India’s online thrift stores and their love for luxury brands
Be it Swarovski, Versace, Guess or Gucci, these thrift stores — run by millennial and Gen Z entrepreneurs — can get you all these at a price that will not burn a hole in your pocket
Would you like a pair of Jimmy Choos for the same price as a Zara handbag? Or add a ₹80,000 worth Giuseppe Zanotti Peep Toes to your wardrobe for ₹17,000? Or wear Tiffany & Co sunglasses that usually cost ₹25,000 for ₹8,000? And no, you don’t need to scrounge around night markets, or scour the web for first copies. Instead, now experiment with designerwear with a clear concience, via Instagram thrift stores.
Globally, the resale market has been growing exponentially. A report by thredUp, one of world’s largest fashion resale platforms, published in 2020, valued the resale market at $28 billion (around ₹2 trillion) in 2019. This is expected to grow to $64 billion by 2024. Though there are no official figures for India, a search for ‘#thriftindia’ on Instagram throws up over 6.25 lakh posts and over 60 handles that deal with thrifting.
In this fleet of thrift stores that have blossomed in the country over the past two years, there is a recent surge in those that specialise in authentic products from high-end brands. These stores source their products either directly from sellers or chance upon them at physical thrift stores. After sourcing, authenticating, cleaning and photographing, these are made available to a generation of online shoppers who are experimenting with pre-owned clothes and accessories.
Finding authentic resellers
In 2019, when Chennai-based graphic designer Sruti Ashok set up a pop-up store selling second-hand clothes in the backyard of a cafe, she thought it was a one-time thing. But the overwhelming response she received and the money raised for an NGO through the sales, made her want to turn it into a yearly-affair. “However, in 2020, it was not possible to step out and set it up, so I did what everyone was doing with their business; I took it online. What started as a one-off thing has transitioned into a business, merely because of the response that I have been getting,” laughs Sruti.
Started in April 2020, her store, The Relove Closet, has gained over 5,000 followers. Though the store sells a variety of brands, it is well-known for selling high-end luxury brands at prices that are probably less than half their original rate. Versace, Swarovski, Chanel, Roberto Cavalli, Tiffany, Chloe, YSL, Giuseppe Zanotti, Jimmy Choo, Stella McCartney, name it and she has it.
“It started when a lady approached me to sell a few of her luxury products on my page and forward the proceedings to a charity that she supported. When we put out her bags and shoes, they sold out in two days. We weren’t expecting such a response for the high-end brands, since they are more expensive than regular ones which we sell for ₹700 to ₹1,500. The luxury brands are priced between ₹3,000 and ₹50,000. Due to the increasing online base, I have been approached by several sellers from across India who either want to make money by selling their products or give to charity,” says Sruti whose customer base is largely women in their mid-20s and 30s.
The price of the products — approved by the resellers — depends on how often they have been used, the wear and tear they have endured, and visible defects, if any. “It is also a matter of style. If the product is a limited edition; that will definitely reflect in the price. We also check if the original product is on sale and if so, we tend to set a much lower price on our product,” she says.
While Sruti is a new member in this rapidly growing market, Kohima-based Jungshi Imti has been doing this for over two years now. He is the man behind the Instagram account @Chichi_n_Co which sells luxury bags, shoes, T-shirts, and dresses.
“Thrifting culture is quite popular in the Northeast. Physical thrift stores have been around since I was a child. So we know the process well and are aware which items to pick and which to ignore,” says Jungshi, a 21-year-old college student. Every evening, he visits these stores to source luxury products.
Jungshi’s store boasts a massive collection from Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, MCM Worldwide, Kenzo, Givenchy, Guess and Balenciaga.
Jungshi Imti, founder of Chichi_n_Co
But how does one trust these to be authentic? “There is an elaborate process for that,” says Jungshi, “The easiest way to check if a product is real is to look for its authentication certificate. If that is not found, one has to look for a code that is stamped in the insides of the bags or shoes which when run on the brand’s website gives the date of manufacture, the country where it was manufactured. Some brands like Louis Vuttion have a website that helps you cross-check the date code which is one way to determine if a bag is fake,,” he says.
This is when the educational background of Riya Rokade, a student of styling and mass communication, comes into use. Riya who runs the page, Vintage Laundry, sources her items from Mumbai-based second-hand product suppliers.
Needle in a haystack
She picks through heaps and heaps of clothes. Once in every few days, she comes across items from luxury brands. Be it a pair of Ralph Lauren jeans or a Versace shirt, the heaps that suppliers source are a treasure trove. “Once I found a quirky jacket which was hand painted. It was only after I put it up for sale on my page, I realised they were all replicas of Picasso’s paintings,” exclaims Riya.
The Mumbai-based stylist launched The Vintage Laundry in Feb 2020 but had to shut it down for two months due to the lockdown. “I physically visit my suppliers and then curate the clothes, so it was not possible during the lockdown. Even after the restrictions were eased, I rationed my collection and put up only five clothes every week. Now we drop around 30 pieces every week,” she says. Despite the bumpy start, Riya says that her venture is doing well, thanks to growing awareness about the harms of fast fashion.
“Most of the items that I put up are sold in two or three days. Colourful and quirky clothes work best for my account. The only time I had to struggle to sell clothes was when I put out an office-wear collection. Still working from home, people are in no mood to shop for office wear. Jumpsuits, flowing pants, sweatpants, baggy shirts work really well. The trends will change again once offices open up,” she says.
And Riya is looking forward to that challenge.