Top: Lolo Love Vintage store collects and sells vintage clothes from around the world. Above: Taiwan trader Yu Hsiao-wei has opened an online vintage jewelry business and believes the mainland is a promising market. [Photos Provided to China Daily]
Vintage clothing is becoming fashionable and stores are sprouting like mushrooms, says Li Xinzhu in Shanghai, but that doesn't mean the market doesn't have its problems.
With its exaggerated cutting, ornate colors and classic designs, vintage clothing has at long last become fashionable in China. People under 30 are primarily responsible for the trend, says Lolo Luo, the owner of Lolo Love Vintage, a store in Shanghai that opened three years ago.
The trend follows in the footsteps of many Western countries where the nostalgic and cutting-edge fashionistas routinely dig out perfectly fine clothes, accessories, jewelry and all kinds of mysterious items from the past.
London is particularly famous for vintage or heritage clothing and stores are often found on the corners of small streets, decorated in warm colors and lit by soft lights.
After relocating three times, Lolo Love Vintage has finally settled on Yongfu Road in Xuhui district and its bright blue decor makes it stand out.
Luo was formerly a stylist, so she knows a bit about the latest fashions. She has chosen to focus on vintage clothing despite the complications they brings, because they are quite different from the mass produced items of today.
"Even though the vintage clothes I select are in good condition, the washing and repair work is still very heavy."
Luo is nevertheless proud of the unique items she sells, such as a handmade skirt from Mexico, a vintage kimono from Japan, and 1940s to 1950s pajamas from the US.
The dresses in Luo's store are priced from 200 to 5,000 yuan ($32-800).
"To do this business, one needs to have an eye for beautiful things, " Luo says, adding it is difficult to predict what her customers - aged mainly 20 to 30 - will like.
Liu Rui, 34, opened a vintage jewelry store in Beijing, in July, and she hopes to start her online store in the near future after getting feedback from customers.
The store's name, Petit Wonder, suggests small but wonderful goods.
"I love the way she treats jewelry and the stories she tells about the items on Sina Weibo (micro-blogging service)," says 30-year-old Hou Xuezheng, a travel agent and one of Liu's customers.
Liu used to study in the United Kingdom and says vintage clothing gives her a warm, nostalgic feeling.
"People there are so friendly and love to tell all kind of stories about their collections. It was the best of times and I will cherish the memories forever. It is also why I decided to open such a store."
Though Liu is optimistic about her business she worries about the market.
"The prices are getting higher and there are lots of unreliable dealers," she says.
Liu says when she meets vintage jewelry dealers they often don't know the designer of the piece or when it was made.
"They sometimes say a celebrity used to wear this or that piece of jewelry, but it's totally ridiculous."
Liu says its wrong to try and make a quick buck out of vintage jewelry, as she believes this destroys the charm of the item and the process.
"It should be a long term business," she says.
Liu's customers are usually aged around 30 and have a middle- to high-level income.
"They have been buying luxury brands and are now searching for something distinctive."
Liu says she sells about 200 items a month on average and adds that Taiwan dealers are now becoming interested in her wares.
Yu Hsiao Wei, 32, has been collecting vintage jewelry for more than eight years and started her online business on Taobao.com a year ago.
She prefers vintage collections from the US and Europe that have a classic style.
"Some of them were produced as early as the 1920s," Yu says.
She got interested in vintage jewelry about nine years ago, when she lost a beautiful blue enamel necklace.
"I wanted to find another same piece and this is how I started out.
"Business was tough to begin with but the entire environment changed after six months. It is a bit weird but the business suddenly became very popular on the mainland last year."
Yu sells about 100 items of vintage jewelry a month, with each piece ranging in price from 1,000 yuan to 3,000 yuan.
To price a piece of vintage jewelry is difficult, she says, as the market is chaotic, even overseas.
The price generally depends on the year it was produced, the brand and its condition. Yet, even two identical vintage items of jewelry can fetch different prices.
"I used to buy two items that you couldn't tell apart. I was very lucky to buy the first one at a low price, and when I found the second one I bought it without hesitation in a market price - much higher than the first one," Yu says.
Contemporary branded jewelry on the other hand is fairly transparent when it comes to pricing, as it will depend on the materials used and the design.
Yu says the best part of selling vintage jewelry is that she can meet people with the same interest and adds she has more than 300 regular customers, mainly from Shanghai and Beijing.
"I cannot say exactly why I love to wear vintage jewelry," says 30-year-old Zhang Hong, an enthusiastic buyer of vintage accessories. "It has a magical power that fascinates me. It is unique and different."
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