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Thrifting & Repurposing: the power of second chances

Have you ever bought second-hand items? What are your thoughts on thrifting clothes and accessories?

Secondhand, second chance

In Mexico, like in many Latin American countries, as a kid, it is quite common to get "hand-me-downs" from your older siblings or relatives. Being quite honest makes complete sense since kids' clothes are expensive...and most of the time kids just outgrow their clothes before even wearing them down.


In Mexico, like in many Latin American countries, as a kid, it is quite common to get "hand-me-downs" from your older siblings or relatives. Being quite honest makes complete sense since kids' clothes are expensive...and most of the time kids just outgrow their clothes before even wearing them down.

For decades the only ever-present source of second-hand clothes -not belonging to a relative - was the flea market and the famous #ropadepaca (which translates to "bale-clothes" since they are usually packaged and transported as #clothingbales). However, this was not socially acceptable until recent times - possibly for many it still isn't.

Swap by LviBlog
Swap by LviBlog

Ten years ago I invited my friends to participate in a Swap which basically consists of getting together and bringing clothes, shoes, and accessories in good condition that we were no longer using, and putting them on display to then proceed to exchange things with each other. From my lady friends possibly only a third of them participated in both of the #Swap editions I organized. I think this example is a small-scale representation of the perceptions about reusing things from someone outside of our nuclear family, specifically for clothes and shoes.



Between 2009 and 2014 I organized a few "garage sales" for party dresses and only about 5% of my lady friends participated. As mentioned in this archive post, overall Mexican society was quite reluctant to jump into the thrifting trend. Beyond the hygiene aspect of shopping for second-hand clothes, it seemed that most people were ashamed of it, at least in cities like mine (with less than 2 million people). Larger cities like Monterrey, Guadalajara, and of course Mexico City, did not seem to resist thrifting.


Though there was only one single physical thrift store in my city about 5 years ago, secondhand clothes were always available in the #Mercado, and a very surprising variety of shops with secondhand furniture, books, decoration, and more can be found since more than a decade ago. In the last few years also dress rentals proliferated, which makes me think that finally, we are moving towards a more conscious consumption of clothes.

While in Toronto I was mesmerized by the Kensington market - which is more like a market neighborhood- and its good selections of secondhand shops. In a thrift shop in Montreal, I found an original Panam flight attendant bag, which after 12 years I still regret not buying.

In Germany, I haven't taken the time to explore and look out for physical thrift shops, but thrifting literally came to me thanks to #BeThrifty and their pilgrimage across Europe with their good selection of clothes, shoes, and accessories.


EBay and Facebook Marketplace are great places to find a new owner to the things you no longer use. Online stores such as Swappie (available in Europe and USA), and Refurbed (in Germany), are perfect for shopping for second-hand phones and electronics since they come wit ha warranty. In Latin America, Mercado Libre is a good option.


Latin American people repurposing champions

As an immigrant first in Canada and now in Germany, I have noticed that this doesn't come so "instinctively" to other cultures as it does for Latinos, however, I am not saying we are not the only ones with these practices embedded in our brains.

I confess it is a natural reaction for me to see a sturdy container with a lid, let's say after finishing the ice cream it used to hold, I immediately think: "I could use this to store leftovers on the fridge, or to water the plants, or to put soap in it when I clean the shower, or, or ...", "Or we could just put it in the recycle bin!" would say the husband.


I confess it is a natural reaction for me to see a sturdy container with a lid, let's say after finishing the ice cream it used to hold, I immediately think: "I could use this to store leftovers on the fridge, or to water the plants, or to put soap in it when I clean the shower, or, or ..." , "Or we could just put it in the recycle bin!" would say the husband.

Old t-shirt? Cut it into pieces and make a cleaning towel out of it. Broken sock ready to be thrown away? First, wash it once last time and then use it to clean the rails of a shower door. Thin container that use to hold cookies? Use it to store threads and needles. Large card boxes? disassemble them and save them in the garage for the next time you do closet cleaning. Empty clean plastic bag? Folded it real small and save it and use it to bring the trash out the next time.

