Do the planet a favour and give second-hand clothes a new lease on life
Increasingly over the past few years, the topic of ethical and environment-friendly ways of life has become the talk of, well, the entire world—one of the main points being our eating practises. But while vegans and vegetarians butt heads with meat eaters daily, ranting and raving over the detrimental effects the meat industry has on the environment, there is one activity that we all partake in that has an equally as devastating effect on the environment: buying new clothes.
In the 2015 fashion documentary The True Cost, the harrowing truth about the fashion industry and its severe impact on both cheap labour and the environment was exposed. Mainstream clothing retailers are now taking current catwalk trends to the public faster than ever before, a term coined “fast fashion”. The stock on the shelves is constantly changing and new items are being added regularly—leading to us, the consumers, buying more and inadvertently throwing more clothes away because they are no longer considered “fashionable”. And landfills are growing bigger as a result.
Adding more fuel to the ever-polluting fire, not only is the fashion industry one of the most resource and labour-intensive industries in the world, but according to the Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report—compiled by the Global Fashion Agenda and the Boston Consulting Group and released earlier this year in May—in 2015 the fashion industry contributed a staggering 1,715 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Which is not surprising when you consider that the fashion industry makes use of electricity, agriculture, road transportation, oil and gas, and even the much-talked about livestock industry to produce its garments.
And while many designers have made an effort to become more sustainable and “give back” in some way or the other, there are still billions of clothes that are being discarded like used tissues. Used clothing doesn’t need to be, and shouldn’t be, disregarded. So do the planet a favour and give second hand clothes a new lease on life. Instead of feeding into the wasteful consumer market that wants us to discard anything that isn’t brand new, we can simply swap the fast fashion for vintage couture.
Bangkok, in fact, has a flourishing second-hand clothing market. Among the most well-known places to pick up some vintage garb are Chatuchak Market and JJ Green (BTS Mo Chit), Rod Fai Market (Srinakarin Road), Rod Fai Market Ratchada (MRT Thailand Cultural Centre), and the Siam Gypsy Junction (MRT Bang Son), However these markets are either only open on weekends, or after 6pm. Fortunately, there are also plenty of second hand treasure troves located within the realms of the city, particularly in the Phrom Phong, Thong Lor, and Ekkamai areas.
One of the better-known second hand stores in Bangkok is (un) FASHION Vintage Collection located on the corner of Ekkamai Soi 10—a straight shot down from BTS Ekkamai station—and it’s open daily from 12pm to 9pm. Although it looks like a haberdashery of sorts from the outside, this retro reseller imports vintage items from across the globe; from the United States to across Europe.
The items here are as unique as their origin. The property is split into three adjacent buildings. On the right-hand side you’ll find women’s clothing, shoes, bags, hats, and other hand-made items on display from the floor to the ceiling. Meanwhile, the middle building is stocked high quality men’s apparel, and in the largest building (on the left) is a café split across two floors. There is a wide range of offerings for both men and women, but the spotlight is shone on high quality genuine leather shoes—the warm smell of which welcomes you before you even enter.
Along nearby Thong Lor Road, just after Soi 17, the humble Thonglor Art Village could easily be missed by unknowing passersby (be sure to keep an eye out for the chalk-written sign and a rack of men’s shirts priced at B100). It’s split across two separate stores, with the first selling an array of second-hand clothing for B500-a-piece to B3,000 for 10 pieces. Second-hand vintage couture is also on offer, but at a higher price. The second store—located directly after the pharmacy five metres down—displays an assemblage of paisley shirts, fur coats, leather bags, bulky and delicate jewellery, and a whole lot more; somewhat reminiscent of a very funky grandmother’s wardrobe. Thonglor Art Village is open daily from 11:30am to 8:30pm, so be sure to pop in if you’re looking for something unique to add to your wardrobe. And grab a tea or coffee from the café while you browse the racks.
Finally, the two-storey Tokyo Joe BKK, located on Sukhumvit Soi 39, both sells and buys used clothing and housewares—brand name items, men’s and women’s clothing, furniture, home electronics, tableware, and even children’s toys… you’ll find it all here. From vintage Louis Vuitton handbags and retro slacks, to tea sets and toasters, Tokyo Joe BKK is overflowing with second-hand treasures. The array of eclectic umbrellas, racks of women’s clothing, and piles of children’s toys that line the entranceway make this store very hard to miss. There is also a second branch on Sukhumvit Soi 69 and both are open daily from 11am to 8pm.
Extended Shelf Life
Instead of letting those old books sit and gather dust on a shelf, sell them for cash at Dasa Book Café. Located directly between Sukhumvit Soi 26 and Soi 28, Dasa Book Café stocks over 18,000 second-hand books in English, as well as books in several European languages. Patrons are greeted by a “blowout book” section at the door, with books priced between B19 and B99. Inside, on the first floor is a small café surrounded by general fiction and guide books, as well as a large collection of CDs. On the second floor you’ll find mystery, science-fiction, romance, biographies, and a whole lot of non-fiction books. Meanwhile, the themes on the third floor range from horror and true crime, to music and film, to poetry and plays. They’ll even give you up to 50 percent store credit when you exchange books bought from Dasa Book Café. They’re open daily from 10am and 8pm and their online book database is updated every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (see website).
Where to Donate
While many of the stores and shops mentioned elsewhere in this article will happily buy your unwanted clothing to sell in their stores, there are many organizations in Bangkok that will happily take them off your hands and give them to the people who need them the most. So instead of reaping in the cash rewards, make merit and donate your second-hand goods to one of these trustworthy organisations
Second Chance Bangkok: Located at 101 Narong Road, Second Chance Bangkok not only makes second-hand goods accessible and affordable for the less fortunate, but also provides work opportunities for those living in Bangkok’s Khlong Toei slums. In turn, they aim to reduce the number of items sent to landfills, as well as finance existing projects that support some of the most vulnerable and needy residents of Khlong Toei. Donations made be dropped off during office hours Tuesdays through Saturdays, or alternatively, they’ll arrange a pick-up and collect your unwanted clothes and goods right from your doorstep.
Mercy Centre: Among its many initiatives, the Mercy Centre (100/11 Soi Kheha Phattana) provides shelter, care, and education for 180 children from the Khlong Toei slums. While donations of any kind are welcome, when it comes to clothing, children’s clothes are particularly in high demand. Donations may be dropped off at the head office in Khlong Toei.
The Poh Teck Tung Foundation: This non-profit organisation, located at 326 Phlap Phla Chai Road, partakes in various charitable services, including providing aid and relief to victims of floods, typhoons, and fires throughout Thailand. One of their goals is also to provide winter clothing to those in need. Donations may be dropped off directly at the foundation.
Words and photos by Kelly Harvey