Thrifting in India

When the pandemic hit us last year, I spent a lot of time on Instagram – a little too much time – and discovered new people, new influencers, new accounts and to my surprise, quite a few thrift stores. I was immediately intrigued by them as I knew that they were rampant in America but didn’t think that it was something that complimented Indian culture the same way. 

What is a thrift store?

To go thrifting is to find and buy used items that are in good condition at discount prices. This can include furniture, clothing, accessories and any other household items. In addition, this process can often involve the young entrepreneurs re-styling or altering the clothing to suit the modern palette

In a general sense, I think a lot of Indian households are used to the concept of “reuse and recycle” when it comes to clothing – wearing our sibling’s old items or buying discounted ones off the street – which is why we are comfortable (if not excited), with the rise of budget fashion in India. 

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Instagram thrift stores today are selling gorgeous, branded and repurposed vintage clothing like corsets and satin shirts at prices that cannot be found anywhere else. So much so, that these products end up being sold out in less than a minute after the upload. 

Upcoming Industry of Thrifting

This new growth can be attributed to three main causes:

  1. Sustainability 

The fashion  industry is a major source of economic growth worldwide, but has rapidly become a hazard to the environment. Here are some statistics to back that up:

  • Clothing manufacturing generates 10% of our carbon emissions.
  • About 60% of materials used are made from plastic.
  • 20% of water pollution comes from the fashion industry. 

In fact, fast-fashion became a bigger contributor to pollution, while thrifting, on the other hand, is much more sustainable than shopping at a retail store

  1. Alternative to Fast Fashion
    The SHEIN and Urbanic craze was unforgettable and a dream for all who are in love with runway fashion – one day on the runway and the next on their website. That was the height of fast-fashion. However these styles and low prices came at a cost – cheap quality clothing, labour exploitation and unsustainability. Thrifting is a more responsible way to shop, while still offering a lot of similar characteristics to fast-fashion.

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  1. Unique Finds
    What I love most about thrifting is how we can all access other people’s personal styles and wardrobes and find items that are one of a kind. It’s so different from walking into a retail store and buying only what that brand deems the “style of the season”. 

Gentrification Hits Thrifting

At the opposite end of thrifting is the problem of overconsumption by shoppers today. A Business Insider article from 2021 discusses the issue of “wealthy teens ruining thrifting”, stating that they buy in bulk. This leads to an increase in prices and decrease in stock and defeats the purpose of thrifting. An article by Vox from 2021 says,

“The general argument is that resellers and bulk buyers are inadvertently raising the prices of thrifted goods by purchasing items they don’t personally need. As a result, low-income shoppers might be priced out of thrift stores in their area, and plus-sized consumers, who already struggle to find clothing in the firsthand market, could be left with fewer options.”  

Final Thoughts

Let us all shop smart, and remember that thrifting is meant to increase sustainability and is not something that resembles retail stores. 

Given that this is new for us all, I am linking an article by Vogue that tackles some of the most asked questions about thrifting: every-concern-you-have-about-thrift-shopping-answered

¬Ananyaa Bhardwaj

S.Y(BSc Economics)

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