The Thrifty Alternative

By , on June 19, 2013


IN A WORLD where many have seemingly become infected with the modern-day plague that is mindless consumerism, there are those that have chosen an alternate lifestyle. A counter-culture, if you will, of re-purposing; f finding gems in what others have discarded;of new love for the pre-loved.

Enter: The thrift shop. A haven for this thrift-seeking counter-culture.

My introduction to the world of the thrift-shop came in my early teenage years. Although we were raised comfortably, my dad was always especially conscious of instilling within us the value of money and importance of good, honest work. As such, we were always given “just enough” allowance, which we had to save, stretch and spend wisely throughout the month.

I learned the art of re-purposing old things like accessories, fabric, buttons, and the like. Broken trinkets became embellishments for old jackets. Pretty ribbons and a bit of garter became fashion-forward hair bands. Scrimping taught me to be resourceful; creative.

Scrimping also taught me to buy stuff only when necessary or on sale. Most of the time, anyway. Besides, I had quickly grown tired of the “generic” run-of-the-mill (overpriced) fashion sold off the rack.

Then I discovered two magic words: ukay-ukay; the Filipino thrift-shop. Taken from the Tagalog word, halukay—literally, to dig—these stores were a wonderland alternative for people such as me: on a limited budget, with a penchant for things out of the ordinary. Bins and bins overflowing with all manner of clothing through which to dig. Never mind the oft dusty, musky ambience; there were gems in the rough which would sparkle once more after a good washing. At a price tag that could not be beat.

As I grew into my mid-teens, I ventured into the world of commercial modeling, and found myself on the receiving end of a regular supply of samples from top-designers. Still, I could not shake the thrift-shop bug, and my prowl for a good find continued.

Just as well, for although the years of modeling lasted 17 in all, I have since retired to become a writer. And we all know what writers make (insert chuckle here).

My penchant for the pre-loved, coupled with a keen eye for a good find, has led me to Paul Smith for P75 (not even $2, for a pretty blouse), Hugo Boss (handsome tailored shirt, brand new with all tags intact) for P150 (about $3.50), and other such crazy bargains.

Thrift-shopping is fun, stimulating, great on the pocket, and loaded with adventure. And oh! The joy of a great find!!!


A few tips to developing the thrift-shopping savvies:

  1. Have a list of items, if you have specifics in mind. It is so easy to get lost in thrift-wonderland. It is also advisable to have a gift-list: for upcoming birthdays and special events.
  2. Check all items well for quality and damages. Although small damages and irregularities are often negligible. A very important step for semi-OC people like me!
  3. Know your size, if possible. Fitting an item is—of course—still the best. But it is wise to be prepared for the (unlikely, in Canada; likely, in Manila) event of the absence of a proper fitting room. Or (and this is what I do) wear body-fit clothing, like leggings and a tee, so that you can slip the items on over your clothes. Oh, and dress comfortably when on a thrift-shop adventure!
  4. Train your eye for awesome finds. Leaf through fashion mags, play around with separates, mix and match to your heart’s content.
  5. Know what looks good on you, and keep an eye out for these.
  6. Use your imagination: re-purposing items can be loads of fun!
  7. Bring some baby wipes or hand sanitizer along, if you are not particularly used to handling pre-loved stuff.
  8. Shop with a friend or two in tow!  Makes the experience that much more fun.
  9. Check-out other items: trinkets, curios, books; you never know what you will find.
  10. Vintage doesn’t necessarily mean thrift. Some vintage items can be quite costly depending on the history, condition, age, uniqueness of the item.

In Manila, ukay-ukays are just around every city corner these days. Although certain areas still have the upper hand: Cubao, Guadalupe, Baguio City, to name a few. Thrift-shopping has, in fact, spread like wildfire; made popular and en vogue by blogging fashion savants with a considerable sphere of influence.

Some current ukay (or, as some jokingly pronounce it, U.K.—with the pun most definitely intended) faves of mine are Urban Closet on P. Ocampo street in Makati (the shop has a good airconditioning system!  A very rare treat, as ukays go.) The stores at the Ayala MRT Station in Makati. Magarbo stores, which are located in some malls (the one I go to is at the Alphaland mall on Pasong Tamo Ext.), although this is a more “sanitized” version of the ukay, and finds may not be so varied. Anonas street in Cubao has ukay after ukay. Loads more stores all over the Metro, and beyond!

In and around the BC area, these stores are the emergent favorites of those in the thrifty know:

Caberet Vintage

Duchesse Vintage and Such

Discount Thrift Store

9528 – 163 Street
Edmonton, AB T5P 3M7

The Frock Shoppe

331 Carrall Street
Vancouver, BC V6B

Deluxe Junk Company

69 Vintage Collective

Vespucci Ladies Consignment

Discount Thrift Store

9528 – 163 Street
Edmonton, AB T5P 3M7

Ragpickers Antifashion Emporium

216 McDermot Ave
Winnipeg, MB R3B 0S3

Funky Junky

168 Baldwin Street
Toronto, ON M5T 1L8

Thrifty is nifty! Venture in to the world of thrift shopping.