Swap, exchange, recycle, buy second-hand – that’s what Copenhagen-based vintage clothing company Veras promotes. Started by fashion entrepreneur Rebecca Vera Stahnke in 2015, it’s responsible for the hugely popular monthly flea markets and vintage shops in Copenhagen and Odense. I sat down with Rebecca one morning – in the comfy fitting room chairs, of course – to discuss the sustainable ecosystem she has created, and how it contributes to making a change in the consumption culture.
What’s your background and how does it link with what you’re doing now?
After getting a degree in Media Production and Management, I landed my dream job pretty quickly, working at Copenhagen Fashion Week as a Project Manager. I was responsible for arranging the events, and worked five seasons of fashion week before I quit in January 2015.
CPHFW started my career in fashion, which was perfect and exactly what I wanted to do, but since I was a little girl, I always knew I had to have ‘my own.’ I was a bit like Pippi Langstrumpf – very stubborn and wanting to do things my way. I think I’m still like that [laughs].
What drew you to second-hand and vintage clothes specifically?
I’ve loved fashion since I can remember, and thought I could bring something else to it. My father lived in Israel, so I’d always bring back colourful second-hand clothes from Tel Aviv. It’s perfectly normal to shop second-hand there, as the way of thinking is different! Danish people are now getting more into vintage and colour, but back in the day everyone would always tease me, because my style didn’t match the ‘Scandi aesthetic’.
Why did you decide to set up Veras Vintage and how did you go about making it work?
Due to my background, I have this need to optimise everything to be more practical and efficient. I used to sell my own clothes a lot, to shops and flea markets, but none of those really worked out for me.
User-to-user sites were very time-consuming, and in the end you were never guaranteed decent money. The quality was also questionable. Commission shops were also problematic – only a few garments would be ‘cool enough’ to be selected.
What about flea markets?
Flea markets I enjoyed the most, but still there were issues. It was very seasonal, and the events were usually too broad. People would sell everything, from toys to electronics, so clothes were not a clear focus. It took so much time to find rails and get everything prepared, and at the end you’d be left with maybe 1000 DKK and lots of unsold clothes to drag back home.
I tried to turn these flaws around and that’s how Veras was born.
Veras was initially an exchange-based clothes shop. Can you explain why you decided to do it this way?
Getting something new out of the process was key. With my concept of swapping old for new, there was no risk. You could try on different shapes, colours and styles to see if they worked for you. So many of our customers are so grateful to us for being a part of the change in the way they dress and express themselves. The consumers really understand my vision – that you can be fashionable and get the same exciting feeling from wearing new clothes, even though they’re not newly produced.
“For me, it’s not just about being fashionable, but also helping women trust themselves and not be provoked by the fashion industry. Buy new, throw away the old – who has the right to say that?” – Rebecca Vera Stahnke, the CEO and Founder of Veras.
Is Veras stock curated with only one style in mind? How do you select the clothes?
Veras is a mixture of everything, just how my wardrobe is at home. At Veras everything has value, no matter if it’s high street, Stine Goya or vintage – as long as it’s in good condition. We curate and quality-proof everything carefully, so that customers know it’s got our seal of approval. To make it easier to navigate, we categorise and colour code a lot of the racks. Pastels are very in at the moment, so we have a section dedicated just to that.
How does the monthly Veras Market tap into your concept?
The Market was a part of the sustainable eco cycle idea from the beginning. While working for Distortion Festival, I came up with an idea of combining a party weekend with a Sunday flea market, strictly for clothes.
You came from Copenhagen Fashion Week, a celebration of consumerism, into promoting sustainability in fashion. What do Danish people prefer, have you noticed any changes or trends?
When I first opened the shop, there were a lot of people, who would come in and leave within five minutes saying: “I will not wear second-hand.” Last year however, everyone suddenly decided to have this standpoint on living more sustainably. Still, it’s based on the presumption that buying new clothes is supposed to make us happier. The word sustainable is fucked. It should be about consuming less – in food, travel, fashion, everything.
When the industry is talking about having a more sustainable focus, it’s still about selling more, and that makes me feel sick. People’s hearts – companies and influencers – are in the wrong place.
You can feel a change coming though. Last December we sold more than ever for gifts! People want something unique they can’t buy anywhere else, and that is valued more than a new Saks Potts jacket. Sharing stories, creating a community in the fitting rooms – that’s what happens at Veras.
How do you combine that need for massive seasonal wardrobe change with leading a more sustainable lifestyle?
Look at your wardrobe as full of possibilities, not obstacles. A summer dress can be worn all year. Everything in fashion is labelled, but you can decide to think outside these boxes. Buy less, but when you do buy – opt for quality. Silk, wool, denim, fabrics you don’t have to wash as often. Natural fibres are better for the environment, and make you sweat less! [laughs]
For me, the feeling of wearing something new in my wardrobe, is just the same as wearing something new from the shop – no one has seen me wear it yet. That’s the feeling I want to give people.
What about women wanting to find their personal style, where should they start?
It’s about finding what you feel comfortable in. It all has to feel like you, and it’s the feeling inside that makes you look good on the outside. Experiment with colours! The easiest way to do it is to take one colour and wear it head to toe. It’s easier than you think, and looks like you’ve put a lot of effort into it.
You now have two shops, in Copenhagen and Odense. Veras Market attracts crowds every time. Any plans for further expansion?
I have so many ideas, but so little time. I can’t say that much yet, but we’re starting something completely new. It’s going to be one of the biggest strategies we’ve had at Veras, and it will launch in August 2019. We are not planning to open more shops at the moment, but the markets will expand to include menswear-only ones, as well as some dedicated to interiors.
You can shop Veras second-hand clothing in their shop at Studiestraede or the next Veras Market at Norrebrohallen on 17th March – You won’t want to miss it!
Campaign photography by Sarah Buthmann
We’d love to be more sustainable in our lifestyles, especially when it comes to fashion. Read about sustainability at FWSthlm AW19 here >>>
Tags: Rebecca Vera Stahnke, second-hand clothing, sustainability, Veras Vintage, vintage, Vintage fashion
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