After the pandemic confined our shopping impulses to virtual stores, the world of fast fashion via popular online stores is giving way to a parallel universe of thrift stores thriving on social media platforms like Instagram.
Fast fashion is the replication of the latest trends in the global fashion domain and producing them in bulk quantities for a reduced price. Activists and celebrities all over the world stand against this structure and promote other fashion methods like thrifting and eco-friendly shopping.
Everyone loves to wear branded clothes but the unaffordable rates act as an obstacle.
Thrifting is the solution to this shopping dilemma. Multiple pages on Instagram now sell branded clothes, books, lifestyle products, accessories, furniture and almost everything you need at lower prices.
We are not talking about replicas, but of used products that are in good shape.
The idea of contributing less to the global waste but not compromising in style is gaining popularity in our country. While the western nations have physical stores selling such goods, we are taking baby steps through Instagram pages.
What is thrifting?
Isn't there at least a dress in our wardrobe which remains unused just because it lost a button or we outgrew its size?
Thrifting is the selling of such goods for a pocket-friendly price.
Reselling branded goods that are in perfect condition, for half or one-third of its tag price is a profitable business for the seller and the customer alike.
The engagement of these thrift stores on Instagram has widened after the pandemic struck. Sustainable fashion is slowly finding its way in the midst of crazy fast fashion.
Artist couple Ganesh Venkitaramani and Gowri Lakshmi from Kerala started their thrift store (Alamara the thrift store) in November 2020.
"No shows were happening during the lockdown and that's when this idea struck. We started the page by selling our own clothes and books and slowly expanded," says Ganesh, who now procures goods from friends and collects factory-defect clothes.
The pandemic escalated the growth of thrifting in India. "I have been in this field since 2018 but post-pandemic, there is a surge in the number of thrift stores. I feel the ban on 'Shein', a popular shopping site among youngsters, also succoured in the growth" says Sana Khan from ‘Bombay Closet Cleanse’.
According to the statistics of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the fashion industry accounts for 10 per cent of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
Shifting to second-hand clothing can contribute to curbing these emissions.
“Reducing our share of carbon footprint is the least we can do today. says Namrata lyer who is the owner of ‘The Local Thrift’.
Fashion is one of the many industries known for employee humiliation and cheap wages globally. Several workers from factories of fashion giants have complained about discrimination in wages and other mortifications recently. "The fashion industry doesn't stand for anything like employee rights or gender equality. The news from H&M and Nike is deeply disturbing," added Namrata, who is also a graduate in fashion designing.
Thrift store owners contribute to sustainable shopping not only by selling pre-owned goods but also by delivering them in eco-friendly packages. Most of them say that there are plenty of customers who genuinely want to be a part of this culture and some others visit these stores just to procure certain products due to reduced rates.
"People are bothered about fast fashion culture and wish to get out of it. Ever since the store was set up, me and Gowri haven't bought anything new. We have lost fascination on them," says Ganesh
How to do thrifting?
Most of these Instagram pages collaborate with other people to 'drop' their products.
"I work with photographers, designers and models on a project basis. Promotion, packaging and other coordinating activities are done by me," Namrata said. The pages provide a pre-booking facility before dropping where customers can send a direct message to block the sale.
Since each product is unique, there is no chance of getting the desired product if you do not act quickly. Turning on notifications whenever the page uploads a post will help.
"We didn't use any of these techniques in the beginning but were able to sell most stuff. But now, as part of the expansion, everything is done in a formal manner," explained Ganesh
Several pages are open to donations from people and provide them with a commission.
"80 per cent of our products are collected from individuals. The rest of them are bought from second-hand suppliers”, says Sana, who runs a physical store in Bandra in Mumbai as well as an Instagram page.
Other sources of thrift store owners include flea markets and factory rejects. Branded commodities have a separate fan base due to their reduced price.
"Thrift stores help us to save money but for me, it changed my way of styling as well. It aids me in creating a unique one and now I visit brand stores only to compare prices," says Kochiite Sulfath Laila, an Instagram model and regular thrifter. Thrifting culture has a long way to go in our country.
"It is important to communicate the idea of sustainable shopping to customers. What's the difference between buying 50 shirts at a time from a branded store and a thrift store? We are also arranging programmes to educate people about this culture," Sana, who was initially a fan of fast fashion says
All thrift store owners are of the opinion that even though buyers make conscious shopping choices by thrifting, some of them mindlessly pick up items too.
“While western countries have been practising thrifting formally for a very long time, India is still at a beginner's stage. I would like to invite more people into this field and implement a sustainable way of living through thoughtful shopping," concluded Namrata.
Thrifting democratises fashion by making expensive goods affordable to everyone.
It also paves way for guilt-free shopping By setting up thrift stores, these youngsters make no compromise in sustainable living and set an example to their generation. In their words. "Second-hand is the new sassy. Stay sassy!”