Retail Therapy Goes Retro
In Asia, secondhand once meant second-rate, but today more people are discovering the allure of vintage cool. Here’s the lowdown on where to find the best pre-loved threads, furniture, books and more in three ultra-fashionable cities. By HELEN DALLEY
Published on Mar 18, 2011
+ HONG KONG
If you think shopping in Hong Kong is all about flagship designer stores and multimillion-dollar malls, think again. The city also plays host to a burgeoning vintage scene, complementing the old Chinese memorabilia found in the night-market stalwarts of Temple Street and Tung Choi Street (aka Ladies’ Market).
For a taste of the retro action, head to Bang Bang! 70s (1st floor, 16A Aberdeen Street, Central; +852 9045 8006). Newly relocated from its Tsim Sha Tsui space, this diminutive shrine to the disco decade offers authentic vintage clothes and accessories, plus a pair of friendly resident cats; look out for oversize flight bags, E-label Levi’s and retro-kitsch Mickey Mouse wristwatches.
Another pit stop for pre-loved clothing and jewelry is Vintage HK (Ground floor, 57–59 Hollywood Road, Central; +852 2545 9932), run by a local design collective; top finds include chunky red ceramic rings and 1950’s-style dresses.
Looking for something more fancy? Step it up at SatisFactory (2nd Floor, Po Foo Building, 1 Foo Ming Street, Causeway Bay; +852 9783 5141), the perfect place to find a hat for the races, say, or even a vintage wedding dress with accessories to match. Even higher up the scale—but without the lofty price tags—is Chew (6th floor, 1 Lan Kwai Fong; +852 2810 0188), a relative newcomer. Owned by Ho Chiu Wan, daughter of casino billionaire Stanley Ho, the chandelier-adorned store hangs high-fashion pieces by Stella McCartney and Dolce & Gabbana with up to a 90 percent discount.
Moving beyond pure aesthetics, planet-conscious readers can enrich their minds at Flow (40 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central; +852 8104 0822), a plentifully stocked secondhand bookstore that’s chock-a-block with well-thumbed, affordable fiction. Finally, music buffs who prefer old-school record players to the latest iPod will drool over the vinyl at Walls of Sound (3rd floor, 38 Cochrane Street, Central; +852 2805 1584), which specializes in jazz, rock and classical-music records.
Long a go-to destination for vintage hunters, Singapore boasts flea markets such as Zouk Flea & Easy (17 Jiak Kim Street; zoukclub.com; four Sundays a year) specializing in hip clothing and the Sungei Road Thieves Market (Sungei Road; 11 a.m.–7 p.m. daily) selling everything from mobile phones to furniture.
If you’re not a market person, don’t despair. The city-state has plenty of vintage clothing and homeware boutiques, especially on indie-cool Haji Lane. Male shoppers shouldn’t miss White Room (37 Haji Lane; +65 6297 1280; atwhiteroom.com), where the vintage sunglasses, including classic Ray-Bans and angular aviators by Raf Simons and Linda Farrow, are bound to unleash their inner superstar. Meantime, ladies will love Dulcetfig (41 Haji Lane; +65 6396 5648; dulcetfig.com) for its printed dresses, wicker handbags and vintage jewelry from Sarah Coventry.
For even more retro accessorizing, enter the world of Dustbunny Vintage (#01–203 Block 112, Bukit Purmei Road; +65 6274 4200; dustbunnyvintage.com). Emblazoned with striking geometric patterns, their Mod purses are the ideal finishing touch to a mini-dress, while the elegant, glass-bead evening bags go perfectly with twinsets and pearls.
Ready to deck out your home? Give it a vintage flavor courtesy of Like That One (Skytech #09–04, 2 Bukit Batok Street; +65 9023 2988; likethatone.com); we loved the laminate-and-chrome dining tables and funky accessories, especially the brightly painted candelabras. Or keep sounds retro with Vinylucky (Unit #B1-42; The Adelphi, 1 Coleman Street 24; +65 6336 9071; vinylucky.blogspot.com), where you can give records a spin on one of three in-house turntables.
Another gem is homeware store Lorgan’s (100E Pasir Panjang Road; +65 6272 4988; lorgans.com), founded by former teak-furniture dealer Lorgan Wong. Come here for colorful pieces, mostly from the 1960’s and 1970’s; if you’re lucky, you might find Eero Aarnio’s iconic Bubble Chair or even a 1950’s Crossley radio.
Market-saturated Bangkok is a vintage lover’s Valhalla. Start out at the bazaar to beat all others, Chatuchak Weekend Market (Mo Chit Skytrain station or Chatuchak MRT station; weekends only, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.) for items like vintage denim, secondhand books and decorative homeware. Other markets worth a trip include Ratchada Night Bazaar (Corner of Ratchada and Lad Phrao Roads; Saturdays only, 5 p.m.–midnight) for vintage clothing, vinyl and antique toys, Woeng Nakhon Kasem, or Thieves Market (Charoen Krung Road; open daily) for Thai and Chinese antiques, and Talaat Wang Lang (Wang Lang, near Siraraj Pier; open daily) for clothing and accessories.
Plenty of standalone stores also specialize in vintage gear. Masiri Tamsakul—a director at hip furniture brand Quattro—opened Again & Again (Room B1a, Market Place, Soi 4, Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thonglor); +66 8 9486 5359), a boutique selling vintage pieces the designer has sourced from around the world. This new entry lines up agreeably against other vintage fixtures in the city like It’s Happened to Be a Closet (266/3 Siam Square, Soi 3, Rama 1 Road; +66 2 658 4969; itshappenedtobeacloset.wordpress.com), where fringed cocktail dresses, brightly colored heels and cute crochet bed covers will all pull at your purse strings. Or, if you’d rather browse book spines than wardrobe items, Dasa Books (714/4 Sukhumvit Road; +66 2 661 2993; dasabookcafe.com) has a great selection of secondhand tomes.
For a retro furniture and household-goods fix, go to Tuba (34 Soi 21, Sukhumvit Soi 63 (Ekamai); +66 2 622 0708; design-athome.com), which sells 70’s carpets and 60’s sofas by day and turns into a trendy bar come nightfall. Its neighbor, Y50 (24 Soi 21, Sukhumvit Soi 63 (Ekamai); +66 2 711 5629), also doubles as a bar; test out funky chairs and Art Deco lamps over a few drinks while rubbing elbows with Bangkok’s film-industry movers and shakers. Still hungry for more? Head to Le Café Siam (4 Soi Sri Aksorn, Chua Ploeng Road; +66 2 671 0030; lecafesiam.com), a restaurant set in a grand old colonial building, where many of the antiques and artworks are for sale.