How does responsible sustainability look like? Of the many routes to mindful fashion, thrifting is a fast-growing one, with second hand clothes witnessing a generational perspective shift from being “uncool” to the trendiest of the lot. Our second curator of the season, Nicole, is no stranger to the world of hand-me-downs, and has turned her childhood habit into a passion she shares with others. See her thrifted finds on Shentonista Restyled, and read below to find out more about her process.
Your thrifting journey started from a very young age—what do you think were important lessons you learned from adopting second hand clothes as a young child?
From the moment I can remember, I was already receiving second hand clothes from my family. My dad’s the youngest of three and my mom’s the youngest of six, so I have a lot of older cousins and aunts who passed me hand-me-downs. In a way, it started as a tactic to save money, but it was also my mother’s belief that there’s no need to purchase new clothes when there are so many old ones to reuse.
Growing up, I used to think it was very uncool because it wasn’t ‘trendy’ but I’ve learnt to appreciate as the years go by. In a way, it taught me to not buy beyond my means, even when I can afford to.
What’s a stereotype or misassumption about thrifting that you’d like to debunk?
There’s a notion that thrifting is for those of us who are less unfortunate. I don’t disagree with this, but I believe in Singapore, there are a lot of organisations with different motives. The fact is that while anybody can thrift, you should make an effort to thrift responsibly. Many shop managers I’ve spoken to tell me that everybody is welcome in their stores, because their intention is to raise money to donate to the causes they’re contributing to. Thrifting is open to people who’re looking to save some money, be charitable while exploring sustainability.
To you, what would you consider as sustainability?
There are a lot of factors when you look at sustainable fashion. It can be based on the material it’s made from, whether you’re giving a sustainable wage to your garment workers or whether the clothes are made through sustainable means. As shoppers, you should always consider the purpose of the clothing you’re buying, regardless of your financial position.
As a fashion aficionado, how do you balance your desire to explore and collect new clothing with the need to be sustainable/eco-conscious?
When I like a new trend, I’ll first look for it in a second hand shop before buying it straight off the rack. When I see a piece that I like, I ask myself if it’s something I’ll regularly wear or if it’s just a whim. Apart from this, Itry to swap clothes with my friends or adopt their old outfits.When the opportunity arises, I’ll try to rent. These are just some ways that helps me stay mindful about my purchases.
Could you share with our readers some simple tips they can follow when they go thrifting?
In the past, trending and thrifting did not go hand in hand but now it’s considered a trend. It’s a good way to start your sustainable journey because it’s better than buying new products and buying into fast fashion.
- Always have in mind a range of items you want to thrift for. For example, you go out to shop with the aim that you’d like to have more tops in your wardrobe. However, don’t limit it to specific items, but be open to various options or be ready to upcycle.
- Look at the piece for what it could be—the shirt could be a different neckline or the pants could be too large—so you need to look beyond what the item looks like at the current state.
You’ve selected very beautiful and personal pieces to be sold as part of Shentonista Restyled—share with us how you came up with the different looks!
I styled this collection based on the different locations I usually head to. One of my greatest fashion fears is to be dressed inappropriately for an event, so I considered the occasions that people might need to head to and based it off that.
Flashing Lights is an outfit perfect for going out a night and some fun drinks with a close group of friends.
Ace is a presentation of my corporate creative self, something you’d actually see me from Monday to Thursday in an office setting.
The Bloom Dress is a vintage piece that I found last year, and one that I feel is perfect for arts events or to wear to meet your boyfriend’s parents (laugh).
The vintage blazer from Pinball was thrifted from a night market in Korea, from a pushcart store which had a pile of clothes thrown on top of it. It’s special to me because it was my first time thrifting overseas—I was 22 back then!—and before that I’ve only explored thrifting in Singapore.
As a society, how else do you think we can actively practice sustainable habits?
We’re all becoming more eco-conscious through small ways, like reducing use of plastic bags and no longer using straws. While I make an effort to practice these small habits, I do believe that change should come from a government and industry level because their rate of waste production is much higher than us.
What’s your favourite era of fashion to dress in, and why?
It’s a hard pick but I’d have to say 90’s fashion—it’s in between the bright flamboyance of the 80’s and the scandalous nature of the early 2000’s. The 90’s trends are coming back now, when there was a focus on texture and colour. It’s not as flamboyant but still stands on its own.
Lastly, you’re a vocal advocate on different social media platforms about thrifting responsibly—could you share with us a little more about that?
There’s a mindset that because it’s second hand, I can thrift as many clothes as I want, but that’s irresponsible. It’s easy to spend money but it’s very hard to earn money back. I’m trying to change this mindset by informing people of the ways they can reduce fashion wastage and how you can thrift within your means.
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