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Entrepreneur

Trash To Treasure: This 22-Year-Old S'porean Set Up A Thrift Store To Sell Unwanted Clothes

Singapore is well-known as a shopping paradise, with shopping malls and retail stores dotting the nation.

Most recently, thrift shopping has become popular, especially with the rise of sustainable fashion.

The latest addition to the growing list of thrifting options in Singapore is Threadlightly, a quaint store tucked away at Queensway Shopping Centre.

It was officially opened in August 2020 by 22-year-old Rin Azhar, who decided to forego university to run the store full-time.

From Side Project To Full-Time Business

threadlightly thrift shop
Image Credit: Time Out

Rin told Vulcan Post in an interview that she first started on Threadlightly back when she was 18 years old, along with two other friends.

At that time, she had a strong interest in thrifting as well as a passion for helping the community.

“I wanted to do something fashion related, as well as help the community, which is how Threadlightly was started,” said the Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduate.

Back then, she would sell clothes donated by friends at pop-up booths, with all proceeds going to local non-profit organisation AWARE.

After graduating with a Diploma in Mass Communication, she was faced with the choice of pursuing her university degree or turning her side project into a more permanent one.

She chose the latter as she felt that it was something she was sure about committing to.

Rin quickly launched into all the preparations — collecting clothes, market research, and looking for a store space.

To finance the store space, furnishing and renovation costs, Rin poured in her own savings, together with some seed money from her father.

In August 2020, her efforts came to fruition when she launched the Threadlightly store.

Rin explained that thrift stores are all about sustainability, which is the inspiration behind the three product lines available there.

Firstly, the Rehome line consists of clothing donated from the public, and makes up around 70 per cent of the items available in the store. Items go for as low as S$4, with nothing above S$15.

Next, the Reclaim line features vintage pieces curated by Rin from wholesalers or overseas. Since the pieces are usually one-off items, prices tend to start from S$30.

Before Covid-19 hit, Rin shared that she was travelling “quite a lot” so she could find different vintage items or designs to add to the store’s collection.

However, those plans have been thwarted due to the travel bans, and the Reclaim collection now accounts for around 10 per cent of the items available in the store.

Lastly, the Rework collection consists of clothing items that have been upcycled, such as tie-dyed clothes and hand-sewn bags.

Running A Store As A One-Woman Show

threadlightly thrift shop
Image Credit: Threadlightly

Besides being the founder of her own brand, Rin is also the one and only employee at the store.

She works seven days a week, bringing in new stock daily as well as managing the store’s marketing and social media campaigns.

Threadlightly is extremely active on both Instagram and TikTok, where Rin carries out most of the brand’s marketing efforts. Since its inception, it has chalked up over 5,000 followers on Instagram and 3,200 followers.

While Threadlightly steadily gains followers and traction, Rin shared that educating customers on the benefits of thrifting remains a challenge.

Some people still hold misconceptions that thrifted clothes are “unhygienic”, while others do not understand the difference between vintage and thrift.

On that note, Rin explains that thrifted items are sold at a lower price point, and it is the responsibility of thrift store owners to ensure that their products are affordable to customers.

Keeping The Store A Community-Centred Space

threadlightly thrift shop
Image Credit: Threadlightly

To Rin, the basis of owning a thrift store is to be able to give back to the community, and her ultimate aim is to keep Threadlightly a “community-centred space”.

Since she started Threadlightly, she has been supporting various charity and non-profit organisations by giving them a portion of the store’s earnings.

For example, in August last year, Rin donated a portion of her earnings to It’s Raining Raincoats, an initiative for the benefit of migrant workers. 

Following that, Threadlightly partnered up with Project Hills, a ground-up initiative that aims to provide assistance to residents of rental housing estates. 

This month, their beneficiary is Twilight Love, an organisation that distributes groceries to needy elderly adopted in various housing areas.

The basic idea of a thrift store is being able to give back to the community, so I don’t think I’ll be able to have a thrift store without helping these organisations or beneficiaries. 

We want to continue giving a portion of proceeds to beneficiaries every month.

– Rin Azhar, Founder of Threadlightly

Rin also supports other local brands and businesses by displaying their products in her store.

The “Local Corner” showcases products from homegrown small businesses like sustainable vegan lip gloss from Peach Glam Beauty and sustainable jewellery by Bologna Jam.

Beyond scaling the business, Rin also hopes that Threadlightly will be able to take a more active role in serving the community.

Featured Image Credit: Threadlightly

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