We check in with vintage-clothing vet Dennis Adamidis to learn what’s on trend, and how his industry is changing.
“I’ve been doing this for coming on to 18 years now and I still love it,” says Dennis Adamidis, owner of Parkdale boutique House of Vintage (1239 Queen St. W.). Running a store in Toronto for the past nine years and one in London, England for the past two, Adamidis projects an enthusiasm that’s a testament to his unyielding love for his product.
How he got started: Adamidis was introduced to the idea of a vintage-clothing business when a friend with a shop in Australia asked him to start sourcing pieces in North America. “I wholesaled at first and I was selling in Japan and Los Angeles to dealers,” he says. “Then I opened the store at Queen and Portland and was there for five years. When I moved from Portland to here, there was a year in-between, where I just took a year off and renovated my house. I’ve been doing this since ’94, so it was a long time; I finally just took some time off.”
Who shops there: Often, a change in location can mean a whole new demographic for a shop—not so for House of Vintage. “My customers all followed,” says Adamidis, something he largely attributes to his pricing. “It’s funny, because a lot of people say, ‘Kensington Market is so cheap,’ but Kensington isn’t that cheap. Kensington is cheap if you get the stuff that is kind of crappy, the run-of-the-mill stuff. But when you get something that’s actually nice in Kensington, it’s expensive, and it’s more expensive than we are here. I have people who live in Kensington that come shopping here. I love Kensington—I’ve known all those cats for years—but for me, when someone who lives in Kensington has to shop in Parkdale for vintage, it just says something. I think it’s kind of funny.”
Some customers still balk at the price of quality vintage. “A lot of people don’t understand,” says Adamidis. “When you’re looking at something that has history to it, that stuff is hard to find—you have to know what the good stuff is. We also dry clean, we condition leather boots, we go through a number of steps to put it out there.”
In addition to what you might find out on the sales floor, House of Vintage also deals in the more scarce (and valuable) end of the market, with some garments dating back to World War I. “You have to be a collector to understand the value and the rarity, and actually have the desire for it,” says Adamidis. “Although, I have sold stuff to designers, like Ralph Lauren, Topshop, and American Eagle. They buy it for inspiration and turn it into their own idea. They’re probably the biggest handlers of all this stuff—they have tremendous resources.”
Trendspotting: As much as designers find their inspiration in vintage clothing, Adamidis still needs to look ahead and be aware of the direction the market is heading. “The hottest thing right now is old punk rock t-shirts or old metal shirts,” he says. “It’s partially trend, but part of it also is the people who were at those shows in the ’80s now have more disposable income to rekindle their youth. The prices are insane, where you could actually pick those up 10 years ago cheap. We’re talking about real money: $250, $350 for a t-shirt, which I think is ridiculous. It’s not very punk rock, either.”
Some items, however, do thrive outside of trends. “There are staples in the industry,” says Adamidis. “A pea coat is a good example. A good ’40s pea coat in my store is about $175 for the real deal, or you can get a [modern] reproduction for $500. It just depends on where you’re coming from—some people prefer the repro because it’s new and some people prefer the antique one because it has more of a romanticism and history to it.”
Whatever the piece, staple or on-trend, Adamidis applies the same criteria. “I have an interesting rule when it comes to clothing,” he says. “If you look at it for longer than five or six seconds, you don’t want it. It has to be right on the mark—you have to look at it and go, ‘I want it’ right away. You can’t just look at it and go, ‘It could work’—you have to visualize someone wearing it, you have to look at the fit and you have to look at the material. If it doesn’t have all the characteristics, you should just keep going.”
The changing face of vintage: Over the years, it’s been getting harder to find quality vintage, as more disposable brands make their way into the picker piles. “Back when I started, you could get all sorts of crazy stuff all the time; now it’s getting hard to find,” says Adamidis. “I think there’s a lot more people doing it, there’s a lot more money at stake. And I also think it’s because of the amount of really cheap clothing flooding in—not only from China, but from the U.S. as well. Now, it’s all cheap disposable stuff that people wear for a year and then just get rid of it. And that’s the stuff you’re going to see a lot more of.”
Overseas accolades: In the face of high stakes, the international outpost of House of Vintage in London has been a success, according to Adamidis. “In fact,” he says, “we were the runner-up for something called The London Lifestyle Awards for Fashion Retailer of the Year. Against corporate stores with budgets, we came in second, which is pretty cool.”
This is partly due to the store’s ability to easily bring in high-demand North American stock. “Hudson Bay coats are a good example,” says Adamidis. “We sell every single one we send to London; we can’t get enough and they can’t get enough.” But it’s primarily another factor that sets House of Vintage apart from the competition: “We do a lot of customer service there,” he says, “which is not really prevalent in the U.K., unfortunately.”