Thrifting is not a new concept in India. From streetside pop ups to small shops selling eccentric pieces, our cities have had these establishments forever. However, thanks to the pandemic, thrifting on the streets is not really an option. In such times, online thrift stores are becoming our obsession. Instagram has thrift stores that sell clothing from the ’70s and ’80s. Vintage corsets to unisex baroque-printed satin shirts, everything is available at half the price as compared to the malls. And the popularity is such that pieces get booked within 30 seconds after they are dropped.

Riya Rokade, a freelance fashion stylist, started her thrift store — Vintage Laundry — in February this year. She drops pieces that are statement, vibrant, and really affordable, every weekend. Her motive is to be as inclusive as possible, and all of Vintage Laundry’s pieces are gender fluid. Why did she choose to open a thrifting store? “I’ve always been intrigued by fashion, and I see clothes as a way to express my creativity. I gave up fast fashion a year ago, and started thrifting pieces for myself. Whenever I was out wearing one of my vintage pieces, people always asked me where I got them from, and I thought hey, since people love what I wear, why not create a medium where I can curate pieces for them?” she says. Disco>ery was launched by Ravi Rajpal in Bengaluru, in 2018. The pieces are largely influenced by the Disco scene of the ’70s and ’80s. The store was an impulsive plunge into a space that Rajpal resonates with, given that he also co-runs an agency that promotes and programs underground dance music in the city. When asked about the number of consumers that have increased since the lockdown, he said, “We’ve been able to maintain a more or less a consistent 70 per cent of return customers, even as our base is growing.”

Bygone Echoes, founded by fashion stylist Dennis Hauzel, is known for its unisex printed shirts along with womenswear such as dresses and blouses. Since the lockdown, his customer base has increased by 70 per cent. He says, “The number of male members in the thrift community is still quite low, but I’ve seen a significant increase in the past few months. Around 20 to 30 per cent of my customers are men.” These are a few from before the pandemic. But during, and as it continues, the thrift culture has seen a rise in new stores. Lust Thrift by L.J, Paradime Thrift by Anshuman Chakravarty and Muskaan Arora, are two such stores that started in the beginning of the lockdowns. “Buying second-hand clothes was something we’ve done all our lives. Our town had small thrift stores where we would always manage to find cute pieces for prices that were a steal. So, when we saw a whole community of thrift stores on Instagram, we decided to do it too,” says L.J.

And is there a lot of competition? Paradime Thrift founders said, “We’ve noticed many new thrift stores being founded every single day. That increases competition, but also increases the influence of the community, so it’s a double-edged sword.

We realise the importance of reinventing ourselves, and the competitive edge. Hence, we customise acid wash and tie-dye clothing items, which we can guarantee nobody can replicate.” And is thrifting a way to promote sustainability, especially in such a fragile time? Rokade says, “Given the current conditions, people have become more conscious about the way they’re harming the environment. Fast fashion creates 10 per cent of global waste, so in order to consume more sustainably, people have started thrifting.” More millennials and Gen-Z have been indulging in thrifting. Maybe we’ll finally alter the old is gold phrase to “old is gold, and sustainable”