For those unaware, thrift shopping or ‘thrifting’ refers to the act of buying second-hand goods from thrift stores or garage sales.
When Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ 2012 single, Thrift Shop, hit the party scene with a vengeance, many of us rap-lovers loved crooning, “I’m gonna pop some tags, only got 20 dollars in my pocket,” eventhough most of us must have never visited a thrift shop, nor had any dollars in our pockets. Today, the song might not occupy the same position in our ‘Top 10’ lists, but its subject — thrift shopping — has taken centre-stage in many a millennial’s life.
For those unaware, thrift shopping or ‘thrifting’ refers to the act of buying second-hand goods from thrift stores or garage sales. Though hugely popular in the West, thrifting is catching on in India as well, especially among youngsters, who are not only looking at making affordable purchases, but are also eager to foster change through their actions. Along with thrifting, the environmentally-conscious buyer is looking at other ways to reuse and recycle objects, by crowd-sourcing used goods or scouting for vintage finds. And for all these endeavours, the Internet is proving to be a gold mine.
Second-hand stores have been time-tested fixtures in many a street and gully. However, entrepreneurs are exploring new, intangible mediums to make thrift shopping more convenient. Bengaluru-based Vinayak Gangopadhyay, who co-founded the Instagram account ‘TheThriftShop’ with his friends, Rupa Kudwalli and Prashanthi Raman to make thrifting accessible while keeping investments to a low. The month-old initiative puts up previously used garments and accessories for sale at dirt-cheap prices, and a portion of the revenue goes to the ex-owner of the item. But before anything is shipped, it is bio-washed, ironed and packaged in a sustainable fashion.
33-year-old Nirmala Rathi, who co-founded ‘take2’ on Instagram with her two friends Poonam Hiteshkumar and Swati Nagelia, reveals that the initiative was born out of the trio’s desire to dispose off their expensive garments in a useful manner. Here too, the garments are sold at a fraction of the original price and Nirmala believes that this price tag serves a good purpose. “Among the three of us, we have a good mix of high-fashion, high-street brands and street finds. We don’t like to repeat our clothes, and want them to be re-used by people who will value these garments because they were close to our heart when we bought them,” she reveals. She also likes the personal communication Instagram allows for as it helps her understand the buyer’s needs better. “If I know the garment suits an ‘M’ size, even though it says ‘S’, I can inform the buyer about this. So there is a more personalised interaction between the buyer and seller,” adds Nirmala.
Another way to prolong the lifecycle of existing garments is by upcycling them or including them in vintage wear catalogues. This is exactly what Bodements, an online vintage boutique store has been doing for over a year.
Through pop-ups and its Instagram page, the initiative puts second-hand garments, unused vintage pieces and upcycled outfits back into circulation. “The vintage garments are sourced from old boutiques in Europe, Japan, New York and London. If the garment has a tatter because of wear and tear, the defect is mended, and fashionable flourishes are added to the garment to add zest to it,” explains Divya Saini, Founder/ Partner. “We want to get the culture of re-using clothes to India as there are a lot of stereotypes against it. The entire world is moving towards sustainability. The first basic step you can do is not making new clothes. And while that doing that, we’re trying to get the best fashion from the 60s, 70s and 80s, back,” she adds.
But it’s not just garments that are getting a second-life, for people are looking at re-using furniture, art, books and other décor items as well. Founder-Director of Feminism in India, Japleen Pasricha and Paras Sharma, Business Unit Head of The Alternate Story, took the crowd-sourcing route to populate their new office spaces. Both took to Twitter with their requests and the response they received has been encouraging. “We will be buying second-hand furniture, while people have given us books, notebooks and a table lamp. Thrifting is a great way to re-use stuff and not let it go to waste, while also saving money,” says Japleen. Paras reveals that he wishes to populate the office with second-hand items because he wants it to evoke a homely feel. “The office space will be used for therapy sessions and workshops, and second-hand objects create a personal feel because there’s a story behind them.
We want to destroy the notion that therapy is done only in sterile, clinical spaces,” says the entrepreneur.
Young and responsible
The trend of thrifting is attracting youngsters like moths to a flame, partly because they’re more open to experimentation and partly because this generation is more aware of the problem of climate change and its repercussions on the environment. Nirmala reveals how none of her followers are above 30 years of age, and how one of her buyers asked her to pack the product like it was a new one as her parents didn’t approve of her buying used clothes.
Twenty-seven-year-old Vinayak says that he thought about starting ‘TheThriftShop’ after a relative informed him about the wastage that takes place in the glamour industry. “A relative of mine works in retailing women’s undergarments, and she told me how entire collections were burnt when they failed to get sold. This is hazardous to the environment. Climate change is a huge problem as half the major cities are battling water crises and flooding. So we’re not in the best of times, and we need to invest time and energy to bring about a change,” he says.
Khyati Doshi, 24, who regularly buys clothes from various thrift stores, vintage pop-up shops and online initiatives, says that she took to thrift shopping after realising that buying sustainable garments could burn a hole in her pocket. “I realised that sustainable brands are actually very expensive because of the design and fabric. Sustainable garments are not yet a trend and so the products don’t have competitive price points at the moment. Then I realised that there’s another way of being sustainable, which is not necessarily buying more sustainable brands, but extending the lifestyle of products that already exist,” she says.
A desire to wear outfits that not only look great but also have a story behind them is another reason why people are opting for vintage wear or second-hand garments. Martin Letellier, partner, Bodements, says, “Today, fashion trends are interconnected. So we see people all over, especially in the US, choosing to spend more money on a unique, vintage garment rather than spending a slightly lesser amount on a mass-produced garment available at a high-fashion brand's store.”