The Explosion of Thrifting in India and the Millennial-Driven Brands Behind it
Hand-me downs is a term every youngster in an Indian household is familiar with. They’re accustomed to receiving leftovers of the elder sibling or cousin’s wardrobe – be it an unworn jacket, faded trousers that still have some wear left in them or a T-shirt that doesn’t fit the previous owner like it used to. Traditionally, this passing on of pre-loved clothing from generation to generation isn’t a relatively new system in our country. It may not have been given a definite name, but internationally this concept is popularly known as thrifting and has become an increasingly sought after mode of shopping that possesses the virtue of being sustainable.
The sudden surge in thrifters over the last couple of years and the subsequent formation of a close-knit thrifting community, especially in the States and UK, resulted in a huge market opportunity that was quickly capitalized on by resale platforms like Depop, ThredUp and Poshmark. It became so efficient to pass on used clothing, impractical impulse buys, accessories that didn’t cater to one’s style anymore or those unworn dresses lying in the dark abyss of your wardrobe. Teenagers, college students and adults alike – these marketplaces catered to a unique set of consumers who would rather shop other people’s wardrobes than take a trip to the nearest mall. For some, it turned into a full-fledged business and they took it upon themselves to supply this loyal customer base with handpicked pieces from various vintage stores or other second-hand retailers.
However, as opposed to the established presence of re-commerce apps abroad, India is still in its nascent stage when it comes to recognizing thrift clothing’s rising demand and the resulting need for a systematic space that allows this domain to thrive to its full potential. Thankfully, Instagram exists and that was enough for the millennials to create their own thrift store pages which feature curated collections (known as ‘drops’) of virtually everything one would ever want to wear.
“Vintage Laundry acts as a mediator for me to express my creativity and love for fashion whilst also making sure I do it consciously”, observes its 23-year-old founder Riya Rokade. Started in February of this year, Vintage Laundry is a haven for print lovers and the ones who find florals groundbreaking. Carefully conducted research and ample fieldwork went into finding the right sourcing options, a factor that Riya concludes as integral to receiving good quality garments that cater to the brand’s aesthetic. “Vintage Laundry is an extension of my own taste and personality, so every piece that is picked is extremely dear to me and an expression of my personal style”, she says.
But why has it taken so long for secondhand fashion to come into the limelight in India, especially when it has been an established industry overseas for ages? Blame hygiene and quality concerns, the negative stigma attached to buying used items, the seemingly easier alternative of opting for fast-fashion combined with a lack of standardized platforms for resale. To combat these assumptions, Riya suggests that “thrift stores take some responsibility to ensure that the pieces they sell are of impeccable quality, as it will help create more trust with new buyers. Word of mouth, reviews and positive feedback is the best way to prompt a positive public opinion on thrifting”.
Other than serving as a portal to distinctive items that are independent of short-lived trends, these thrift stores have opened up a whole new avenue for those looking to partake in conscious consumption but unsure of where to begin. The ongoing pandemic further accelerated the thrifting movement in India as most people realized the sheer amount of ‘stuff’ they own, which essentials are actually ‘essentials’ and the dire need to take responsible purchase decisions.
Duo Lakshita and Riya, noticed the huge flourish of thrifting on Instagram after the nationwide lockdown was lifted. As avid flea-market shoppers who treasure the stories behind pre-loved garments, it didn’t take long for them to set up kismet-ए-kheer in a bid to advocate for the same. Sourcing one-of-a-kind pieces from Delhi and Rajasthan, this store boasts of dreamy blouses, fitted blazers in earthy tones and a plethora of baguette-style bags that scream iconic. Make no mistake, this process is anything but undemanding. “Every garment has to be measured separately as universal sizing charts are not reliable. After announcing a collection, you have to throw in a few sneak peek videos, and set countdowns to let people know what is coming their way”, explains Riya. Then comes the customer queries, engagement, packing and shipping of orders which dictate its timely delivery to the recipient. Their ultimate goal is to ensure that “the experience of shopping from kismet-ए-kheer leaves an individual on a sanguine note”.
Keen to start thrifting but don’t know anything about it?
Keeping an open mind regarding this concept and taking small steps to educate oneself on its unparalleled importance in the future of sustainable fashion would be a good way to start. Explore the innumerable thrift stores on Instagram and its selection of available pieces that are often depicted through well-shot photographs. If the description lacks specifics, don’t hesitate to message the seller regarding further information on sizing or fabric. Impulse purchases are discouraged, even if it’s a thrifted one, so take the time to verify the authenticity of every store via its comments or reviews.
The shift to thrift has finally begun, and it will be interesting to see how this largely untapped space makes its mark in the Indian fashion realm.