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These NTU students are banking on the thrift hype

From an online vintage store to thrift sales, these NTU students are confronting the climate crisis in style. They tell Chia Kun Liang why pre-loved clothing should be the next trend to watch

A trip to Bangkok’s Talad Rod Fai Night Market two years ago led brothers Bryan and Daryn Tan to see sustainable fashion in a brand new light.

They were pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of pre-loved apparel and accessories at the market’s vintage street, where they bought their first pieces of vintage streetwear at $16 a pop.

The experience inspired Bryan, 22, and Daryn, 25, to start their first online vintage store in May. Called KaranguniBoyz, it pays homage to the neighbourhood rag-and-bone man here.

Thrift is definitely in, with a new wave of youth-owned vintage and pre-loved clothing stores entering the retail scene here.

Bryan and Daryn want to dispel the myth that vintage pieces are old hat. In fact, buying a well-chosen, decades-old item may be a better investment that lasts longer in your wardrobe, says Bryan, a second-year NTU communication student.

Most of what we wear is churned out by what is arguably the world’s second-most polluting industry.

“Nothing in this world is free. Someone out there is paying the price. If your clothes are dirt cheap, it has to be a product of exploitation,” says Jean Leong, a third-year NTU English student.

For this reason, Jean banded together with third-year NTU sociology student Zinc Tan in February to set up Aesth.Ethically, the first ever thrift pop-up store on campus. It sells donated pre-loved clothing and donates the proceeds to charity. Those who donate their clothing for the thrift sale get to redeem other pieces for free.

In two of its pop-up events held in NTU and UnPackt, a zero-waste store in Singapore, the duo raised $1,200, which was donated to a beach clean-up community and NTU’s cat welfare society.

“We want to warm people up to the fun of buying pre-loved clothing before introducing them to the hard facts of the fast fashion industry. Not everyone is in it for the sustainable cause yet, and that’s something we need to accept,” says Jean.

The response has been encouraging. In their first pop-up, Jean and Zinc received nearly 10,000 pieces of pre-loved clothing donated by the zero-waste community.

“So many people messaged us on Instagram asking about our next thrift sale,” says Zinc, 22. “Some of them even offered to help out for the next event!”

KaranguniBoyz has also inspired many of its followers, like 26-year-old Mohammaed Aqil Mohd Mislan, to try their hand at sustainable shopping. “Buying vintage pieces certainly contributes to the revival of these vintage styles as well as gives them a new cycle of wear,” says the NTU biological sciences graduate.

Bryan and Daryn hope that more will rethink their love affair with fast fashion before their next shopping haul. The earlier you switch to sustainable shopping, the sooner we can get the fashion industry to clean up its act.

As the proverbial saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine.

Kun Liang

HEY! student writer
When Kun Liang is not writing news, he's probably making up stories with young children elsewhere. Ask him about the play-ces that they have gone to. Home isn’t one of them.

Tips from the thrifta-haulics

Never gone thrift-shopping? Fashion mavens from KaranguniBoyz and Aesth.Ethically tell you what you should look out for

  • Do your research
    Determine what you are looking for and your preferred style of clothing before scanning the racks for pieces that stand out. This would help to save time as the amount of clothing at the thrift or vintage store can be very overwhelming. Making a list may also help.
  • Inspect the clothing
    Save yourself from unnecessary heartbreak by making sure that the clothes are of good condition and the right fit. Most, if not all, thrift or vintage stores do not accept refunds or exchanges. Look out for any unwanted stains, tears, holes or faulty zippers.
  • Put on gloves and masks if you are sensitive to dust
    Be prepared to rummage through piles and rows of clothing that may not have been washed for a while. Wearing gloves and masks help you avoid skin discomfort.
  • Bring cash
    Setting a budget and limiting yourself to cash purchases only will help keep your spending in check. Besides, not every thrift or vintage store accepts credit/debit card payments. Better to be safe than sorry!
  • Bring your own bags
    Make your shopping experience even more eco-friendly by bringing your own bag.