Contests, auctions, swaps: How to fall in love with pre-loved fashion

Updated on Mar 15, 2020 07:06 AM IST

Entrepreneurs and influencers are thinking up creative ways to make thrift-shopping as enjoyable as buying new outfits.

Karishma Sehgal’s workshops use visible mending to beautify old clothes(The Baksa Project)
Karishma Sehgal’s workshops use visible mending to beautify old clothes(The Baksa Project)
Hindustan Times | ByCherylann Mollan

It’s eco-friendly, cost-effective and looks great on Instagram. And as thrifting — buying pre-owned clothes, shoes and accessories — catches on, the hush hush sense of doing something almost embarrassing is fading.

Instead, young urban Indians are celebrating their thrift finds online, posting pre-loved #OOTD or outfits of the day. Entrepreneurs and influencers are handing out e-gift cards and holding auctions and contests; and organising swap meets where people turn up with goods they no longer use and exchange them. The goal is to make thrift-shopping as enjoyable as buying new outfits.

A Vero Moda dress and Milano clutch that were up for grabs on the website (Collections Reloved)
A Vero Moda dress and Milano clutch that were up for grabs on the website (Collections Reloved)

“India has always had a culture of hand-me-downs. But now people are thrifting by choice. Largely because the world has woken up to the climate crises and is moving towards sustainability,” says stylist, Tanya Ghavri. “And also because it’s become fashionable to be ethical and eco-conscious.”

Spread the word

Bengaluru-based Nikita Almeida, 30, who set up and runs the website, Collections Reloved, offers customisable e-gift cards as a way to help boost business and spread the word.

“They’re valid for six months, and I update my collections every two weeks,” says Almeida. “This means you have access to about a dozen carefully curated collections.” In these collections are Wendell Rodricks and Tarun Tahiliani creations, some priced as low as 1,500.

Shimonti Sikdar, 45, a Goa-based restaurateur, discovered the gift cards when browsing online and immediately bought one for her mother. “My mom’s cool,” she says, laughing. “She used the 1,000 card to buy a gorgeous Hidesign bag.”

Delhi-based Afifah Siddiqui, 23, holds virtual auctions for designer wear via her Instagram store, @TheSalvageStory. People place bids via direct message. The person placing the highest bid within the fixed time period is informed privately that they have won, and the item goes from ‘Available’ to ‘Sold’, on the Instagram feed.

“I source my products from thrift shops offline, and check the authenticity of every branded piece before I list it,” Siddiqui says. “The find I’m proudest of is a Chanel jacket from a thrift store in Delhi. The silk lining caught my attention, so I googled the product code on the tag. Turned out, it was from Chanel’s 2015 spring/summer collection. It sold for 9,000, double the base price I set.” Still a steal, because when the jacket hit the market, it was priced at over 3 lakh.

The pre-loved Chanel jacket that auctioned for ₹9000 (The Salvage Story)
The pre-loved Chanel jacket that auctioned for ₹9000 (The Salvage Story)

Siddiqui also runs thrifted #OOTD challenges, with the best look of the day getting an e-gift voucher that can be redeemed against pre-loved attire from her Instagram store. The winner is picked through popular vote.

Offline meets

Those are the online experiences. For those who prefer to shop offline, swap meets are making it easier to find pre-loved apparel.

Bengaluru-based Dhawal Mane, 31, founder of GreenStitched, which works to promote sustainable fashion, has hosted eight swap meets in Bengaluru and Mumbai since 2018. People can contribute up to 10 pre-owned garments in exchange for 10 coupons, which can be traded in for pre-loved items from other participants.

“We try to simulate the experience of shopping in a mall by segregating garments by size or type and offering trial rooms,” says Mane. “One time, we set up our ‘Swap Floor’ inside a retail clothes store. The aim is to remove the stigma around thrift-shopping and present it as a lifestyle choice.”

A swap meet organised by GreenStitched
A swap meet organised by GreenStitched

If you’d rather not give away a beloved outfit, but you’re tired of wearing it, there’s another way out too: visible mending. Pune-based Karishma Sehgal, for instance, has held embroidery workshops in Chennai and Bengaluru, which she publicises via her Instagram account, (@TheBaksaProject). These sessions are based on the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, where a flaw is highlighted so as to make it and the product itself more beautiful.

“The idea is to encourage people to develop a lasting and meaningful relationship with their clothes,” says Sehgal, 29. “But for reusing and repurposing to become a mass movement, you need a culture shift. I’m hoping that initiatives like mine can help make that happen.”

‘My favourite pre-loved garment’

For Paris-based Ajab Ali Akber, 27, a black, sequined gown passed down by her aunt is a prized possession. After holding on to it for years, she finally wore it to a special wedding reception in her hometown of Hyderabad, two years ago. “I knew it was going to be the last Indian party I would attend before moving to Paris to study fashion design,” says Akber, a consultant in sustainable business practices. She still has the dress, and still wears it.

Khyati Doshi, 24, loves a pair of loose-fitting navy blue pants she picked up at a thrifting pop-up last year. “I’m a huge fan of this Shillong-based brand, The Local Vintage, and I finally got my hands on one of their garments,” says the Mumbai-based businesswoman. “The pants feel like a second skin. You can sit on the floor in them, eat in them, and still feel fashionable and comfortable.”

Goa-based Shimonti Sikdar’s favourite pre-loved buy is a Louis Vuitton handbag she bought three years ago. “It was my first pre-loved purchase. The bag, when new, cost about 1.5 lakh; I got it for 26,000,” says the 45-year-old restaurateur. It also set her on the path of pre-loved buying, something that has yielded many treasures and makes her feel like she’s helping recycle.

Fayeza Shafeeq, 32, holds dear a pre-loved fit-and-flare maroon gown she acquired a few months ago. “I was looking for something to wear last Christmas but I didn’t want to spend too much,” says the Bengaluru-based risk analyst. “I saw this gown on the Collections Reloved website and fell in love with it. It cost just 599; looked as good as new and fit me perfectly. My friends too were quite taken by it and were inspired to give pre-loved wear a chance.”

Bengaluru-based Anupa Gnanakan is especially fond of a dark green cotton kurta given to her by her father. “About a year ago, I was visiting him,” says the 44-year-old educator. “He was wearing the kurta at the time and I told him I really liked it. So he took it off and gave it to me. I love it because it’s soft and comfy; my dad had had it for years and that makes it even more precious.”

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