Pre-Loved And Thrifted Is The Way To Shop For Singapore Gen Zers

by Khong Yawen  /   September 26, 2022

Turning another man’s toss into their treasure.

Fact: we’re living in the booming age of fast fashion, dominated by the likes of Shein and Zara. The Business Research Company estimates the industry to be valued at US$99.23 billion (S$141 billion) this year and is projected to increase to over US$130 billion (S$184 billion) in 2026. Also a fact: as much as the fast fashion market is growing, so too is the pre-loved and thrifted fashion scene.

READ MORE: These Gen-Zers Are Sharing The Gift Of Thrift

Led by demand for more sustainable fashion and more youth-led thrift stores sprouting up here (we’ve counted about 40 of such businesses here), buying second-hand threads has evolved from just being about a bargain hunt to become a shopping M.O. for a new generation of consumers. In fact, ThredUp, the fashion resale platform and consignment store, predicts the second-hand fashion industry to be twice as big as fast fashion by 2030.

READ MORE: 7 Places In Singapore To Recycle Your Old Clothes At

But the popularity of thrift shopping has its downsides. According to a recent article in The New York Times, the glut of fast fashion items in American stores has made it more arduous to snag quality garments. Back at home, some shoppers are lamenting the increasing prices in stores. “I think thrifting has become an expensive activity to partake in – and it really shouldn’t be unless the pieces are truly one of a kind and authentically vintage,” shares 22-year-old freelance textile artist Jane Blithe Simorangkir who has been thrift shopping for a decade.

It’s a sentiment some stores are acknowledging. For instance, pre-loved apparel store Stakeout (run by the same folks behind vintage clothing store Loop Garms) adopts a tiered-pricing approach in which the individual price of a piece decreases when you buy more. Another example is curated vintage store Shibuigarm – it accepts monthly instalments for its apparel in a bid to reduce the strain of forking out more than you have.

Ahead, six Gen Zers shed some perspective on thrifting in Singapore.


Credit:Phyllicia Wang

Yana wears her own Youths In Balaclava blazer; Polo Ralph Lauren shirt; Ayserkris skirt; handmade tie pin; tie sourced from Shopee; Diesel messenger bag sourced from Depop; leather belt sourced from Carousell; Roc Boots boots; (on right middle finger from top) hand-me-down Bulgari ring and Blackup ring; and (on left index finger) handmade silver ring

Describe your sense of style in three words

“Feminine, sultry and casual.”

When did you start shopping second-hand and where do you shop at?

“I started in 2017 or 2018 when I was studying abroad in Brisbane. I went to a huge garage sale in Paddington with a few friends and got hooked! Recently, I’ve been loving scrolling through Carousell to find clothes from accounts like Foolish.Matter. I look to shops like Ashitagaaru (a curated vintage store in Peninsula Plaza) and Instagram shop Loncho Factory for their pants.

What proportion of your wardrobe is pre-loved?

“I’d say 20 per cent of my wardrobe, with half of it being handed down to me.”

Thoughts on the pre-loved and vintage shopping scene in Singapore?

“I’m glad people are becoming conscious about the way they go about getting clothes. Social media has a big part in showing that shopping second-hand or vintage doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting clothes that are past their prime. With the style of previous eras being revived and the idea that you can reduce waste by opting for second-hand or vintage pieces, shopping for pre-loved is like killing two birds with one stone.”

Credit:Phyllicia Wang

Yana wears her own thrifted Martine Rose jacket and Dr Martens boots; I Am Gia corset top; handmade necklaces; and skirt sourced from Carousell (reworked from cargo pants)

What draws you to a piece of clothing?

“How unique the garment is to me. The fit does matter too unless I’m certain I could fix it up at home with my sewing machine. Affordability – not in terms of how cheap it is but whether or not the item is worth getting at that price – is another aspect I look out for. Lately, I’ve been looking for neutral midi or maxi skirts and oversized cargo pants to rework into maxi skirts.”

Most treasured find in a store?

“It has got to be a purple blazer and skirt suit set from Funktique when I was on a family trip in 2015 to Tokyo. It fits like a glove; I knew I wanted to shop there since I discovered them through the website Tokyo Fashion. The night I was there, it was the store’s anniversary party, and I got to meet the young fashionista Coco (@coco_pinkprincess) in the flesh. Unfortunately, I got too shy and passed up the opportunity to say hi.”

Any advice for those unfamiliar with the preloved scene and shopping vintage?

“I’ll suggest taking your time with shopping; don’t rush into getting the item unless you are certain you will wear it a lot and, of course, wear what makes you feel confident!”


Credit:Phyllicia Wang

Jane wears her own thrifted and self-modified knit top; Cotton On tank top; thrifted denim skirt; satin scarf and necklace; hand-me-down Prada backpack; and PVC boots sourced from Shopee

Which is your favourite pre-loved item and why?

