Thrifting in Kingston with Mukkle Thrift
by Stephanie Koathes Jul 3, 2019
Thrift shopping is simply purchasing clothing, shoes, or other items that have already been used. Thrifting is common in other parts of the world but is a relatively new and small market in Jamaica. Mukkle Thrift is a pop-up thrift shop dedicated to helping Jamaica’s thrifting scene to grow while donating to charity.
Yello spoke with the Mukkle Thrift coordinators about the organisation and Jamaica’s emerging thrifting culture.
Can you explain to us what exactly Mukkle Thrift is?
Kathryn Lee: Mukkle Thrift is a non-profit organisation which was created in March 2017. It is a means to give back to our country while also building sustainability and environmentally conscious practices through thrifting. As a group, we believed that thrifting wasn’t a very prominent part of Jamaican culture and believed that its existence in Jamaican society was necessary for much-needed change. We wanted to introduce a space that allowed for the thrifting scene to grow and sustainable practices to thrive, while building the future we envision for Jamaica, through donating to causes in need.
What is your philosophy?
Ysabelle Hughes: As difficult as it is to pinpoint a single philosophy, it’s safe to say that our team’s guiding principle is simply to contribute to the growth of our country. Right now, we are each at the stage where we’re slowly becoming more integrated into Jamaican society and increasingly aware of our responsibility as adult citizens. We aim to play an active role within our community, and what better way to do so than in a way that’s also aligned with our interests. Mukkle Thrift has given us a platform not only to give back, but also to create an inclusive, welcoming, and comfortable space for people to vote with their dollars. Choosing to support local, sustainable, and environmentally conscious initiatives is a powerful way of ‘voting’ each day as consumers. It’s a small but influential way for each person to make a ‘mukkle’ out of a ‘mikkle’, and we are proud to facilitate that as best as we can.
What led you to start this venture?
Sarah Miles: I was introduced to the thrifting scene when I moved to Montreal in 2016. I fell in love with my peers’ unique outfits and styles, only to discover that they were avid thrifters! In early 2017, I remember returning to Jamaica and expressing to the girls how frustrated I was that there weren’t many opportunities to thrift at home. We all felt constricted in our shopping options and felt judged whenever we would re-wear or reuse clothing. As opposed to sitting around and complaining, we decided to do something about it. We wanted to make a positive change to these harmful societal discourses. So we decided to make Mukkle Thrift a non-profit organisation to further build the future envisioned for Jamaica. During Mukkle’s conceptualisation, we came to discover thrifting’s environmental necessities. Learning about the dangers of fast fashion, in regards to detrimental working conditions, environmental waste, etc, we are determined to spread awareness of how crucial thrifting is to our livelihoods.
What would you say the attitude towards thrifting is in Jamaica? Do you think there’s a negative stigma attached to buying used goods?
Ysabelle Hughes: Thrifting is still a relatively new concept within Jamaican culture, developing slowly but surely as attitudes toward fast fashion and environmental awareness begin to change. At first, we were very concerned about the public’s reaction to the idea of buying second-hand clothing. However, our supportive patronage constantly reassures us about the demand and potential for the thrifting scene in the future. Nonetheless, we still face the negative stigmas surrounding thrifted or second-hand clothing. These stigmas often revolve around the quality, brands, standard, or cleanliness of the items. We truly seek to disprove these misconceptions and open up a more positive discourse when it comes to the topic of thrifting. Mukkle Thrift aims to create a guilt-free and shame-free shopping experience for our patrons, a concept we truly believe in and hope to spread across the island.
With places such as Thrift Nature and Quality Thrift, along with the Mukkle Thrift pop-ups would you say thrifting is becoming more popular in the country?
Leah Brown: It is, and we are so happy to see thrifting flourish here because it’s something so worthy of people’s interest! Our patronage is so strong and comes out in their numbers to our events, which really shows how excited they are to thrift. We love to see the number of thrift shops across the island increase as it means that clothes are being given longer life spans. Seeing it become more popular makes us excited and confident in our plans for further expansion of Mukkle Thrift and what we will be able to achieve.
