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A timeless habit: Ukay-ukay culture in the Philippines

Here’s what you need to know!

By Precious AlturaPublished 29 days ago 5 min read
Photo by Precious Altura | Kapasigan Thrift Store, Pasig City.

Come into thrift and get yourself some thrift!

It doesn't always have to be expensive to look good. You can still ‘slay’ by just being innovative and elevating your sense of style—and where else could we find such statement pieces that don't cost much? "Edi, sa UKAY!"

Yup, ukay-ukay pieces are the G.O.A.T! (Greatest of all time). Thrift stores are the perfect go-to place for people who are on a low budget but still want to stand out from the crowd. Just bring your favorite tote bag (or eco bag) with a little penny and patience, and you're ready to go!

In the local context, the term "Ukay-Ukay" comes from the word "halukay," which means to dig up. It is the activity of shopping by digging through piles of worn or pre-owned clothing until one finds a good deal. Most of the items that can be found in ‘ukayan’ are unique, and if you’re blessed enough by the thrift gods, you’d be lucky to acquire pieces from luxurious brands.

Baguio was considered the birthplace of the ukay-ukay in the Philippines, founded in the early 1980s. It started when the Philippine Salvation Army provided basic necessities to the victims of the calamities by sending used clothing and other items to evacuees during that year when disasters struck the country.

Thereafter, Filipinos being hustlers or business-minded, saw the potential of this as a profitable opportunity and began sourcing used clothing from abroad, particularly from prominent brands, which they then shipped to the Philippines in balikbayan boxes in order to resale for a lower price.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Ukay-Ukay legality in question:

Although thrifting is a loved habit among many Filipinos, only a few know about of the legality debate surrounding it.

Ukay-Ukay is barred by Republic Act №4653, which states that “the commercial importation of textile articles commonly known as used clothing and rags” is forbidden. Despite being a law, it is not immutable because it was passed in 1966, years before Ukay-Ukay became popular in the Philippines.

Despite being illegal according to the aforementioned legislation, the “Ukay-Ukay” activity has flourished due to the inefficient application of the relevant law that forbids it, as the Ukay-Ukay industry has developed into an integral aspect of Filipino culture. On top of that, there are bills that seek to legalize “Ukay-Ukay.”

Photo by Shara Tobias | Also watch: Hibsay — ICommunicate XXVII FIT-CHECK FROM:✨UKAY-UKAY!✨

Moreover, some may regard the ukayan as an alternative market, but for many, it is their sole option.

And even the wealthy became interested in the ukay-ukay lifestyle as it became more and more popular today, which led to high demand and business-to-business transactions that resulted in pricey values.

But let us not lose sight of the fact that thrifting's key objectives are affordability and sustainable fashion, primarily because the majority of its consumers are people with fewer resources—students and the marginalized community.

For Filipinos in this category, their economic situation dictates the decision, but it also meets the desire to be stylish at a low cost. And ukay-ukay is a sweet haven for that; a place where quality meets affordability.

Whether you're a veteran thrifter or a new arrival to the hobby, these five pointers will help you maximize your shopping opportunities and effectively navigate the arena of thrifting.

Top 5 Tips for Thrifting:

1. Plan beforehand

Make a plan for your visit to the thrift store before you go. Decide if you're seeking out specific clothes, shoes, or other stuff. In the midst of a huge variety of goods that are usually found in thrift stores, having a precise list will help you stay focused. You should also consider going in the morning or on a weekday when there are fewer people in the stores, which makes for a more thorough and relaxed shopping experience.

2. Wear something tight but comfy

Wear something convenient, such as leggings or shorts, with a shirt or tank top. These will allow you to effortlessly try on clothes and make a rapid inspection of the things. You will not need to change into and out of your clothes. And keep in mind to use your alcohol to disinfect the items you are holding, as many people may have already tried them.

3. Eco/tote bag all the way!

Rather than having to ask for plastic bags, it would be ideal to have a tote bag or eco-bag to store all of your ukay treasures in. All hail sustainability! It's tricky to predict what you'll find, so having a large bag is essential, particularly if you intend to buy a substantial amount. Obviously, remember to carry cash in your wallet. If you don't, you won't be able to take home the stuff you've had your eye on from the thrift store, and before you know it, someone else will have bought them.

4. Patience, patience, patience!

Keep Calm and Determined! Thrifting calls for patience and persistence, particularly when looking for specific pieces or unusual findings. Take your time and don't give up if you don't immediately find what you're looking for. Keep in mind that thrift stores regularly get new stock, so to improve your chances of finding hidden gems, go back often or visit other locations.

5. See the potential and upcycle it

One of the best things about thrifting is that you can upcycle and alter items to fit your tastes and style. Embrace your creative side and channel your inner fashion designer persona. Turn a piece of vintage apparel into a trendy one by adding some dazzling sequins and mom jeans that can be altered into a chic denim skirt. Upcycling not only adds a unique touch to your discovery but also promotes sustainability by giving old items a fresh makeover.

These thrifting pointers will provide you with the resources you need to easily browse thrift stores, find hidden gems, and experience the pleasure of finding one-of-a-kind products at deeply discounted costs. Cheers to your thrifty adventures!

Haven for fashionistas on a budget!

Some may regard the Ukay-Ukay as an alternative market, but for many, it is their sole option.

And even the wealthy became interested in the Ukay-Ukay lifestyle as it became more and more popular, which led to the demand and business-to-business transactions that resulted in pricey values.

But let us not lose sight of the fact that Ukay-Ukay’s primary marketing goals are affordability and sustainable fashion campaigns, particularly given that most of its consumers are people with fewer resources.

For Filipinos in this category, their economic situation dictates the decision, but it also meets the desire to be stylish at a low cost. And Ukay-Ukay is a haven for that; a place where quality meets affordability.

Plus, it is therapeutic in a way because thrifting is like treasure hunting; it takes time and patience. And when you find the perfect pieces, go and make the world your runway!

So, what are you waiting for? Tara na’t mag-ukay!

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About the Creator

Precious Altura

Audentes Fortuna Iuvat. #DefendPressFreedom! | LinkedIn: precious-altura

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Comments (1)

  • Alex H Mittelman 29 days ago

    Well written! Fantastic

Precious AlturaWritten by Precious Altura

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