VINTAGE AND THRIFT SHOPS27 BOXES
27 Boxes, a shipping container shopping development in Melville, is home to dozens of small and quirky independent boutique stores and restaurants offering an alternative to Joburg’s mega mall scene. Look out for the regularly rotating selection of vintage pop-up stores with every era from the 1920s flapper to the 1990s grunge rockers catered for at prices that won’t break the bank. For dapper hats and men's jackets and blazers drop into the small Timeless Clothiers vintage store.
75 4th Ave, Melville, tel. +27 11 712 0000
Reviews love to misspell this shop’s name, but Remniscene has been a Joburg fixture for more than three decades, starting off on Yeoville’s buzzing Rockey Street and later moving to Melville. Owner Rosemary has an exceptional eye for beautiful items, and her shop in Melville's 27 Boxes – a giant vintage wardrobe – is a trousseau of time and texture, with fringed embroidered shawls, lace gloves and silk flounces, beaded Sixties glitz, and enough glinting baubles (some costume, some precious) to make any magpie happy.
27 Boxes, 75 4th Ave, Melville, tel. +27 11 726 7905
RAGS & LACE
This upmarket vintage store on Jan Smuts Avenue has been in business for some three decades and is still regarded by regular vintage shoppers as one of the best around. The rails are stuffed with pre-loved clothing from all eras - many of them from high fashion designer brands. All items come with a 'sell by date' meaning that they become cheaper the longer they remain on the rails. Rags & Lace caters exclusively to women. Men are asked to bide their time elsewhere while their partners shop as the store is a female-only space.
358 Jan Smuts Ave, Craighall Park, tel. +27 11 787 2130
'DUNUSA' MARKETSSet less than 2km apart and next to major inner-city thoroughfare and taxi ranks, lies the inner-city’s best shopping open secret - the dunusas - sprawling informal outdoor second-hand clothing thrift markets. Dunusa is an isiZulu word meaning to bend down and point your bum, alluding to the way shoppers bend down and hunt for clothes.
Controlled by the African Traders Associations, the dunusa traders and clothes come from all-over Africa and as you shop you are surrounded by a cacophony of languages from Swahili and Igbo to isiXhosa and isiZulu. With clothing prices starting at R2 per item, the dunusas offer a haven from the high cost of living in Joburg, affording the student population and the underprivileged affordable, stylish and quirky fashion options.
There are three major dunusa markets in the inner city, all of them are easily accessible from Park Station.
ELOFF STREET AND PARK STATION CRAFT AND ACCESSORIES
Directly behind Park Station on De Villiers Street is a craft and accessories market, perfect for bargain on-trend African-inspired fashion and décor. Across the street on a pedestrianised section of Eloff Street, the first dunusa market shares a canopy with a fresh fruit and vegetable market. This is the place to head to for 1950s-style dresses in summer, often in unusual fabrics like velvet. The dresses range from R3 to R50.
DE VILLIERS STREET CLOTHING
A few blocks east, also on De Villiers Street between Wanderers Street and Klein Street lies downtown's largest dunusa market. Head here for vibrantly patterned jumpsuits in summer and quirky blazers in winter. Jumpsuits range from R2 to R50 and blazers range from R20 to R150.
DIAGONAL STREET MARKET
The third dunusa market is found at the start of the pedestrianised section of historic Diagonal Street at the corner of Pixley Ka Isaka Seme (formerly Sauer) and Rahima Moosa (formerly Jeppe) Streets. Take a T1 Rea Vaya bus from Park Station and get off at the Chancellor House Westbound stop. Alternatively take the CBD Gautrain bus and get off at the FNB Bank City stop. Here in winter, you can find Matrix-style leather trench coats for under R150.
HOW TO SHOP AT DUNUSA MARKETS
Prices: Each stall in the market consists of a trolley filled with clothes. There’s often a standardised price on each stall. For example, in one stall all the clothes in the trolley will be R3. The prices range by season. In summer, for example, tops range from R2 to R50. In winter, however, prices go up and clothes range from R20 to R150. If you’re looking to spot designer pieces, look in the stalls with higher price tags. The most expensive stalls, however, are usually no more than R150. Some of the original designer labels spotted at the dunusas include Guess, Chanel and Gucci. Note that all stalls are cash only and might not have small change.
Sizes: When shopping at the dunusas one interesting quirk quickly becomes clear. The sizing systems should be taken as suggestions, and the key is to look for fit not size. The clothes are sourced from different countries with different sizing systems; you can buy a skirt in a size 10 in one stall, and the perfect jeans in a size 6 at another. To check if a pair of pants will fit you; make a fist then try and fit your forearm in the waist of the pants. If your fist and elbow touch both seams of the pants; it’ll probably fit.
What to bring and wear: When setting out to shop the dunusa market, dress comfortably, leave your valuables at home and bring cash in smaller denominations. Be vigilant and hold bags close to your body. It's best to head to the dunusas in the morning, the inner city is also often less hectic on the weekend.