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Q&A: Gabrielle Onay and Ruby Manning on why Picnic & Thrift is thriving

by | Sep 17, 2021

Picnicking while thrifting is a dreamy outing for a millennial fashion lover. So it’s no surprise that a series of back garden picnickers and thrifters has developed into events and market company, Picnic & Thrift. Founded in Johannesburg in 2019, Picnic and Thrift is now thriving as an extremely well-attended event.

Curious to find out more, I caught up with founders Gabrielle Onay (22) and Ruby Manning (25).

How did Picnic & Thrift come about and how has the concept evolved?

Gabi: Ruby and I had always held separate little market pop-ups in our back gardens. But we decided to try joining our mini pop-ups as one big event called Picnic and Thrift. It was originally a way to make money – but after seeing the interest, the safe space it created, and the beauty of how it allowed other small businesses to flourish – we decided to put all our cash, hearts, and emotions into it and it’s become the market and safe space event that it is currently.

Who is your customer?

Gabi: Anyone who wants to express themselves whilst supporting small and local businesses (and anyone wanting to show off their quirky and hot fashion sense). Our customer base is primarily made up of over-the-top eccentric young adults, and it’s so beautiful to see the number of high school and university students who come and who enquire about having a stall! It’s really surreal and beautiful to see how some of their small businesses have started with us.

How do you create an inclusive space?

Gabi: As two Queer Jewish women, especially as we aren’t the average body type, we used to be on the sidelines of the fashion world and events. And we realised that so many other people were in need of a space that allows them to be themselves. Our vendors are comfortable and express themselves freely, and so do we. We try to make our markets as open and inclusive without being political. Anybody who wants to come is welcome – provided they show respect for the environment they are in and the people around them.

Our next goal is to provide an accessible and inclusive space for the physically disabled community – such as having ramps at our upcoming Zoo Lake event in Parkview.

Why has sustainability been a core value for Picnic & Thrift?

Gabi: I don’t think we had an option with this one! We are both eco-conscious and love nature. To run a small business and local market would be entirely in vain if it wasn’t centered around sustainability.

Share 3 ways a Picnic & Thrift event is sustainable?

Ruby: Many of our stall owners sell thrifted and secondhand clothing only and almost all of our vendors sell handmade goods that are ethically produced or sourced. The event is also run entirely by Gabi and I – two small business owning women. We are able to hire three staff who we pay directly.

How often do you host Picnic & Thrift flea markets and where?

Ruby: We host a market two or three times a month, Cyril dependent!  We have several venues, as we are a nomadic market, but our next few events l will be taking place at Zoo Lake Bowls Club in Johannesburg and AlleyShack in Pretoria. Zoo Lake Bowls Club has become our safe space and home, with it being hands-down the safest and friendliest outdoor environment with the best Pizza.

What inspires the themes of your flea market events?

Ruby: Both of us are interested in pop-culture. Themes are determined by the weather and our moods, such as Springfest for Spring and Halloween for October. In terms of our other themes like 70s, 60s, and the rock n roll 80s – Gabi has an unhealthy obsession with old school music.

What would you say to someone who isn’t obsessed with #supportlocal?

Ruby: Supporting local businesses goes far beyond just supporting a local person or family. It’s also about supporting small, local dreams and ethics. It entails helping someone to put food on their table as opposed to helping a franchise’s CEO grow their savings account. Supporting local is about supporting your community, country, economy and helping smaller businesses space to grow. That’s our biggest dream and aim with Picnic and Thrift.

How has your P&T community changed since it began?

Ruby: It has grown immensely. It has become a loyal community of like-minded people who have evolved into a family.

Describe Picnic & Thrif in 5 words.

Ruby: Unique. Queer. Liberating. Cheap. Local.

  • The next event will be held on the 26th of September at the Zoo Lake Bowls Club in Johannesburg and the theme is cottage core! Event will be from 11am to 4pm.
  • This article has been edited and condensed for clarity
  • Follow them here
  • Images by @leaslens.jpg and for black and white photography, @beautyintheiofmaya
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