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Yes, I shop thrift. No, I’m not cheap

Hi. My name is Lara Akkari and I shop secondhand.

Living in Dubai, that statement sometimes feels like coming clean in a 12-step program, often met with a speculative stare, perhaps a slight recoil of distaste, and at best, a pitiful smile reserved for the impoverished.

Secondhand here has a bad rep. Viewed with a social stigma of being “used”; which for a region dominated by novelty and exclusivity enthusiasts, obsessed with hard to find, but must have mega wattage brands, the notion of preowned feels a little soiled. Granted it’s a tough sell.

Pre-owned by virtue of its definition is not new. It is old(er). But hear this, old is gold. And not because your mamma said so.

Shopping second hand is novel, in that it offers you the possibilities of seeking out the rare. The strange. The misunderstood. And yes, the had to have’s that you can’t find anymore. It’s also sustainable, affordable and an alternative to the already heavily burdened fashion system. Who wouldn’t want to date that?

Perhaps dear reader, a change of perspective is in order.

Growing up I was inspired by punk and grunge rock imagery. Minxy women like Debbie Harry and the ubiquitous Kate Moss waif aesthetic of the 90s. The joy of scouring questionable thrift stores and vintage markets for threadbare flannel shirts or razor-thin leather pants (or was it pleather?) offered up a far more exciting, emotional and authentic way of self-adornment (and a tiny stab at rebellion) than shopping the Gap ever could. From early on, I’ve always equated secondhand to a non-conformist means of creative self-expression. A way to mould (ha!) personal identity on my own terms.

Mood board of who I want to be when I grow up.

Fast forward to today and it feels rather outdated to think that shopping preowned is a style compromise, or a poor man’s choice. Yawn.

Follow me if you will on the thrilling dopamine rush of nabbing an original vintage ’78 Saint Laurent Rive Gauche peasant dress, the one that will be the rage on boho-drenched Gen Xers frantically reclaiming their vibe this summer. Rather tough to beat, and so worth the trawl.

You see, scoring that rarefied relic that’s no longer readily available elsewhere, no matter your spending power, is the ultimate beacon of luxury and personal style. It’s far more individual, singular, relying on personal taste and a good, unerring eye. The scrumptious cherry on top of purchasing it at an affordable price is not only a testament to frugality, its democratic. And smart. Although, there is something sublime about banging a bargain.

I recall the ecstatic jubilation I felt when I recently landed my first pair of preowned Margiela Tabi boots. Cult classic! Butterscotch tan! Mint condition! For a third of the original price (double !!) I’m still carrying that smug, self-satisfied smile with me today.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be all about a glossy designer label. Sometimes a no-name item with “provenance unknown” is the most elusive, and hence desirable, thing you can get. Obscurity aside, there’s so much high quality, well-crafted pieces out there that have barely been used, in great condition and frankly, are better when they’re not “in” because then you don’t feel like such a sucker for trends. (Read: Balenciaga Lariat bags worn 20 years later carry more gravitas and style caché than when they flooded the market in early 00s). Now you know.

Sounds exciting right? But tread carefully, for diving headfirst into secondhand without testing the waters is not for the faint hearted.

Navigating the preowned resale online sites / stores is an indoctrination and requires the appropriate preparation (and its own separate post I might add).

It’s akin to a insiders’ club for the initiated. The select few. If anything, it almost feels elitist in the most egalitarian way. Makes sense. No? Ok. Let me explain. (I also have no clue how I’ve managed to weave political terms into this narrative, but that’s the thing about secondhand, its full of surprises and misconstrued perceptions!)

In a nutshell, to shop preowned properly is to really KNOW your fashion. To educate your eye to weed the trend from the true. The great from the good. The niche from the naff. The currency at stake is $Knowledge$.

Despite your income, the playing field is leveled; for its not about who has the deepest pockets that will win, but she/he/her/it/they/them/unicorn who recognizes its’ value and snags the deal.

The scene is rife with savvy trawlers, frothing at the mouth for those fashion gems that slipped through the gaps when on one was looking. It demands a commitment from its shopper. You need to consider the item more seriously, understand its provenance, enquire about its quality, condition and authenticity, compare it on other sites, maybe even engage in a conversation with other fashion fiends who are just as willing to debate the defining feature of a raglan sleeve, or fuel your obsession of Prada’s 2018 banana print collection.

Yesssssss possum, you need to exert more effort. But this is shopping darn it, not quantum physics, so there’s not that much brain taxation here. Plus, we have it so easy in this mass consumption click-bait era, that taking some time to do your research, ask a couple of questions, THINK about your purchase, enables you to be that more MINDFUL of your shopping behavior.

* Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh * There she is. Deep, cleansing, good for your soul mindfulness.

Some second-hand treasures dug up from preowned sites, now in my closet.

See, you don’t have to be an eco-warrior or the poster child for sustainability to participate. But you may just feel a little bit better knowing that choosing preowned plays into a circular economy, which reduces waste from landfills. (Giving off good Samaritan / citizen of world vibe here). Think of it this way, that Bottega clutch from A/W 20 will end up undoubtedly happier in your closet vs. the dump, which really elevates the notion of someone’s trash = another’s treasure.

Et voila dear reader. If you take anything from this is that secondhand gives you a style alternative. One that can be more nuanced if you let it. It can offer you a myriad of styles from different eras at accessible price points from brands that were the originators of the current trends today. Basically, if you wait a little, what’s old becomes new again, and the beat goes on.

So go on, give some love to preloved. You’d be surprised of some of the riches you might reap.

Local Secondhand /Preloved sites to whet your appetite and delve into: