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MILAN — The appetite for thrifting and vintage hunting has reached an all-time high — not only as a sustainability practice but also in light of the sweep of fashion nostalgia attracting younger consumers to designer clothing from decades past.

Morphine.Online, a venture established in 2018 by designer Marcelo Burlon, editor and art director Macs Iotti, his sister Martina, and fashion designer Tommaso Vaiani, is benefiting from the wave, and after launching as an online-only destination, recently unveiled its first full-fledged headquarters in Reggio Emilia, Italy. The company has also linked up with retailers to bring its highly curated vintage selection to global customers.

“As I was seeking for an experimental and playful ground [of expression] I engaged in conversations with Tommaso [Vaiani] on our life in fashion and realized our passion stemmed from the ’90s and early Aughts, when designers really were designers and the whole media system around fashion was not so widespread,” Macs Iotti explained.

The common ground was an obsession for early Maison Martin Margiela designs, which they had bought and treasured over the years. Upon launching Morphine.Online they hunted for more, scouting friends’ and acquaintances’ closets far and wide, before collectors and fashion people discovered the site and started contributing their gear.

“We realized that the idea of ownership of [vintage] fashion items … would rarely be unboxed and used,” Iotti said. “Morphine is a platform with a strong cultural imprint to talk about fashion and eventually sell items,” he added. “It’s about embracing fashion the way we like it,” he said.

The archives boast about 6,000 pieces, with about 15 new pieces coming in per week, Iotti said. Global collectors, friends of the company and anybody with a treasured vintage piece in their wardrobe resort to Morpine.Online when seeking a curated environment where to sell them.

“They know our curatorial and editorial approach and know how valued each item is. That’s our point of difference,” Iotti explained.

A vintage oversize leather jacket by Maison Martin Margiela.

A vintage oversize leather jacket by Maison Martin Margiela. Courtesy of Morphine.Online

Morphine.Online’s assortment is the result of its curatorial approach to vintage. Pieces include, for example, an oversize Martin Margiela leather jacket, of which only 15 were ever manufactured, Iotti said, as well as rarities from other Antwerp designers, the Brits, including Vivienne Westwood, and a lot of Japanese brands. Iotti stressed the platform’s focus on “underculture,” or underrepresented, Italian fashion designers such as Luigi Giannelli and Massimo Pasetti, in addition to Walter Albini, the former two almost totally forgotten by the broader public. It has most recently opened up its selection to vintage Gucci by Tom Ford and early Roberto Cavalli pieces, among others.

The platform’s website combines standard e-commerce functions with editorial content. It is to undergo a revamp in the near future, currently on hold as the team preps the headquarters in Reggio Emilia.

The two-story space, called Opificio, or Factory in English, houses workshops and a refashioning atelier on the ground floor where the group plans to invite students, designers and vintage-lovers alike. The second floor is dedicated to the archive, organized in alleys that group together like-minded designers, each occupying a different section.

About 80 percent of the 6,000 pieces are on sale, while the remainder is part of the “Permanent Archive” and treasured for cultural curation purposes.

Inside Morphine.Online's headquarters in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Inside Morphine.Online’s headquarters in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Courtesy of Morphine.Online

In addition to clothing, the vintage curation includes a “Print” section dedicated to books, fashion catalogues, old magazines and artifacts from the ‘90s club culture. Morphine.Online has itself published a range of fanzines highlighting the company’s manifesto, some of which have been sold to support Casa Marcella, a Tuscany, Italy-based shelter house for nonbinary and trans people.

Morphine.Online’s vintage selection is gaining global fans with sales particularly brisk in regions such as the U.S. and Asia, especially Japan. The platform is strengthening its rapport with loyal customers via pre-sale activations online.

“Our goal is to become a cultural and innovative vintage ecosystem, with an education bent both on- and offline,” Iotti said.

To be sure, after consolidating its online presence, the platform has started to test the brick-and-mortar waters.

After running a successful pop-up last summer at the Particular shop at the Casa Jondal beach club in Ibiza, Morphine.Online has linked with luxury retailer Modes, introducing a vintage corner at its Milan and Paris boutiques. The linkup could soon expand to other locations that the multibrand store runs across Europe.

Inside Morphine.Online's headquarters in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Inside Morphine.Online’s headquarters in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Courtesy of Morphine.Online

In November Morphine.Online is also opening a pop-up shop at London’s Selfridges where it plans to display and sell about 15 items from its collection.

In the first half of 2024, it is poised to debut “Bazaar,” a new website section intended as a thrift shop with more affordable items priced under 500 euros. “It’ll be curation of pieces from sister lines that were all the rage in the ‘80s and ‘90s, as well as unbranded items that retain a certain market value for their aesthetics,” Vaiani said. “It’s about exploring a different side of vintage compared to the archival space filled with rarities,” he said.

When the project was introduced in 2018, the four-member group was also running a namesake brand devoted to upcycling with genderless and seasonless collection of one-of-a-kind pieces, often crafted from deadstock fabrics with a slow-fashion approach. The brand was eventually paused in the wake of pent-up demand for the vintage component.