pieces in stock – and more added each week – like all good second-hand stores, this needs to be kept under scrutiny until the perfect piece pops up.
The online store has a very easy to navigate website, with just one drop down bar, and everything divided into simple, self-explanatory sections. It even has a fabulous collection of vintage cameras for those in the market for one. The only downside of the site is that when pieces sell, the site does not reorder the images, so sometimes you have to scroll through lots of sold items to find things that are actually available. This can be annoying, but its worth the work, as there are some truly lovely pieces to be found.
Retold, Umm Suqeim Road, Dubai; 04 297 6777; shopretold.com
Fashion Rerun is a website that offers second-hand high street options for men, women and children. Great for basics such as T-shirts, and simple tops, this is the best place to stock up on wardrobe staples at bargain prices.
Clear information is included on each image, such as size (often in multiple systems), the brand (if known) and the price. Most tops seem to be in the Dh20 to Dh40 price range. Offering both new and second-hand pieces, its so-called "vintage" section has a great selection of graphic T-shirts for giveaway prices.
Fashion Rerun; 04 346 1133; FashionRerun.com
AEVintage is an online second hand store, filled with high street pieces at very reasonable prices, so if you are wanting to refresh your wardrobe for less than Dh100, this is for you. Think pre-owned Levi jeans for Dh28, or a cap-sleeved Forever 21 for just Dh13. The site is clear to navigate, with different sections for men (including a section just for ties, which is helpful), women's, bags, accessories and even children's things. Although it can be slow to load window to window, there are some real bargains, such a plush toys for children from Dh6.
AEVintage; 050 154 5331; aevintage.com
At the other end of the scale, are the Ukay Ukay shops scattered along Hamdan Street in the capital and throughout the Dubai areas of Satwa and Deira. These all sell second-hand clothing for men, women and kids for a pittance, between Dh5 and Dh20 a pop. The name comes from Tagalog, and translates roughly as "dig dig", because, as in any thrift store, that is exactly what is required.
With endless racks of clothes filling walls floor to ceiling, and additional piles on the floor, Ukay shops are not for the faint-hearted. But if you love the thrill of the unexpected, and don't mind getting your hands dirty, 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 every week, so delving through the fresh heaps can become a weekly ritual.