Written by Tuure Kinnunen
Get to Know Japan's Vintage Culture at Re'all, A Thrift Shop in Koenji
Vintage culture is a popular trend among Tokyo's fashionable young people. This article features Re'all, a used clothing store in Koenji, where customers can find a wide range of good quality brand items and receive style advice from enthusiastic professi
Tokyo is always mentioned along Paris, Milan and New York when it comes to fashion. With some of the top names in the design world such as Junya Watanabe, Yohji Yamamoto and Issei Miyake originating from Japan, you would think that almost everyone in Tokyo looks like a model illustrating the cover of Vogue. And you would not be too far from being right.
Introducing Japan's Vintage Culture
The Japanese generally do pay extra attention to their looks, which is obvious when you stroll around the streets of Tokyo or Osaka. Now, someone who is knowledgeable about Japan’s latest fashion trends would be able to notice that not all of the clothes they wear are brand new. A lot of these fashion items are in fact second hand, or vintage clothes, as many prefer to call them. Japan has been taken over by a massive trend of wearing used clothing - furugi, as it is called in Japanese.
New clothes, especially those from high-end brands, tend to be expensive and thus exceeding most young people's budgets. That is why buying them second-hand offers everyone an equal opportunity to wear high-quality brand goods and bring a touch of luxury to their usual styles. Made famous by celebrities, vintage items often sport striking and iconic designs, something that many would like to wear, but would otherwise not be able to afford.
Some of Tokyo’s neighborhoods are particularly known for their exquisite furugiya, or second-hand shops. The best ones are usually well-kept secrets, tucked away from obvious locations. However, that is where the rarest and most sought-after items change owners.
Re'all - A Gem Among Vintage Clothing Stores
One of those stores is Re’all in Koenji, located just 5 minutes away from JR Koenji Station's south exit, going past Hikawa Shrine and turning right. This store for used clothing has been occupying the first floor of a residential building for the past six years and has competed with growing numbers of other vintage stores in the area ever since. The story tells that the owners of well-known Harajuku establishments come and do their shopping around the backstreets of Koenji...
Re'all takes pride in stocking some of the rarest Converse sneaker models.
With the store usually bustling with customers, the shopkeeper, Mr. Kan, is busy. “It started out six years ago. There was literally no place to buy used brand goods like Ralph Lauren in Tokyo”, he recalls. Re'all is originally a company started out by two brothers who realized the demand for used high-end goods but almost nobody answering that demand.
Specializing in brand and designer goods from all over the world, the choices are now abundant - even so much that the items are spreading on the pavement and sometimes out in the street. The store itself is full, shelf after shelf of brand goods, most of them of European and American origin, and some of them from Japan.
At the storefront (often laid out onto the pavement) you will first be greeted by the latest arrivals in sneakers, leather shoes and sandals. You will also be able to see a few mannequins styled by the staff to reflect the latest trends in Koenji for inspiration. As you enter the store you will find button-down shirts, jeans, T-shirts and bags, all categorized meticulously to meet the customers' needs.
Used Polo Ralph Lauren items are very popular in Japan and Re'all has them on the shelf.
A Word From the Expert: What's Hot?
When asked what the fashionable youngsters are wearing today, Mr. Kan remained thoughtful. Some of the rarer Converse sneakers and T-shirts decorated with band logos are now on top of the wave, but designer brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren or Gucci never go out of fashion and have taken a permanent position on the shelves.
“Can I pose with this Metallica T-shirt? They are super popular these days”, Kan explains when asked to pose for a photo right outside the store. The overall atmosphere in the store entices the customer to try something new and colorful in the latest street fashion.
In addition to selling hard-to-get items in good condition, the shop attendants at Re'all, who are dressed in their favorite items from the merchandise they are selling, are glad to help with coordinating your new look. They always suggest just the right piece of clothing or accessory to complete the outfit. There is no need to feel anxious about the language barrier either, as the shop attendants at Re'all are true professionals and are used to serving foreign customers.
If you imagine that cutting-edge Japanese fashion is simple and ultra-modern, you are mistaken. These varsity jackets decorated with traditional Japanese embroidery are very popular and at times can be seen worn by Japanese hip-hop artists.
Customers who flock in to the depths of Re’all try on clothes and chat with the attendants almost always ending up walking to the cashier with their selections. When asked, Kan tells that a surprisingly large number of their customers are visitors from abroad. So, if you are looking for a total makeover or something genuinely Japanese in a furugi fashion, look no further than Re’all in Koenji.
Address: Suginami ward, Kōenji-minami 4-29-13 1F
Hours: Mondays to Fridays 13:00-21:00, weekends and holidays 12:00-21:00
Wi-Fi: Not Available
Credit Cards: Accepted
Nearest Stations: Koenji Station (高円寺) on the JR Chuo-Sobu line
Access: Exit the station to the south side. Turn left at Yonchome café, go straight and take a right when you see “WHISTLER” at the street corner.
Price Range: From 2500 yen and up.
Website: Re'all (Japanese only)