I started off my journey with The Kint Story not as an environmentalist; but because I was so inspired by the value proposition of the business. It rode on the quintessential e-commerce shopping scene and aimed to address a very pertinent sustainability issue in Singapore today - textile waste, and the burgeoning market for second-hand clothes.
I’ve always unabashedly been your typical fast fashion girl. I subscribe fully to the notion of retail therapy, I shop impulsively, I squeal at every new collection launch, and SALE has always been my favourite 4-letter word.
But working at Kint has unexpectedly shifted the way I see things.
It takes an incredulous amount of effort to make a second-hand item look appealing. With an infinite number of online stores to choose from boasting catalogues of this season’s NEW IN, it is incredibly hard for people to realize that all that glitters isn’t gold.
The thing most striking about the second-hand clothing industry is that they’re honest. They’re transparent - more so than the fast fashion industry has ever been before. We’re always waking up to new, shocking realities - clothing factories collapsing in Bangladesh, garment workers sewing in pleas for help in clothing labels - and god knows what’s going to come next?
Yet, placing a second-hand item on the rack, in contrast, requires close scrutiny for defects and wear-and-tear, a good wash, precise measurements of the garment such that its new owner could gauge its fit. It’s a thorough, meticulous, yet entirely ethical process, simply because an online thrift store doesn’t have the ease and convenience of free returns, so we do things right the first time. We learn to play close attention to detail. We learn to be honest.
Consumers in the fast fashion world have learnt to turn a blind eye to things. We’re oriented towards the end-goal - the clothes in our shopping bags, and we’re blissfully ignorant of the process - the sweatshops, child labour, and the horrifying work conditions that are premise to this booming industry. But the second-hand market, however, forces you to focus, quite surprisingly, on the process. Consumers purchase each item from our catalogue knowing full well that they’ve “rescued” it from its imminent textile-waste-fate. That each item has a name and a story. Consumers are thus enlightened to the fact that the process is by no means easy, that it is undeniably arduous; but still a process that teaches us the true value of the second-hand - a recognition of a cause far larger than ourselves.
Fast Fashion propagates a kind of indulgence - “I want it, I can afford it, Imma get it.” We give in so quickly and easily to our whims and fancies, not withstanding the fact that our moods will probably change, as with our tastes and our preferences. We’re not even the same people we were yesterday. We live so fully in the here and now that we hardly think rationally (and by rational, trying to convince ourselves that we NEED an item - need, not want - doesn’t actually count), we don’t live to bear the consequences of things, so we do as we please.
But Kint’s catalogue of second-hand clothes hit me with a reality that all these items are only but a small fragment of Singapore’s yearly, burgeoning textile waste - textile waste that every girl like me has been contributing to.
It certainly isn’t easy to resist the urge of fast fashion. It’s cheap, it’s viable, it looks good. It’s an instant mood-lifter. And let’s be real, not all of us are readily open to the idea of wearing second hand clothes. Our Carousell accounts are flooded with items that are worn at most once, because our clean-freak, hygiene oriented mindset just makes us uncomfortable with wearing old clothes from people we barely even know. The point is, you really don’t have to be okay with it.
Working with The Kint Story, frankly, hasn’t made me quite as comfortable to start making thrift shopping a lifestyle choice - but it’s definitely made me aware. Mindful. Sensitive.
It certainly widens your perspectives and opens your eyes to realities you have always refused to acknowledge. It’s taught me the true value of thrift. That it’s hard to earn back the money you’re so willing and ready to spend. It’s made me feel bad for the unwanted pile of clothing I’ve chucked to the back of my wardrobe, with a convenient excuse that I’ve grown out of them. It’s made me, for the first time in my life, want to put a curb to my impulse shopping habits, for reasons far larger than a dwindling bank account balance.
These were truths that the fast fashion girl in me didn’t realize I had to learn, but I’m glad I did - even if it means thinking twice before every cart-out, resisting the “SALE” notification that never failingly catches you unawares, or even re-wearing an old item that you’d initially planned on throwing out - these are all little, but vital steps towards self control and a mindfulness of one’s carbon footprint. After all, eco-consciousness isn’t a straight-forward goal, but a mindset that comes from within, a mindset that allows us to take our own steps towards making the world a more liveable place for future generations to come.