Received a birthday gift? Save the gift bag and re-gift it the next time a relative has a birthday (the same applies to Christmas). I am confident enough to say that most Latin American people are familiar with the easy repurposes I mentioned, if not that they are also using t doing at least one of them, and can name many more.

Repurposing is a creativity exercise that the planet appreciates.


In my family, we would take this seriously... Received a letter, bill, or invoice that you don't need to keep? Use the clean side to write down personal reminders, to do or grocery lists. Delivery boxes would be saved to hold in them papel packages, and cardboard to be recycled. With thin and smooth cardboard often found on packaging my mom and I would do greeting cards for relatives, or make small "To-From" notes to put inside gifts.

When I was a kid my mom would cut the jeans that we had outgrown to make patches to fix the jeans still in use, that we quite often broke from the knees while skating or riding the bicycle, she also often times custom-made clothes for my brother and I, or altered garments that did not fit as expected or to adapt them more to our liking ... And the list could go on and on.



Both thrifting and repurposing reduce the demand for new items and clothes, which also helps reduce the carbon footprint associated with producing them.


The struggle is real

In their study Thrifting: Sustainable or Just a Trend? Samantha Hall and Anne-Becca Chester*, discuss whether the current popularity of thrifting will consolidate and remain a common practice with tangible benefits for the environment, or if it is just a trend. They also made a very good point in highlighting how thrifting has also been an object of gentrification.

Back in 2009, I reached out to my blogger idol Indiana Adams, and ask for an interview to talk about thrifting. I admire her creativity and her style. Through her blog Indiana showcased, stores like Salvation Army, Savers, and other secondhand stores where you could find endless possibilities for clothing, accessories, home decor, and furniture, at an affordable price. That was one of the many advantages of thrifting.

NinaLux project by Lvi
NinaLux project by Lvi

In Mexico, this acceptance of the thrifting shops and later gentrification took a bit longer to catch up, as my close friends Nina and Adriana could confirm while launching #NinaLux. We were approached by several people who all wanted to sell their secondhand items (from fast fashion items to more exclusive brands, and even designer items), however, it was a common request to the obtain about 80% of the original purchase price, which was just not appealing to any potential buyers. Like the Mexican phrase says: "bien vendido o bien podrido" say, which means I either sell for an expensive or the product may just as well rot in my possession.


Early in 2000, people started reselling their good finds, just as Sophia Amoruso so cleverly did consolidate world-known retailer Nasty Gal, which was later on portrayed in the Netflix series #GirlBoss.


Going back to Hall and Cheter's research, they conclude that especially in younger generations, the average consumer is just as likely to shop at thrift stores as they are to participate in fast fashion. According to their findings, in the end, the ways of consumption "come down to convenience and the trends of the time".

Considering the above currently the challenges of secondhand shopping are quite similar to the mass-produced items: keeping low costs while attempting to reach a global clientele.


It is hard to guess what the future of thrifting will look like, but in the meantime, it is quite helpful for each of us to evaluate our own consumption patterns.



What are your thoughts on thrift shopping? Feel free to share your favorite repurposing practices.


Sources

*Hall, S., & Chester, A.-B. (2021). Thrifting: Sustainable or Just a Trend? Proceedings of Student Research and Creative Inquiry Day, 5. https://publish.tntech.edu/index.php/PSRCI/article/view/854


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Felicidades!! Muy lindo todo , gracias!!!🥰🤗❤️👏

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Guest
May 15

Muchas gracias!! Que bonito !!!😇🥰

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May 15

Felicidades!!!!🥳

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LuceBuona
LuceBuona
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Jul 27, 2023

I was in tears even before playing the video! Recently started watching Bluey and to be honest I am saviouring every episode, making sure not to rush through them. Luce as a kid would have love it too! Without all the sometimes extreme drama cartoons such as "Candy", "Peline" and the anime series called in Spanish "La Ranita Demetan" displayed. I also remember feeling sad and stressed after watching some of them...But Bluey is so not like that. I am sure this is appreciated by kids and parents equally. Cheers to all healthy, innocent and non invasive copying mechanisms! And thanks for sharing this one! 😍

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