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Brussels’ second-hand and vintage: the 12 best addresses
How can you add a little flair to your wardrobe or living room relatively cheaply, while simultaneously reducing your carbon footprint? By buying second-hand and recycled goods. And Brussels’ vast landscape of vintage shops and flea markets makes it stand out as one of Europe’s top places for second-hand shopping.
Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, but this list of (physical and virtual) addresses should get you on your way.
True blue second-hand shops
These are the best ‘traditional’ second-hand shops in Brussels. Stuffed with piles of recycled clothes and beyond, these stores sell used goods at authentically second-hand prices. You will have to sift through piles of rejects before finding your pot of gold, but at least you will have it cheap and not overpriced like in some vintage stores.
1 Les Petits Riens
Les Petits Riens is the address in Brussels for second-hand items. The volunteer-powered non-profit organisation sells everything from clothes and household goods to books and furniture at rock-bottom prices with proceeds going to the poor and homeless.
Les Petits Riens has many locations throughout Brussels and a few outlets in Wallonia. It also runs speciality shops dotted around Ixelles, such as Retro Paradise, which sells bonafide vintage, and Baby Paradise, where you'll find everything to outfit and otherwise care for little ones.
Just steps away from Grand Place, Look sells simple and inexpensive used clothes. But unlike the somewhat chaotic feel in second-hand stockpiles like Les Petits Riens, Look is tidy and organised, selling popular brands at a fraction of the retail price. It’s at Rue du Midi 40 and open from 10.00 to 18.00 Monday to Saturday.
3 Think Twice (T2)
Think Twice (T2) has nine shops throughout Belgium, including two boutiques in Brussels. It offers colourful and cleanly presented second-hand clothes as well as some vintage. Stocks are renewed every five weeks, and the closer you get to the end of the run, the lower the prices fall.
The Think Twice chain is part of the Zimbabwe-based Humana, which works on international development co-operation and uses clothes that don’t sell as raw materials for other products.
These shops maintain the original second-hand concept but focus specifically on designer and luxury brands. Hence the prices are higher than the aformentioned shops, but still a fraction of the price of buying the brands new.
4 Les Enfants d’Edouard
Smack dab in the middle of Avenue Louise’s high-end shops, Les Enfants D’Edouard sells top-of-the-line pieces (from various seasons) at discount prices. Around for more than 45 years now, its interior is as extravagant as the clothes and accessories it sells. Some items are pre-worn, while others are new end-of-season overstock or designer liquidation. You can buy shoes and accessories on Les Enfants’ online shop, but for the clothes, you have to visit in person.
5 Lady Dandy
Located in Ixelles’ hip Place Chatelain, Lady Dandy is a luxury second-hand store that sells designer clothes, shoes and accessories, including jewellery. The long list of brands includes Valentino, Stella McCartney, Chanel and Alexander Wang.
One could argue that Brussels’ vintage craze is even more prominent than its second-hand craze. The term ‘vintage’ can be applied loosley, but should be used to describe clothing that was actually made in a period before the 1990s. This means that it is generally more expensive than straight-up second-hand, especially if you’re talking about a well-preserved poodle skirt from the 1950s, say, or 1970s platform shoes.
Many shops will use the term ‘vintage’, however, to describe styles copied from these eras. This can be easier on the pocketbook, but it isn’t always – era-inspired originals are all the rage, and market demand has pushed prices up.
Beware of trendy-looking shops that are simply selling a jacket from 2012 and calling it ‘vintage’. Designer labels aside, the price should match the rarity of the item.
Originating from Amsterdam, Episode has shops in both Brussels and Antwerp, with great outfits from the 1980s and other eras. Along with carefully selected vintage pieces, it sells many customised pieces that are ‘remade’ from second-hand clothes. It’s buying that era look but freshened up with modern tones by a skilled hand.
Foxhole has two vintage shops in the heart of Brussels with a funky selection of clothes from the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Its large line of accessories is varied and original. These are fun, popular shops, though the prices have been known to raise eyebrows. The second location isn’t mentioned on their largely ignored Facebook page: It’s at Rue des Renards 6 in the Marolles and is also open on Sundays during the flea market.
8 Look 50
Not to be confused with Look (above), Look 50 is a nice vintage option in Ixelles’ hip Saint-Boniface neighbourhood (Rue de la Paix 10), with a jukebox in its entryway that seems to invite you in. One of Brussels’ oldest vintage addresses, Look 50 sells suave ensembles from as far back as the 1950s. Shoes and accessories galore, this well-kept shop also has a men’s vintage section. It’s open Monday to Saturday from 10.30 to 18.30.
9 Gabriele Vintage
This bright and inviting shop in the centre of Brussels is a delight to visit even if you’re just browsing. Gabriele is a former costumer, and her shop offers only fashion made between the 1920s and the 1980s - everything is authentic. Though it specialises in the more vivacious pieces vintage has to offer for both men and women – ball gowns, corsets, cocktail dresses, tuxedos – it also has a beautifully curated collection of daywear.
10 Brussels Vintage Market
Every first Sunday of the month, Saint Gery’s market welcomes the Brussels Vintage Market. It’s a vintage shopper’s dream: more than 40 stands dedicated to vintage items, clothes and jewellery. Strolling along to a DJ spinning tunes to put you in the mood, this market is a real vintage party.
Second Hand 2.0
As we all know, some of the best bargains can be had online, and it’s no different when it comes to used fashion. These are tried-and-true addresses.
2ememain is Belgium’s most popular websites for classifieds. It allows small ads to be posted free for buying and selling used goods. You can buy second-hand cars, furniture, computers, cameras, books, bikes… and clothes. From a pair of Crocs for a few euros to a suede coat lined with sheepskin for €1,500, you'll find it on 2ememain.
12 My Kids Factory
My Kids Factory is devoted to second-hand children’s clothes, a fast-growing market considering how quickly kids outgrow everything. Created by two Belgian parents, it carries only up-market brands in sizes that range from babies to about age 14. Pyjamas, blazers, snowsuits, dresses, you name it.