Dubbed one of the most hipster cities in the world, Tel Aviv is a fashionista paradise.

Here you’ll find cutting-edge fashion and disruptive fashion trends. The city by the sea is also Israel’s mecca for vintage and secondhand clothing.

Vintage stores in Tel Aviv sell pre-loved glamour dresses, high-fashion jackets, handmade knits, Maskit haute couture, embroidered shirts, retro shoes and other affordable secondhand treasures.

“Everything sells,” Jennifer Zentner, owner of the Sheli Shelach boutique (105 Ibn Gvirol), tells ISRAEL21c.

Pre-loved clothing at Sheli Shelach. Photo by Viva Sarah Press

Zentner — who has one of the city’s best collections of well-presented secondhand clothing – has been selling pre-loved clothes and apparel since 1982, way before it was hip.

“Back then, I had to explain that secondhand clothing won’t kill you. You won’t die from it,” she says with a chuckle, noting that her clothes are high quality and clean. “Today everyone buys secondhand and vintage.”

Vintage technically describes clothing between 20 to 100 years old, though some distinguish between “antique clothing” (80 years or older) and “vintage” (at least 20 years old).

Zentner says vintage “can be something from the 1960s or 1970s if it’s a good label, like Chanel.”

She remembers when only one other place on Dizengoff Street sold pre-owned clothing. She’s thrilled that Tel Aviv’s vintage and secondhand shopping is blossoming today.

“Competition for this kind of business is excellent. Why? Because every shop has different things. You never know what you’re going to find. So people go from one shop to another,” says Zentner, who has been attracting a steady clientele to her shop with no name sign for over 30 years. “They can open another 10 secondhand or vintage shops in Tel Aviv as far as I’m concerned.”

Sheli Shelach pre-owned shoes. Photo by Viva Sarah Press

Fun shopping

Many vintage and secondhand clothing shops in Tel Aviv are stocked with private-collection garments. Some of the owners buy online or travel abroad to source clothes in Europe. Almost all buy from stock inventories.

Personal style options are endless: Floral prints and crocheted shirts, handmade knits and brand jackets, restored clothing, shirts with a throwback slogan and retro prints.

“There’s no one specific age range who buys these clothes. It can be young people and older ones, too,” says Batya Shalev, who has been in the business for nine years at her store on Ibn Gvirol.

“Crocheted blouses, colorful scarves and cashmeres always sell well. People also come here for vintage wedding dresses. Brands are always interesting and especially Maskit and Gottex originals.”

Batya Shalev in her vintage and secondhand clothing shop on Ibn Gvirol. Photo by Viva Sarah Press

Shalev and Zentner estimate there are between 40 and 50 vintage clothing shops in Tel Aviv.

“Shopping in vintage stores and secondhand clothing shops is really fun for me,” says Tel Aviv resident Neta Will. She tells ISRAEL21c that whenever she feels it is time to refresh her closet, she’ll head over to pre-loved clothing shops.

“I like to go inside and see what surprises I’ll find. It’s not like going to H&M or Zara and you know exactly what you’re going to see because it is the same clothes in every store, from a catalogue. When you go to a secondhand shop, you never know what you’re going to get.”

In addition, modern, tailored vintage clothing lines are being created by some of the city’s fashion designers including Avishai Pais, who uses vintage fabrics to create classic and contemporary styles; and Roni Kantor, who recreates vintage shirts and dresses.

Eclectic inventory

“It’s really a mix and match in Israeli secondhand stores,” Meytal Dror Wanderman, co-owner of Buy Kilo, tells ISRAEL21c. “In our shops we sell vintage, secondhand and new clothing all by weight. Every week we have new stuff.”

She and a partner opened the first Buy Kilo in 2014. Today, their three locations – in the Florentin, Montefiore and Bitzaron neighborhoods of Tel Aviv — sell vintage and secondhand clothing by weight, averaging ₪100-400 per kilo.

Storefront of Buy Kilo, on Herzl Street. Photo by Nicky Blackburn

“Business is very good. People understand the importance of buying things that aren’t new. They get better quality and better-looking clothes than what’s sold at chains,” says Dror Wanderman, 44.

There are high-end vintage stores such as Loni Vintage in Jaffa, with brands like Chanel or Prada and rare items like Victorian opera gloves; and Rak Shneya (Just a Second) at 36 Sheinkin Street, with hand-picked tops, scarves and shoes.

There are super-affordable vintage stores like Aderet with dresses from the Sixties, pre-worn sneakers, designer bags and apparel from brands including Diesel to Armani.

And there are those in between, like Buy Kilo with T-shirts from the Seventies, dresses from the 1940s and some exclusive items from high-end designers; and FlashBack, the largest secondhand vintage store in Israel, home to everything 1950s to 1990s.

Inside Rak Shneya (Just a Second) secondhand clothing store. Photo by Viva Sarah Press

Vintage clothing shops are found everywhere around the city: along Dizengoff Street, the city’s most famous boulevard; in the hipster neighborhood of Florentin; on trendy city center streets like Sheinkin, Nachalat Binyamin, Bograshov and Ben Yehuda; and in the nostalgic neighborhood of Kerem Hataimanim, near the Carmel market.

And, of course, there are the flea markets where one person’s trash is another’s treasure. Look for vintage shoes and clothing at the Jaffa Flea Market and at the garage sale/antique market on Dizengoff on Tuesday afternoons and Friday mornings.