Inside PickNWeight, London’s first kilo shop
The first time I came across a kilo store, I felt like Indiana Jones.
I was on holiday in Greece, doing little more than mooching, when a shop’s signage suggested I may have uncovered fashion’s very own Holy Grail.
“15 euros for a kilogram of clothes?,” I asked the sales assistant, convinced something was lost in translation. Behind a small countertop scale, she nodded and smiled.
Internally, I squealed. A vintage collection so carefully cared-for it could have been Tardis-ed straight from decades past surrounded me, filling the shop filled with possibilities. Or, at least as many as I could shove in my carry-on.
A sequined dress, silk scarf and pencil skirt later, I handed over a twenty and called it a day, not quite believing I was able to buy such beautiful, high-quality pieces at high-street prices. And sustainably, at that!
Unfortunately, my luck ended there.
Back in London – one of the most forward-thinking and fashionable cities in the world – kilo shops were nowhere to be found.
Vintage stores? Ten a penny. But they were expensive, had limited stock, and smelled a bit like the back of a shoe cupboard. They simply couldn’t compare to the kilo shops of mainland Europe.
As the years rolled on and sustainability became a hot-button priority, I waited impatiently for my hometown to get on board.
Then, almost out of nowhere, Picknweight arrived in a tourist-catered corner of London’s Covent Garden. Somewhat ironically, sandwiched between fast fashion favourites Zara and Urban Outfitters.
Outside PickNWeight – London’s first all-day, every-day kilo sale
The standalone kilo shop is the first of its kind in the UK and joins Picknweight’s small empire of kilo outposts across Berlin, Ibiza, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne.
Inside, the store is executed to hipster perfection; unique and beautifully-tailored vintage pieces overcrowd clothes rails, retro scarves and handbags perch atop similarly-aged jukeboxes and pinball machines — they’ve even created a feature wall out of old wooden tennis rackets.
“Our market observations have shown that consumers want to purchase fair and sustainable products without needing to restrict themselves to just one style or a certain era,” says Leila Mesgarzadeh, Picknweight’s founder and CEO.
“Our customers want to see their own ideas and needs reflected in the clothes they wear.”
But that comes at a cost. Unlike the Grecian shop’s £15 per kilo sales structure, Picknweight London prices items by the colour on its security tag, starting at £30 per kilo.
Inevitably, everything I picked up on my first walkaround was tagged green (£70 per kilo) or purple (£100 per kilo), and I wasn’t alone. I watched a number of people return items to their rails after weighing them, suggesting the costs has already become a big point of contention for potential customers.
Inside Picknweight London
Affordability carries a lot of clout with pop-up kilo sale customers. In fact, the most dominant among those in Britain – The (aptly named) Kilo Sale – has not increased its price point (£15 per kilo) in three very successful years of business.
Sarah Robins, co-founder of both The Kilo Sale and vintage store Make Do and Mend, was shocked to hear of Picknweight’s premium pricing structure.
“I don’t know how well that will do them,” she says. “Shopping vintage and secondhand is supposed to be affordable. An alternative to shopping on the high street.
“When you’re faced with buying a secondhand jumper for 30 pounds, rather than a brand new jumper that nobody’s worn for 30 pounds, that doesn’t make sense.”
As a business owner, Robins empathises with the financial demands of launching a new concept in central London (“imagine what they’d have to earn to cover their rent!”) and hopes the ever-growing interest in eco fashion helps Picknweight thrive, just as it helped her.
“The volume of shoppers has really increased in just three years,” she says of her pop-up kilo sale events, which has expanded to meet demand across London, Leeds and Manchester. “I definitely think sustainability has a lot to do with this surge that we’re seeing. It’s just become such a hot topic.
“There are so many people who are not buying ‘new’ or trying to change their shopping habits.”
Crates of Converse All-Stars for sale at Picknweight London
For some, that’s upcycling older pieces, clothes swapping, and/or secondhand shopping, but kilo sales go one better.
A recent study by Moneyboat revealed that 2,625 kilograms of wasted clothing is burnt or sent to landfill every second in the UK, producing 60,000 kilograms of CO2-e in manufacturing alone. Arguably, when a person buys vintage clothes by the kilogram, they’re tackling the problem at its root.
But people aren’t going to swap a kilo of clothes for a pound of flesh.
The reason The Kilo Sale appeals to so many is its price; £15 for a retro jacket or a couple of vintage tees feels like a steal, whether you’re trying to shop sustainably or not. When the cost of secondhand clothes starts to rival fast fashion, the incentive disappears.
For the fancy dress shopper or tourist? Not so big an issue. But to reach critical mass in a market flooded with shiny, new clothes? Essential.
At the right price, Picknweight has the power to sneak both sustainable and vintage fashion onto the high street, far and wide. But, for now, it’s not worth the weight.