The Creatives’ Annual Closet Sale Is Vintage Therapy

Courtesy of Shaira Luna

Organized by Shaira Luna and friends, it’s a yearly treat for a new generation of shoppers with a penchant for vintage fashion.

Mother’s Day weekend celebrated vintage fashion on two spheres: In New York City, Chloe Sevigny and Lynn Yaeger’s historic ‘Sale of the Century,’ and in Manila, the mainstay fashion event anticipated every year: the Creatives’ Annual Closet Sale. 

By early morning on Saturday, the sale was already in full swing. Dedicated shoppers arrived as early as 9 AM in the hopes of scoring a statement piece or two, worn off the backs of actress Anne Curtis, musician Zild Benitez, and content creators Laureen Uy and Bella Racelis. 

In the compact two-story space, garments and accessories lined every surface. Shoppers were treated to a wide array of rare vintage and designer pieces sourced from ukays across Manila and beyond. Think the glimmering gems of yesteryear: ’90s Jean Paul Gaultier-style graphic tops, Pleats Please sets in pristine condition, and pouf-pumped racks of organza, taffeta, and tulle. 

Each vendor had something different to offer, which might have to do with the breadth of their fields. They hail from every corner of the creative industry: photographers, producers, personalities, stylists, directors, and set designers (yes, they sold furniture, too!). If the thrill of thrift is in the hunt, it becomes even more exciting when every piece is from someone whose work revolves around honing a meticulous eye. 

Courtesy of Shaira Luna

Shoppers moved about the room at a frenetic pace, pouring over the racks and swiftly snapping up the pieces that lined them. The twentysomethings came in cliques and by twos. But Rylee, 18, was among that crowd. A fresh graduate from SoFA Design Institute, she was there to find things that were off-the-rack and a bit off-kilter. 

“Like, this is definitely custom-made,” she said excitedly, presenting the favorite out of her purchases: a miniskirt that was patchwork, pleated, and distressed at the hem. Of the event, she says, “I was here [at the Closet Sale] last year and was so enthralled by everything. I gravitate towards this crowd.” 

Just before noon, two friends had finished making their rounds, catching up on their lofty hauls by the Rocket Design Studio snack bar just outside the main shopping space. This year marks the third year that animation student Gab, 22, is shopping at the event, and for the last two, she has brought her friend Marga, 21, along with her. They tell Vogue Philippines that the two-day affair is, for them, a kind of therapy. “I was here last year because [Gab] invited me, but I’m here now for stress relief,” Marga says.

“This is my big shopping spree!” Gab laughs. “I don’t necessarily come with a particular aesthetic [in mind]. I like looking for one-of-a-kind pieces—things that catch my eye.” 

The two friends attribute their loyal attendance to Shaira Luna, who they follow on Instagram. Other than her intimate, dreamlike portraiture, the prolific photographer is also known for her idiosyncratic sense of style. Her secondary Instagram is dedicated to daily postings of her head-to-toe vintage ensembles. At the same time, her YouTube channel hosts thrift hauls, closet deep dives, and collection tours to an audience of upwards of 50,000. 

Luna has been organizing the Closet Sale every year since 2015, when it was born out of necessity. “As far back as 2012, I would thrift for clothes for my [personal] shoots. I ended up accumulating so many things,” she recounts. “It got to a point where stuff wouldn’t fit in my closet anymore.”

Courtesy of Shaira Luna

With a helpful nudge from some of her colleagues, the photographer mounted her first Closet Sale with just three other sellers. Word of the event spread among creatives, who expressed similar sentiments of needing to purge their equally-as-overflowing wardrobes. “The turnout was pretty good, and every year [since], we just started getting more and more people joining. Apparently, I’m not the only one with that problem,” Luna muses.  

Jones Palteng, industry multihyphenate, and resident Closet Sale seller, tells Vogue Philippines that they always try to keep it as organic as possible. “We don’t have any sponsors. It’s all very laidback,” he says. “It’s really just people letting go of their stuff.”

For this reason, Luna says organizing the event is a real labor of love. “I rent a truck, I hire an assistant—it’s quite a big undertaking, but I really, really enjoy it,” she explains. “There’s nothing like it. You meet all these people, and they’re just so excited to dig. [I know] my clothes are going to people who will use them and appreciate them after I have.” 

Before thrifting was deemed a “sustainable” activity by an increasingly eco-conscious younger market, it was a trade secret within Manila’s creative industry. Luna says that creatives’ work was built on secondhand fashion long before she started working. “When I talked to veteran directors and production designers who worked as far back as the ’80s or ’90s, they would tell me about their secret [go-to vintage stores] that don’t exist anymore,” she narrates. “But I think they find it nice that the new generation has started to embrace this reuse and re-wear mindset.” 

Seller Floresse Trinidad (of the Flo Trinidad styling team), with friends Manu (pink hair) and Kurt (black shirt)
Creative Direction & Styling group Rabbit Hole Creatives: Darryl Reciña (left) Aram Loe (right) and Geof Gonzales (floor)

In Favor of Vintage

With fast fashion brands churning out the same trends at a rapid-fire pace, your reliable old ukay-ukay might hold an affordable solution to the epidemic of drab, uninspiring collections. A vintage renaissance dawns in the global schemas of fashion: See Bella Hadid’s trending archive revivals, Rihanna’s love affair with Tom Ford-era Gucci, and the aforementioned ‘Sale of the Century,’ which had lines wrapping around an entire city block—twice! 

In the Philippines, secondhand loses its horror-movie connotations in favor of a collective desire to look effortlessly cool on a budget—a movement spearheaded by Luna’s indelible style and an influx of traction garnered by Instagram vintage brands during the pandemic. Rewear also reigned supreme on Vogue Philippines’ latest cover story, where 32 creatives were styled in upcycled denim and repurposed garments from Strongvillage and Proudrace.

So, how exactly does one win at the bins? Seasoned ukay veteran Luna says it demands a certain kind of dedication. 

“I will say, right off the bat, that digging or hunting for clothes isn’t for everybody,” she says. “It needs an amount of real interest and curiosity. You need to exercise some sort of creativity when you’re thrifting—you don’t normally take an item for face value. Sometimes you have to let the wheels turn in your head and figure out how else you can use a garment.” 

Fast fashion stores, and even runway looks, feed you entire ensembles that tempt you to buy every piece. A thrift store, or a closet sale, is an entirely different experience, with clothes assembled on racks in no particular order. While it can be overwhelming, it invites shoppers into a realm of experimentation, freedom, and play. 

Wearing a skirt as a top or a tank top backwards can make for stellar styling as well as an exercise in creativity—one that Luna says has impacted most aspects of her life. “I always attribute my personal style, or even the way I shoot, to my years of thrifting because my imagination just runs,” the photographer laughs. “I am always imagining stories.” 

While thrifting isn’t free from its fair share of nuance, consider taking a chance on an ukay-ukay, which is still the more environmentally friendly option over your typical trek to the mall. Or you can always await the next Creatives’ Closet Sale, which promises vintage treasures straight from the wardrobes of Manila’s finest image-makers every year.

Courtesy of Shaira Luna

The Creatives’ Closet Sale is an annual shopping event hosted by photographer Shaira Luna and other Manila-based creatives. This year, it took place in Siren Studios in Makati City, and other sellers included Anne Curtis, Zild Benitez, Laureen Uy, and Bella Racelis (ThatsBella). The event’s dedicated Instagram account, run by Luna, regularly posts announcements on future sales.

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