Let’s preface this by saying: thrifting isn’t anything new. Ukay-ukays have been around for longer than many of us have been alive, and have always been places that allow a lot of people the opportunity to get clothes for cheap and give clothes that could have been simply thrown away a second life. However, in the era of fast fashion, wherein corporations have the ability to stay on top of the trends and give us something new (and affordable!) almost every single day, it’s somewhat surprising to see how thrifting and ukay-ukays haven’t just managed to survive, but thrive in the middle of it.
It is, of course, understandable to see why so many who have the means turn their noses up at the idea of spending hours going through racks and racks of used clothing. There are megastores all around us that were made to make shopping convenient, easy, and routine, offering untouched and modern outfits that come in every size in spaces that we can easily access.
But, underneath all of that appeal is a reason why so many have turned their backs on fast fashion: while they might look good under bright lights and in mall windows, the truth is that the affordability of these clothes depend on cheap, slave-like labor and toxic chemicals, and their lack of quality lead to them being thrown away in a matter of a couple of years and even months. It has become common knowledge that fast fashion is one of the largest polluters and labor rights violators in the world, and, because of this growing recognition for just how damaging the fast fashion industry has become, many have turned to their local ukay-ukays.
I myself have become an avid thrifter in the past few years—pretty much all of my clothes, if not bought from local and independent stores, come from hours spent at different ukays all over Manila. Not only is secondhand shopping a cheaper and a significantly more sustainable option, there are also personal aspects to it that keep people coming back. For me, there’s just something so rewarding and fun about entering a store just a couple of minutes away from the LRT and seeing racks of mismatched clothing, sifting through everything, and eventually finding a one-of-a-kind piece that I know no one else has. This gets amplified even more when I get to thrift with my friends. How often do you feel triumphant stepping out of a store with your barkada, all of you holding pieces that are unique to each of your styles from one place? Thrifting may be a game of patience in terms of fashion, but the wait feels so much more rewarding than any trip to a massive retailer.
There’s also another way to look at secondhand clothes that make the experience of buying them sentimental and even nostalgic. Each item in every ukay-ukay holds an individual history, having belonged to someone else in a different time. Ukay-ukays aren’t limited to the trends of today, but the trends that come before them, too. There’s no history like that when you enter one of the many chains of a huge fashion brand. Blending different trends together through the clothing I find through thrifting has given me a unique style that can’t really be replicated through the clothes you find in the malls. While everyone else might be wearing the same thing, thrifting gives me the opportunity to stand out.
If you’re interested in hopping on the trend, there is undoubtedly an ukay-ukay near you. But if you’re looking for places to get started, here’s a quick list of just a few of the best places to get the best finds:
Anonas Mall(located beside Anonas LRT 2 station)
Makati Cinema Square (located at 2130 Don Chino Roces Avenue, Makati)
Baguio Night Market (located at Bayanihan Center, Otek Street, near Burnham Park)
Libertad Station (located along LRT 1)
URC Building (located at Espana Boulevard, Brgy. 528, Sampaloc West, Metro Manila)