SHAHID-QURESHI: Thrift shops, heritage brands offer means of self-expression through fashion Leave a comment

Somewhere in Time in Highland Park and Aimé Leon Dore in New York City connect old looks with the many distinct styles reemerging in fashion today. With so much education, leisure and socializing taking place online, dedicating time and money to dressing well these days can feel frivolous.

But even as parties and outings are moved onto the list of things for us to do when life goes back to normal, there is no lack of occasions for us to wear our best clothes right now. Running errands at the pharmacy, visiting a local coffee shop and sitting in one’s room and studying are just some of the opportunities to dress sharp and experiment with clothing.

The way that thrift stores and heritage brands like Aimé Leon Dore reference earlier decades and connect with present trends give them a distinctive edge over department stores and online retailers alike. The souls of these stores and their unhurried, distinctive style make them a valuable fixture in the world of fashion, even in the more digital, homogenized domain of today.

In downtown Highland Park, Somewhere in Time is the destination for beautiful and unique clothing and accessories that complement all styles for all people. A connection to the past is a given with thrift stores and part of the reason for their cultural capital. Many teenagers and young adults shop second-hand for access to luxury brands, distinctive silhouettes and eccentric styles that they provide.

After booking an appointment at the store, I got the opportunity to visit. The impressive collection of watches, jewelry, art, handbags and clothing by Lenny, the owner, makes every item in the store feel beautiful and valuable in its own way. Lenny describes pieces by their decade of emergence and the people who brought them in, complementing the previous owners’ eye for style in a way that makes you want to emulate them.

His prices are far less than the curated thrift shops in Manhattan that garner big crowds of young people, like L Train Vintage, and his pieces strike the perfect balance between chic and understated that people of this demographic gravitate to. While places like L Train Vintage have good pieces, too, they do not always have the knowledgeable, kind and helpful owner Somewhere in Time does, who I think makes the visit truly worthwhile.

The lifespan of brick-and-mortar stores like Somewhere in Time has been contracting for years, and the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has added to the speed at which small businesses like it shutter their doors. With the advent of online fashion sites offering economical prices and a seemingly endless collection of options, it is no surprise that established retailers are struggling.

But as I was looking through the beautiful bags and rings at Somewhere in Time, there was no sense of the limitation or inconvenience I sometimes feel shopping at the mall. With its phenomenal prices, timeless selection and genuine, creative self-expression in the displays, the store exceeds the quality and accessibility of its competitors.

The focus on quality and original but classic fashion at Somewhere in Time is the result of its retroactive perspective on style in general. This is a philosophy that is also making a comeback at the heritage brand Aimé Leon Dore. The way that Aimé Leon Dore’s sleek, inimitable clothing feels fresh and timeless all at once is, in my opinion, the best encapsulation of the anti-trend, vintage-modern synthesis gaining prominence today.

The heavy 90s influence on its aesthetic and near-perfect mixture of refined, classic blazers and suit pants with modern athleisure is what makes Aimé Leon Dore unique in a time of monotonous style and rapidly changing fashion crazes.

Aimé Leon Dore does not fully break out of the streetwear bubble. Its collaboration with New Balance on a redefined 550 from 1989 sold out in seconds and now sometimes resells for approximately 500 percent of the original price. The brands also collaborated on basketball activewear, sweatpants and hoodies.

Given the well-documented notability of basketball culture’s influence on streetwear and vice versa, Aimé Leon Dore may not be interested in being the elegant, post-streetwear destination that some people have characterized it to be.

Rather, Aimé Leon Dore is bolstering a sense of self-expression that has faded in today’s world of fashion. Its elevated in-house clothing and combination of eccentric and sleek collaborations provide many options for people to determine their own look. People can reference the past but can truly style themselves to their liking without being limited by the generic brush painted over the selection of clothing at most established retailers.

Without the pressure to be for everyone, or compete with the giants of online clothing stores, thrift stores like Somewhere in Time and heritage brands like Aimé Leon Dore carve their own space in the world of fashion. They promote classic clothing, accessories and shoes that look good and are made well and which may continue to look good 10 years down the line.

Other retailers like the many online retailers producing trendy, affordable clothing will fail to get a footing in the industry due to their limited influence on style. Others will struggle to maintain their eminence in the industry when younger brands with more distinct aesthetics arise and generate excitement that is not replicated as easily by older brands.

Aimé Leon Dore and Somewhere in Time will continue to succeed through this pandemic and beyond due to their focus on quality and contributing to the personal style and expression of their customers. They represent a shift in the business of fashion where stores move toward less contrived, cyclical fashion and more enduring, but still exciting, style. Nothing is as en vogue as looking vintage and modern at once.

Aiza Shahid-Qureshi is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science. Her column, “On the Street,” runs on alternate Mondays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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