The AFW vintage edit: Firstserved Vintage

Swarmed with buzzwords like upcycled, curated, handpicked and pre-owned, customised and sustainably sourced, the fashion industry and its fashion gurus are obsessed with holy grail vintage finds and the hard-to-find places to snatch them from. As currently, there’s no bigger symbol of being a true fashion insider than flaunting a rare 90’s Tom Ford-era Gucci piece, AFW decided to delve into the world of curated second-hand shops, following the lead of some of the most prominent sellers on the Dutch market. Unravelling the elements that make a vintage platform successful, this week, we met up with the founder of Firstserved Vintage. Stephanie Middeldorp went from selling items in her living room to owning one of the most sought out second-hand shops in Rotterdam in a year. We asked her about favourite second-hand finds, her view on renting out items, and the benefits of having a stylist background.

From vintage obsessed kid to shop owner
“From an early age, I went to thrift stores and markets with my parents. At the time, it was not cool at all to buy second-hand so in that sense I was really fortunate to be at the forefront of what later would become mainstream. My mother started buying second-hand leather bags eight years ago to then resell them at the Swan Market in Rotterdam. Me and my father started helping her out and for years we drove to different cities in a van to look for second-hand gems. We started with leather bags, then accessories, and in the end, we filled entire clothing racks with vintage clothes. When I entered the age where I had to decide what university to go to, I was a bit lost and tried out multiple courses, from photo styling & interior styling to graphic design and furniture upholstery. I ended up applying for the arts and crafts course at Willem de Kooning Academy, they however noticed rather quickly that my portfolio work leaned heavily towards a styling direction. I decided to explore this creative outlet more thoroughly, started collecting and capturing vintage finds, and noticed people were very interested on Instagram. Fast forward to 2020 and I found myself registering at the Chamber of Commerce with the name Firstserved Vintage, which is derived from the idea of “first come first serve”. I started with inviting customers over to my place to try the few vintage items I collected. By the time I started getting customers from outside of Rotterdam, the living room became too small, so I rented a spot in a studio I shared with other creatives. This later became my own shop and photo studio.”

Sourcing and selecting
“Because of the experience I gained from going to markets with my parents, I already had a very clear image of what kind of items I wanted in my shop. Over the years I learnt what my target group looks for in terms of second-hand items. I find my inspiration on the streets and look for timeless pieces, yet also adhering to current trends. My curated pieces lean towards a casual chic style, but I also own pieces that are more extravagant; within this selection process, I look more at the style of the garment rather than the brand. I use my knowledge as a stylist to handpick items as well. Sometimes combining clothes in a different way encourages customers to be more drawn to a certain type of item. Lately I’ve been focusing on natural materials to ensure my items have a longer lifespan, and selecting pieces that are coherent with the style I offer, but in a wider size range as I want to be as inclusive as possible.”

Appointment only
“Because my studio is located on the fourth floor of a large building, it’s only possible to visit the shop by appointment. I however gradually noticed that that comes with a lot of advantages, for me but also for my customers. I find that offering a more private experience leads to people feeling safe to try out new things, and they are more inclined to ask me for styling advice, which I’m happy to provide as a free service. It also brings me closer to my customers as this shopping format is more personal and free. Working with a curated selection takes away a lot of hassle when trying to find a good quality second-hand item that suits you, and dropping new items every week creates the opportunity to come by as frequent as you like, as there’s always something new and exciting in the store.”

Stef’s favourites
“Right now, my favourite items are definitely the cow print boots, a special top made from can openers, the rubber ring skirt, and a fabulous glitter bikini. These are all items from the “Only Rent Collection.”

Renting vs. buying: purpose-driven
“All items in the shop are for rent, however a small selection is part of the “Only Rent Collection”. Every year I select a new “Only Rent Collection” of 6 items that are too special to me to sell, and make them a permanent part of my archive. My goal with this collection is to give other stylists and creatives a more sustainable option. In this way, they don’t have to buy unnecessary items that they will only use once. I’ve rented out my collection for a variety of projects, ranging from a Rotterdam nightclub video shoot to a photoshoot for an up and coming tooth gem business. It’s great to see the different ways in which the collection pieces are used, usually the end product turns out completely different from my own shoots. You can however, hire me as a stylist as well, including the items from the shop.”

Curated second-hand fashion show
“I’m hoping to relocate to a new space and have my own front door, work with great new people, and most importantly, hire new team members because at the moment I do everything by myself. Expansion is the common denominator in all of my future plans. I’m working towards opening a pop-up in Amsterdam and planning an event dedicated to the “Only Rent Collection”. I might also want to host my own fashion show one day, but for now, I lend my clothing items to the fashion students of Erasmus University Rotterdam for their Rethink Apparel fashion show.”

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