Could Instagram Thrift Stores Be The Future Of E-Commerce & Sustainable Fashion?

Could Instagram Thrift Stores Be The Future Of E-Commerce & Sustainable Fashion?
(L) The Fine Finds ; The Thrift Centre (R)

It would be incorrect to think of vintage clothes as just old, worn-out material. They are probably a way to save money, look fashionable and a means to save the planet, all in one. In recent years, thrifting has become a somewhat trend wherein second-hand clothes are sourced from wholesalers and sold to buyers. What is even more recent, however, is the establishment of these thrift stores on social media platforms like Instagram.

For many of these page owners, logging into Instagram is like clocking into work. Their pages are no different than any other entrepreneurial journey and function like a regular e-commerce venture. Not too long ago, Aparna Balasubramanian, a student of NIFT Bengaluru began thrifting on Instagram through her page, The Fine Finds. With over 1,000 followers, she posts new items for sale daily. “Thrifting has been around much longer than fast fashion,” she says.

Thrifting, especially online, has quite a considerable scope as India is the leading importer of used clothes. Following the import, they are divided into those that can be resold and those that are mutilated. The latter are reworked into cheap quilts, blankets, etc. Talking about the resilience and quality of these pieces, Aparna says that these clothes have stood the test of time (several decades, sometimes) and are still in great condition. “It’s anti-fast-fashion and cheaper as well,” she states. Her thrifting experience has always been profitable. So much so, that she merely invested ₹2,000 into her business and the page has been sustaining itself since then. Inspired by other thrifting pages, she found someone to source vintage pieces from, set up her page and never looked back. Pieces are sold on their individual worth without a particular profit margin in mind. In fact, sales can take place in more than one way. These pages hold auctions and conduct wardrobe sales too. Aparna believes that second-hand clothing’s value will only increase and that she is in the right place at the right time. She also uploads tutorials on how to upcycle one’s clothes.

The Thrift Centre’s godmother, Madhumita Chakravarty who already has a 9 to 5 job, runs her business on Instagram on the side. Considering many of these online thrift stores work through this social media platform, it must offer them some sort of a conducive environment for their business to grow. “Instagram has helped in bridging the gap between the sellers and the buyers,” she says. Features like stories and post notifications allow customers to be aware of what’s on sale and when. The ease of engagement on Instagram is a major driving force for most of these sellers. According to Aparna, consistency is key in such cases since it shows the seller’s seriousness and the Instagram algorithm picks up on it too. However, the same algorithm can be a disadvantage. “It does not show posts chronologically anymore, and you basically have to fight for a spot in someone’s feed. Sometimes, only 300 of my 1,200 followers would see my post,” Aparna says. After a point of time, it is out of their control. “I leave it up to the Instagram Gods,” she jokes. Madhumita adds that trust and transparency are equally important.

Online sales of used, vintage clothing would not be considered a possibility a decade ago. Now it is only waiting on its boom. Many Instagram thrift pages plan to expand into websites and online stores since the sales show no signs of slowing down. The current generation’s awareness of the environment paired with the reluctance to pay exorbitant amounts for vintage clothing does well for online thrifting. Owners of these pages are often seeing giving each other shout-outs and cheering each other on. The space is competitive, but not threatening. Their shared love for thrift items is evident. “Thrifting allows you to wear clothing from a different time, worn with love by someone. It has a story to tell and there’s a personal touch to the whole transaction,” says Madhumita. She believes that if you can avoid looking like clones in fast fashion clothing and save the planet, then it’s a win-win!

Aparna’s student status allows her to run her thrift store full-time. On the other hand, even though Madhumita juggles her profession and passion with dexterity, sees herself hiring someone to run the store for her soon. She, too, believes that online thrifting will soon contribute significantly to India’s e-commerce scene in an environmentally conscious way, with a sense of a growing community. “With more millennials shifting focus to the thrift culture, fast fashion might just die out with time,” she says.

Once one is past the apprehension of reusing clothes, what they can to do their wardrobe with online thrifting is limitless. Small and local businesses such as these will then see no bounds.

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