“I was about 15 years old when my aunt passed me a furry felted, grey bag that looked super chic and beautiful. Sadly, I lost it while on holiday.”

What proportion of your wardrobe is pre-loved?

“Ninety per cent of my wardrobe is preloved – even my bed, mirror, sofa and cabinets are thrifted.”

Does your background studying fashion design influence how you shop and your sense of style? 

“Yes, definitely. We are taught to be sustainable and ethical in the way we shop. I’ve become more aware of the consequences as a designer and consumer – I only buy clothes if I need them. Thrifting has become a part of who I am since I started at 12 years old. Also having been given hand-me-downs from my mum and aunt has enabled me to have this mindset of not buying new clothes when you already have them. The first thrift shop I went to was the Salvation Army – not just to buy clothes, but items such as figurines, shoes, decorations and toys.”

Credit:Phyllicia Wang

Jane wears her own thrifted vest, sleeveless top and chiffon skirt; handmade headscarf; necklace; hand-me-down messenger bag; and Dr Martens boots

What do you look for when you shop?

“I look for pieces I can match with clothes I already own. I don’t have a specific aesthetic, but I like to mix pieces together. I like picking out clothes with textures or patterns. Comfortable would be how I describe my sense of style. It isn’t easy to shop at places like The Salvation Army – you have to keep digging and go through bulks of clothes, but I find enjoyment in that because I get to spend time by myself and appreciate the time taken to find the pieces I like.”

What are the places you shop at?

“I usually go to stores around the market or Lucky Plaza, Peninsula Plaza, Little India, The Salvation Army and Instagram-run thrift shops. I also support some curated thrift shops like Cherry Thrift Shop!”

Credit:Phyllicia Wang

Jane wears her own thrifted blouse, skirt (worn as a top) and denim skirt; sunglasses; Cotton On cap; hand-me-down crossbody bag; and Dr Martens boots

What’s your advice to those venturing into the pre-loved or vintage scene?

“Do it only if you are really invested in the piece and wear whatever makes you happy – as long as you are happy, wear it with pride. Don’t be afraid to try new styles, accessories or aesthetics. Just do you.”


Credit:Phyllicia Wang

Hong Yi wears his own vest; field jacket and boots sourced from Carousell; tank top; shorts; thrifted hat and jewellery, Stussy belt, and The Salvages socks

What draws you to a piece of clothing?

“It’s quality, value, how it looks when worn and when displayed. I’m a strategic shopper; if the item isn’t valuable to me right off the bat, it’s not worth buying in my eyes.”

The best part of shopping for pre-loved or vintage fashion?

“I get a thrill from discovering and owning items that most people never knew existed; I enjoy the satisfaction of hunting for something and finally finding it.”

What proportion of your wardrobe is pre-loved?

“At least 90 per cent of my wardrobe is second-hand or vintage; I hardly buy clothes directly from retail stores.”

Credit:Phyllicia Wang

Hong Yi wears his own Comme des Garcons top; earrings; sunglasses; thrifted necklaces; Stussy belt; bandana; and jeans and boots sourced from Carousell

Favourite find in a store?

“I found a sleeveless patch-worked rabbit fur coat from The Fashion Pulpit which was fully hand stitched and seemed to be crafted for theatrical usage. I paid $20 it.”

Where do you often go shopping for pre-loved or vintage pieces?

“Carousell or Grailed.”

Credit:Phyllicia Wang

Hong Yi wears his own jacket; hand-me-down pants; thrifted hat and leather boots; earrings and sunglasses

Tell us why you decided to start Madman Archive, the vintage and archive home-based fashion store.

“Due to high shop rentals, it’s impossible for shops to sell quality items only to make a lower profit, hence they mostly carry quantities to generate higher profit. I’d say good things don’t come cheap and cheap stuff don’t always come good. On the other hand, without having to pay rental, it allows me to do the complete opposite. I hope to move quality clothes through the local marketplace so that the future of Carousell will become more interesting.”


Credit:Phyllicia Wang

Taylor wears their own gifted sweater and skirt; top sourced from Taobao, and platform boots sourced from Amazon

How would you describe your style?

“Childlike and ethereal.”

We noticed you DIY-ed some of your clothes. How did you start on that?

“Ever since I was in Primary 5, my mom and I would watch RuPaul’s Drag Race and I would be so enamoured by the outfits and looks that they were able to construct. Drag queens like Raja and Violet Chachki showed me the possibilities of what one could create. I borrowed a sewing machine from my godmother and my mom taught me how to sew. I DIY pieces to fit the vision I have for the outfit.”

Credit:Phyllicia Wang

Taylor wears their own thrifted vest, skirt and jeans; hoodie and boots sourced from Taobao; and hand-me-down tie

What proportion of your wardrobe is pre-loved?

