Second to none

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Why blow your pay cheque for brand new attire or home décor when you can pick some cool preloved items at half the price or…even free? NT BUZZ checks out some thrifty ventures in Goa that are all about second chances

CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ

Three years ago, Jane D’Souza took up the 333 project. The goal was to use only 33 items of clothing, including footwear, for three months. Everything else was boxed up. This made her aware of the things that she wasn’t using. At the end of the three months, she swapped a few of the items with those in her boxed wardrobe. This process became a habit of sorts. “If there was anything that had been lying untouched and boxed up for over a year, it was time to give it away,” she says. But, giving away items just like that was not an easy process. “I realised that maybe if I got some amount of money when I gave it away then maybe I would feel it was worth it,” says D’Souza.

Also, during her travels abroad with friends (Blossom Rodrigues, Jolene Lobo, and Claire D’Mello), she had often visited thrift stores. “We began talking about what if something like this was in Goa and what if we were the ones to start this dream. This is how Sale Swap Takeaway (SST) started,” she says.

In July 2019, they organised their first sale. Since then SST has organised around seven pop up sales in different parts of Goa like Panaji, Porvorim, Mapusa and Margao. One of the Panaji sales was also curated into a two-day event featuring an open mic too.

“By travelling to different places we were able to access a different demographic of customers and learned a lot. For instance things that didn’t sell in Porvorim or Margao did really well in Mapusa,” says D’Souza.

The procedure for selling is fairly simple. People give them items and these are then put up for sale. “We keep a percentage for facilitating the whole process and whoever lists their stuff with us gets paid a certain percentage too,” says D’Souza. Prices are usually decided based on their knowledge of what items sell at what price. Most of these do not exceed `500 to  `600. “Most of these are in really good condition. Some still have tags; some have only been used once,” says D’Souza. While SST accepts everything from clothing to shoes, jewellery, accessories or even small home décor or appliances, bulky items like furniture, etc, are sold directly through their Instagram page. Pictures of these are posted online and buyers connect with sellers directly. In this way the extra step of bringing these items first to the godown and then sending them to the buyer is done away with.

Apart from this, SST also has a takeaway section. “We have a lot of people who donate stuff to us. A generous portion of this goes into the takeaway section, where people can pick it up for free to use or even upcycle,” says D’Souza.

At the moment because of COVID, they still have a large inventory of unsold things and thus are not accepting any more items. Donations however are welcome and these go to help migrant workers.

COVID has also pushed them to move online on a bigger scale. “We realised that now, because of the economic crisis, people need cheaper options of clothing, etc. Thus we have begun a private inventory viewing,” says D’Souza. As part of this initiative, one can book an appointment on any Sunday of the month to browse through items in the godown, while maintaining safety precautions. Prices start as low as `50 and consists of ethnic wear, pants, skirts, shoes and jewellery. In the future they dream of starting a standalone store where people can just come to shop at.

SST has also started Draw, where they put out a collection of items based on a theme on Instagram every month. This could be prints, denim, florals, etc. This weekend they will be putting out a list of upcycled denim products.

D’Souza believes that a lot of people are looking at second hand as their first choice. “I think a lot of college students especially like it, given that they are on a tighter budget but want a variety of clothes, this is an ideal choice,” she says, adding that there is a need to have more conversations about what fast fashion is doing to the environment. “The media has sort of played a big role in this whole concept of buying brand new. This has completely blinded people to the real cost of mass producing clothing or home or kitchen items and not really giving as much justice to second hand and how amazingly cost-effective and environment- friendly it is,” she says.

Good Karma Treasure Shop

“People really need to start thinking about the choices they make. You can’t keep buying, you have to start thinking of where these clothes go after we get rid of them, how it is killing the ecology and harming the environment,” agrees Vijaya Josephine Pais, who began Good Karma Treasure Shop in 2016.

An initiative under Offbeat Goa, which is all about sustainable travel and living, the idea of Good Karma Treasure Shop came about when Pais was cleaning out her closet and realised that she had a lot of unused clothes, some of which still had their tags on. “Normally, I would donate things to orphanages or old age homes, but figured they would have no use for these clothes,” says Pais.

She then got talking with a friend who also had a lot of clothes to give away and together with a few others, they pooled together all their items and hosted their first sale, the proceeds of which went to Goa Outreach, a charity for migrant labour children in Goa.

And the thrift store of sorts is still going strong today. “The idea is to promote the reuse and recycle policy with 30 per cent of the sales going to different charities and NGOs in Goa,” says Pais, adding that they also help promote charities which do not have a social media presence.

People can drop off items at three outlets – ‘NomadGao in Assagao, Greenwood Meadows in Candolim and Joseph Bar, Panaji.

“The clothes that are given need to be in good condition with no holes or stains. They should be gently used or unused. Donate stuff you would buy yourself,” says Pais, adding that apart from clothes they also take shoes, accessories, bags, small home décor pieces, etc.

And while their physical sales have given them a chance to interact with people, doing things online is a completely different ball game, she says. This includes clicking pictures, cataloguing, posting on the website, delivery, etc, and thus requires the help of more people.

And while people have really appreciated the opportunity to buy things at a maximum of `500, there are still people who are averse to preloved items, she says. But they are trying to break that mindset. They also did a professional photoshoot with professional models, hair makeup and the works. The models wore second hand clothing and it was styled by fashion designer Schulen Fernandes.

