Thrift shop

While driving home in Bangalore tonight a familiar song came on the radio…

(video taken by author, driving credits to Anasua)

The Thrift Shop Song was a controversial #1 in this years Triple JJJ Hottest 100, and has hit Indian radio stations. According to the radio announcer, it is the most requested song in Bangalore this week, and also the most sung along to (I’m not sure how one measures this…). It has a catchy beat, however I can’t help but feel the irony of it being #7 in the charts of a country that does not have the thrift shop concept in any form.

For the uninitiated, thrift shops are stores, mostly run by charities, which sell donated second-hand (read: used) clothing. They are good places to find super cheap, decent quality clothing. Thrift shopping has become popular of late with the hipster crowd: trawling through the racks and mounds of clothing to find something different, vintage, or just plain weird.

In India though, passing on clothes second hand is not common practice. Ive heard of people passing down clothes to younger relatives, or to families of their house help, but this seems to be rare. Every time I have suggested it, my suggestion has been met with blank looks and confusion. Clothes are thrown out rather than passed on.

There are designers in Bangalore who take old clothing and use the textiles to create new items. I’ve seen various stalls at the Bangalore flea-markets run by designers with a similar idea. And there are companies who import used textiles and recycle the materials to make new fabrics. However this practice is discouraged by the Government, who fear that this will have a negative impact on local textile sales.

Thus, the Thrift Shop experience that is sung about Macklemore and Ryan Lewis does not exist in India.

In a country where it is possible to buy a 5.5m long sari for 100rs (AU$2), or a t-shirt for 50rs (AU$1), it is hard to see why it would be necessary for people to wear other’s used clothing. For such a poor country, there is a fairly strong consumerist drive present. Objects are valued as signs of success and wealth. For example, instead of moving their old furniture with them when they moved house, my boss and his family purchased completely new furniture: not because the original items were worn or old, but because a new house meant a furniture upgrade. This culture extends to clothes: people would just simply rather buy new ones than recycle someone else’s.

It seems bizarre to me that people throw out clothes in good condition when there is so much poverty present on the streets. But I guess it’s like recycling. It just doesn’t exist here.


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