Travelcene x Death Threads - Getting that Dream Vintage Haul in Singapore and Tokyo
Your Dad's wardrobe is suddenly cool again
The term vintage-chic is nowadays not a byword for someone who hasn’t kept up with the times but ironically, someone who has. And at the forefront of this vintage revival is Death Threads (not just like any thrift shop in Singapore and certainly more than just vintage sweaters) which holds monthly popups where it sells limited edition tees, hoodies and pants all curated in-house. The result is a treasure trove of vintage clothes that's easily available in Singapore.
Reminded me of the vintage wear scene that has been extremely popular in Tokyo for a long time with some shops unmissable even for those the least bit interested in vintage culture. They'll also be quick to remind you that Death Threads curates vintage fashion and not 'retro' or '70s clothes'. Each month's collection is also unisex, and that means vintage clothing for all, not just for men or for women.
We caught up with the crew from Death Threads recently at their 9th (and really packed) pop up to learn more about what they’re doing and the moves that draw huge crowds month after month.
What is Death Threads exactly?
"We are a pop-up store passionate about vintage apparel from the 90's."
How do you choose your pieces?
"We only choose pieces we really like, or pieces we think that someone else's would want. Most of the time our pieces have strong pop culture references or just really crazy designs.
We hope people that come through Death Threads will identify with the pieces selected every month. We strongly believe that there is a community interested in vintage apparel and that’s something we want to foster going forward.
There are many aspects to vintage clothing; vintage sportswear like Nike, Champion, Fila, vintage streetwear brands like Stussy, Supreme, vintage movie tees, vintage music tees etc the list goes on. At Death Threads, each of us are inspired by those different aspects, enabling us to pool together a collective wealth of knowledge that is hard to replicate by others not truly understanding the culture. We take great pride in our curation, and that also ensures the customers are constantly provided with a great selection to choose from."
The vintage apparel scene in Singapore
"A year ago, Singapore's vintage scene was almost non-existent but the global revival for vintage clothing really found its way to our shores, of course helped along by big name rappers like Lil Yatchy and A$AP Rocky, as well as fashion brands like Gosha Rubchinskiy that brought older brands like Nautica, FILA, Guess back in the spotlight.
When Death Threads started in 2017, there was only one other group we knew of that were pushing the local vintage culture (S/O @TWOOPS.VTG). Fast forward one year, there are now at least 8 different groups we know of that are selling vintage. The scene is growing, and that's always a good thing. Having competition is good for the culture too."
Are vintage stores and scenes overseas something you’d like to model yourselves after?
"We've been to the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Los Angeles to experience its legendary spread of antique and vintage wares. The same can be said for cities like Tokyo with districts like Harajuku and Shimokitazawa where vintage and secondhand culture is a significant subculture group in society.
Tokyo’s vintage wear scene is on another level in terms of its curation and range of clothes available but these don’t come cheap here - expect to shell out thousands of yen on each piece. In Japan and the US, don't equate age with a degradation of value.
The vintage wear scene in places like Tokyo and the US are more vibrant as a result of a wider appreciation and love for such items. As such, while at first glance vintage stores may seem just like any other cluttered store, you’d soon realise that there is some order to the chaos and that this chaos can actually yield really interesting stuff. And if you ask what the most exciting bit is? The thrill that comes from finding these rare and hidden gems.
Every store has their own aesthetic. At Death Threads, our specific taste in art, music, pop-culture and appreciation contributes to the overall look of the store. We don't want to be like another store, we just want to create a friendly and cosy environment that is well-curated, authentic, and fun for people who come by each time."
The range of clothes run the gamut in Tokyo - you have different stores each specialising in a type of vintage be it denim or plaid. Some are more generalist stores and others like Ragtag seem to have a cult following especially if you visit their main Harajuku store on a weekend.
And then there are the specialist stores - where racks filled YSL pants and jackets sit adjacent to ones proudly displaying Supreme tees and hoodies. There’s also a long-established vintage Americana scene that has its adherents emulating the individualistic coolness of America GIs in the post WW2 period.
Haven’t heard about any of this? It’s time to get schooled - let's go shopping for vintage clothing in Tokyo.
PIN NAP's quirky approach to fashion is wholeheartedly unapologetic about its brash use of standout colours and patterns in its aesthetic as you can probably see from the picture.
