Savvy sales teams are tapping into the public's fascination with vintage glamour, writes David Wilson.
The scandals and scoundrels of vintage dramas make for gripping viewing. Shows such as Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire and movies such as The Great Gatsby put the spotlight on the retro realm.
So now could be a boom time for swinging fashion retailers who have one foot planted suavely in the flapper age.
Meet vintage fashion start-up guru Bronny Fallens. Based in Brighton, Melbourne, Fallens has three staff and two angles on the hot trend: one is her eBay vintage shop, Bronny's Closet, the other her fashion discussion hub, AskBronny (askbronny.com). The avid fan of vintage apparel buys clothes for AskBronny "all the time", mostly from op shops.
"I try to go once a week to find treasures," the University of Melbourne music graduate says. She also visits outsourcing factories that get items from overseas. But in that cut-price sphere, tracking down attractive items is a competitive game.
Trying her luck at op shops where everyday people donate items is a better bet, she says, adding that finding good 1920s clothes remains incredibly tough because they
"You have to really scour the shops or the recycling outlets," she says. Alternatively, you can buy online from Britain and the US at a premium.
"Or try browsing the vintage clothes sold by the giant boutique Free People [freepeople .com], the veteran of the marketing industry suggests.
She says she maintains a steady stream of sales and continually restocks purchased items.
Her favourite is a beautiful circa-1930 housecoat. "So glamorous, I just love it," she says, adding that for her, wearing classic gear ripe for "re-loving" is a way of life.
"I've been scouring the op shops since I was a kid," Fallens says.
Now, the chief challenge she faces is finding good pieces to market.
Her top business tip is simple: "Work hard, be prepared to work 24/7 and be attached to your smartphone. Try everything and anything. Network. Listen to other people who have been successful. Look for investors if you can."
One easily missed selling point of Roaring '20s fashion is its green recycling slant, highlighted by Sydney fashionista Juliet Potter, who runs the agency Girl PR, which stages charity-oriented, pop-up fashion-swap shopping events monthly on William Street, Paddington.
Potter paints the rise of vintage as political - a statement by fashion-conscious types opposed to mainstream consumerism
"Everything old is new again," she says, adding that the popularity of the song Thrift Shop by Seattle rapper Macklemore sums up the retro mood perfectly.
The hot jazz-age garments now are summer print dresses and cropped vests, Potter says, adding that the choice of vintage clothes in general is "endless".
Her four-strong retro sales team draws on wardrobe items personally amassed over the years, plucked from markets, St Vinnies charity shops and other thrift stores.
Potter's fashion hunters base their buying decisions on each item's stitch, brand and degree of wear and tear. "All tell a story," she says.