My Freedamn! JAPANESE VINTAGE SO-CAL 2 NYC

When it comes to collecting vintage clothing from the United States the Japanese buyers have been paving the path for nearly 30 years. Since the eighties Japanese vintage collectors have been traveling across the United States hitting up thrift stores, vintage stores, clothing flea markets and just about anywhere they could find old vintage jeans, leather jackets, sneakers or t-shirts.

As the vintage clothing culture became more popular in Japan and the demand grew collectors began to find new ways to locate more product. Because each vintage piece is essentially a one-off it is difficult to determine the actual size and fit without trying it on. One problem the collectors had was finding vintage pieces that were not only the correct size but the way the garment fit had to be perfect as well. To overcome this obstacle they hired hip Japanese boys and girls that were the perfect body shape to match the sizes that they were looking for.

If you were young Japanese boy or girl size 30L 30W, 29L 30W or 32L 30W, you just might land a gig all expense paid buy trip to the US. You could get a budget up to 10 thousand dollars to spend on product and expenses.

Scores of young hip Japanese kids traveled across the United States in rental vans finding jeans, sneakers, t-shirts and jackets that were in there size and fit. They would show up to flea markets before they opened, often renting a stall for the sole purpose of shopping what the other vendors had before the public arrived.

If you were selling vintage clothing in the 90’s you were mainly into the business to source vintage Levis for some of these young Japanese buyers. The vintage culture in Japan was in full motion and the young Japanese fashionistas were obsessed with vintage American culture. Everything from American rockabilly, vintage surf,  motocross, punk, 70’s skateboarding, 80’s sneakers was being snatched up whenever they could get there hands on it.

vintage flea market

Meanwhile in the United States there was hardly a demand for vintage clothing except among theater students and fashion designers. It wasn’t until the young Japanese buyers came to the US looking for their select pieces that the vintage market in the US began to take root. The vintage clothing store became an outlet for these buyers to source more clothing in a select space. Instead of going through a never ending amount of racks at a thrift store looking for one or two good pieces, the buyers could now hit up a vintage clothing store and spend a couple of thousand dollars on a few hundred pieces in one stop.

Some shop owners got rid of the brick and mortar all together and just focused on setting up a warehouse or storage unit to show buyers their collection when they came to town. Flea Markets or swap meets dedicated to antique goods, esp. clothing started to become meeting places for American collectors and Japanese Buyers. Japanese buyers would scour their collections with flashlights on their heads before the collector had time to take it out of their trailer or trunk.

Soon old American clothing, used clothing, the stuff Rag houses labeled trecera or trash, was beginning to create a demand and industry of its very own.

Select old Levis were selling for over 1 thousand a pair retail in vintage shops in Tokyo, the average pairs of Levis were selling for up to 2 hundred a piece. It was a good market to be in and everyone seemed to be happy from the vintage collector in the US, the young Japanese buyer, to the collector and shop owner in Japan. The main force guiding the new market and helping it evolve was the Japanese shop owners who were funding it.

It seemed to be a lucrative market for everyone that was involved until one day the bottom fell out. One morning in late April a ship pulled into a port in Japan carrying a container with items that had never hit the Japanese seaboard in this much quantity before. The container was full of vintage Levis size 28-32 all folded and ready to hit the retail market.

Instantly the Japanese market was flooded and overnight the wholesale price of Levis dropped from $35 a pair to $6 a pair, often less than the collector had invested into them. Some collectors had hundreds of thousands of dollars invested into Levis that they were saving for their Japanese buyers. Each collector took a hit and needed to find a way to replenish their losses. The demand didn’t end, but it changed, and as the dust began to settle from the fall out a new customer began to take notice of cool old things, and they would soon be a force to be reckoned with.

The time was the mid nineties, DJ’s were getting big, raves were in full swing and American fashion and culture had taken a turn towards more urban, loose fitting garments. If you didn’t go with the flow you were labeled alternative or independent (indy), and soon a huge alternative market began to take form.

Hippie Rags

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Young kids and college student across the Untied States began listening to their alternative music, watching their alternative films and wearing their alternative clothes that just happen to be what the Japanese kids were into five years earlier. Bands like Nirvana and Tripping Daisey, made vintage clothing cool and alternative while films like Pulp Fiction and American Graffiti made it hardcore and independent. American collectors started putting their collections in vintage clothing stores where the new alternative American kids could find outfits to match their attitude.

vintage culture

Rin Takan

One of the Japanese collectors that was there as the industry grew and changed is Rin Takan.

For the past 15 years Rin has put out a number of books in his My Freedamn series photographing collections and select pieces that helped turn the industry into what it is today.

Rin uses the knowledge he has gained from his years of collecting to put out an informative, artistic and creative coffee table books packed with images and story’s of why each style was unique and cool in it’s own way.

