In 2020, Instagram became a new platform to carry on the very popular act of thrifting, thus aiding shopping at a time when everything was shut. But has the charm of thrifting diminished, thanks to commercial changes? We find out

With coronavirus taking over the world and forcing us to quarantine, 2020 led to multiple Internet trends, as well the boom of small businesses. One such boom was of Instagram thrift stores. Thrifting isn’t new to the world, but virtual stores bringing in a variety of branded clothing during the time when malls were shut and fast-fashion brand Shein was being kicked out, had to be the highlight of the way shopping changed. 

As someone who was equally obsessed with the concept of thrifting in its initial fad, what stunned me the most was the hard work and aesthetically curating pieces that caught people’s eyes. As months passed by, it was common for a few of these brands to raise the prices as equal to a newly bought clothing item, which changed the entire meaning of thrifting.

Celebrity stylist Isha Bhansali says, “The meaning of thrifting has changed this year. It has become more approachable even in the terms of suppliers. People are changing lifestyles as well, most of them are moving to their hometown and working from home. The evening outings have reduced, so lifestyle is a huge change, which has caused this entire thrifting movement.”

Shopping second hand in an era of fast fashion might seem like an ethical no-brainer, but old school thrifters often debate the ethics of what many have called “thrift store gentrification.” Thrift store gentrification describes the phenomenon of shoppers who voluntarily buy merchandise from second-hand clothing, or hike up the pricing as equivalent to other fast fashion brands, in the name of thrifting. When those same shoppers resell that merchandise on Depop, or sell on Instagram stores at a higher price, the prices at thrift stores then rise to meet the demand, beating the purpose of thrifting.


Riya Rokade, the founder of Vintage Laundry, runs one of the oldest thrift pages on Instagram before it became cool. She says, “The whole point of my store was to provide sustainable clothing at a reasonable rate. We’re not profit-driven, we’re people-driven, and it defeats the purpose of buying sustainable pieces if you can buy a brand new piece for the same price from a fast-fashion brand. The purpose of having a thrift store is to be more conscious of what you purchase. The rising popularity of thrifting among more wealthy consumers as an alternative to buying from sustainable and ethical fashion brands reduces the already limited options available to low-income communities when it comes to clothing. Thrifting no longer carries strong taboos of uncleanliness and poverty, as it had in the past. So, in the name of eco-consciousness, many demographics that could afford to splurge on high-quality, low-impact purchases are deciding to thrift instead. This means there are fewer quality items left on the thrift store shelves for those who truly have no other affordable options.”

“Some of the thrift stores increase pricing because of the exclusivity, because what they are selling is something old, or is vintage, or something that has been specially curated or passed down. You can say it is thrift but it doesn’t mean it is a fast-fashion product, it could be a Versace shirt from the ‘80s, or it could be something generational. If ever any of the items are expensive, it is probably because of this very reason. It also depends on where it is coming from. So, that’s why they are more expensive than fast-fashion brands. Thrifting is a very broad perspective. You can either do thrifting of luxury items, one-of-a-kind items, or boutique items, this is where it becomes expensive,” explains Bhansali.

The concern over the gentrification of thrift stores is not a new phenomenon, although the internet’s cycle of discourse has certainly accelerated it. Lust Thrift is one of the most famous thrift stores, which has been in this game even before the pandemic started. The founder, L.J, explains, “It’s been a year since we’ve started and there’s been a huge change in thrifting culture as compared to 2020. There are more people hopping on to the preloved route. Some adopt this lifestyle because shopping pre-loved is the only sustainable choice one can make when it comes to fashion, and others mainly because it’s easier on the pockets. The idea of thrift is to carefully use your money without wasting it. So, getting a good deal by buying preloved makes more sense for those who prioritise this. 


He continues, “However, there’s been a price increase in pieces lately. I don’t know if this has completely beaten the whole purpose of thrifting but I would also like to add that if there’s an increase in price, a few 100 mark-ups should make sense. There shouldn’t be reasons like there are more people looking to buy your pieces. That makes the whole experience of thrifting bad. We try really hard to be consistent with the price we set for our pieces. Not too high, not unbelievably low. Our aim is that your money spent here should make sense.”

Thrifting is definitely sticking around as a shopping trend. Instagram stores and thrifters in 2021 are not the first ones to transform second-hand clothes into a fashion statement, and they surely won’t be the last.