Trends: Pre-owned ensembles, Instagram thrifting and upcycling in India achieve a new high in 2020
Amid all the chaos that ensued in the year that’s coming to an end, there was one positive thing that happened. Fashion-forward folks had time to reassess their purchasing habits. Post the realisation, came the action — some of them decided to rein in their fast fashion shopping habits and start investing in pre-owned vintage or thrift labels. Some even resorted to upcycled fashion and even reworking the heirloom hand-me-downs. “Although the idea of sustainability has existed for a while, it is understandable that the lockdown gave some people the time and insight about their clothing habits,” says Carol Humtsoe, a model-turned-fashion entrepreneur from Dimapur, Nagaland. She helms the e-commerce store, Carol’s Shop & Tea Room, known for vintage shirts and dresses picked up on her travels worldwide.
At the focal point of these changes was the marketplace of Instagram. With lockdown forcing the shutdown of retail stores and viral hashtags like #shoplocal, #shopsmall doing the rounds, the attention was diverted to the social media led e-commerce.
Retro Days by Shruti Dhiman is a popular online thrift store with over 8,000 followers on Instagram. She says, “The patrons are keen to learn how it is a better option than choosing the mainstream fast fashion,” says the founder. Although she has a website, she says that shoppers are mostly directed from Instagram.
Celebs for the cause
Bombay Closet Cleanse with over 10K followers on Instagram, is run by sister duo Sana and Alfiya Khan. They believe that pre-owned fashion is all set to disrupt the online retail space even next year. Celebrities embracing pre-loved, not only by wearing but opening their closets for charity to raise money for those affected by the pandemic also bolstered the trend. “We saw a spike in our follower count after collaborations with the likes of musician Monica Dogra, and stand-up comedian Abhishek Upmanyu,” informs Sana. That apart, curating luxury Michael Kors watches and bags, pieces by Péro to sunglasses by Dior won them favours with collectors who are looking for investment pieces. They also won over the millennial shoppers with pop culture-inspired collection edits, like the one inspired from Netflix show, Emily in Paris.
Meanwhile, Folkpants with over 9,000 Instagram followers, founded by two sisters, Linno and Lumri Jajo, also grew from strength to strength. “During the period of lockdown, there was a huge increase in people making a shift to more conscious spending. Some swore off fast fashion completely, so hopefully that will remain or continue to grow even when in-store shopping resumes,” says Linno. The sisters assert that their followers have definitely increased over the year and more. “We are able to continue to grow with the support of new and returning customers, and them reccomending us to their friends,” elaborates Lumri.
Word of mouth definitely helped these smaller labels like Aimée. Vaibhavi Javalkar, who co-founded it with Akshay Tambe adds the fact that the founders are often accessible to patrons also helps. Since their first drop a few months ago, they have garnered close to 6,000 followers on Instagram. “We’ve learnt so much from talking to the patrons,” says Vaibhavi, who ensures that every drop is themed and aesthetic presentation, making them stand out. However, the origin of their thrift store, Aimée, lies in a hostel for solo backpackers they founded prior to the store. “We put up our own pieces on the shelves for the travellers coming into the hostel, to see if any of those things would seem useful for them. People came in from the different weather conditions and picked up something from a little rack, that would eventually become Aimée,” says the now Delhi-based founder. Sourcing garments for drops wasn’t easy during the pandemic, but they got by with the help of their friends. She adds, “We have a lot of friends who work as stylists and they keep adding to our store. Initially, it was a plain neutral palette but Akshay’s involvement changed that for the better, and now there’s something for everyone.”
Some of the thrift stores that have now blossomed, started right in the middle of the pandemic. For instance, Aura Thrift Store, owned by Anya Gupta, was a vertical of a sustainable venture called Aura Life that was unveiled in October and now has over 1,400 followers. “I wanted to circulate existing clothes that are in great condition, back into the market. As a household with three women — my mother, sister, and me — we never discarded any clothes since trends almost always came back,” says Anya, 25.
Sruti Ashok from Chennai started The ReLove Closet in April while the lockdown was on in full swing. She wanted to hold an exhibition for a donation drive but as the fate would have it, the lockdown foiled her plans. Hence she moved to Instagram for her second-hand charity sale for clothes and accessories of high-value that she from close family and friends. She has garnered over 4,700 followers on Instagram in a few months. “What makes our label stand apart is that we have pre-loved luxury from Christian Louboutin, signature Jimmy Choo heels and even Gucci,” shares Sruti. Her authentication process of pre-loved luxury often includes rigorous checks and keeping a watch on the invoices and so on.
Aparna Balasubramanian from Bengaluru, who helms The Fine Finds says it is the anticipation of a drop, the thrill associated with owning a pre-loved item with history is certainly helping the cause of thrifting too.
She started her page in January last year and has over 11,000 followers on Instagram. “I can see the community of thrifters growing in the city with every passing day,” says the 22-year-old graduate of National Institute of Fashion Technology, Bengaluru.
Meanwhile, Muonpui Joute’s Lusthrift, launched in April 2020, now has over 24,000 followers on Instagram. Her periodic drops — a capsule launch in a few days comprising stylish, pre-loved dresses, puffer jackets and bottoms — sell out within minutes as soon as the countdown starts. “I wanted to normalise wearing pre-loved clothing. As someone who grew up in a place where people thrifted almost every outfit they wear, seeing this trend is a great experience. It is almost like we have discovered a community on social media,” says Muonpui from Assam.
On the flip side
Thrifting apart, upcycling or reworking existing garments into something new has been on the rise as well, also aided via Instagram. “I was a slow fashion enthusiast myself and wanted to give a chance to those who wanted to thrift flip — turn their existing clothes into something more wearable,” says Mahima Bhandari from Mumbai, who recently started a rather one-of-a-kind upcycle service called Revogue. She works closely with artisans and takes her measurements via WhatsApp from patrons. So if you have a sari gathering dust or a shirt you want styled differently she can get it done into a brand new ensemble you can wear.