WORDS RACHEL EDWARDS - PHOTOGRAPHY DANNY COZENS - CREATIVE DIRECTION REUBEN MCKENZIE + SAMI HAYES + ALEX FAIRHEAD - STYLING MATILDA OLIVER - PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT EUAN HARNESS - MODELS JAMIE KENDRICK + OLIVIA DEVERELL + FELIX + RASHAYD L'QUAN JAMES
Vintage shopping in London is tiring. Between rummaging through boxes of Hawaiian shirts containing the lingering scent of stag do, 'rare vintage' H&M cardigans on sale for more than their original price and piles of fake designer handbags, it’s a jungle out there.
The problem with the majority of vintage outlets is that it feels like there’s little care in the curation. What we need, I think to myself, is something to navigate us - a Google Maps for shopping (look, I am of the generation where the obvious solution to any problem is to create an app). But hold on - before you hang up your hat and resign yourself to a life of, dare I say, fast fashion - there just might be a glimmer of hope. Enter the newly opened ‘Rhubarb Store’.
Founded by Reuben Mckenzie, the online store, based out of South London, wants to re-introduce connection into clothing, working with a strict quality over quantity policy. Whilst offering incredible one-off vintage pieces and rare designer finds, Rhubarb Store is more than just a vintage shop, instead positioning itself in the fashion industry more generally by also representing independent, environmentally responsible brands such as tISI, Uskees, Urth, Pietá and Maium.
Take one glance at their website and it's little wonder that they've already made it onto Vogue's radar. Each piece is both unique and timeless, and their circulation policy sees them put their money where their mouth is and promise to re-buy any item sold, regardless of its condition.
F Word sat down to talk about the ways in which storytelling and connection are at the forefront of what they do, and how Rhubarb Store might just revolutionise the way that we shop.
Rachel Edwards: What is Rhubarb Store?
Reuben Mckenzie: Rhubarb Store is a place to find responsible, timeless style. Through our online store, we curate new and secondhand clothing, bound by style, storytelling and circularity. I believe these three words are essential for something to be of value and truly worth adding to the world today. It’s important that we connect with the pieces that we own and reduce our impact on the environment along the way. This is what Rhubarb Store is founded on.
R.E: What sets you apart from other clothing stores?
R.M: I’d say there are two elements of Rhubarb Store that set us apart; our style and commitment to a circular economy.
Firstly, the fact that we sell both new and secondhand clothing, holding equal value to both. People these days style themselves using both new and vintage pieces so we want to allow them to shop this way too. We are fortunate to be working with some incredible clothing brands, as well as having access to some of the best vintage clothing suppliers in the world. Rhubarb Store was founded as a vintage clothing company but has grown into so much more. This places us in a unique position, that is only really possible due to the path that we’ve taken to get here.
Secondly, it is our deep-rooted commitment to a circular economy that sets us apart. Since our inception in 2018, we have embraced the principles of repurposing, reusing, and recirculating clothing. We owe our existence to the recirculation of clothing.
Our Circulate Policy is at the heart of everything we do at Rhubarb Store. It's all about creating a responsible and circular fashion industry. We guarantee to buy back any item ever purchased from our store, no matter how much time has passed. We'll clean, mend, and resell it through the secondhand side of our store.
But it's not just about reusing clothes. We also extend the concept to our packaging. We offer the option of reusable packaging as well as finding new and unique ways to add additional life to used materials. For example, our business cards are made from old denim and our order packaging postcards double up as bookmarks.
R.E: Everything on the site is beautiful! Is it ever hard to part with the items you’re selling?
R.M: It’s really hard to part with some pieces! Honestly, sometimes I just can’t part with them. If an item really resonates with me, or I never think I’ll see anything like it again, it’s coming home with me (at least for a while). However, over the years I have been better and letting go of pieces if they aren’t absolutely necessary. As long as that piece has found a good owner somewhere else and its story continues, I’m happy!
R.E: What change do you want to see in consumers in five years?
R.M: I would like to see consumers become more conscious in their buying decisions. I’d like people to ask themselves, ‘why am I buying this?’ and ‘is this piece right for me?’ every time they shop. Being more conscious in decisions will lead to a stronger connection with the things that we own and allow us to better reflect ourselves in the process.
R.E: Your pieces are one of a kind, do you feel like Rhubarb Store helps to promote individual expression?
R.M: That is our aim! Self-expression and identity are extremely important to us and we believe that fashion and style can be a vehicle to better understand these parts of yourself. We try to stock a balance of items our customers may be more aware of, alongside more unique and less common items that we would like to introduce to them. We hope that this approach will open our customers' eyes to items that they would have never considered before, and potentially realise that this style is a reflection of them. And hopefully, in turn, allowing them to better understand and express themselves, even if it’s just by the smallest amount.
Style is so personal, it’s a reflection of you as an individual. One of the reasons our customers like buying our vintage pieces is because the items are so unique. If you buy a piece from us you aren’t going to see someone else rocking the same one, like you would if you bought a fast fashion outfit off the high street.
R.E: You talk a lot about storytelling, why is this important to you?
R.M: You’ll hear us talk about Rhubarb Stories a lot.
Being founded in vintage clothing, we’re very aware of the stories and lives these items have lived before ending up with us. We love imagining their previous lives and feel it’s only right to add to this.
One of our brands, tISI, has pieces in their collection that are all slightly different because the local weather on the day of creation affects the final colour of the natural dye. Another brand, Pieta, uses deadstock materials, originally made for items such as curtains and sofas, to craft incredible two-pieces.
We hope that sharing these stories will help our customers hold a new level of appreciation and feel a deeper connection for the pieces they own.
For more information and to shop their latest collections: https://rhubarbstore.com/