Secondhand Kleiderei
Kleiderei manager Lena Schröder at work. Photo: Anna-Maria Langer

Cologne loves preloved: the city’s top six second-hand clothes shops

Unique second-hand design items conserve resources and vintage is in vogue - especially in Cologne. Our tips for environmentally friendly shopping.

Kleiderei – Resource-saving clothing rental

Das Team der Kleiderei setzt ein Zeichen gegen Fast Fashion
Making a statement against fast fashion – the team from Kleiderei. Photo: Anna-Maria Langer

Every year, each German spends an average of 910 euros on clothes. At the same time, 4.7kg of clothes per person ends up being thrown away. But clothes really need to be worn thirty times to be sustainable. Looking for ways to reduce the carbon footprint of fashion shopping, the founders of Kleiderei on Venloer Straße decided that borrowing second-hand clothes was even kinder on the planet than just buying them. Customers pay a monthly fee to hire four garments of their choice. They can also treat themselves to new clothes (from fair and environmentally friendly suppliers) from collections by fair fashion brands, one-offs from local ateliers and certified organic garments supplied by Cologne’s wealth of fantastic labels offering style paired with sustainability.

Venloer Straße 459, 50825 Cologne

Vintage Emde – Second-hand fashion spanning four decades

Vintage Emde
As well as preloved clothing, Vintage Emde has bags, jewellery and quirky home decorations. Photo: Vintage Emde

The items on sale here look a little antiquated at first glance but upon closer inspection they reveal a sophistication and fashion sense of decades gone by. Stanislava and Christian, also proponents of a move away from mass consumption and the throw-away society, opened their Belgian Quarter store, Vintage Emde, in 2012 and have watched it expand ever since. This shop rules supreme in terms of window-dressing, drawing in passers-by to explore the huge assortment of men’s garments in the basement, ladies’ fashion on the first floor and the “red room” where there’s a large selection of sports and leisurewear from the 1970s right through to the 2000s. Measuring 12m², the shop window occasionally serves as a venue for exhibitions and small concerts too.

Bismarckstraße 56, 50672 Cologne

Polyestershock – Glamorous vintage garments, altered to a perfect fit

Polyestershock manager Anna Krus between her window dummies. Photo: Jennifer Rumbach

Fallen in love with a vintage garment that doesn’t quite fit? Polyestershock owner and fashion designer Anna Krus alters clothes to make them the perfect fit free of charge. The boutique’s name is deceiving – with a bit of luck, you’ll find items such as a Wolfang Joop jumpsuit from the 1980s, a Bugatti trench coat or a military-style dress by Jil Sander, and the ultimate in shoulder pads and pleated trousers. Classic design and high-quality materials never go out of fashion after all. Anna’s inspiration, incidentally, was fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, a friend of Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp, who created wearable art. Her clients included colourful celebrities like Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo and Mae West.

Geisselstr. 14, 50823 Cologne

Think Twice – “Discount day” special offers on second-hand clothes, shoes and accessories

When vintage-loving kids queue up for hours on end outside Cologne’s two Think Twice shops, it’s because of the huge price drops – not because they’re giving things away. Every five weeks, the shops change their range of exquisite second-hand clothing, shoes and accessories, reducing the prices to make space for new stock. These “discount days” start with a reduction of 30 to 50% and end with 1 euro bargains. With prices like that, customers don’t even need to “think twice”. The concept has proved so popular that they’ve opened shops in Bonn, Aachen and Bochum too.

Ehrenstraße 45-47, 50672 Köln / Severinstrasse 77 – 79, 50678 Cologne

Picknweight – A vintage heavyweight

This vintage chain, which also has fashion fans in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and London in raptures as they look for new styles, is a heavyweight in the retro clothing business. They have a huge range of garments from the 1950s to 1990s, which they sell by the kilo. Once you’ve picked out your favourite items from all those jeans, dresses, baseball jackets and much more, you weigh it all and work out the cost by looking at the colour on the label. With everything from kimonos to cowboy boots and hats to home furnishings, Picknweight is like a supermarket for all things second-hand. A supermarket where everything’s sorted by colour so you don’t get completely lost in all that clothing.

Ehrenstraße 60-64, 50672 Cologne

Vintage & Rags – Second-hand clothes in the light of a chandelier

They’ve got everything here – from trainers to floral dresses to sunglasses. If you’re looking for 1980s-style Levis 501s, you’ll find them on the two floors of this place. Like Carhartt cargo pants, dungarees, hoodies, T-shirts, Hawaiian shirts and baseball jackets, they’re always in fashion. Vintage & Rags, the name of the shop (a chain with stores in Berlin and Hamburg too), might sound a bit off-putting but once you’ve spent some time there, browsing beneath the majestic chandelier, you’ll look back fondly on your visit to what’s become something of an institution in Cologne.

Hohenzollernring 47, 50672 Cologne

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