So the second-hand look is in. We’ve all known that for some time. London's second-hand and charity shops are full of bargain hunters in search of the ultimate item.

A gorgeous piece, fitting perfectly, possibly with a label, for less than a tenner. Sometimes they even find it.

But then, London's been doing this for years. Vintage? London's got it down. But I don't live in London anymore. I live in Germany. And in terms of the second-hand scene? The place has got a problem.

Take Dusseldorf. A Dusseldorf resident would rather die than be found rooting through a dirty second-hand shop.

Second-hand shops do exist there, but you'll be hard pushed to find your grandfather’s old cardigan. Unless he wore Yves Saint Laurent.

The only second-hand shopping to be done in Dusseldorf is in elite vintage stores where the prices match the labels.

I only managed to find one isolated nameless second-hand shop behind the red-light-district (Helmholtstr. 53). If you blink on the train you would pass it by. Thankfully it’s a bargain gem.


Berlin has a secondhand shop on every street, well, almost. To say that second-hand clothes shopping is popular here is an understatement.

Even the high street shops in Berlin are picking up on it. One Hennes shop (on Tauentzienstr 13) not only sells its normal budget stuff but also has a piddly second-hand section that is nowhere near as decent as their own clothes.

However. One of the essential, unspoken terms of second-hand clothes shopping is ‘bargain-hunting’. Berlin seems to have lost this integral point.

You can now buy a 3 year-old Hennes top for more than you would have originally paid. The idea seems to be that if it has been worn, sweated in and washed on numerous occasions it has had ‘style’ added to it, and thus money.

But just because it's old, doesn't mean it's good. The second-hand shops here are full of tat, not hidden treasures. Clothes have been hunted down in Eastern Europe and dragged back to Berlin.

100% polyester, stripy tops abound. Another supplier seems to be American charity shops, desperately trying to get rid of their local schools' sports clothing. Not a good look.


'Skint but stylish? Humana is your only option.'


If you're skint but stylish, your only option is the charity shop. The main chain is Humana (e.g. Schoenhauser Allee 90; 10439 Berlin). Unfortunately, the quality of the stock is somewhat lacking.

This is a country where, instead of donating old furniture to a charity shop, they break it up and dump it on the street.

And any clothes given to charity aren't taken direct to the shop. There are huge bins for the clothes in the street, so you can imagine what else gets dumped in there. The bins are full of shit, both metaphorically and literally.

But suppose you do find something decent to buy whilst chazzing in Berlin? As with all charity shopping, the best bit is finding good stuff cheap.

And at least you can sleep well in the knowledge that the money is going to a good cause. (That’s as long as you don’t have nightmares about that dodgy stain on the skirt you bought).

However, on the whole, the second-hand scene in Berlin is poor. Move over here for the arty hipster boho life by all means. Just make sure to stock your wardrobe before you get on the plane.

WORDS: Sarah Stephenson
IMAGE: Lucy Macleod


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W H E R E ?
Relief Fund For Romania, Clapham.

W H E N ?
June 2001.

W H A T ?
Trying on a pinstripe man's suit jacket for that Patti Smith look. I slide my hands into the pockets in order to slouch attractively before the mirror. My hands touch something cold, plastic, wet. A knotted, used condom full of sperm. Neeurgh. How gross! Just this once, the shop let me use their staff's hand-washing facilities. Thank fuck.

Everyone's got a thrift trauma... what's yours?
Tell us!

T H R I F T   F A C T I O D

Then again, there's always BARTERING. Have a clothes swap in your front room and give the leftovers to charity. No cash involved. Revolution!!!!