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Want To Help Save The Environment? Shop For Your Clothes At An Ukay-ukay

Want To Help Save The Environment? Shop For Your Clothes At An Ukay-ukay
Image by @jcomp / Freepik

If you frequently shopped in an ukay-ukay pre-pandemic, you have no idea how much you were doing the environment a favor.

A 2017 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation states that the fashion industry is responsible for more waste than both the aviation and shipping industries combined. This accounts for 92 million tons of textile waste, 79 trillion liters of water used, and a hefty contribution to climate change. Mass producing clothes in the fast fashion industry is admittedly extravagant and detrimental to the environment.

Enter ukay-ukay—a thrift shop for clothes and accessories— which sells secondhand clothing, bags, and shoes. Most of the products sold at thrift shops are quality control rejects from factories and off-season materials that manufacturers are bound to throw away, if not for the ukay-ukay trade.

Buy more, spend less

Thaneca Supresencia, now 22, started thrifting when she was just eight years old. Her mom would wake her up early in the morning to head to the nearest ukay-ukay, hoping to score high-end pieces at an affordable price. Asked why she loves the activity, she replied, “[You can get] cute stuff without hurting your pocket.”

It is common to find pieces ranging from Php 10 to Php 50 in an ukay-ukay, that any item marked Php 100 is already considered expensive. Yes, your money can go a long way in thrift shops -- for the price of one item from fast fashion brands, you can get 5 to 10 pieces from your local ukay-ukay.

Because thrift shops sometimes source products from brand manufacturers, high-end pieces can usually be purchased for an incredibly low price.

“Lately, I’ve been into leather items. Usually, it would cost around Php 2,000 in retail stores, but I got mine from an ukay for only Php 200!” Thaneca shares.

Because of thrifting, she was able to own luxury items for much less. “I recently purchased a pair of vintage leather pants, which costs around Php 60,000 if brand new, [from an ukay] for only Php 50, with no flaws,” she adds.

Ukay-ukay as sustainable fashion

To decrease the production of new clothes, we need to stop throwing away fabric we no longer want. In an article by WRAP UK, it was mentioned that the value of unused clothing in wardrobes reached £30 billion (Php 1.9 trillion), while an estimated £140 million worth of clothing goes to landfills every year. That’s Php 9 billion worth of wasted fabric that could have been recycled.

CHEC International suggests that we donate our unwanted clothes to charity or thrift shops. This way, we can keep them out of landfills, extend the useful life of clothes, and increase the supply and demand for pre-owned, reusable clothing.

Ukay-ukay enthusiast Aleth Bermundo agrees. “I think that ukay culture contributes greatly to the sustainable fashion movement. The recycling of clothes helps reduce the production of even more clothes, which then helps the environment [on a global scale].”

Gian Atienza, who is currently running an online ukay business, says, “I like the longevity and timelessness of the products. For me, if you buy products from thrift shops, you are not bound by consumerism or trends.”

In the ukay world, you wear whatever you fancy -- no one dictates whether a piece of clothing is in-season, or cares if an item is not part of the latest collection, which is not the case for fast fashion businesses. “As long as it pleases you, you’ll probably buy that item,” Gian adds.

Look great while saving money

Buying secondhand clothing does not make you any less stylish. In fact, personalities like Heart Evangelista and Jean Dalida are firm believers that you don’t need to break the bank to look your best. Here are a few of the outfits they wore from ukay-ukay finds:


This red long sleeve top on Heart only costs Php 20!


This entire look costs Php 270 in total.


A 20-peso top and 35-peso skirt, as seen on Jean Dalida.


Jean scored this pair of Levi’s Mom Jeans for only Php 50.

A convenient way to shop unique ukay finds

Almost convinced to try thrift shopping, but worried about your health and safety? The local fashion scene has a number of ukay-ukay shops online! Here are 5 Instagram thrift stores run by ukay enthusiasts, whose products are carefully curated to ensure the quality, longevity, and uniqueness of the items. It’s just like your typical online shopping session, but without the guilt of contributing to climate change.

  1. Nethasia MNL


    The sustainable clothing line by Thaneca Supresencia offers sophisticated dresses, swimwear, and classic tops for every woman.

    Visit Nethasia MNL on Instagram.

  2. Stashed PH


    Streetwear connoisseurs, rejoice! Gian Atienza’s clothing store is curated with timeless pieces and rare finds, from shoes, hoodies, band tees, and more!

    Visit Stashed PH on Instagram.

  3. A&A Apparel


    A&A Apparel is a Laguna-based online shop run by Aira Centeno, a sustainable fashion advocate. Her thrifted pieces are so dainty, they look straight out of a fairytale.

    Visit A&A Apparel on Instagram.

  4. La Rotacion


    Silk dresses, rattan bags, knitwear: La Rotacion has got you covered. Their earth-toned pieces are perfect for those who have a flair for neutrals.

    Visit La Rotacion on Instagram.

  5. RETAGGED THRIFT SHOP

    More than just a business, Retagged also helped boost the confidence of its owner Aleth Bermundo, allowing her to step out of her comfort zone. If you’re looking for pieces for days when you feel like dressing up, you will love this shop’s wide range of clothing. Just make sure you have fast hands, as these online thrift shops usually have only one stock per item!

    Visit Retagged Thrift Shop on Facebook.

In summary, there really isn’t any reason for us not to shift from buying mass produced clothing to purchasing ukay-ukay pieces. They’re more affordable, unique, accessible, and most importantly, better for the environment. If shopping is one of your favorite activities, why not make the world a better place while you’re at it?

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