But it’s true, trusting you shop thoughtfully, invest wisely and treat your items with love and care. While sadly your stack of novelty tourist shirts probably won’t allow you to eventually cash out and retire in your 30s, a handful of brands and cult items will increase in value and could end up being significant investments.
Best of all, these aren’t necessarily the current runway pieces that are cluttering social media feeds, dominating glossy fashion ad space and carrying four-figure price tags (we see you Miu Miu spring/summer 2022 miniskirts). Many are vintage staples that are easily snapped up through consignment stores or even (on perfect days when perfect things happen) stumbled upon in op shops.
Here are our picks for vintage brands and items that are worth investing in today.
Let’s start with something really accessible. Levi’s has been a wardrobe staple for over a century, so you can feel confident the products aren’t a passing fad. The brand’s classic cuts and sturdy denim weave mean jeans not only age well but also look better with time. It also means many shoppers prefer to snap up a second-hand pair rather than buy new. With perfectly worn (but well-cared-for) pairs even costing more than off-the-rack options.
With decades of styles to choose from, you can feel comfortable that any of its classic fits will eventually roll back into vogue. That said, there’s no doubt the iconic 501s still reign supreme. This low-rise, straight leg cut looks good on pretty much everyone and holds the rare achievement of never really falling out of taste.
There’s always a deep market for these, again, especially if they’re well-worn but taken care of. Their lack of stretch also means they’re easily tailored, so buyers also tend to be a little less fussy over exact sizing.
Like Levi’s, Burberry’s iconic coats have been around forever so you know they’re not going anywhere. While recent years have seen head designers offer their own spin on the classic, there is a lot of loyalty for vintage options too.
Online vintage stores like The RealReal and Vestiaire Collective are always stacked with a range of colours, sizes and varying styles. Again, thanks to their time-honoured design and quality construction, the coats can have the length and sleeves adjusted by an experienced tailor to get a perfect fit.
While we enjoy the more adventurous recent interpretations, if you’re looking towards longevity it pays (and pays off) to keep it simple. Stick to classic designs in bone and tan colourways, completed with a waist belt, military-inspired epaulets and that famous plaid lining.
We don’t know if economists are big handbag people. But if they had a favourite, it would be one of these two Chanel staples. Introduced in 1955 and 1985, both have an honestly astounding record when it comes to retaining and increasing in value.
According to LePrix, a classic Chanel flap bag is the only handbag to outperform the S&P 500 (a stock market index tracking the performance of 500 large companies listed on stock exchanges in the United States). It states that, a decade ago, a medium 2.55 or 11.2 would set you back around $1,600. Now you’d be looking at a price closer to $10,000. Even buying vintage you’ll probably need a savings plan, with prices rarely dipping below $2,000.
That value isn’t just due to cult status, or the fact these jewels literally make any outfit look 10 times better, but also due to some smart manoeuvring from the brand.
Chanel tends to slowly increase its prices over the years. It’s a wise move for the company and (ironically) for the customer. It ensures resale rates rarely drop below what you originally paid for the item. So while that initial investment will sting, you’re pretty much guaranteed to avoid buyer’s remorse. Consider it family heirloom status.
Similar to Chanel, Hermès Kelly and Birkin bags have carved out such a monumental place in culture they are almost guaranteed to not decrease in value. But if you don’t have the cash for a Birkin, which even vintage can cost the same as a family car, consider a silk scarf instead.
Arguably as famous as the bags, Hermès scarves are beautiful, wearable and valuable. They take up to six months to create, suit everyone, can be worn multiple ways and are easy to store and take care of. They also double as works of art and are often framed and hung on walls. At that point it’s so practical we’d call it a tax write-off.
As we’ve mentioned before, never underestimate the power of a talented restorer. If you have a bit of time to trawl vintage sites, markets and thrift stores you can often find a rough gem that the wider world has given up on.
Heritage pieces such as Gucci’s Jackie, Dior’s Lady Dior, Fendi’s Baguette, Prada’s nylon items, and Chloé’s and LOEWE’s baskets have been around for so long they’re often forgotten in the back of people’s cupboards. After a few decades of wear and tear, they may be in a condition that means they’re not able to attract a huge price tag. But if you have a trusted restorer on call who is experienced with leather and designer fabrics, you can give them a new life.
Heads up, while the bag itself might be a few hundred dollars (a comparative steal) the revival can cost twice that. But at the end of the day, you’ll still pay less than you will for a new item and be left with a mint condition gem that will only become more alluring over time. Just make sure you take better care of it than its last owner.
This can be tricky, as it takes a bit of trend forecasting, but within about a decade or so of a piece being released you can start to track its future value. True vintage pieces usually need to be over 20 years old. But there’s something to be said for the awkward stage when something is 10 or 12 years out of date.
Consider the cult items that people really went mad for when you were in high school. Perhaps, it’s worth looking up where they are now. Similarly, pay attention to smaller trends that may become more mainstream. Brands like Comme des Garçons and ISSEY MIYAKE don’t have the wider appeal of Chanel. But their fanbases of diehard collectors are only growing.
For example, 90s Riot Grrrl favourites such as Kim Gordon’s X-Girl and Sofia Coppola’s Milk Fed were pretty much high-street prices on release but spoke to such a clear fashion moment they’re now prized pop culture, as well as style artefacts.
There you have it, next time someone comments about all the shopping bags in your room you can tell them you’re not splurging, you’re working on your investment portfolio.