Confessions of A Thrifting Rookie: A Short Guide To Thrift Shopping In India
Read on to get an insight into my journey and experience as a new thrifter, and a brief guide to some of the must-follow thrift pages here in India!
Thrift shops, flea markets, convenience clearances, yard sales, charity stores etc. - these are all terms we have heard once or twice but never really fully understood the concept of. Popular misconceptions include: "Ew why would I buy something someone else has worn?", "Is it really that reasonably priced? MUST be fake/cheap quality" and the list goes on and on.
Thrift stores often house anything and everything from previously owned clothing, handpicked apparel/accessories to discarded or donated furniture and household items.
The art of thrifting, is a somewhat familiar but rather unpopular and refused concept. Until very recently, I too was caught up in the stigma of not wanting to buy 'used clothes' - it took a global pandemic, a lot of free time, and hours of Instagram scrolling for me to realise that all these thoughts, were purely a self induced mind block.
It took experimenting with thrifting once, for me to throw the preconceived notions straight out the window. It is quite honestly the exact opposite of everything I thought it to be - much deeper than what is seen on the surface and an entire experience in itself, the entire idea is to find pieces with sentimental value, hand-me-downs and one-of-a-kind finds which often have their own unique stories to tell.
There is nothing you can’t find while thrifting! From up-cycled, graphic tees and luxury, high-end sweatshirts, branded merchandise and repurposed denims, to active-wear and vintage corsets or lingerie - there is something for everyone.
Now to up the ante further, imagine all this and more, at the touch of a button. During these months of lockdown, several people productively became entrepreneurs and established themselves by setting up thrift accounts and channels via online platforms - primarily Instagram.
Taking the media streams by storm, the concept of thrifting sat surprisingly well with newcomers, and seeing such a positive reaction, only gave rise to an army of more thrift stores which has now full-fledgedly developed into a massive community of thrifters, that maintain healthy competition while thrifting.
My personal thrift journey began like any other experience, where the first time didn’t seem so easy. While at first the process to me seemed like it requires a lot of effort and energy, once you get into the flow, it becomes unknowingly habitual. However, I got past the initial unfamiliar feeling and now it’s safe to say, I’m truly obsessed. I went straight from completely disregarding the activity to setting alarms so that I wouldn’t miss a new drop!
I remember feeling this millennial void, when Tik Tok got banned in India and it was thrifting that quickly filled that gap and then some. I would find myself spending hours and hours throughout the day, just sifting through different handles on Instagram hoping to find treasured beauties in the remnants of others. In the events of an unstoppable chain reaction, it took one account to lead me to 100 others and now 80% of my feed if not more is consumed by thrift pages.
The majority of stores that I follow originate and operate out of North-East India, while some are also based out of Mumbai and even Bengaluru.
Trust me when I say it's not easy, there are some serious thrifters who do not come to play! The entire ordeal involves an un-explainable rush and burst of adrenaline that begins with setting reminders for the new drop, waiting for the piece I’ve been eyeing and commenting for and hoping I was the first so no one else beat me to it. Once I have secured and paid for the item, I can meditate in the feeling of accomplishment and victory, and when the product finally arrives, it feels like I have truly earned it.
The thrift culture has come full circle and has evolved into an art-form that goes beyond the activity of simply donating and re-selling. People are tapping into their creativity by up-cycling clothes, dyeing t-shirts and hand-painting sweatshirts and jackets, repurposing old denims, cutting and sewing to make wealth from waste. It has given re-cycling and re-using a whole new personality.
It’s almost like concepts of style and taste were seriously assessed with a renegade check to establish that both are rightly identified by authenticity and not by brand. The thrift platforms out there put in a lot of effort to create an individual identity for their pages. They carefully curate the pieces, by sourcing, repurposing, restoring and styling them in order to stand out and appeal to their audience.
Thrifting has always been a part of the street culture in the west, but was never part of the equation here in India. I realised that I was blinded by the unquestioned aura of branded clothes that everyone was wearing, instead of believing that individuality was always the original appraisal method.
Other than that, thrifting is also a more sustainable option to combat fast fashion and its ill effects on the environment, taking a much more conscious, meaningful and pocket friendly route for the long run.
Being an accomplice and an accessory to this culture, I can without a doubt state that thrifting has changed the game for me when it comes to “online shopping". I’m at a point where I feel doubtful about going to H&M, but I will most definitely spend my money on a t-shirt which has been cherished and cared for by someone, and is valuable enough to be passed down to a complete stranger!
I have managed to bag quite a few pieces over the last few months - a modest collection that includes an alarming number of graphic and up-cycled t-shirts, a vintage sweatshirt, few corset tops, and a handbag.
I now see thrifting as a recreational sport, and I consider myself a fairly experienced player. Like any good sport, thrifting has taught me a number of life skills - it is a solid lesson in patience, and patience is a virtue. It requires a keen eye, intuitive mind and has helped me evolve creatively, to be able curate my own unique and individual style.
In the end, I have realised, thrifting is like a game of poker - it requires skill, interest and some luck. You enter a game hoping you have the upper hand, but there are other players always waiting to match your bet, call your bluff or even make you concede. And like in any good poker game, you win some and you lose some, but you always end up playing for more.