When it comes to giving a second chance, clothes definitely deserve one. In a world where fashion is fleeting, the popularity of used, second-hand and repurposed clothing has accelerated as discussions of sustainability and climate change have taken center stage. Even, reality TV show Love Island for its eighth season plans to dress contestants in pre-loved clothes by partnering with eBay UK as an outfit supplier.
While thrift stores selling second-hand and vintage clothes have been popular in India with markets like Sarojini Nagar and Janpath in Delhi, and Fashion Street in Mumbai, there is a thriving thrift store scene visible online and on Instagram.
SAVING FOR THE PLANET
Eco-conscious millennials and Generation Z, with their unique sense of style, are running thrift stores on Instagram, democratizing second-hand, vintage goods and exporting surpluses.
Tamanna Chawla, co-founder of Curated Findings, a thrift store and consignment store that operates on Instagram and online, said: “It started as a passion project in January 2020, and at that time the intention was to provide people with durable yet affordable products. fast fashionable option. And second-hand fashion helps us fill that gap. My business partner and I are young professionals and we didn’t have a lot of money to spend on sustainable brands. I was absolutely against fast fashion and then we discovered second hand. Eventually, we wanted to share this with others so the impact would be wider. The store’s bio reads, “Making second-hand culture cool again.”
According to the 2022 resale report from thredUP, the world’s largest online thrift store, “Second-hand is becoming a global phenomenon, expected to grow 127% by 2026. The global market second-hand clothing will grow 3 times faster than the global clothing market as a whole”.
“Before, saving was mainly for saving money. Now we have a conscious audience that knows it’s good for the pocket and good for the planet. Even if you go for a sustainable brand, ultimately reusing something that has already been produced is more sustainable than producing something new, no matter how sustainable,” said Ishita Singh, Founder of Oakark.
Maintain your fashion
Fast fashion is proving to be a disaster for the environment as brands overproduce to keep up with demand leading Western countries to dump unused clothes in African and Asian countries, the majority of them them ending up in landfills. For example, the Kantamanto market in Ghana’s capital, Accra, is West Africa’s hub for second-hand western clothing. According to the OR Foundation, an American NGO, estimates that around 15 million used clothes arrive in Ghana every week, although 40% end up being thrown away due to poor quality. With no use to them, discarded items first end up in landfills and then travel further out into the ocean.
“That’s why we have to reuse clothes. We work through flea market sellers, because the flea market has many second-hand products which are exported to the country from western countries. This is how the used goods cycle works, on a global scale. All surplus garments are exported to countries in Asia and Africa from wealthy Western countries. It ends up in flea markets. Again, these flea markets are filled with export surpluses, which are generated here because India is a manufacturing country. When export houses receive an export order, they must make an additional 5%, to compensate for any problems with the garments produced. These export surpluses end up at the flea market. If it’s not sold, it has the same future – it ends up in landfill,” Chawla explained.
Pre-liked to re-liked
The range of clothing and accessories featured in these thrift stores is curated with a lot of thought. “Collectible drops” are given attractive names and even themes. From t-shirts to rare vintage dresses, shoppers can find a treasure at these thrift stores, for a few hundred rupees. Once a customer likes something, they can leave a comment on that post, asking the seller to book it. The payment method is split and the goods are shipped to the buyer.
Afreen Akhtar, founder of Ismat Store, calls it a “fluid thrift store”. “Even before my thrift store, I wanted to sell souvenirs to people. When we ship products to the customer, we send them postcards based on literature and art,” Akhtar said. Emphasizing the need for inclusivity in the fashions she follows in her store, she added, “Usually there are clothes for sizes like XS and S, which you mostly find. There isn’t much for plus size people. We try to find larger sizes. The problem with fashion brands is that they always make clothes for a specific gender. We just want to tell people that you can literally wear whatever you want. You don’t have to conform to the idea of fashion that society should follow.
So, was the wearing of second-hand clothes accepted? “Some people don’t understand the concept of a thrift store. However, 95% of our customers are cool with clothes. Some people will keep asking for discounts saying if it’s second hand then why are you selling it at a particular price,” Akhtar said.
“Yes! Many have become more open to savings in India. When Mirinwon started, some of my clients already knew what savings meant, but many did not, the same question I was asked was “is this a new coin?” said Ngahon Tungshangnao, founder of Mirinwon, based in Ukhrul, Manipur.
The popularity of these stores is evident from the number of pieces sold each time a new collection is launched. Wakute Wezah, founder of Nagaland-based Thrift Nations Apparels, said, “I sell around 150-200 pieces in a month. Over the years, there has been quite a boom in online thrift stores, especially after the pandemic. Thrift stores now serve as a platform for people to earn pocket money and also allow the public/subscribers to buy clothes at affordable rates while avoiding harmful fast fashion.
The author tweets @namyasinha