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The Financial Express

Thrift stores in Bangladesh: How good is fast fashion?


Thrift stores in Bangladesh: How good is fast fashion?

The fashion scene of Bangladesh today isn’t just all about the number of clothes you can get from ODC with a much lower price, bargaining for a minimum time. It’s now about the unique pieces that come together and help one to sculpt an identity. The trend-scoring and statement-setting isn’t only universal amongst Generation Z, and so much so one can eye millennials and Generation Y to equally root for a fashion drift that brings comfort.

The concept of thrifting wasn’t trendy even five years back. The sudden gush of thrift stores taking over the fast-fashion world of Bangladesh is duly unanticipated. Although thrifting became a thing in the late 1960s, Bangladesh is one of the many countries that set their foot a little late in the fast fashion industry.

The accessibility of affordable, environment-friendly and sustainable items is primarily available through these thrift stores from the massive production of the retail garments and are sold at a very flexible price range. Although there aren’t many physical thrift stores in Bangladesh as of now, the online market is booming and has become a competitive zone for thrift sellers.

Sunayra Subha, the founder and owner of Bangladeshthrift, says, “It wasn’t a one-night process, but in fact I had given a lot of effort to learn what sustainability means in order to launch my own store. Every day I almost answer 50 people on what thrifting actually means. I put up a lot of posts of what thrifting means and I’ve seen that there are people who’re accepting thrifting, using the old clothes and reusing it to hold sustainability.”

She still believes that Bangladesh has a lot more work to do with understanding the concept. Many people go heavy on thrifting only because they find it safe for their pocket and not because they accept that these clothes are being recycled and are mostly clothes that do not make it to the export trail.

The younger owner also sees a promising future in the thrifting industry as she believes that by 2025, the thrifting market will grow up to $53 billion. If Bangladesh gets ahead of other countries with its fast fashion industry, it can exploit the market and earn a lot more than what it’s already making. However, the challenge here is introducing this concept as something more than just affordability and more about a movement that speaks conclusively on the works of carbon footprint.

Aside from the most prominent ruling of the fast fashion market, which is affordability, the rise of thrift stores has also conveyed a new fashion identity, which is eclectic and unique to complement one’s individuality. Each item on the rack comes in just one size, made out of one exclusive fabric and goes to just one particular customer. Having that one piece belonging to none but you gives a boost of fashion tranquility that everyone fights to set today. Even if a little piece of clothing from an online thrift store can make a significant impact on your wardrobe, catering to your identity, that really can set your bars for sustainable, exclusive and affordable shopping standards.

Fathia Tamanna, the founder and CEO of the first fashion vintage store of Bangladesh, Dhaka Vintage, has been upcycling old clothes and curating them into a completely new piece with an unforgettable story to bind the customer with. Fathia says, “Although our culture embraces the passing of old clothes down the line, from one generation to the other, from one home to another, it does not necessarily recognise the value of the clothes which it can create after a solid curation. It was always taboo to wear old clothes and give a new dimension to them. Few people choose to wear a new stitch of clothes made from an old material on a festive day, no matter how cool it looks.”

While upcycling takes a lot of effort and is highly toned, it comes with a challenge to make people understand the distinctiveness of each piece which comes with a one-of-a-kind bespoke design obliging to be unique to its core.

With regards to the online popup of stores every minute now, the market has become anything but easy. The competition is incredibly high, and so is the survival fitness. Online thrift stores are completely different from physical thrift stores. In Bangladesh, you have to wish on stars to get your hands on the item you really want. The minute a thrift store posts their item, 20-25 customers will have their eye on it to get it booked for them, only if they find it absolutely suitable to their taste, which in thrift stores is pretty standard. Hence the challenge for both the seller and the customer is equally contentious.

A regular thrift shopper, Zerida Rahman from Bangladesh University of Professional says, “I enjoy thrift shopping, but more offline than online. There’s too much competition which makes it difficult to find clothes and decide what to buy. However, if you’re lucky and have fast internet (and fingers), you might find it more convenient.” She further adds, “And if people who can afford to buy expensive clothing keep purchasing from thrift stores in bulk, it would keep depriving people who are in actual need of stores like these-this is very common scenario in Bangladesh.”

It’s a significant turn for the fashion industry to appreciate the new ideas from recycling the old ones. “More people will embrace this, more people will talk about this and more people will be aware of the advancing thrift store industry in the coming days. Once you start dressing in thrifted pieces, your fashion sense will elevate, your ideas about sustainability will elevate and so will the idea of craftsmanship too” says the pioneer of thrift stores in Bangladesh, Anusha Alamgir, founder and CEO of Colors Dhaka, adding an essential anecdote to the entire scenario of the fast fashion industry.

Just as with every step we take, we adore the old garments as our new fits; with every idea we plant, our fashion industry keeps looking for the seeds sowed long before. In fact, the fate of style and elegance depends on how we plan on accepting the thrifting scene today.

 

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