Noserings and funky hairstyles will only get you into the door but not any further at PIN NAP. If you’d want to really join the club, read about the Ganguro craze and go ahead and obsess about employing accessories of all kinds in your outfits Though it draws heavy inspiration from when Ganguro was more popular in Japan, the store has shedded its dark tan makeup of that era but the oftenly frizzy colours and eye catching accessories still remain core to the store’s aesthetic.
What can you expect? Well for starters, a dozen barbie dolls greet you as you enter the store as they stand on a shelf atop a well stocked shelf of sweaters and windbreakers from labels like CK and Champion. Fur-lined (but inside and out) coats adorn an adjacent rack with colours stretching far more imaginatively than any rainbow can, and you'll spot a whole rack of expressive and daring footwear choices.
Oh, and A$Ap Rocky and Macklemore are in love with PIN NAP.
BerBerJin x Laboratory
Variety drives Berberjin and its latest store in collaboration with Laboratory in Harajuku is no exception to this approach. You’ll find anything from a vintage Versace sweater to full denim getups juxtaposed with quirky store decor (and Japanese street fashion to boot) - think posters from yet undiscovered bands and clubs. If you want a glimpse into the future trends in Japanese streetwear, you've found the right place.
Denim apparel dominates the first floor, along with a set of very helpful staff eager to share their passion (and views) about the store’s well-curated pieces. The bottom floor (because which store with an underground bomb shelter vibes doesn't have one?) is the homestay of sweaters from brands like Champion, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein but they are all designs from the 90s and before. Expect a healthy collection of vintage Nike windbreakers and jackets when you're here.
Good deals (and rare pieces) are definitely to be had at this collaborative space especially if you've been hunting for that one elusive sweater you found online but can't seem to get your hands on it. Berberjin and Laboratory have got you covered.
It's easy to see what SmallChange specialises in from its ornately decorated store. Utilising various kitsch and motifs from across the world, its global approach to curating its pieces perhaps evident from its four leaf clover logo. However, it seems like a majority of its apparel is dominated by outerwear with English inspiration - think traditional trench coats, varsity sweaters and jackets, and cardigans.
Employees are dressed to the nines and ready to impress with their knowledge, a veritable set of vintage fashion butlers.
However, don't be surprised if you end up spotting a few lace and patterned (bold ones at that) coats occupying space on a rack alongside military bombers and denim jackets. the store advertises that it specialises in 'Vintage Import Clothing' you'll never really know what you'll find when you step into the store. And so, why not take that leap of faith?
Flamingo is the largest of the stores we're featuring here as it finds itself in three locations across the city, in Shimokitazawa, Kichijoji and Harajuku. Undoubtedly, it is considered a vintage wear institution for many people living in Tokyo. The store's clientele are mainly those who have in love with plaid and patterned shirts (bonus points if you can bag one with flamingos on them) but also those who indulge in the simplicity of American college sweatshirts and American vintage clothing as well. Consequently, they're less focused on vintage streetwear unlike the other locations named here.
Due to this size, Flamingo's stores are usually less brand focused than the others but through this, they offer customers a healthy mix of designs definitely capable of a transforming a wardrobe or two. They also stock a quirky mix (though less so than PIN NAP) of accessories across their stores which is worth checking out if you're looking to embellish your outfits.
If you're really wanting a cool experience (or Instagram opportunities), come around night time when their storefront lights up with their infamous flamingo neon signs.
There's one thing that Tokyo doesn't shy away from, and that's variety.
A million other stores in the city catering to most infinitesimally minute interest ranging from Hinoya’s beautifully made military bombers to Haight&Ashbury’s focus on thick (yet fashionable) vintage outerwear pieces. Larger stores like Koenji, Ragtag and Chicago are also on hand to give you a taste of secondhand designer pieces and to lure you into giving them a new lease of life. The range of vintage Japanese clothing available in Tokyo is pretty limitless.
In any case, just take a leisurely weekend to explore Shimokitazawa, Harajuku or Kichijoji and I'm confident that you won't be disappointed with what you'll encounter.
A Look towards the Future and More
When asked about what they think the future of Death Threads is, they said:
"We’re constantly learning from what our fans are interested in but so far we’re really happy with the response so far."
At the time of writing, the crew mentioned they were looking to potentially expand to their own dedicated space (they were occupying part of local creative studio Tell Your Children) to better accommodate their growing fanbase. Since then, they have announced their next pop-up at their new permanent location at Tai Seng.
Death Thread’s next popup will be on the 7th and 8th of April - and while we know that you're all already ardent fans of each month's release, don’t forget to show them some love on Instagram at @deaththreadsvtg.
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