Hey, Indians! Can we go thriftshopping?

We’ve all been raised on a diet rich with hand-me-downs so why not restart the thriftshopping trend by sharing, buying and exchanging pre-owned clothing.

This section on Ethical Fashion is made possible with the support of Bhu:Sattva


Open app. Browse. Buy. Own. These actions sound familiar?

In the age of online shopping, it’s only a click that stands between us and that coveted pair of new boots. The ever changing trends demand that we acquire something brand new, frequently, to keep up with what’s in and always be en vogue. Companies use irresistible discounts and flash sales to lure customers in, only to ensure that their old stock is cleared out, dictating what’s in fashion next season. These new products are then attractively promoted until you start to believe that the clothes you bought just last week are yesterday’s fashion.

Thus begins the endless buy-use-throw-buy again cycle that not only puts a hole in your pockets, but is also leaving an extremely negative impact on the environment. We are so used to impulse buys that we no longer stop to think of the pressure our latest purchase puts on the environment. Garments are made using unholy quantities of water and energy, use non-biodegradable fabrics, and are coloured using non-ecological dyes. The clothes you buy and ditch, eventually all end up in a landfill somewhere, contaminating the planet.

To avoid, or rather minimise, the effects of this mindless consumerism, the idea of sharing, renting, buying, or exchanging pre-owned clothing was born. The idea of reusing old clothes is not new to us. Thrift shops have been around for a long time. We’ve always donated our old clothes when they’re no longer of use to us. And, of course, we’ve all been raised on a diet rich with hand-me-downs and grandma’s repurposed saris.

However, ridding trend-conscious, financially secure, urban Indians of the shame or the sense of impurity associated with wearing, much less buying, used clothing is a hard task. The challenge is even greater when the seller is unknown to the buyer. So, up until now, India has not really had a marketplace for pre-used clothing and the search for a trusty, authentic thrift store can be a long one.

Fortunately, in recent years, several platforms have risen to the challenge in India. The brilliance of this idea lies in its simplicity. It feeds our need to buy and flaunt the latest fashion while effectively decreasing the harmful environmental impact. Rather than give us diktats about not making the next purchase, it encourages us to consume. But wisely, buy carefully, and buy second-hand. Here’s the message, if you buy an upcycled shirt, you save that garment from adding to landfill mass, you extend its life, and also save yourself the cost of buying a brand new shirt. You’re winning every way you look at it!


Elanic is a Bangalore based startup that defines itself as a marketplace where ‘anyone can start a boutique from their own closet’. It seeks to be a reliable solution to those looking to find new homes for that never-worn pair of designer shoes or that impulse buy dress. By doing this, it is also making high fashion affordable and accessible to all. Elanic is at present an invite-only Android app that allows users to list products they wish to sell, upload a photo,and  quote a price. Potential buyers create a profile, like and comment on products that they discover. They can also find and follow their ‘style mates’ (people with similar taste and size). The platform allows fashion bloggers to engage with their followers who are able to shop directly from the blogger’s closet. Once a purchase is made, Elanic has the item picked up from sellers’ doorsteps, inspects it for quality, brand, size etc., cleans, sanitizes and delivers it to the buyer, ensuring they are protected from ending up with items of poor quality. If dissatisfied with the product, customers are guaranteed a hassle free return and get their money back. Elanic is only available in Bangalore but will soon be available in Mumbai and Delhi too.

Second To None (220)

Second to None or 220 is an online portal co-founded by Anu Gummaraju that encourages people to buy used, recycled and upcycled goods instead of new ones. 220 itself doesn’t sell or buy any products but facilitates exchanges between the buyers and sellers. Sellers share the picture, price and other specifications of their product along with their contact details on the Second To None site. Buyers are able to directly contact them for goods they find attractive after which the transaction is completed offline. “People on 220 know they can find genuine sellers. That is the main draw of 220. They come here because they are most likely to find what they are looking for at affordable prices and good quality”, informs Anu. With close to one lakh members, the group is proof that the thrift culture is here to stay. The success of their virtual marketplace encouraged the three co-founders to launch a regular real-world flea market that has seen much traction over the years. 

Gramshree’s Sari Library

Her work with Gramshree  regularly brings founder Vandana Agarwal in contact with women from lower socio-economic backgrounds.  She says, “For these women, expenditure on food and childrens’ education are of top priority and clothing, often outside their meagre means, is seen as a luxury. Most women own two or three pairs of clothes that they wash and wear for months. However, they noticed and appreciated each others’ clothing, often enquiring about where it was bought and how much it cost.” The Sari Library was born out of Agarwal’s recognition that all women, no matter their socio-economic status had the right to access good clothing, dress well and look and feel good. “Most of my friends and family have cupboards overflowing with unused clothes. So I just decided to link the two”, she explains.

The library is a platform for underprivileged women to enjoy quality clothes without having to pay extravagant sums for them. People donate to the library the clothes, mostly saris, they no longer have use for. Women are then able to rent these saris for a nominal fee and keep them for a week or two. The sari library is promoted largely through word of mouth. People borrow the saris and then tell their friends or family about it. Similarly, donors also share the message with others looking to give away used garments. Presently, the library based in Ahmedabad has about 2000 women and stocks more than 100 saris from all over the country.

Simply Sane

Simply Sane, whose motto is ‘Have Less, Wear More’ is a community marketplace where women can sell and buy like-new pre-owned fashion pieces from each other. “At present, we focus on women’s fashion and offer clothes only for female consumers. So, what seems like one woman’s problem of a wardrobe overflowing with scarcely-used garments becomes the solution for others. After all, we all love to experience different fashion all the time”, says founder Runjhun Pacholi. Simply Sane believes that when people know who they are buying from, it makes it much easier for them to buy. They have created a close-knit community to allow communication and interaction, making it possible for buyers and sellers to get familiar with each other before going ahead with the exchange. Any concerns about quality or hygiene are resolved through the ‘Verified by SimplySane’ – an end-to-end service that takes care of logistics and shipping along with certifying the quality, freshness and brand authenticity of each product bought through the platform.

Featured image is a Youtube video screengrab.


The Sustainable Fashion Hub is a series that examines shifts in the the global fashion industry to more sustainable and ethical practices and processes, with a special focus on India. It explores what goes into creating a just and sustainable fashion value chain – from the creation of garments and lifestyle accessories to making them available to consumers. All content on the hub is produced with 100% editorial independence by The Alternative. 

The Hub is supported by logo, India’s first certified organic designer apparel brand. With products that are directly sourced from organic cotton farmers at fair trade terms. Bhu:Sattva® uses natural colours, vegetable and herb dyes and goes further to work on reviving various forms of traditional weaving and handloom. Information on its products and processes can be found at http://www.bhusattva.com


Anukrati Mehta is a student of Journalism and Communication, and hopes to make a difference in the world through her written words. She wishes to combine her passion for writing, journalism and travel by pursuing travel journalism in the future. more


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Anukrati Mehta is a student of Journalism and Communication, and hopes to make a difference in the world through her written words. She wishes to combine her passion for writing, journalism and travel by pursuing travel journalism in the future. more

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