Brussels – A new love: second hand shopping

Vintage

I’ll start this one by pointing out that second hand is not very popular in Italy so I’m definitely no expert on the subject. However, Brussels seems to offer so many different and interesting options that I’m starting to understand the market more and more, and am getting to know what’s available. I’m becoming quite a fan.

The obvious places where you can find second hand clothes and objects are the markets. There are daily ones, such as on the Grand Sablon, selling antiques mostly, and on place du Jeu de Balle, with an interesting selection of bric-a-brac. Every first Sunday of the month the Halles de Saint Gery host a fancy vintage and crafts market that is really worth a visit both for its offer and its location. Some of Brussels’ districts also have street markets once in a while, particularly in spring and summer time. I honestly don’t know where to find information about these – probably in the local papers – but if you wander around the city at the weekend you will probably come across one. It’s often locals selling their own belongings at these street markets, which usually makes them cheaper.

Naturally, there are plenty of second hand shops around the city, although with significant differences in terms of offer and prices.

Nice shops can be found near La Chapelle in rue Haute and rue de Blaes with a generally nice, original selection. Some specialise in vintage clothes and accessories, but prices are a bit high, ranging from €10 to almost €100 for some coats. A good example is Melting Pot Kilo (rue Haute 178) which sells everything from trousers to bags at €15 per kilo, so depending on what you buy you can end up spending quite a lot of money.

The streets around Saint Gery hide a few vintage fashion shops, while in rue du Midi you can find a few cheaper options, both in quality and price. One of my favourites for high fashion vintage is Ramon & Valy Vintage Shop at the crossroads of rue du Marché au Charbon and rue des Teinturiers; both the stock and the ambience are stylish.

Two really good places I’ve just discovered are in rue Americaine (Bailli/Chatelain area), one next to the other: Les Petits Riens and Retro Paradise. Apparently they are both part of a project launched in the ’30s that aimed to collect second hand stuff (everything from clothes to bikes etc.) for the working class. Nowadays, Les Petits Riens is full of young and old from different social classes: Brussels is expensive and the crisis is not easy on anyone. Anyway, prices range from a few cents to a maximum of €20 for clothes and the general quality is really high. On the third floor there’s a huge amount of bric-a-brac and it’s unbelievable what you can find! The Retro Paradise brings together a more stylish selection of clothes and accessories, which is reflected in the prices, which are higher again (allow a minimum of €15).

Another mid-range shop is Boutique Jipex on chaussée d’Ixelles 73, right next to the Oxfam shop. It’s a tiny shop and it has the downside of closing at 17:45 – yes, it’s a very odd time even for Brussels – but there are a lot of clothes to choose from and a nice stock of leather bags in good condition. Prices range from €10 to €40 for clothes like leather jackets.

One last interesting piece of information on this subject is that some Oxfam shops also collect second hand clothes and put them up for sale for a few weeks before giving them for charity. Quality and price make them really worth a visit: there is a big one near place Jourdan (chaussée de Wavre 295).

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