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What is curated vintage?
Toronto-based vintage shop The Apartment sells curated vintage in store, online and on Instagram. Photo: The Apartment/Janet Kwan

What is curated vintage?


Notice how secondhand shops are looking a bit more like boutiques? Here are three reasons why

“Curated vintage,” or “curated thrift,” is a relatively new way of selling vintage and antiques, and one that has become very appealing to an up-and-coming generation of shoppers searching for sustainability and style.

So, just what is “curated vintage”?

Sellers — also known in the biz as resellers — do the heavy lifting for you by scouring the aisles at estate sales, thrift stores, auctions and a host of other places. They favour pieces that fit with current trends (like the decade-long fascination with millennial pink) and, when it comes to reselling, they style their wares as if they were being featured in a magazine.

At markets, you’ll see these sellers merchandising their tables like in-store retail. Over the past five to six years, as Instagram got more popular as a place for small businesses to market their products, curated vintage sellers have been using the platform as a tool to really make their pieces shine.

They’ll create vignettes to demonstrate to customers how to show off their pieces, or release seasonal “collections” of vintage clothing or furniture like any major brand would.

Setting vintage trends

Make no mistake though — the best curated vintage sellers are not just trend followers, they’re trendsetters in their own right. My Instagram feed (where many of today’s sellers hang out) for the past 18 months has been a veritable catalogue of 1980s fashion and decor as sellers bring everything Art Deco Revival back into rotation.

They hold Instagram story sales, or “drops,” that create a sense of urgency. The trickle-down effect has been noticeable: a new, younger generation is getting interested in vintage, which is exciting. (On the flip side, hop on Facebook Marketplace and that 1980s leather couch posted two minutes ago will be gone before you can even message the seller!).

There’s no doubt this style of vintage selling is here to stay. Our top three reasons why the curated vintage model works:

1. It makes vintage more accessible.

The antiques world can be difficult for the average consumer to penetrate. It has a reputation for being for serious collectors, and for good reason — antiques dealers and collectors seriously know their stuff, and the prices for rare items are out of reach for many people.

There are, of course, antiques and vintage dealers out there who sell a huge range of items from all eras and categories at lower price points. This treasure-trove approach has many merits, but it can also result in a sometimes-overwhelming amount of items to look at. Your eye doesn’t know where to land, and, as a result, you can miss out on some real gems.

When the product is styled for you, or carefully chosen according to what the seller loves themselves or believes their buyers are looking for in the traditional retail marketplace, it becomes easier to focus on the pieces.

Curated vintage also makes sense for busy people who are trying to juggle jobs, homes, kids, etc. I’m a professional in Toronto and as much as I would love to spend every weekend scouring the markets for vintage and antiques myself, I don’t have time to do it.

Curated vintage is like looking through a magazine that presents you with a less overwhelming, well-edited selection of options (how many options there are is relative, of course, to how many total vintage accounts you follow!).

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2. It provides inspiration.

Just like a magazine would only present you with a tasteful selection of vetted items, so too do curated vintage sellers. Their focus on making their products look aesthetically pleasing helps buyers to imagine the pieces in their own homes or wardrobes.

Curated vintage sellers also provide plenty of ideas on how to style pieces in a fresh and modern way.

Case in point: I picked up a sculptural shell from LuveWantShop (below) because I was drawn to the shape and colours. Regina, the shop owner, had styled it by planting a succulent in it. If I’d seen the same shell new at a retail store, I still may have picked it up, but it would have sat sad and empty on a shelf because I wouldn’t have known what to do with it.

A spiky green houseplant growing inside a pink, gold, and green ceramic vase shaped like a nautilus shell.
Shell vase from LuveWantShop. Photo: The Vintage Seeker

3. It makes vintage shopping easy.

The most successful sellers know the difference between something that’s truly vintage versus something bought from Homesense and passed off as “vintage.” They share their knowledge with you by bringing you authentically vintage items.

It’s important to keep in mind that curated vintage also tends to come up with a slight price markup compared to going directly to the source (i.e. an estate sale or antique fair) yourself.

Many sales aren’t open to the general public, so there’s only so far a consumer can go to get an item from the source.

So when considering price, remember how much of the legwork that curated vintage sellers do for you — from sourcing the item, to researching its provenance, to securing the item, to travelling to obtain the item, to styling, photographing, pricing and marketing it, etc.

Whether in store or online, curated vintage (or curated thrift) is just one type of vintage shopping — there’s something to be said for getting out in the market and seeing what’s out there for yourself. Think of it as a door to a whole new world of vintage appreciation.

Looking for curated vintage? Check out these sellers to follow on Instagram.

What do you love about the curated vintage trend? Let us know in the comments!

A fresh take on all things old.
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