A lot of online thrift stores that saw the light in 2020 are managed by eco-conscious, multi-tasking school and college students. Here’s what motivates these young entrepreneurs
For 20-year-old Arunima Gupta, an Economics student from Delhi, upcycling garments started as a ‘skill development’ project, guided by YouTube tutorials during lockdown.
“I have been following the upcycling scene for more than five years now. There wasn’t much happening in India, then. But it is different now, there is a whole community of thrift shoppers,” she says.
In September 2020, she launched her thrift store, flippitt.in on Instagram, where she sells remodelled pre-loved and manufacturing surplus and rejects.
Reworked garments by flippitt.in
Like Arunima, Class XII student Siya Maniamkot from Kochi, first year undergraduate student Mahathi Ramesh from Chennai, post-graduate student Ngawang Youtso and Class X student Kavya Srivastava, both from Delhi, turned entrepreneurs during lockdown. Each started a thrift store — selling pre-loved and export surplus or rejected — garments via Instagram.
“During lockdown I realised I had clothes that I had never worn, nor would I use. I didn’t want to throw them away either, which gave me the idea of putting them to good use while making a profit out of it,” says Kavya (prettyy_preloved on Instagram). She started the thrift store with her clothes and donations from her family and now, she sources garments from markets such as Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar Market.
Lockdown saw an increase in the number of such online thrift stores, run by students. No access to stores or export surplus and reject markets frequented by students contributed to the trend.
“Also I think people came to realise from the lockdown that fast fashion comes with a huge price be it on the environment, labour rights or working conditions in the industry. Also, thrifting is like finding a treasure. Like, finding a high end piece of clothing at prices way below retail prices,” says Ngawang Youtso of thrift.nthrive.
- Rather than sell the garment she picks from surplus and reject markets or pre-loved ones as they are, Arunima Gupta adds a design input to upcycle it before selling it. She reworks an outfit or a piece of garment, to make it one or two different items of clothing. A dress would become a two-piece, a fitted t-shirt becomes a tube top or a drawstring top. “Sometimes there could be a small tear or stain, a minor defect that would lead to these garments being discarded and ending up in a landfill. By reworking or remodelling them, its ‘lifespan’ is being extended,” Arunima says. Since she does the work herself, the pieces take time to appear on her Instagram handle (@flippitt).
Garment and textile industries are pegged as one of the largest pollutants of water. They contribute to greenhouse emissions, and landfills comprising garments made of non-biodegradable fabric. Suggestions for sustainable fashion include making the pattern of consumption circular at the heart of which is recycling, reuse and extending the life ofa garment.
Aware of the facts, these students prioritise being sustainable. Earning while at it is an added incentive.
For the students, by the students
It also comes down to practising what they preach. College student Mahathi Ramesh from Chennai completely shifted to thrift for her clothes simultaneously while she started her thrift store. “I saw a video that opened my eyes to the environmental impact of fashion, especially fast fashion. I want to do something for the environment. This is a small effort but I believe individual effort plays a role,” says Mahathi. She launched her thrift store, chennai.thrifts on Instagram in August and donates the money she gets from the store.
Delhi-based Jayati Sharma, who graduated as fashion designer in 2020, also launched her store blameless.fad in August 2020. “Research for a college project on waste management got me interested in this. I have always used second-hand (rejects and surplus) so it was nothing new for me,” says Jayati. She calls thrift-shopping ‘a guilt-free indulgence in fashion fads’ without an impact on the environment.
Since their customers are students like them, the merchandise is not priced high. “It should fit the pocket of students and these garments look like anything one would get in branded stores,” says Siya Maniamkot who is behind the store, one_too_many. The prices, usually, are in the range of ₹200 to ₹ 800, and in rare cases, ₹1,000. “If my prices are going to be high, the clothes would be inaccessible. What is the point then?” Jayati asks. They pay attention even to the packaging, recycling material and avoiding plastic as possible.
Siya Maniamkot’s ready to ship packages
Most of these thrift stores source garments from markets such as Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar Market, Lajpat Nagar and Azad Market, famous for rejects and surplus. Siya travelled with her mother to Delhi to shop, before she launched her store in January, this year. Kavya too has her mother’s support. However, a postgraduate student of Sociology from Delhi, Ngawang met some opposition from her parents but once she started in August, they have been supportive. “It is a lot of work,” Ngawang says.
Everything from shopping and photography to posting on social media and packaging is handled by them. Friends and family sometimes chip in as models. The trick, she says, “is posting such pictures that catches the eye of the audience, making it as aesthetic as possible, timing the posts and answering 100 direct messages at a time.”
It is a fine balance — attending classes and managing a thrift store. School students Kavya and Siya have roped in their mothers while the others have worked out a schedule. “There is a lot for me to do but I can’t as I have exams, I need to step back. Mornings are for studies, evenings for other things like this,” Siya says. Meanwhile Mahathi’s weekends are reserved for thrift store work.
As far as plans go, since they are all students, they are not sure what the future holds for their lockdown project.