The My Freedamn series of books are not only great to look at but they are also a educational tool for anyone interested in vintage clothing and the vintage culture.

Rin Takan’s latest release Schott NYC 100 Years of An American Original features an amazing collection of leather jackets and outerwear put out by clothing manufacture Schott NYC.

To find out more about Rin Takan and My Freedamn check out http://myfreedamn.com

Rag & Bone “Textile Recycling 101”

The folks over at Waist Online have a detailed page with allot of useful information about Textile Recycling. They note that textile recycling originated in the Yorkshire Dales about 200 years ago. These days the ‘rag and bone’ men are textile reclamation businesses, which collect textiles for reuse (often abroad), and send material to the ‘wiping’ and ‘flocking’ industry and fibres to be reclaimed to make new garments. Textiles made from both natural and man-made fibres can be recycled.

Why Bother:

It is estimated that more than 1 million tons of textiles are thrown away every year, with most of this coming from household sources. Textiles make up about 3% by weight of a household bin. At least 50% of the textiles we throw away are recyclable, however, the proportion of textile wastes reused or recycled annually in the US is only around 20%.

Although the majority of textile waste originates from household sources, waste textiles also arise during yarn and fabric manufacture, garment-making processes and from the retail industry. These are termed post-industrial waste, as opposed to the post-consumer waste which goes to jumble sales and charity shops. Together they provide a vast potential for recovery and recycling.

 

Recovery and recycling provide both environmental and economic benefits. Textile recovery:

  • Reduces the need for landfill space. Textiles present particular problems in landfill as synthetic (man-made fibres) products will not decompose, while woollen garments do decompose and produce methane, which contributes to global warming.
  • Reduces pressure on virgin resources.
  • Aids the balance of payments as we import fewer materials for our needs.
  • Results in less pollution and energy savings, as fibers do not have to be transported from abroad.

Reclaiming fiber avoids many of the polluting and energy intensive processes needed to make textiles from virgin materials, including: –

  • Savings on energy consumption when processing, as items do not need to be re-dyed or scoured.
  • Less effluent, as unlike raw wool, it does not have to be thoroughly washed using large volumes of water.
  • Reduction of demand for dyes and fixing agents and the problems caused by their use and manufacture.

How, what and where of recycling textiles:

The majority of post-consumer textiles are currently collected by charities like The Salvation Army, Good Will and Chalk. Some charities, for example Good Will and The Salvation Army, sort collected material selling it on to merchants in the appropriate sectors.

Some postindustrial waste is recycled ‘in-house’, usually in the yarn and fabric manufacturing sector. The rest, aside from going to landfill or incineration, is sent to merchants.

Collection Method’s:

At present the consumer has the option of putting textiles in ‘clothes banks’, taking them to charity shops or having them picked up for a donation drive.

The Salvation Army is the largest operator of textile banks in the US. On average, each of these banks is estimated to collect about six tons of textiles per year. Combined with door-to-door collections, The Salvation Army’s textile recycling operations account for the processing of in excess of 17,000 tons of clothing a year. Clothes are given to the homeless, sold in charity shops or sold in developing countries in Africa, the Indian sub-continent and parts of Eastern Europe. Nearly 70% of items put into clothing banks are reused as clothes, and any un-wearable items are sold to merchants to be recycled and used as factory wiping cloths.

Processing and Outlets for Waste Textiles

All collected textiles are sorted and graded at a "Rag House" by highly skilled, experienced workers, who are able to recognize the large variety of fiber types resulting from the introduction of synthetics and blended fiber fabrics. Once sorted the items are sent to various destinations as outlined below:

Post industrial waste is often reprocessed in house. Clippings from garment manufacture are also used by fiber reclaimers to make into garments, felt and blankets.

Some selected items will be sold to the "Vintage Market" and reused by designers fashioning garments and bags from recovered items. Companies like Dust Factory Vintage grade the textiles even more to produce mixes that will sell in trendy Vintage Shops in te US, Japan and Europe, however this is a very small sector within the overall destinations of textiles. For more information on what happens with Vintage Clothing click here.

What You Can Do:

  • Take your used clothes to a textile bank. Contact the recycling officer in your local authority if there are no banks in your area and ask why; they may collect textiles through other means. Alternatively you can take used clothing to local charity shops.
  • Give old clothes/shoes/curtains/handbags etc. to jumble sales. Remember to tie shoes together: part of the 6% of textiles which is wastage for merchants are single shoes.
  • Buy second-hand clothes – you can often pick up unusual period pieces! If bought from a charity shop, it will also benefit a charity.
  • Buy things you are likely to wear a long time – a dedicated follower of fashion can also be a green one if items are chosen carefully.
  • Look for recycled content in the garments you buy. This should be on the label, though at present there is no conventional marking scheme and some companies do not always advertise the recycled content.
  • Buy cloth wipers instead of disposable paper products as the product can be used repeatedly.

