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Thrift shops: from "ugly ducklings" to fashionists favorites

Second hand stores have become, in a few years, a necessary tool for the circular economy.

With unique, distinguished garments and items that resist the passage of time to become the main ones in the wardrobes of those who love to shop around, the famous "thrift stores'' ended “taking the fancies'' of fashionistas, general artists, vintage culture lovers, low-income and/or unemployed people, as well as of those looking for original and unique articles. But do you know what exactly a thrift store is? Basically, it is about a second-hand articles store, mainly for body clothes (garments, shoes, accessories, etc.), art objects, decoration items and household articles.

Its origins take us to the outskirts of Paris, more precisely to the famous "Flea Market" (or "Marché aux Puces", in french) of Saint-Ouen. People say it was an outdoor place where one could buy and sell nearly everything. The union of used items and the poor local hygiene made such place propitious to the proliferation of animals such as fleas, thus the term "flea market".

On the other hand, the first second-hand shops in the world appeared in the 19th century and became popular with the crisis caused by the 1st and 2nd world wars, mainly through the selling of donated items for very accessible prices by the Red Cross. But in tupiniquim lands (i.e, on Brazil), the origin of the word "brechó" ("thrift shop", in Portuguese) goes back to 19th century Rio de Janeiro, when a man called Belchior created the first second-hand clothing and objects store and called it "Casa do Belchior" ("Belchior's Place", in Portuguese). The big popularity of the place made the name "Belchior" to be associated with establishments that sold used articles, and thus came the term "loja de belchior" ("belchior store"). As many people had a certain difficulty spelling the name of the seller, the time and use took charge of the process of changing the term, then giving birth to the favorite "brechó".

The key is to reuse

Until the early 2010's, the brechós were seen with prejudice by brazilians. They were seen as a heritage from the "second-hand" item selling model adopted by charity shops, who were used by the less favored part of the population. Historically, the items sold in brechós were of low aggregated value and no longer presented good quality; but with the rise of the social networks and the recessions fought by Brazil and the world, a new generation of consumers started to redefine the market of buy and sell of used articles.

Besides, the advent of digital platforms, the interchange of information about socio-environmental issues, especially those regarding the denunciation about environment pollution and human exploitation in the fast fashion industry, were the central factor for the beginning of the change. Sustainable movements started to intensify social networks publicizing, and even celebrities started to value and support the purchase of second-hand products. In this context, the brechós started to be seen, especially by consumers born after 1980, as conscious consumption alternatives and that contribute to lengthen the products' lifecycle.

According to the data from GlobalData Consumer Survey, between 2016 and 2019, the consumption of second-hand products rose by 15% between women with less than 24 years old. The foresight is that, in 2029, 17% of the female wardrobe will be composed by garments obtained in brechós, while only 9% will be of garments coming from the fast fashion industry. It is evident that for the new generation of consumers, the second-hand fashion started to be seen positively, generating contribution to the environment, to the democratization of fashion due to low prices, and to the exclusivity of the found garments.

These habits change, mainly in the form of fashion consumption, doesn't generate only a socio-environmental impact, but also an economic one. Because of the possibility of not having a defined category, the brechós are enterprises that appeal to a pretty diverse public - from teenagers to aged people - and serve consumers of different social classes. Shopping in brechós can promote to the clients an economy of even 80% if compared to shopping in traditional stores, allowing a huge impact in the economy of the user and influencing them to buy second-hand garments.

Create a circular economy

Another positive aspect of the brechós is the implementation of circular economy in the brazilian fashion market, a movement that aims to lower the waste of textile material through sustainable practices that range from the working out of new garments and collections, to its transformation and reuse. A study made in 2017 by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation calculated that, every second, the amount corresponding to a trash truck filled with fabric leftovers is burned or thrown away in landfills. Besides the 500 billion dollars thrown away every year through clothes that have been used little and that are never recycled. And if this is not enough for us to change our consumption habits, know that the fashion industry, through its globalized manufacturing process, emits around 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse effect gases per year. The prevision is that, if a change doesn't happen now, by 2050 the sector will have used one fourth of the whole planet's carbon budget.

The circular economy does not propose only the recycling of clothes, but also a change in their creation process. The main change is that, by creating a garment, the designer - having in mind the production of a sustainable and durable item - catch a glimpse of the "final'' product, i.e., the moment when this product will no longer be used by the industry, and what could be its destination. One of the main destinations of this product in the "end" of its service are the brechós, who preach for the reusing and the recycling. Therefore, the consumer that visits brechós regularly and gets second-hand clothes is not only saving his money, or buying some possible exclusive garment, but also avoiding the burning or the discard of fabric leftovers in landfills, saving billions of dollars of clothes that will not be thrown away, and finally, helping to lessen the emission of tons of greenhouse effect gases.

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