Totally late to the party on this one, but Urban Outfitter’s “Urban Renewal” is the latest label on my radar and it’s not really a label at all!…At least not in the traditional sense! While I’d seen their stuff at UO on occasion, the Urban Renewal pieces–which looked like a rack or two of random, vaguely vintage finds–hadn’t ever intrigued me enough to go over and check them out. That was of course, until I discovered their denim shorts online!
After perusing UO’s entire online catalog of Urban Renewal, I was instantly curious about the brand. Urban Renewal clothing, you see, consists of all “original vintage-condition items”, meaning that each particular piece is unique and one-of-a-kind. Naturally, this means that there’s room for variety in not only details and styling from piece to piece, but also in sizing. And as any vintage lover knows, translating one’s modern size to it’s vintage equivalent can be a bit difficult. Random, even. Urban Renewal aims to avert this by offering their shorts not in numerical sizes, but rather XS – XL. They provide a size chart complete with measurements in the “details” section of each product in efforts to ensure the perfect fit. So, assuming that you have your measurements correct and you selected a style you like (High/Low, Destroyed, Cheeky, etc), you should be left with the perfect one-of-a-kind vintage piece, delivered direct to your door sans drama…Right? I aimed to find out…with their shorts!
Though I loved the look of all of the styles on Urban’s models, the “reviews” section showed that there was a lot of variation between the shorts that were pictured on the site and what they actually got. Some were super short, some were cuffed, some didn’t fit correctly, and some just looked weird. Obviously, variety was to be expected since the pieces are one-of-a-kind, but if I couldn’t actually see (not to mention try on) the actual one-of-a-kind piece that was going to be MINE, I wasn’t going to order online! Luckily for me, I live 10 minutes away from Urban Outfitters. After digging through four piles of poorly labeled Urban Renewal shorts–much to the dismay of one of UO’s sale’s associates–I finally found a pair that looked like they could potentially fit me. They didn’t have an original size tag and there was no sign of an Urban Renewal equivalent; I had to try them on. Long story short: Success! The denim was thick, the waist was high without being too high, the high-low styling was exactly what I wanted, and the distressing was just right. And if you were wondering, though all of the shorts in the piles I tore through were similar, each pair was definitely unique. Anyway, It was then that I noticed the size on the Levi’s tag: 14SLM. 25W. 27L. So that explains it: Urban Renewal had made my perfect shorts out of a 14-year-old’s old jeans. And I’m obsessed with them. How random is that? How do they do it? Is this “real” vintage? The whole thing made me even more curious about the brand. You too? Here’s what’s up.
The 411 on Urban Renewal
- All of Urban Renewal’s pieces are made from vintage, deadstock, and surplus materials sourced from around the world. These materials are then collected, pieced together, and styled to form updated apparel. It’s nouveau vintage: Vintage styling with current appeal. AKA mainstream perfection.
- Each piece in Urban Renewal’s collection is manufactured in a warehouse in Port Richmond, PA, USA, that is operated by a staff of 40 American workers.
- They’re not just in it as a way to cash in on any go-green, pro-upcycling trend! Urban Renewal started in the late 80s and has been around for over 20 years.
- The quality is awesome and prices aren’t unreasonable–especially considering the fact that Urban Renewal takes most of the guess work out of vintage shopping while still providing you with vintage-yet-on-trend pieces.
- Urban Outfitters, has however run into a bit of trouble about their pricing and sourcing of their other vintage goods in the past: When one of their hangtags–noting that their “One-Of-A-Kind Vintage” item was “selected from a yard sale or flea market”–was posted on Reddit, the brand was forced to issue a statement about their One-Of-A-Kind collection, noting that while those goods are specifically sourced from garage sales and flea markets, Urban Renewal items are not.
- Now they’re more transparent. Urban Renewal is extremely explicit in their explanation what they do and what to expect from their pieces on both the UO website and on all of their garment tags. They’ve even blogged about the process in the past!
What are your thoughts about Urban Renewal? Do you like the idea of using old fabrics and materials to form updated clothing? Are you willing to pay a premium for curated goods? Does this take the fun out of vintage or thrift shopping? Let me know how you feel!
Liza, Editorial Director