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Q&A: Laura Rainbird started Thrift Fest to inspire a local preloved movement

by | Apr 8, 2022

Since 2012, Thrift Fest has been cultivating a welcoming space for sustainability and slow living. In Cape Town, Thrift Fest has become a household name for anyone interested in thrifting and the preloved movement. The market attracts crowds of Capetonians, every month, for an exchange of music, food, and secondhand goods. Because of the prominent role the market plays in the Cape Town thrift scene, Thrift Fest was selected as a finalist for the Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards 2021 in the Retail Award category, presented by Inscape.

“I truly believe one person’s trash can be another’s treasure,” says Thrift Fest’s founder Laura Rainbird. Buying secondhand is an important slow fashion practice, because it means we can re-circulate clothing and limit waste.

We sat down with Laura to discuss her business, its success, and the fashion industry as a whole.

What inspired you to start Thrift Fest?

I was inspired by the Masiphumelele community. I drove past their market every day on my way to school and wondered why this wasn’t more common. I like the idea of people bringing their old goods or handmade products and selling them in a community-like setting. I wanted to have these markets across Cape Town in the hopes of destigmatising secondhand shopping.

I started Thrift Fest, in 2012, as a Facebook group where people could buy and sell secondhand goods around Cape Town. This eventually grew to a community all over South Africa. We opened the first physical market in 2014 when we noticed a need for a space where the community can come together and promote sustainable ways of being.

Why do you think the secondhand fashion industry is important for sustainability?

Fast fashion is one of the leading polluters of our planet and drastic change is needed. Thrift Fest, and secondhand stores in general, challenge this culture of waste. It’s about slowing down and rediscovering a love for clothes. And secondhand clothes can do just that – you can still look good and care for the planet!

How does Thrift Fest work?

Thrift Fest is a platform for people to buy and sell secondhand, handmade, and new items with many venues all over Cape Town. People email me to book a stall if they have something they would like to sell. On the day, we tell you where to set up and you’re on your way to being an entrepreneur!

How do you ensure the vendors’ stock is of high quality?

We make it clear that all clothing must be of good quality and encourage vendors to donate all items they feel aren’t worth selling. We also have donation boxes at these markets where vendors can donate their unsold goods if they’re hoping to declutter their homes. We give damaged or unwanted clothes to the Women’s Shelter Movement where they teach women to sew and fix garments which they then sell.

Have you collaborated with other sustainable brands?

We are currently in the process of collaborating with the Vegan Goods Market to host a Vegan Thrift Market every second-last Sunday of the month. We want to create a space where we combine all things green and sustainable.

What do you hope for the future of secondhand fashion?

I hope that the big culprits of fast fashion take on more sustainable business models. This could mean adding a secondhand section to their stores and supporting the recirculation of clothes or finding a way to reduce their carbon footprint and give back. But, I also hope that change happens on the consumers’ end and that they choose to support local and sustainable brands. Ultimately, I would like to see secondhand becoming less of a practice and more of a lifestyle.

What are your plans for the future of Thrift Fest?

In the short term, I would like Thrift Fest to expand to Johannesburg and other parts of South Africa. In the long term, I would like to create a business and entrepreneurial course where we can teach people the skills needed to start their own businesses. I want these to be available to all communities, offering bursaries where possible. And, eventually, I’d like to turn Thrift Fest into a sustainable lifestyle franchise all over the world!

 

  • Images supplied by Laura Rainbird
  • Follow Thrift Fest on Instagram and Facebook to find out about upcoming markets
  • If you are interested in booking a stall at the next Thrift Fest market, email Laura at thriftfest123@gmail.com
  • Thrift Fest was a Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards 2021 finalist in the Retail Award category presented by Inscape
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