On March 25, she decided to do a closet cleanse through her Instagram page @lulu_thrift_. She now has 7,976 followers waiting for her next drop. For her, Instagram is like clocking into work. Khawbung says thrifting has always been part of her life, given that her family wasn’t very well-to-do.
She usually thrifts from her local store — and is buyer, seller, employee, manager, photographer, model and customer relations executive. “I drop a new collection every week, with conversion of `14,000– 18,000. New thrift stores coming up every day Insta makes me work harder.” Each post is an item up for sale, with its size, price, condition (declaring defects). Sales are finalised in comments, payment made over Google Pay, PhonePe and bank transfer with a no-return and no-cancellation policy.
There are hundreds of thrift accounts in India with similar rules and managed by young women. In recent years, Instagram has made shopping a near-seamless experience, spawning an endless stream of brands that only exist on the app (“Born on Instagram”). Sandeep Bhushan, director and head, global marketing solutions, Facebook India, says, “Instagram is the home for passions.
It is for this reason that Instagram has always given voice to a new set of creators and Instagram-first businesses, who have embraced the platform in creative ways. This is why 90% of people on Instagram follow a business.” In its 10th year, the app plans to prioritise in-app shopping. As Eva Chen, vice-president of fashion partnerships at Instagram, told Vogue Business recently the next generation of shoppers has never not had a little computer in their hand.
The store opened in October. Within weeks, Gupta had to hire a manager to handle the volume of queries and sales. During lockdown, they reached out to friends and family who wanted to declutter and were surprised by the response. “The idea is to pick a niche. Pages develop over time.
How you style and shoot images matter. It’s not just holding items against blank walls,” says Anya, adding that nearly 90% of their customers have never thrifted before. People’s attitude towards secondhand clothes as used stuff “carrying old energies” is fading away. Sustainable fashion influencer Oorja Makkad says, “Social media has played the biggest role in making conversations on sustainability gain momentum. I post very often on secondhand, swapped and vintage garments, and this sparks a huge volume of queries.” Her personal closet sales run out in minutes. She adds, “We need to focus on furthering the narrative that second-hand fashion is intelligent and representative of an elevated consciousness in the wearer.” She is using all her tools to create a perception shift for thrift.
Thrift business @folkpants is run by sisters Linno and Lumri Jajo, out of Manipur and Delhi, as a space to incorporate their interest in fashion. “At the same time,” says Linno, “it embodies the values we have learnt while growing up: our mom’s creativity and our grandparents’ knack for mending and reusing clothes.” They source their clothes from shops around their town Ukhrul in Manipur. Linno adds, “We want Folkpants to be a space for others — who don’t know/have access — to pre-loved or second-hand items. Post-lockdown, we get an average of 20 new stores every week requesting for a shout-out.”
These new businesses are also explaining thrift to customers. Lumri says people often ask them why their items are priced high, at Rs 350-3,000, if those are second-hand. She says, “We take this as an opportunity to let them know about the process involved. Of going out to source clothes, restoring and cleaning them, doing shoots, interacting with customers, packing and dispatching. It is a lot of work and not as simple as reselling a hand-me-down.” Ankita Katuri, Hyderabad-based thrifter and cofounder of The Smarketers, says she has always enjoyed thrifting for environmental reasons and the sheer thrill of hunting unique pieces. She says, “That it’s such a thriving scene in India, albeit mostly online, is new to me.
Instagram has been a game-changer for thrift stores and even individuals who appreciate second-hand and vintage pieces.” Most pages set a countdown, compelling shoppers to rush and buy. She says, “It can become hard to distinguish if you bought something because you loved/wanted/needed it that much, or for ‘scoring’ a piece.” Online thrift is mirroring the offline world of a flea market. Yet, it’s more personalised than app shopping, says sustainable lifestyle consultant Mrudula Joshi, 25, who runs a blog Ullisu, where she has a tab on second-hand shopping pages. With new ones coming up everyday, she simply can’t keep up.
Joshi says, “Thrifting is a great fit for people who don’t have the patience to worry about every small detail of the environment. It’s a no-brainer solution to ease the green guilt. It’s also great for people who love the rush of shopping.” What is lacking? She notes that it is not size inclusive nor are there many thrift options for men. Mumbai-based costume designer and thrift shopper Shruti Wadetiwar says the action moved to online long ago. She says, “While thrifting, one has to be very careful with defects and sizing. Often the label sizing is too small or too big.
A recent Instagram purchase, a vintage shirt, had a needle and thread still dangling from the collar button. I told the sellers, they apologised and offered a discount.” Quick response is a hallmark of thrift business. As Coimbatore-based Nirmala Rathi of @take2_preloved says, one wrong purchase can turn a buyer off the segment. Rathi, 34, a chartered accountant, runs her page as a conduit between buyers and sellers. She started by reselling her wardrobe in August 2019 and now has 10 sellers on her page. “The hitch most people have in buying second-hand clothes is at the starting point. Thrift is a leap of faith for a buyer.”
By using story highlights, poll, countdown timers and comments for bidding, the businesses are clued in to the workings of Instagram. The idea is to create the feeling that a friend is selling you clothes. Snigdha Gohain, 34, started @reloveit_the.store in January. She says, “Instagram has evolved as a social marketplace. Apart from the function of buying and selling, it gives buyers a voice, an option to share their shopping experiences and get feedback on their purchases. For sellers, the feedback mechanism is very robust.” She generates around Rs 30,000 from sales a month and the conversion rate is close to 75%. Gohain feels the segment will see growth in India.
“The new-age shoppers are not the regular mall shoppers or Amazon shoppers,” she says. It’s a small community that supports each other via shout-outs and story posts. It also has a low entry barrier — anyone with a closet can start thrifting. Chennai-based Sruti Ashok, 29, had an offline event in April 2019 where she put up clothes for sale from her family and friends’ closets. In April 2020 she launched her Instagram page @therelovecloset to help a The Kindness Foundation and raised Rs 7 lakh. She adds, “There’s little to no capital involved in starting an Instagram page. You don’t spend on marketing.
The work is at the backend.” The sellers also have larger green goals in mind. They point out that by extending the life span of one’s clothes by nine more months, one would be reducing carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30%. Chandigarh-based Shruti Dhiman of @shop.retrodays.in is a vegan and sustainability activist. She says, “The opening of new thrift stores is a good sign as it means more people are getting comfortable with the idea of secondhand clothes.” Dhiman cherishes the connect with her buyers.
“Recently, I got a message from a customer saying how a shirt in my collection brought back memories of the rococo prints her father used to get for her,” she says. For now, Instagram thrift shops are like kiosks outside the glitzy malls of online shopping. Riya Choudhary and Lakshita @ kismet.e.kheer note that all trends start on social media. Nearly 54% of their buyers are from the age group 18-24 and 30% from the 25-34 age group, with only 3% from the 35-44 age group. Says Choudhary, “From creating to styling, a business becomes much more than just an income-creating source on this platform.”
Dubai-based fashion editor and writer Sujata Assomull says, “As we rethink our shopping habits, there is not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution. The point of fashion is personal expression. For some it may be about repeating clothes, others may enjoy looking at fashion resale, then there is vintage and, in India, thanks to a strong network of tailors — upcyling.” Thrift is just one way of being on-trend.
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1 Comment on this Story
RajeshK3 days ago
The Psychology of Money