Becky Adler explores what vintage second-hand style Marly has to offer
Like many expats, I’ve found that living in a different country makes you miss some unlikely things. Surprisingly, top of my own list is not tea, Marks and Spencers or a good curry, but hunting for a bargain in a charity shop. After foolishly arriving in Bogotá with just 17 kg worth of stuff for a year of living away from home, I knew that I would sooner or later have to update my wardrobe with some vintage Colombian chic.
The time soon arrived when, after damaging my only pair of trousers, I was advised to venture to one of Bogota’s many shopping malls in search of some decent clothes. Anyone who knows me well would know that I loathe shopping malls so I wasn’t particularly jumping for joy at the prospect of trudging around a sweaty, airless shopping centre for hours. Nevertheless I went to the outlets in Pradera only to stumble upon a Mango outlet that was having a sale. Yes!
For the fashion-conscious, Bogotá is your best bet in Colombia. Being the capital, it has various branches of some of the major fashion chains such as Mango, Zara, Benetton and Gap. But unless it is sale season, high street shopping can be a pricey experience and if, like me, you detest malls, a rather unenjoyable one too. High street fashion is also slightly more expensive here than in the UK as the clothes are imported with a higher VAT. Just to give you an idea of prices, a pair of smart trousers from Zara will set you back $129,000COP while a shirt from Benetton will cost you around $90,000COP. This may seem a reasonable price for some but is outside of many people’s budgets.
I was therefore thrilled to stumble across an array of second-hand clothes shops while waiting outside Marly Transmilenio on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
It surprised me to discover how shops are arranged in Bogotá. Unlike the UK, where shops selling the same product are scattered throughout the city, in Bogotá they are all concentrated within the same area, each business competing with the next.
The vintage shops in Marly are organised in this fashion, clustered together along the Av. Caracas from Calles 50-60. The shops are all rather similar in size and arrangement and are a second-hand paradise for any retro-loving fashionista.
It’s here I headed last Saturday. My friend James had agreed to meet me as we needed to find costumes and accessories for a “vintage-themed” party and were keen to dress to impress. James was on the lookout for a “funny” costume while I wanted something that I could actually wear out in public.
After careful analysis of each shop, I have selected my favourite second-hand shops and what they have to offer.
The best shops for men’s oversized blazers and jackets are Mercado Internacional (Av. Caracas N.49- 94) which are stocked full of denim and leather jackets and sporty hoodies and Universitarios 2 (Av. Caracas n. 50-08). All of the clothes were neatly arranged according to size on clothes rails making it easy to find what you were looking for. The shop assistants were reasonably friendly but did have a tendency to follow you around the shop- something I find annoying when I just want to browse.
La Gran Botega (Av Caracas n.51-18) and William Rodriguez (Av Caracas N.50-58) have way more selection for women and look a bit more like the cluttered charity shops back home, where you really need to hunt to find a treasured bargain. I particularly loved the vast array of second hand leather shoes and retro ladies handbags tossed aside in a corner in La Gran Botega.
I finished my shopping spree on a high. I had purchased a camouflage army blazer for the small cost of $15,000COP after a lengthy bargaining battle – the same jacket would have cost me £50 back home! I tried on various dresses and although I took a fancy to a few, I resisted the temptation to buy as I will need to carry everything back home with me at the end of the year. But for those who don’t have such space restrictions, head to Marly and shop away. And if second-hand shops aren’t your style, head to the Mercado de las Pulgas on Septima every Sunday for a different class of vintage.
By Becky Adler