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Allison's Archive: A glimpse into building a vintage business

By Gabriella Onessimo


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Fashion |Interview

Credits: The collection. Courtesy of Allison's Archive.

From booming online marketplaces like The RealReal to social media-famous resellers, vintage fashion has been on a steady rise throughout the 2010s. As the trend cycle continues to favour fashion of the past, vintage has even trickled up into the luxury fashion world.

Allison Dickerman launched Allison’s Archive in 2022 after working in marketing at a clothing rental company. “Collecting and learning about vintage was a huge part of my personal life,” said Dickerman, transforming her passion into a viable business in what she described as a “natural pivot”.

Her shop is one of many at the pulse of the vintage zeitgeist, and her building of the brand synchronously aligned with the explosion of fashion resale hubs. ThredUp’s 2023 Resale Report projects the global secondhand market to reach a $350 billion value by 2027, as consumer interest steadily grows.

The new vintage wave

Though designer archivers are a slice of the phenomenon, Dickerman represents an increasingly prominent group of vintage curators at the pulse of the 2000s nostalgia trend.

“Before the interest in vintage was a natural interest in pop culture and fashion trend cycles, and vintage clothing is umbrellaed under those,” said Dickerman. Sourcing designer pieces from the ‘80s, ‘90s, and noughties, Dickerman is right on the pulse of y2k fashion’s resurgence, an offcut of the early aughts and its many sartorial subcultures. The echoes from these niche online communities have now reached the mainstream milieu; so much so that luxury brands have banked on the trend.

With fashion houses curating archival collections and relaunching older styles, the demand for luxury is at an all time high. According to the Lyst Index, Prada’s Re-nylon Re-edition 2000 mini bag was the “bag of the year”, with a 131 percent increase in searches for the style in 2022. It’s this everlasting demand that allows Dickerman to succeed, banking on the perpetual ebb and flow of the fashion current. “It all goes back to how circular art is, and fashion falls into that category,” said Dickerman.

Finding clothes

As the nature of vintage is fleeting, much of Dickerman’s inventory is one of one. Whether hopping on a flight to meet a clothing dealer or waiting hours in line for an estate sale, building a catalogue is often done opportunistically. “You can’t pass up on pieces and opportunities; instead of saying, ‘This is how much stock I need’ and ‘This is how many sales I need to do’, the beauty of it is that you don’t know where it’s going to bring you,” said Dickerman.

Creating a black book of sources also requires a great deal of resourcefulness. “Your sources when you’re a vintage seller is all you have,” said Dickerman. For Dickerman, hunting said treasure keepers entails a great deal of internet digging, from participating in online auctions to connecting with vintage collectors on Facebook. “It’s so much about timing. You can’t say no to things,” said Dickerman.

Curating the right pieces necessitates an amalgam of an intuition-led perspective, runway research, and to be able to identify what’s desirable. “You can’t buy things just based on trends or personal style; it has to be a good eclectic mix,” said Dickerman.

Carving a space in an oversaturated market

The size and scope of corporate platforms such as Grailed and The RealReal are a big proponent of the resale industry, but that does not take away from the smaller, highly curated shop experience—for Dickerman, it’s incomparable. “Personal relationships with customers is how small vintage sellers like me can stand up against it,” said Dickerman.

Working against limiting constraints and the upfront cost of sourcing, Dickerman finds profit in the passion and in the ability to mirror what’s already on the market. For this reason, Dickerman’s pricing is on par with other resellers with a slightly more competitive angle, ranging from 90 dollars to 4,500 dollars depending on category, condition, and most importantly, rarity.

Dickerman’s approach flourishes on TikTok and Instagram, where there’s a DIY aspect to buying and selling. Her active social media presence is key to her growth, and Gen Z’s appreciation for vintage—23 percent of the demographic were projected to thrift more online in a 2022 Instagram report—makes it the perfect concoction.

Dickerman’s business also represents a small part of the growing circularity movement, as more consumers turn to pre-worn clothing to stay in vogue; furthermore obtaining designer styles at a more accessible price point. “Vintage can offset trends; you can participate in a trend but you don't have to go to Shein or Fashion Nova to do it. You can take your time and invest in your clothes how you’d invest in anything that you care about,” said Dickerman.

Future moves

Dickerman’s newest venture in the works is a move from strictly e-commerce to an appointment-only showroom in Brooklyn. “I want to offer an in-person aspect that I think is really important,” said Dickerman. Establishing a customer base beyond the internet is a big step for an online shop, but Dickerman has faith in her selection. “We have our own curatorial eyes, and for someone who walks into my shop, all I can hope is they appreciate my vision.”

Gen Z