While Brisbane may not have a reputation as one of Australia's fashion hubs, the selection of stylish (and sustainable) shopping spots that this charming city has to offer might surprise you. Nestled among its vibrant streets and hidden corners are a worthwhile collection of vintage stores waiting to be explored. If you're a lover of unique fashion finds and have a penchant for all things retro, then this is the guide for you. Join me as I unveil my top 10 favorite vintage stores across Brisbane city, and get ready to kick your wardrobe up a notch!
Truthfully, this article was nearly titled, “Best Vintage Clothing Stores in West End”, but I may be a bit biased given that I've called this neighborhood home for the past couple of years!
While there are plenty of used clothing across the city, very few meet the mark of vintage (even those with the word in their name), let alone quality vintage. It's mostly last seasons fast fashion and a collection of 10 year old pieces that were never really "in style" to begin with. There are exceptions, Paddington being full of them (you'll read about this vintage filled neighborhood soon!) but, alas, West End has my heart, and I think you'll see why!
Starting off with bang, Neo-Generalist is hands down one of the coolest shops in Brisbane, vintage or otherwise. This stop offers an eclectic mix of clothing and decor in a sensual pallet of blacks and deep purples. The decor feels very sacred feminine, a collage of Virgin Mary and sacred heart icons gracing the shelves and walls.
They sport an impressive collection of lacy night slips, statement making shoes and accessories. It’s here where I found one of my coolest vintage pieces, a baby blue 80s bodysuit, a real statement look that makes me feel like Elton John. It is my go to look for Karaoke nights.
2. SWOP Clothing Exchange
Listen, I get it… SWOP is not your budget vintage store. I’ll tell you what though, they f*cking deliver.
Smack dab in the heart of West End, SWOP is your go-to for preloved designer clothes and high quality finds. Think Balenciaga sneakers and posh fur coats. While I’ve managed to resist such high ticket items ($300 AUD +), I have gone home with my fair share SWOP pieces. My finds include an 80’s Adidas track suit (swag), a bolo tie with a horse saddle pendant (unreal), and a simple men’s button up in the most incredible deep clay color, which I’ve worn just about every other day since purchasing two years ago.
3. Local Opy
Created to put SWOP’s rejects to good use (but actually), Local Opy is SWOP on a budget (with no designer labels and a few missing buttons, mind you). I was a bit apprehensive when this spot first opened its doors. I expected racks of cheap fast fashion, wall to wall acrylic and polyester, and while yes these items are a part of the selection, I was VERY pleasantly surprised at the legitimately cool vintage pieces I found (and some comfy high waist jeans as well!)
4. The Love Bubble
West End’s newest edition on the list, The Love Bubble, has a lot of good love’en to give.
With a few so-so vintage clothing stores having opened their doors recently (more like shabby second hand stores maskerading as “vintage” to attract more eyes... no offense), I assumed that The Love Bubble would be just more of the same. Fortunately, my assumption was way off. The Love Bubble’s vintage pieces are quality, and the quantity of their selection is impressive! It’s a treasure trove of cool, with a style ranging from ultra frilly nighties to 90s nostalgia.
5. St. Veronica’s
Not technically a “vintage store”, but this op shop is local famous for good reason. Off the beaten path from West End’s vintage cluster, St. Veronica’s is a true hidden gem. Compared to most thrift stores that you’ll find in the heart of the city, St. Veronica’s has kept their prices to the classic secondhand standard that we all grew up with, a big relief considering the newish trend of op shops pricing their donated goods higher than what you’d actually pay retail (honestly, what a joke.) It’s the sort of place where you can still walk in with a 10 dollar bank note and leave with two or three treasures.
6. Can You Keep A Secret
This extremely groovy Brisbane bar and vintage boutique is actually West End adjacent in neighboring Woolloongabba, about a 25 minute walk away from West End's center.
Can You Keep A Secret is the 70s inspired cherry on top of a long day spent vintage treasure hunting, the perfect place to wind down with good music and a craft beer while you thumb through their racks of vintage clothes and polish off your shopping budget.
While my heart belongs to West End, it isn't the only vintage hub that Brisbane has to offer!
Paddington, a charming neighborhood just across the CBD and settled in the hills is also home to a worthy selection of vintage stores, op shops, cafes, as well as a smattering of other environmentally and social conscious establishments.
7. Ra Ra Superstar
Bad news gang, this trendy Brisbane vintage staple is closing its doors 6 months from now (now being June 2023) to move entirely online! This is a big loss, as their groovy storefront adds an inimitable flair to the neighborhood, but here's to the success of their business's new incarnation!
This being said, now is definitely the time to make your way over. Firstly, to get a taste of Ra Ra's funky decor live and in person before it's too late, and secondly because now the discounts are aplenty.
As a side note, Ra Ra Superstar is also big on supporting/selling the work of young sustainable creatives (no better combination, in my book).
Hurry over and don't miss out!
8. Barbarella's Vintage
Certainly one of the tiniest vintage clothing locations that I've had the pleasure of stepping foot in, Barbarella's feels more like a retro walk in closet than just any run of the mill store! What they may lack in quantity, they absolutely make up for in quality! Barbarella's pieces are true vintage gems!
This funky stop opens only early afternoons Thursday - Saturday, so be sure to plan accordingly!
9. Retro Metro
Price: $$ - $$$
Secondhand meets vintage, Retro Metro is an unpretentious hole in the wall offering a little bit of everything across the decades!
I had to actively refrain myself from buying here today, as my bank account is still reeling from my Tokyo vintage extravaganza, but I'll absolutely be back. You see, I'm in my retro menswear era, and this spot caters! That, and I imagine that Jacopo (my Italian boy toy and brand photographer extraordinaire) will be exceptionally pleased to finally have found a spot in Brisbane offering A+ 70s menswear!
10. Empire Revival (Formerly Paddington Antique Centre)
Price: $$ - $$$
I'll be honest that by the time that Empire Revival was in my line of sight, I was beat. I was dehydrated with an increasingly distressing headache and thought, "It's an antique store. It's all furniture. There's no point." However, I'd made it this far, so I persevered.
Empire Revival did not disappoint, let me tell you! The building itself, an old plaza theatre, was marvelous. Just the sheer height of the ceiling had me memorized! The clothing and accessories selection was much more abundant than I had expected, with multiple booths sporting vintage jewellery galore, an impressive selection of vintage hats (I would have lost it over those 10 years ago!), old kimonos, and beyond. This is all to say, that though it just barely made it onto my list, Empire Revival is a must visit!