How did you start a thrift store?
I myself have been in the fashion and sustainability space for 20 odd years, and I have worked in this space globally so I understand the thrifting concept from the international perspective and the sustainability-related solutions that come around with thrifting, so I have been watching it very closely in the western world first as a brick and mortar option and then as an online option in recent years.
o I just thought that it would be nice to research and see that this thing can work in India and we commissioned the research agency to do that about 4 years ago and they came up with the report suggesting yes, probably slightly early for India but India will get there in a couple of years and that is why we decided to go ahead.
SI thought India probably needs it and we would be better to be the first player in the Indian market as it is a growing industry and it will grow. That’s the research report that we got.
How are Consumers approaching thrifting?
The consumers are fantastic in the TG age group that we are looking at because this age is a part of our research focused on, what’s the age group and why are they likely to get into thrifting and it went up till
32 age group. This age group is the potential age group as they are very conscious about the brand, this age is that is all buying online this age grp also obviously doesn’t have deep pockets as they are in college or are early in jobs and most importantly this age group does not have any hangover about the preowned clothing which the previous generation has. This generation is very open-minded, it’s all about being cool to them Instagram generation is ready to look good they keep an eye on fashion. They ticked all the boxes for us and we are systematically reaching out to them but being a small company there is only so much that we can do from a marketing budget perspective but we have a 38% repeat customer ratio and we are very happy about that. It shows that people who get into thrifting are gonna stay with it as they believe in the concept they are getting the product.
Kiabza is collaborating with Budding designers and making a niche in Refashioned garments, please elaborate on this concept?
When we got into this business it was purely about thrifting , so the products that won’t meet our quality standards because we are not a c2c platform. 3 key segments that emerged through our research that was quality, authenticity, and hygiene.
These were the 3 areas in which the research report showed people need to build confidence. We are not c2c platform so we are not going to get any confidence in that because we couldn’t control any of that, in order to control them we built this platform where we can curate the products. So the product comes to us and we put them through these 3 processes and then we upload them once they meet our curation team standard requirements and the products that don’t meet our requirements for that we have a tie-up with 3 domestic NGOs we give the product to them, pretty much every week. So the products that don’t make it to our list are around 17%-18% and in order to bring that percentage down, that’s when we tied up with budding designers. We tell them like “Hey this product is not good enough to be sold on Kiabza directly.
Can we do something with them? and they said sure we can! Some products are out of fashion and some have some issues like they have pen marks, some threads and buttons are missing, we can restyle them or redesign them. And then we recreated the niche that you are referring to. People absolutely loved it. Because there is this clientele that wants the product to be different and wants a product that has been created in a unique way and the designers love it as it is a great experience for them. It becomes a part of their CV. They still are young in their careers they are still students and from a consumer point of view it’s a unique product that has never hit a store or a shelf and it is only gonna be one piece. Consumers who buy these also believe in circularity and sustainability etc, so it kinda fits the piece perfectly for them.
As we have just faced Covid-19 and that actually makes buying from a thrift store bit risky, so does Kiabza deals with that and, what other difficulties do you face in running a thrift store?
Actually, your 1st point is not backed up by the research, don’t think the consumer is not buying from a thrifting perspective at all in fact it has worked differently that people are now more into thrifting. The other thing that has happened is that about 30% of fashion is now bought online compared to about 8-10% pre covid. Fashion in itself has moved from online to offline at that speed of 5 to 10 years. It helps companies and one thing that we keep hammering into people’s heads is that if you are buying a new product that doesn’t mean it’s hygienic. The research reports are saying that 90% of the consumers wear the product without washing it. So every product is lightly whitewashed so when you put the product to test and when we got it tested reports showed that Kiabza products are much cleaner compared to the other brands. Their products are touched by 10 human hands, from the manufacturing stage and also somebody has tried it in the trial room and people think they are buying a new product. Kiabza products are more hygienic than buying a new product. The new product is great but nobody tends to wash a new product.
How important thrifting is?
Thrifting has to be made cool and that is what we are doing. In the good old days when you learn from the western world, thrifting was a concept really for the underprivileged. It was for people who had minimum wages, who couldn’t afford to buy new clothes. They went to charities run by salvation, goodwill, etc. I am talking about the Christian charity concept that’s how thrifting started. People were going to pick something unique that was in half of a generation ago but this generation thinks second hand is cool and fun.
The influencers and celebrities have made them believe that and they have learned about sustainability and they have also learned about the environmental benefits in school whereas my generation didn’t learn anything about it in school. So at a young age, they are aware of all these things. So if you just tell people that thrifting is good for the environment they are not going to thrift. But if you make it cool and fun people are gonna do that. That is the whole objective. We are also setting up our physical store at some point. They are gonna be really cool stores where the vibe would be like a pub with nice music and graffiti around. It’s gonna be a fun concept that people would love walking into. Not like a typical thrift store where you are trying to get something cheap.
Kiabza’s structure not only works for reselling pre-loved clothing but also connects it with the NGO, please explain a little about that.
When we were working out on the concept of Kiabza we always knew we are gonna have some products to us that are not gonna be saleable because they would meet our standards or they just don’t sell. In the garment industry, a large number of garments are never sold, and that has to be given away at some stage to destroy that was a part of the problem. That’s when we tied with the NGOs because for us obviously we are getting rid of the product that is not commercially valuable to us. But for an NGO in India it is extremely valuable to get good clothing, good apparel, or good fashion, which may not meet our standards because are standards are extremely high. For us, the product should be as good as new for us to put it up on our platform. But for them, a product that is slightly used or has a small defect with a pen mark or if it’s out of fashion is actually of great value because the under privilege doesn’t have enough clothing. So it’s a win-win, a lot of NGOs we talk to were apprehensive as they though they would get racks from us. When they start getting products they were amazed and thankful and grateful that we are giving them such good products, obviously, we don’t charge them anything for it. We even take care of the logistics and deliver them to them. Also, we send thank you box as we are thankful to be your partner and for accepting our clothing. We have a lot of appreciation letters from them. Now many NGOs want to tie up with us but just want to keep the number at 3. Because it’s not easy for us to work with more than that at the scale we are at right now, but maybe in the future.
Before we end this I would like to Congratulate Kiabza for saving approx 30 tons of carbon footprint and 7.5millon of water.
We are trying to do our bit from a sustainability point of view because fashion is a huge problem and especially fast fashion in the last 10-15 years has caught a lot of criticism and a lot of brands have realized this and are trying to their bit. But I think they are a little late. International brands have their corporate governance and things like this and brands are still not there. Kiabza commercial enterprise we are here to Indian is a make money and build on the concept of thrift but at the same time if we can do our bit for sustainability in an organic way at the same time and if we could help the underprivileged we are very proud to do that. Important aspect for us is to keep our business.
What is your vision for Kiabza?
We want Kiabza to be identified to be synonymous with thrifting, just like Colgate is with toothpaste, xerox with photocopy we expect Kiabza to be synonymous with thrifting. It’s a great concept it’s here in India to stay, not only to stay but also to grow. This industry will eventually grow faster as the new fashion industry. It’s not said by me but backed by the research consultancy, they know that this space will be growing much faster level than new fashions and we are very excited to be a part of it.
– Dhara Padia