Photo credit: NICOLE CHIN

Why we need to be mindful when thrifting

The thrifting trend has taken off in Singapore, but there are some things we have to keep in mind to thrift responsibly.

Celeste Lim

Published: 13 October 2020, 1:28 PM

The trend of thrifting in Singapore has been growing since last year, and has recently escalated thanks to TikTok. 

With youths’ videos of their “thrift hauls” or “thrifted fits” getting thousands of views on the app, many have been flocking to thrift stores selling second-hand things for significantly lower prices. 


Thrift shops commonly featured on TikTok include the shops on level six of Lucky Plaza and The Salvation Army outlets. PHOTO CREDIT: TIKTOK/@CVLSX


Benefits of thrifting culture

One such youth who has been thrifting for the past 10 years is Nicole Chin, 25.

She said: “Thrifting is good, because you’re buying things that have been used before and have not been manufactured. If there are more people going thrifting, there will be less demand for clothes to be produced.”

One of the benefits of thrifting is that it helps to reduce the demand for fast fashion, which is cheap and trendy clothing that retailers mass-produce, often by underpaying garment workers and making them work in inhumane conditions.

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Thrifting is also more sustainable. According to the National Environment Agency, 168 tonnes of textile and leather waste was generated by Singaporeans in 2019, of which only six tonnes were recycled. The clothing that ends up in our landfill is normally made of synthetic fabric fibres, and will never decompose.

And of course, thrifting is much cheaper than buying brand new clothes. Who doesn’t love a good deal?


Nicole’s entire outfit, except for her shoes, was thrifted. PHOTO CREDIT: NICOLE CHIN


Thrifting has many benefits, but the influx of youths onto the trend has also raised some concerns.

Over-consumption of clothing

Because the clothes are so cheap, some people have the tendency to impulse-buy anything that catches their eye at thrift shops. 

But how environmentally-friendly can thrifting really be if people are buying so many clothes, just to wear them once?

To prevent over-thrifting, Nicole is quick to caution against buying more clothes than you need, even if those clothes happen to be cheap and “better for the environment”.


Even if something is cheap and of good quality, Nicole doesn’t buy it unless she knows for sure that she will wear it. PHOTO CREDIT: NICOLE CHIN


The social media marketer said: “It’s very important to understand why you’re even going [thrifting] and being very conscious of what you’re purchasing, because it’s very easy to get caught up in over-consumption and over-thrifting.

“How many times are you going to wear this? Is what you’re doing at the end of the day still good for the environment?”

Increased prices for people who actually rely on thrift stores

Some of us may also have forgotten the original purpose of thrift stores: to provide things for people who cannot afford them in regular stores.

The thrift shops at Lucky Plaza used to be frequented by domestic workers. As they do not have credit cards to buy cheaper clothes online, they usually rely on these stores. 

If more youths start thrifting at Lucky Plaza and buying loads of cheap clothes, prices at the shops may increase, taking away cheap clothes from people who need them more.

But this doesn’t mean that we youths should stop thrifting altogether. In fact, having more people thrifting can benefit the people who rely on thrift shops, provided we can spread out the demand by thrifting at different stores.

Nicole features lesser-known thrift stores on her TikTok account, which has over 2,000 followers. PHOTO CREDIT: TIKTOK/@CHINCHILLA.VINTAGE 

Although certain shops have been front and centre on TikTok, Singapore has an abundance of thrift stores doing good work. 

For example, The Barn uses their profits to fund welfare programmes, while Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) Shop’s proceeds go towards supporting SSVP’s beneficiaries, including the poor.

When we reached out to SSVP Shop, they said they have had to decline donations since their warehouse is currently full.


SSVP, which has been in operation since Sep 2019, holds periodic sales to clear their stock. PHOTO CREDIT: SSVP


By buying from these lesser-known thrift stores, we can help to refresh their stock and, in turn, allow people who rely on those stores to have access to a greater variety of newer clothing at low prices.

Thrifting just because it’s trendy and not because you have to is certainly a privilege, but that does not make thrifting bad.

At the end of the day, responsible thrifting culture is good for more youths to be a part of, as it encourages us to shop more sustainably.  


Nicole snapped a photo with volunteers at SSVP while filming a TikTok there. PHOTO CREDIT: NICOLE CHIN


A representative at SSVP Shop aptly said: “Thrifting is for everyone, regardless of socio-economic background. 

“Most of the time, these donated items would have ended up in the trash or neglected in the wardrobe, and it is better to see these items with new owners or in new homes.”


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