In India, Thrift Culture is Only Now Gaining Momentum. We Interview One of the Leaders of the Pack.

The Thrifty Bharat

Fashion is one of the most prominent and vital ways of expressing ourselves, and thus people spend a handsomely magnificent amount of money on it making the fashion industry one of the strongest and highest wealth generating industries around the globe. But has the fashion industry gone too far in adapting extreme production mechanisms and arrangements that are inducing an irreversible cureless damage to our planet?

Fashion production contributes up to 10% of humanity’s carbon emission and 35% of ocean’s primary micro plastic pollution, dries up water resources due to a colossal amount of water consumption and almost 85% of all textiles get dumped each year. 

Fashion is one of the most prominent and vital ways of expressing ourselves, and thus people spend a handsomely magnificent amount of money on it making the fashion industry one of the strongest and highest wealth generating industries around the globe. But has the fashion industry gone too far in adapting extreme production mechanisms and arrangements that are inducing an irreversible cureless damage to our planet?

Fast Fashion is an exemplary model that thrives on trend-driven, spontaneous impulse buying of cheaply manufactured clothes. Most fast fashion organizations fetch us the idea that repetition of clothes is undesirable. The social media culture heavily contributes to this ideology because no matter how much you love that yellow floral dress of yours, it is apparently “embarrassing” to post pictures in it more than once and an almost “sin” to wear it again to a party. The narrative of the markets.

While most fast fashion bodies are still busy generating their revenues and constantly scorning mother Earth’s flash warnings, there are some who have taken the responsibility on their shoulders to compensate for the damage and protect mankind from the catastrophe of Global Warming. Thrift Stores are one of these shoulders. It is an initiative to cut down the chain of fast fashion and to encourage masses to repurpose and reuse their clothes. 

Unlike the western countries thrifting is a foreign concept in India that has only recently gained its momentum. And the millennials are going head-over-heels. Most thrift stores in India are online and are completely operating through social platform Instagram. Not only are the stores providing the Indian youth with products of brands that are rarely available in the country but are also simultaneously teaching them the significance and relevance of ethnic and sustainable fashion in today’s time. 

We interviewed young and passionate Indian thrift store @huckleberry.hangers owner Neha Shehnaz to determine and learn about the sudden rise of thrifting in India and her journey through it.

KC: How did you come to know about the Thrift Business and what inspired you to take it up?

Neha: I came to know about it through various international thrift stores online on Instagram and market places like Depop, Etsy etc. I’ve been an avid thrifter and have been wearing thrifted clothes since I can remember, even before it was a trend in the country. When I was in university and even in my workplace, I was often complimented for my choice of fashion. My friends would often ask me to assist them during shopping. Hence Huckleberry Hangers was born, where people can buy stylish, vintage articles of clothing at affordable rates.

What are your views on the current fashion industry? 

The current fashion trends are the repetition of what our parents wore back in the day with just slight changes. My parents often tell us that they should have kept those amazing pairs of jeans they had when they were young. The fashion industry is clearly deceiving everyone with just slight modifications, selling the same design in various ways, leading more towards consumerism.

Brands like Zara, H&M, Uniqlo, Forever 21 are greenwashing the masses with their ‘sustainable campaigns’. There is nothing sustainable about their products and with new clothes & designs coming every week, they just promote consumerism yet greenwashing people with very effective marketing. 

They are creating a gap between the poor and the rich. Clothing has been a sign of status, while trying to look rich, you become poor. There is a proverb in Nepali that goes like “Baira Rumale, Bhitra Gundruk Umale”, which translates to “outside of one’s home one is a fashionista but inside one’s home one is eating the Gundruk (fermented radish greens as equal to lentils and rice). Having an LV or a D&G or a Chanel or a Burberry clothing is a status symbol only the rich can afford. The middle class or lower class people can  never afford these. Gucci, Chanel, Burberry burn their surplus clothing because it is a status symbol, leading to more pollution and  emission of CO2 in the environment.

KC: Could you explain to the audience how Thrifting and Recycling of clothes makes a difference in the environment and the world in general?

Neha: Thrifting means giving unwanted clothes second chances before burning or dumping them into landfills. When one thrifts, recycles or mends clothes, they are consciously putting an effort in giving life to unwanted clothing henceforth reducing demand in clothes, saving resources and polluting less. Huckleberry Hangers is one such dear space for me where preloved, vintage items are loved and adored by a huge community of people.

When and how do you think Thrifting found its place in India?

I don’t know about the rest of India but let me talk about Darjeeling. Thrifting in Darjeeling has been since ages. My dad and his siblings used to wear thrifted shoes, jackets, pants during their younger days. As mentioned before as far as I can remember my dad used to purchase thrifted sweatshirts, track suits, socks, pants, jackets for me since I was small and even till this day he encourages us to wear thrifted clothing because it is fashionable, reasonable and most of the vintage brands are sturdy and of good quality. The reason I am able to thrift and put up beautiful clothes for Huckleberry Hangers is due to the passion instilled by my father in me for thrifted items.

How are you building your trust with the masses? How are you making sure that the buyers feel that thrifting is worth their money?

Building trust with the masses means being genuine and real. Constant interactions with fellow thrift store owners who are players in the market, along with IGTVs, Reels, Instagram Lives should be channels of building trust with your audience. 

As mentioned, thrifting means affordable buy, without burning a hole in the pocket. Huckleberry Hangers have affordable articles of clothing ranging from INR299 – INR999 & INR999 above – INR1999 ( for only exclusive items). We mention every detail of the product and encourage customers to ask any amount of queries before purchasing so that they are satisfied and their doubts are cleared. We put extra efforts in cleaning, mending, ironing the items before sending them, so that the customer feels elated upon receiving the items.

KC: Do you think with the rising awareness about Sustainable Fashion, Thrifting has a bright future in the world?

Neha: Yes, it does but not many are comfortable in wearing preloved clothes. More awareness is required. 

Last, how do you feel about working at a thrift store and making a small but valuable contribution to the world?

I feel motivated and satisfied because Huckleberry Hangers is my child. I have spent countless days conceptualising, thrifting, doing laundry, mending and giving everything I have for something which I can call my own. Doing everything on my own ( advertising, marketing, photography, social media handling, sourcing) has made me study and learn subjects that I was never fond of. Making a small and valuable contribution to the world makes me want to do better, it’s not just about the feel good factor but I think one should never stop doing what you know you can do the best.

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