Used Clothing vs. New Clothing

Why buy used clothing?

I guess the best way to answer this question would to first answer  the question, why buy new clothing? Well we buy new clothing, or accessories for a few different reasons. The average consumer may need new clothes because their other clothing is old or soiled. This is a good reason, but not necessarily the only reason why we are drawn to purchase new stuff. In most cases, at least here in the United States, we a drawn to purchase new items of clothing because we feel the need to have new stuff. Even when our old stuff, well just isn’t that old.

It all starts out at a young age. Young girls want to look like the pop stars on TV, young boys want to look like the athletes. They are not picking out clothes for functionality or warmth, but instead only for a look. For this reason the average consumer is drawn to purchase new clothing not for a need, but for a look. If it is a look that you are going after, why not purchased the clothing used.

There is a good chance, no matter how original you think that your style is, that somebody else was chasing that look before you.  When they went after the look it may have been the “New Thing” so they paid top dollar for some designer duds that were just a knock-off of a collection created 20 years prior. You, the much wiser hipster, already knew that with all of your independent fashion knowledge, so why would you be suckered into paying top dollar? Why not pay half the price, or a tenth of the price and get the same article vintage or slightly used at a wholesale rate?

Why Vintage? (continued 2)

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Why Vintage Clothing?
When vintage shops customers were narrowed between theater students and collectors, buyers didn’t have to continuously re-fill their racks. As the market grew so did most buyers strategies.

Buyers for Vintage Clothing Stores in the past are different from the buyers of today. When vintage shops customers were narrowed between theater students and collectors, buyers didn’t have to continuously re-fill their racks. As the market grew so did most buyers strategies. It seams some buyers are content with their techniques from the past, while others are forced to obtain their merchandise in other ways. Differences between the time and resources that the actual vintage buyers have, will predicate how and what type of merchandise each shop will carry. Some buyers choose to get their pieces by continuously spending there weekends hitting up vintage swap meets, garage sales, or estate sales. Everyone at one time or so, vintage collector or not, has spent a Saturday or Sunday morning driving from garage sale to garage sale. Some times it pays off and the buyer can find great eclectic pieces through shopping this way, but more times than none they’ll spend hours upon hours sifting through piles of clothes, or whatever the hunt is for, in peoples front yards to come up with a couple of pieces or none. A vintage collectors time is valuable, seeing how most buyers are in fact shop owners, and would rather spend time at there shop where they are needed most, instead of peoples yards. Vintage Clothing Swap Meets are a good alternative, if a city near the buyer even hosts one. Unfortunately most vendors at these swap meets are in fact shop owners themselves, trying to sling there second hand dead stock* for cheap, while they sell there good vintage merchandise at a retail price. Sometimes good deals can be found, but again, the time and effort to sift through these swap meets can be demanding, leaving buyers to many times empty handed.

Most Vintage buyers that need to purchase in bulk, skip over garage sales and vintage clothing swap meets completely, and go directly for the source. They hit a rag house, the end of the rode for most clothes. Rag houses are warehouses that collect every charitable clothing item that anyone, anywhere, has ever given away. They are kind of like the manufacturer for the vintage clothing industry, if you can accept that they are not actually manufacture anything. They are instead more like the ultimate supplier for the industry. Although supplying for vintage buyers is not what the company are set up to do. Some donated items are picked out and sold in second hand thrift stores. Nonetheless, it seems that more times than none, the clothing ends up at a rag house that will bail it, weigh it, and ship it to another country. Vintage shop buyers have bean hitting up rag houses for years now, asking them to sift through there merchandise and pull out pieces that would sell in a shop. Many rag houses have found that it is indeed profitable to separate vintage pieces from the rest of their rags, to sell to vintage collectors. For a little more per pound than the average bails, a vintage buyer can purchase 1000-pound bales of merchandise that they need for their shop. This is a better solution than hunting down single pieces at garage sales or swap meets, but it still leaves a lot to be un-desired.

CONTINUE

(Land of yogurt, granola, and vinatge Swapmeets. If youre lucky enough, like the folks in California, you might just beable to take a Sunday off and head to the Rose Bowl for a Vinatge Clothing Swapmeet. You may have better luck at one of these than at the neighborhood garage sales. Just be ready to bargain, because most vendors have a Vinatge shop somewhere else. FROM THE TOP One sunday a month in Los Angeles, California the Rose Bowl hosts a section for vintage clotheing at there swap meet. All pictires taken from Denim An American Legend. Iain Finlayson. p.36)

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