Treasure Hunting – De Kringloopwinkel

Early this month on the Dutch TV dating program “Blind Dates” on NPO3, a young woman complimented her ‘blind date’ from Friesland for how ‘cool’ he was dressed. With a big smile, the 23-year-old man proudly replied “ik kringloop”, which means he buys from recycle shops in the Netherlands known as ‘Kringloopwinkels’. (If you are reading this right now, it is probably not hip and happening anymore… but pretty damn close).

Today, there are thousands of second-hand and vintage shops, but according to the last count, only 1,175 are exclusively known as ‘Kringloopwinkel’. Unlike other second-hand and vintage shops, the ‘Kringloopwinkel’ is based on an altruistic concept that people can donate their old clothing, furniture, household appliances and goods, books, tools, records, CD’s, electronic equipment, and even building supplies, so that they can be resold for an affordable price, especially for people with a lower income. It’s a win-win idea. Things do not get tossed in the garbage and end up in landfill, and people with low incomes (or anyone else) can afford goods without paying the full amount in a regular store. Moreover, the Kringloopwinkel also discourages people from unnecessary overconsumption. Last month, while many shops had Black Friday sales, the Kringloopwinkel had ‘Green Friday’ offers.

In the old days, wearing second-hand clothing and having a home decorated with old furniture was stigmatized with poverty. But not anymore. What once  started out as an ideology to help save the environment has turned into a new fashion trend, first among hip twenty- and thirty-year-olds whose clothing style is retro, based on the 1970s and 1980s. The older generation, who had saved their clothes for so long and are now donating them to Kringloopwinkels, offer an ideal treasure trove for the younger generation who have made their clothing style fashionable again. Besides Kringloopwinkels having a young clientele, or those with a low income, other visitors shop there for the fun of it. One client is Tim, an expat from Great Britain, residing in Amsterdam with his wife and two children. The 40-year-old visits his local store at least once a week, hoping to find vintage 1960s Danish design furniture to finish decorating the couple’s home. Tim says: “shopping at the Kringloopwinkel is something of an excitement…you never know what you are going to find.”

Another regular is Rena, who discovered second-hand stores when she was a teenager in Thessaloniki. At first, she had an infatuation for stylish clothing, costumes and old lamps – the only things she could bring home as she was living with her parents – but now the 45-year-old Greek has discovered early-twentieth0century wooden furniture such as cabinets and buffets. She adds: “the Kringloopwinkel is like a treasure hunt”.

Another patron of the Kringloopwinkel in Amsterdam-West, name withheld, has been shopping at the Kringloopwinkel and other thrift shops for more than 25 years. He is usually on the hunt for art deco lamps and furniture. For years, his partner was not aware of what he calls his ‘guilty pleasure’, as he would buy items and have them delivered home in the middle of the day, where he would ‘integrate’ them into the rest of the interior without his partner noticing them. However, when his partner started working full-time from home during the lockdown, life became difficult for him. Nowadays, he is trying to restrain himself, but the temptation is great.

So try your local Kringloopwinkel – who knows, you may get hooked too!

Written by Benjamin Roberts