Altruistic and ecological reasons gaining ground as motivation for consumers, WOW finds
For the uninitiated, thrifting is the trend of shopping for pre-owned, gently-used items such as clothes. Nepali attitude toward second-hand clothes is changing, and businesses are cashing in. Not long ago, the idea of shopping at thrift stores brought to mind images of rummaging through racks of random, tatty, sometimes smelly clothing. Now, climate concerns are driving a boom in a newly energised resale industry.
The fashion industry has been criticised for its impact on the environment, both for the throwaway, so-called fast fashion that piles up in landfills, and for its carbon footprint which is estimated to be larger than that of the shipping and airline industries combined. Buying used clothing helps alleviate these problems.
In Nepal, the trend of thrifting paced during lockdown when we were homebound and the outside world went quiet. With countless online thrift stores thriving on social media, thrift pop culture has growing consumers. As thrifters are left with plenty of options, here are three young entrepreneurs who went beyond the screen and established an in-store shopping outlet. Here’s an insight to their entrepreneurial voyage of pop culture.
For Manish Jung Thapa, who runs Antidote Go situated at Kupondole Lalitpur, getting into the second-hand fashion scene started early. Manish was running an apparel rental company, and it was amidst the pandemic that he expanded the market place. “We began by listing 50 plus items from the closet of our staff back in August 2020 and started retailing in the market,” says Manish.
Affordable thrift store located at the heart of Maitighar initiated by Pratha Basnet found treasure in her stuffed closet. During the lockdown she dug into resale clothing, approached and encouraged by many sellers wanting to sell their items as well.
Nisa KC, founder of Deal N Steal Thrift Store at Samakhusi discovered the concept of closet clearance when she came across ThredUp, an online resale giant. The brand estimated the second-hand market to double over the next five years. The projected growth is a result of more sellers putting products out into the market and platforms like Instagram facilitating the buying and selling of second-hand apparel. In fact, ThredUp has even termed thrifting a ‘new pandemic habit’.
Pratha and Nisa have been sourcing items from shoppers and building a network of circular fashion through reselling it. Whereas Manish stresses that 90% of their independent sellers have opted to sell and not donate. The appealing concept of buying and selling has overturned sustainable fashion in terms of feasibility and economy.
Buying and selling secondhand items have taken a complete turn over the few years especially among Generation Z and millennials. The reason behind the booming industry is numerous, most of them linking to affordability and sustainability. As consumers shift into secondhand fashion a question still hovers around over the stigma of owning a pre loved item. Pratha admits that 20% of her customers find it unethical. She says, “Majority of the customers appreciate secondhand fashion, but there are some who raise questions on hygiene.” But Pratha assures her customers understand the process of sanitising and maintaining clothes before they go on rack for sale.
Likewise for Nisa purchasing secondhand items is acceptable to consumers looking for sustainable alternatives or who are tight on budget but still need quality goods.
Manish feels the winds of change in thrifting as he relates to the eco- conscious generation; he says, “the elements like ‘fun’, ‘sustainability’ and ‘affordability’ seem to have spoken to this segment of customers. The next five years will be interesting as these customers will be accustomed to buying pre-loved clothing.”
Talking about the heightening demand of second-hand apparel, lower prices are the triggering point among many shoppers. For many, thrifting has become like a treasure hunt to find the best at the cheapest rate. “Hand me down or second-hand products are cost effective specially for the low-income consumers, a very effective way to stay in fashion and not harm your pocket and environment,’’ Nisa claims.
The need for constantly purchasing new clothes is fulfilled by pre-loved items that come within budget. On asking about how they set the market price of the clothes, Pratha answers that the value depends on the quality, condition and origin constructing a bridge between the buyers and sellers, creating a win-win situation for both. Manish discloses they have the lowest commission across the country at Rs 100 keeping prices affordable for the buyers.
Businesses are responding to market demands offering and improving customer loyalty. Considering the demand, Pratha extends her platform by focusing on varieties of products from child to office wear.
She shares, “Previously we were aiming for females from the age of 12 and above. But now we have extended to children’s clothes and books as well. Followed by the ones who need decent office clothes on a daily basis. Therefore, it has helped us reach mass audience.”
Manish and Nisa both have been expanding their outreach by diversifying their products.
What motivates these young entrepreneurs? Manish tells the story of an expat who was able to sell 95 items in 25 days and fund her trip to EBC. “Incidents like this push me ahead,” he adds.
Everything from shopping and photography to posting on social media and packaging is handled singularly by them. Friends and family sometimes chip in to model the clothes. The trick, they say, “is posting pictures that catch the eye, making it as aesthetic as possible, timing the posts and answering 100 direct messages at a time.”
As far as plans go, they are not sure what the future holds for their lockdown project.