By Aparna Sharma
“Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you express by the way you dress and the way you live”. -Gianni Versace
Fast fashion marketing focuses on making us feel that we are inadequate if we don’t buy the latest trends, but once we understand the negative impact of fast fashion on the planet, we realize that we don’t have to be controlled and dictated by fashion trends. When we figure out that being stylish and being trendy are not the same, we can embrace circular fashion wholeheartedly.
My slow fashion journey
When I moved to Bangkok 14 years ago, I was so fascinated by all the local fast fashion markets. I often tell people that I was not born as a slow fashion advocate. Fast fashion was my thing and I have engaged in mindless shopping in the past. I started making changes in my shopping habits six years ago, but it was in January 2020 that I decided to fully commit to circular fashion and end my relationship with fast fashion. A one year shopping detox followed; it was ambitious on my part and I did not buy anything for eight months. Doing a detox from shopping and shifting the energy and urge to shop into learning new skills like gardening, sewing, meditating, cooking etc is a good way to begin your slow fashion journey.
The adverse effects of fast fashion
The first item of clothing I bought after the detox was a handloom scarf from an old lady. I literally stumbled upon her wooden house near Mae Hong Son, close to Chiang Mai, while I was desperately looking for shelter from the pouring rain. Meeting her was a sign that I must strongly advocate for handlooms and fair pay. Fast fashion supply chains are rooted in colonial thinking which has unfortunately resulted in land and labor being exploited, particularly in countries located in the global south. Fast fashion has not only exploited the environment, it has adversely affected the handloom sector too.
I am a mother of two teenage girls who have a lot of exposure to fast fashion through their friends circle and social media, but I have been taking them to swap events and thrift stores in Bangkok from a very young age. Almost 70% of their wardrobe is secondhand. We buy something new only if it’s an absolute necessity, like socks, undergarments etc.. The world is producing a staggering 100 billion items of clothing each year, and a vast majority ends up in a landfill. We as consumers have the power to change this system.
Bangkok is one of the world’s fashion capitals, and shopping while you’re visiting the city might be high on your agenda. Buying from second hand stores, swapping with strangers, and choosing brands which have a sustainable business model are some of the ways we as travelers can embrace slow fashion.
Slow fashion in Bangkok: must-visit shops
Kru Angoon Park
My favorite thrift store in Bangkok is Kru Angoon Park. They are a charity thrift store, and I love that they have such strong social values tied to their business model. What stands out most is their transparency – the money you spend there goes to the Mirror Foundation Charity for Children.
I found vintage Thai handloom tops there once. I usually get jeans, trousers ,tops and dresses for my daughters and donate it back to them when they outgrow the size. It is extremely reasonably priced. I found a pair of original Sketchers running shoes there too. I always check there first for anything I need. The location of the shop is very beautiful and they host farmers markets, democracy protests and other similar events. This neighborhood is a must visit for its local and artistic vibe.
This shop is located on soi 3, Sukhumvit soi 55 .
Take the BTS to Thonglor and it is a 500-meter walk from the BTS station.
As the name suggests, Tokyo Joe is a store with a lot of Japanese brands. Many Japanese expats sell or donate their items to this store when they move back to Japan. They have a lot of branded items in their store, and have opened a second shop for luxury brands. Both the shops are close to each other. Both their stores are well organized and it is an enjoyable shopping experience.
This shop is located on Sukhumvit soi 39.
Take the BTS to Phrom Pong and walk towards Soi 39. It is 100 meters inside soi 39.
Treasure Factory is the biggest second hand store I have visited in Bangkok! They have a lot of products from household items to stationary here. Their bag and shoe section has a lot of choices. I found a really well maintained Anello backpack for school for my daughter in this store. This store too has a lot of Japanese brands. They also have a lot of other brands like Micheal Kors, Kate Spade, Marc Jacobs. I saw a really funky pair of D&G shoes in their shoe section. They have winter jackets too. This is definitely the store I would recommend if you want to go to only one store instead of visiting multiple stores.
This shop is located on Sukhumvit soi 39.
Take the BTS to Phrom Phong. They are located ahead of Tokyo Joe on Sukhumvit soi 39. They are 500 meters deep into the soi from Sukhumvit.
Cycle by SOS
Your search for Thai designer brands ends here! Cycle by SOS have a separate rack for Thai high end brands, as well as separate clothing racks for highstreet brands like Zara. You get the experience of shopping in a beautiful boutique store, even though the price here is definitely higher than the other thrift stores I have visited.
This shop is located in Siam Square. Take the BTS to Siam. They are located on the 4th floor of thei SOS flagship store in Siam Square.
(Un)Fashion Café and (Un)Fashion District
This vintage thrift store has shoes, belts and clothes for men. Most of the items at (Un)Fashion are high quality second hand leather. Prices of the products here are higher, but the ambience and the shopping experience is extremely organized.
This shop is in two locations. The Sukhumvit 39 location is bigger.
Take the BTS to Ekkamai and you can walk or take a tuk tuk/ bike taxi to Ekkamai soi 3.
Their second location is Sukhumvit 39. Take the BTS to Phrom Pong and walk from there. They are located in the middle of Tokyo Joe and Treasure Factory.
They have 4 selling and 4 buying locations across Bangkok. Eco Ring buys and sells household items, clothing and accessories. I was surprised and happy to learn that they have grown to multiple locations, which gives me hope that circular fashion is the future in Bangkok and elsewhere!
Their multiple locations can be found on their website.
Bangkok Recycling Chain
This is not a shop, but an organizer of regular Swap events. Make sure to follow Bangkok Recycling Chain on social media to be updated on their events. You might just be lucky to attend their swap events when you are in Bangkok next time.
Clothes swap parties are becoming common in Bangkok. I have assisted a few organizers and personally love the idea. Here are some simple tips to attend a swap event:
- Clean your cupboard and organize your clothes.
- Keep the clothes you don’t wear in a separate bag.
- Ensure that they are in a good condition
- Take the bag to the swap event and exchange it with clothes from someone else’s wardrobe.
Ta-da! You have “new” clothes in your wardrobe. Technically, they are not new but they are new for your wardrobe.
Folkcharm Studio is a handloom and sustainable Thai brand. I love their transparency and traceability. I’ve personally visited their cotton farm and met the weavers.
The founder of this brand is also the country head of Fashion Revolution, Thailand. Their entire supply chain is local and the weavers live near the organic cotton field in Loei province. It is one of the very few organic cotton fields in Thailand.
Not only are their clothes made from organic cotton, but they are also hand woven and dyed using natural dyes. The clothes you buy here are a vote for a greener planet. In their weaves, you can feel not only the love with which they are crafted, but also their passion for climate action and women empowerment. The price range is 50$ to 150$, and if you have the budget, this is the best souvenir you can take back from Thailand.
Address: 19 Yaek Suanson 10, Ramkhamhaeng 60 Huamak, Bangkapi, Bangkok
You can take the airport rail link to Huamak station and either walk or take a bike taxi from there.
Aparna Sharma is a resident of and advocate for slow fashion in Bangkok, and has lived in the city for 14 years. She is extremely passionate about circular fashion and believes that every fashion lover can practice slow fashion and look extremely stylish. She goes to schools to educate teenagers on the importance of creating a circular fashion economy and encourages them to think of innovative ways to create products from waste. Aparna is a firm believer that style must meet sustainability, and fashion must never come at the cost of people and the planet. Follow her on Instagram.