“Probably 70 per cent is thrifted from shops in Lucky Plaza or Carousell; the rest is either gifted, hand-me-downs or bought online. I’m trying to be a more conscious consumer – I do not purchase as many clothes as I used to. I’m at a point in my life where I do not need to purchase more clothes.”

What are your thoughts on fast fashion?

“I do not shop fast fashion anymore and it’s been that way for a while. It’s not something that I want to contribute to and an issue worth talking about. There are a lot of different layers to it like the mass production (of clothes) and the ecosystem workers and companies exist in. It’s no secret that fast fashion is bad, but I feel as though we shouldn’t ridicule our peers so harshly for feeding into it as many of them are following what they see online. I feel as though it is best to just encourage your peers to adopt different alternatives to shopping, rather than trying to force someone to change.”

Credit:Phyllicia Wang

Taylor wears their own thrifted top and flats; and skirt and fishnets sourced from Taobao

Any tips for those looking to shop pre-loved or vintage?

“Definitely go on a Sunday or Monday as stores usually do restocks on Saturday. Don’t buy something unless you know you’ll actually use it; never buy something if it doesn’t fit or if you’re not going to wear it.”


Credit:Phyllicia Wang

Chelsea wears her own hand-me-down kimono robe, pants and rings; top sourced from Carousell; sunglasses; Friendship.Discount necklace; reworked hand gloves; and thrifted boots

What kind of shopper would you say you are?

“Over the years, I’ve become more of a mindful shopper – investing in pieces I know I will keep for a long time and will be versatile in my closet. When I was studying film in polytechnic, shopping secondhand was also a cheap and easy way to source pieces for shoots.”

What kind of pieces do you look out for when you shop?

“T-shirts of bands I love, denim and leather pieces that have held up well and oversized shirts – the epitome of versatility and a staple in my closet. I’m a sucker for jackets and vests for layering.”

What proportion of your wardrobe is pre-loved?

“I would say 65 per cent of my wardrobe is secondhand or vintage.”

Where do you often go shopping for vintage and second-hand clothes?

“Carousell, Depop, flea markets, The Salvation Army and Lucky Plaza. I’m also lucky my parents have great pieces from the ’80s and ’90s. I’m always wearing my dad’s oversized button-down shirts and vintage tees. My mum loves denim so I always have a ton of jeans and jackets to choose from.”

Credit:Phyllicia Wang

Chelsea wears her own Zara jacket; thrifted vest; hand-me-down top; gifted dress (worn as a skirt); acetate sunglasses; reworked necklace; silver bracelet sourced from Etsy; watch sourced from The Coastal Settlement; stockings; reworked and self-modified denim leg warmers; and Asos boots

Why do you think younger folks tend to be more open to shopping pre-loved?

“Affordability is probably the biggest reason, but also probably personal style, originality and sustainability. I also think the younger generation is generally more informed of the harsh impacts of fast fashion on our environment. We understand that at the end of the day we are the ones who will have to live and raise our children through the long-term effects of it.”

Does your background in film and photography influence the way you dress?

“Yes! I’m often influenced by my work, but also the people I work with. The Pinterest boards I make for specific shoots also somehow influence how I dress. It’s always fun when a singular piece of clothing can spark a photoshoot idea.”


Credit:Phyllicia Wang

Li Ting wears her own thrifted top, skirt and cap; messenger bag and arm warmers sourced from Taobao; and platform boots

When did you start thrifting?

“I started in late 2019, slightly before Covid-19. One of the first shops I went to was Flame Vintage located along Haji Lane. I saw people visiting it on Instagram Stories and liked the style of clothes that they had at that time. But I’m not really a big shopper now as I’m slowly moving towards having a more sustainable closet.”

What proportion of your wardrobe is pre-loved?

“I’d say half of my wardrobe consists of pre-loved items. I usually keep an eye out for flowy skirts, baggy pants and, occasionally, baby tees.”

Most treasured find you own?

“It’s a toss-up between a tie-dye dress from Instagram thrift store Faerydium and a pair of brown corduroy cargo pants which I got for $26. I love the latter for its pockets and the various hanging elements of the pants.”

Credit:Phyllicia Wang

Li Ting wears her own thrifted top; Tass Store pants; Rebel Label necklace; and Converse sneakers

Where do you usually shop?

“Dianthe Tale at Queensway Shopping Centre, Daisies Yard, Tass Store and my parents’ wardrobes.”

Any tips for those foraying into shopping pre-loved?

“Always check for sweat or lipstick stains, rips and any defects in general. Try not to go in with any expectations and definitely wash your items before wearing them. When you find a one-of-a kind, reasonably-priced, good quality, stain-free piece… it’s like hitting jackpot!”

All interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity

Photography Phyllicia Wang Art Direction Danessa Tong Coordination Khong Yawen Hair & Makeup Sarah Tan