Do you have any kind of quality controls in place for the clothing/shoes you accept?
Ysabelle Hughes: Our main guideline for the donation process is for each item to be lightly used and still in good condition. All clothes, accessories, and shoes go through a careful sorting process in which we check each item ourselves as a means of quality control. We essentially think of the standard we would be comfortable seeing on sale in a store and apply that to our sorting process. Each item is checked for stains, marks, holes, or signs of wear and tear, and then included in either our stockpile or our donation pile, or upcycled accordingly. We truly aim to extend the lifespan of each item of clothing, whether it’s by giving it a new ‘home’ or by repurposing it into something more useful.
What kinds of prices can people expect at a Mukkle Thrift pop up?
Kathryn Lee: Affordable ones, of course! As a group, we decided that items shouldn’t exceed JM$1,500. All of our thrifted finds, no matter the brand or style, are on sale for only $1,500 or less. Our prices start from $100 which means that you could buy a blouse for less money than a chicken patty! We wanted our items to be affordable and reasonably priced.
What do you do with unsold items?
Leah Brown: After sorting through loads of clothes, there are some which we donate straight to children’s homes and other organisations that give clothes to people in need. Passing them onto other charitable organisations is beneficial as they know exactly how to distribute them. Recently, we have started to sell unsold items to people who upcycle or repurpose clothing, who can transform pieces into something new. This helps to further raise funds while lengthening clothing’s lifespan.
What are some of the benefits of buying from thrift shops?
Sarah Miles: Thrifting is extremely beneficial to our environment and is a practice that we should all adopt. By extending the lifespan of clothing, we are ensuring that they do not end up in landfills. We need to be more conscious about how our shopping habits may affect the environment and lives of others. As consumers, thrifting is a way to combat fast fashion, aka clothing that is trendy and mass produced. Clothing from these mainstream, “fast” brands produces toxic chemical waste, contributes to water pollution, waste textiles and creates carbon emissions.
On top of that, many of the labourers who make these items of clothing are doing so in detrimental working conditions, are being compensated unfairly, or are even child workers. There are simply too many clothes in the world, which is problematic as they take so long to decompose! These very same articles of clothing could be passed onto a new loving home, or even repurposed. When you thrift, you are extending the lifespan of clothing. Furthermore, when you thrift with Mukkle Thrift, you do more than help the environment as we use funds raised to help a variety of causes across the island. For example, through thrifting, we have provided scholarships for children’s education. .
When is your next pop up shop?
Kathryn Lee: Our next pop-up shop is on 6 July at Campion College from midday until everything sell off! We host pop-ups semi-annually, so if you’re unable to make it out to this one, then you can expect our next sale around December. Make sure to get there early to find great deals and steals before they’re gone! Our patrons typically queue around 30 minutes leading up to our opening, so make sure to grab a space in line. We hope to see you there!
Are there any plans to increase the frequency of these events? Or perhaps to open a store?
Sarah Miles: That ultimately is the dream! The support from our patronage has been incredible, and the excitement that follows our pop-ups is unmatched. Currently, we host our events semi-annually due to the availability of our team. As some of us are pursuing degrees abroad, it is difficult to organise Mukkle Thrift. In the future, we hope that we can host sales more frequently, especially across the island. The idea of a Mukkle Thrift store is surreal to us, but we are definitely open to the possibility of it in the future. For now, we believe that our semi-annual format is best-suited for our team. Our patrons are always hyped to shop, but we truly do encourage them to donate to our events. Our stock relies solely on the kind donations of the public, and without this constant cycle of sharing, we would not be able to sustain our market and host events frequently. From one item to 100, every mikkle mek a mukkle after all! However, for those interested in thrifting, we really do encourage them to delve into the upcoming thrifting scene across the island.