Photo credit: Yong

These youths want to make thrift shopping mainstream in Singapore

Student initiative Conscious Living Collective organises thrift stores to get more youths interested in sustainable fashion.

Shani Yong

Published: 31 May 2019, 5:45 PM

It is heartening to see more youths rallying for a zero waste lifestyle and speaking up for climate change in Singapore. With the growing interest in sustainable living, some even started their own vintage clothing stores.

Likewise, student-led initiative Conscious Living Collective hopes to shed light on our current consumption habits through their pop-up thrift stores.

Conscious Living Collective founder, 21-year-old Tammy Gan, was inspired to start her own initiative after watching ‘True Cost’, a fashion documentary about the social and environmental impacts of fast fashion.

Tired of the overused slogan, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, Tammy felt a need to focus on sustainable fashion instead.

The Yale-National University of Singapore (Yale-NUS) student said: “I began to think about what I can do about it, and I know that my actions as an individual were never going to be enough. I wanted to do something bigger. Eventually, a thrift store idea came up.

There was a good crowd of students at their third pop-up thrift store held at Yale-NUS campus. Photo Credit: Yong

“Fashion is definitely one of the ways that people can engage in environmentalism without them realising it.”

After rallying her Instagram followers with her plan to make sustainable fashion trendy, Tammy started Conscious Living Collective in August 2018 with a group of 10 Yale-NUS students aged between 19 to 24 years old.

Conscious Living Collective founders Tammy Gan (first row, second from right) and Annika Mock (first row, second from left) with their team. Photo Credit: Yong

For Tammy, making thrift stores attractive to youths was essential in getting them involved in environmentalism.

“Our environmental messages are not very explicit, so it helps us to draw others who are not already on board with the movement.

“People go to our events because it is interesting rather than it being about the environment, which can turn some people off,” said the second year environmental studies student.

Signboards about the environmental and social impacts of fast fashion are displayed at their thrift stores. Photo Credit: Yong


While researching ways to promote sustainable fashion through their initiative, the team discovered other issues related to fast fashion, such as its contribution to waste and exploitation of workers.

To highlight these issues, the team also started sharing simple facts about sustainable fashion and updates on upcoming environmental-related events on their Instagram page.

Conscious Living Collective organises weekly challenges to get people thinking about other environment-related causes, such as pollution and waste. Photo Credit:

Tammy shared: “I didn’t realise how difficult it was to change people’s behaviours.

“That’s why Conscious Living Collective is important. It gives people an outlet to do something about the environment without interfering with their daily lives.”

Their pop-up thrift stores started to became popular not just among NUS students. Students from other universities and secondary schools started coming to their thrift stores after hearing about it on through word-of-mouth and their Instagram page.

Since November 2018, Conscious Living Collective has set up three thrift stores – two at Yale-NUS and one at The Red Box. Photo Credit: Yong

21-year-old Annika Mock, co-founder of Conscious Living Collective, shared: “Something as seemingly frivolous as fashion could be a springboard for other environmental issues.

“We want people to know what is behind their dollar. For every purchase they make, they should understand the impact of fast fashion, change their consumption habits and eventually change their mindset around fast fashion.”

Their Instagram page features youths with thrifted items from Conscious Living Collective. Photo Credit:

Interestingly, most of the clothes from their thrift stores are donated by students. Donors receive points that they can use in their thrift stores, promoting a circular economy – reducing waste and making the most out of our existing resources.

They also donate most of the proceeds from their thrift store sales to environmental organisations, such as New2URed Cross Charity Shops and Little Green Men.

Tammy shared: “We usually sift through the donated clothes and pull out those that we feel youths would buy. Luckily, we have people with great style on our team!”

Tammy (pictured) shared that the team has to go through a tedious process of sifting clothes for the thrift stores. Photo Credit: Yong

Ultimately, Conscious Living Collective hopes to go beyond organising thrift stores by planning more outreach events in the future.

“We want to help other students to be more engaged with environmental issues. This challenges us to be better environmentalists too.”

Check out Conscious Living Collective on Instagram for more updates. 

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