eselling second-hand, preloved, or vintage clothes are known as Thrifting Business. In Myanmar, we call them Bale Clothes because they are imported to Myanmar in big packages. These clothing packages include a variety of fashion wears and sometimes limited-edition branded fashion from companies all over the world. The origin of thrifting stores came from Scotland and can now be found in many countries.
What do Myanmar People think of Thrifting?
In the past, people from Myanmar were not very familiar with the second-hand fashion market. They regarded thrift wears as cheap clothing and a low-quality product which are used by the poor. People from the middle classes choose to wear affordable fashion which are imported from China and Bangkok.
How did second hand fashion become popular in Myanmar?
After the February Military Coup, the situation was overturned. Many Myanmar people believe that the political changes in Burma are related to the Chinese government. So, they decided to boycott Chinese products and clothing as much as they can. Thus, many small companies in Myanmar who are selling Chinese products are turning their business to locally made products and thrifting products which are imported from Japan and Bangkok.
Why do Myanmar people choose for Vintage Fashion ?
Because of the political situation in Myanmar, millions of people have become jobless. Therefore, people have to use their income very wisely and they are fulfilling their needs with budget products. As a result, second-hand clothing products have become one the best options for everyone. At the same time, most people are aware that using second-hand products is not as bad as they originally thought. In thrift stores, they can even find 100% new branded products and some are worth more than their price. People are enjoying thrift hunting to find the best bargains now.
How are Thrift clothes imported to Myanmar?
Second-hand fashion is to Myanmar as big packages. Most of them are imported to Myanmar via the Thailand border, especially from the Myawaddy - Maesot border. Thrift clothing wholesalers from Thailand collect and categorize the second hand vintage fashion from all over the places to create thrift packages with their own brand names. Wholesalers and importers from Burma make connections with them to import those packages to the country. Island, TRI and Queen brand packages are one of the most well-known thrifting brands which are imported to Myanmar from Thailand. When the packages arrive in the country, the products are purchased by the retail sellers across Myanmar. The price of the packages varies depending on types and quality of the clothing, and the weight (KG) of the package.
How do retail sellers level up their business?
As people become more interested in the second-hand clothing market, thrift sellers upgrade their ways of selling. Previously, they just took out the thrift clothing from the big package and hung them around the market shops. Now, they wash and iron the clothes carefully before displaying their products online on facebook and instagram. Packaging is also important. It might be more work than before but the sellers get higher yields and profits.
“Customers are willing to pay more money for nicely displayed products”
Ma Myo, an ex-government staff who has resigned from her position because of the coup, stepped now into the Myanmar vintage fashion business. She said that she can attract more customers by making an effort to make her products look good. Also, customers are willing to pay more money for nicely displayed products. For instance, products that were selling in the market for 2500MK can be raised to 5000 MMK by improving their appearance.
What kind of difficulties are thrifting sellers facing in Myanmar ?
Shop owners have their own struggles in doing thrifting business as well. According to Ma Myo, thrifting is all about luck. She couldn’t know what kind of quality she would get from those big packages. Some packages are full with new clothing while some are filled with old clothes that couldn’t be used or sold at all. Unsold clothing, will be donated to orphanages or needy places if they are usable. Thus, thrift companies can not always be sure that they will get profits from the business.
Covid-19 and Thrifting
There are also difficulties in doing thrifting business during the Covid-19 period. As they are second-hand products, customers sometimes feel unsafe to buy those clothes and thrift sellers like Ma Myo need to be very careful about hygiene. Also, importing the products to the country is not easy either because the borders between countries are strict now.
Local products or Second-Hand products?
It depends on individual preference to choose between local and thrift products. In fact, it isn't necessary to make a choice. As a girl in my twenties, I buy what clothing is affordable and suitable for me. But I always remember in my mind to encourage our local Myanmar companies and products. Also, the rise of thrifting business can be said that this is this good example of the Myanmar people being able to adjust and still deliver services to the community.
Taunggyi Thrift Shop - Affordable and attractive online store running by two young girls