One can check out their inventory at the Offbeat Goa website, with new items uploaded every week.

Your Little Shop

The pandemic has also led to the advent of many new initiatives, with thrift stores being among them. College students Karuna Sankolli, Siddhi Prabhudessai and Akanksha Jaggi began Your Little Shop, an Instagram thrift store in August. They sell clothing, accessories and books. They also act as a platform for young artists to put up and sell their artworks.

But the germ of the idea was sowed much earlier when Sankholli was part of a seminar on fast fashion in her college last year. “The talk and documentary ‘The True Cost’ by filmmaker Andrew Morgans was an eye-opener for me. I was shocked when I learned that fashion was the second most polluting industry in the world. So I started researching on what I could do to not contribute to this and thrifting came through as one of the options,” she says. This July she came across a thrift store on Instagram based out of Bengaluru. She loved the idea and decided to start a similar one in Goa and roped in Prabhudessai and Jaggi to be a part of it. “We’ve always wanted to work towards sustainable living so this seemed like the perfect way,” says Sankholli.

To sell items to Your Little Shop, those interested have to mention what the original price of the time was, how long it was used, if there are any defects, and also send pictures of the items. “We judge the quality based on pictures. We then compare the product prices to what’s available online and set a rate accordingly. We try to keep the rate lower than 40 per cent to what’s available as these are second hand,” says Sankholli. Once the rate is negotiated, they then post the item on the page and promote it to get a buyer. Once a buyer is found, they pick up the item to be donated/sold from their seller’s residence. Then it reaches the respective buyer. COVID precautions are followed.

“We have a return policy where you can return the item if you call within 24 hours of the delivery and state your reason. We are also planning to create an option where the seller can physically mail us the item before we promote them,” says Sankholli

However, she does admit that given that they are students at the moment it is a little difficult to manage studies with this venture. They also have issues where people try to negotiate higher prices to sell their items.

Apart from this, they have also started a series called ‘Afterthought’ which is an awareness programme on the effects of purchases on different aspects of the environment.

“Slow fashion is taking control of your life as a person. It is freeing not to get carried away by marketing gimmicks that play us and the environment for profit. If every individual does this we can be closer to actually making a difference about climate change,” says Sankholli. And some ways in which one can try to be more conscious about fashion choices, she advises, is to care more about local brands then multinational ones, and about the material. “Buying natural fibres is recommended as synthetic fibres will wash down into oceans and kill marine ecosystems,” she says.

Going forward, Your Little Shop wants to get more involved in promoting sustainable living. “We are trying to promote volunteering to NGOs and have started to post DIY recycling projects. Once this pandemic is over we will also try to have clean-up drives and promote local sustainable products,” says Sankholli.

Seconds to Go

Another new born online thrift store, Seconds to Goa is an initiative started by Tarika Kiran and a friend. They have now branched out into a group of five.

The aim of the store, says Kiran, is to give conscious consumers an opportunity to shop sustainably, save money and find some great bargains. “In the process, clients become active earth-healers, too!” she says.

StG accepts all kinds of things from books, clothes, personal accessories, kitchenware, home décor, electronics, sport gear, etc.

“People who have pre-loved goods call us. We ask them to first send us details of the items along with photographs. We then mutually agree on the quality and confirm which items will be picked up. The owner packs them in an open box for easy visibility and minimum contact. Then we go through the process of cleaning, sorting and washing if required. Photography of the items follow, before the final listing,” says Kiran. In coordination with the owner of the item, a suitable price is set.

So far, they have had a very good response, she says. “I think people have started viewing life in a different and more sustainable way, these days. With the new normal being fashioned daily, society has started to at least consider alternate options and alternate living. But as a race, we humans still need to do more,” says Kiran.

Free giveaway Goa

If you’re looking to donate or get free second hand goods, one can check out Free Giveaway Goa, a Facebook group which began in June and has a membership already hitting 9.3K.

“In COVID times with finances being constrained for many, instead of buying stuff this is a perfect platform to find second hand goods. We also believe that a clutter-free space is a positive space,” says Carol Mathias who started the group together with her husband Llyod Rebello.

To donate, one simply has to click pictures of the items you want to give away. Those interested comment on the post and later fix a convenient time and place for the exchange to happen.

Given that one is interacting with strangers online to donate or get the second hand items, Mathias states that they educate members not to allow strangers into their homes but to hand over the stuff to the complex security, or at another location so the collector won’t know their exact address. “For large items we ask members to have a known person around with them in the house when items are being collected. We also have a strict policy on harassment and remove the member immediately upon receiving valid proof,” she says. COVID safety measures are also advocated.

Being an online platform, the admins also instruct members to be courteous in discussions. Trolls are immediately removed. But this rarely happens, says Mathias.

And the duo has been amazed at the generosity that they have witnessed on this group. “Anything and everything is finding a new home and owner and that’s proof enough for us to know that Goa is ready for pre-loved stuff. We have a range of free stuff posted by members such as newspapers right up to laptops, washing machines and even a motor cycle given for free,” says Mathias. And they are also constantly learning through the group members.

“We love our group and have built some great friendships along the way already,” she says.