A conscious shopper’s guide to thrifting in Chennai

Finding its legs during the COVID-19 pandemic, thrifting as a conscious lifestyle choice started gaining popularity across the general Indian populace a few years ago, and is still going strong. Being strictly better than investing in fast fashion by extending the lifespan of any piece of clothing that might have found its way to a landfill instead, it comes as no wonder that proponents of sustainability everywhere recommend thrifting or investing in slow fashion.

The far more affordable prices and the possibility of finding one-off vintage or statement pieces also attract throngs regardless. While the pandemic mainly saw the surge of Instagram-based thrift stores, Chennai now has multiple thrifters taking their stock offline as well: Escape Closet, The Rebirth Collective, The ReLove Closet and ZIPLINE Thrift Store, among others.

Thrifting is often polarising as well, however, and the average consumer will always, quite validly, have misgivings. For one, where do these stores source their clothing from? It depends, say the proprietors.

The Rebirth Collective, launched under Wasted 360 Solutions, opened its physical thrift store’s doors around a year ago. Almost all of their clothing comes from the drop-offs they receive, but they take extra care to segregate items that still have life in them from the unsalvageable. ZIPLINE, on the other hand, sources most of its thrifted items from charities like old age homes that have no use for certain kinds of clothing.

The ReLove Closet, act most like mediators, taking clothing directly from sellers and putting them up for prospective buyers to see on their website. Despite not having a physical store, their collections come offline in their large-scale pop-ups across the city. ReLove’s quality checks are quite stringent, as founder Sruti Ashok explains, “we have a lot of quality checkpoints and even the tiniest of defects does not pass through. Unless it is a designer item, in which case we specify the wear and tear, you will not be able to find a single stain.”

When asked what happens to those that do not qualify, she adds, “since our customer base will not buy these items, we donate them to organisations and charities that can make better use of them, and recycle the rest which cannot be worn.” 

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