Thrift and flips: Filipino designer ‘re-works’ old clothing for sustainable fashion

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

One of the most basic ways you can reduce your waste as an individual is by participating in the secondhand market or thrift.

Thrift shopping is beneficial to the environment because it lessens the carbon footprint caused by clothing production, lowers water consumption, and keeps clothes out of landfills.

But most people don’t realise that thrifting goes far beyond your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. There’s a new eco-conscious fashion trend called “thrift flipping” – popularised by Gen Z –  where second-hand clothing is bought, altered, and sold for profit. 

Viable.Earth had the privilege of interviewing a budding designer from the Philippines, Joanna Macatulad, who for the past four years has run an online thrift-and-flip store as a side hustle.

Hi Joanna! Can you introduce yourself to our audience?

You can call me Jo or Jojo for short. I am from the Summer Capital of the Philippines, Baguio City. I love thrift shopping, sewing clothes, watching Korean Dramas and any fashion related shows and series. I am a graduating student with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management and majored in International Hotel and Business Operations.

My first question is, what made you decide you wanted to do this? How did you come up with the idea of running a thrift store that “flips” clothing? 

We were experiencing financial challenges before, but that did not stop me from buying clothes in a much better and more sustainable way – Ukay [That’s a Filipino term for thrift shopping]. People would always compliment me on my clothes, and they would also feel surprised that it was thrifted. 

They always said I have a good eye for picking up clothes even though it’s just thrifted and secondhand. That became an idea for me to start an online business on Instagram, initially called To the 90s.

Since my love for fashion grew, my creativity with it also grew. I’ve always struggled to find the right size of clothes because I am very petite. I always had to cut my tops and alter my pants; that’s when I took an interest in sewing. Fashion vloggers like Nava Rose & Ashley, a.k.a best dressed, influenced me how to be more sustainable in fashion by doing thrift flips. 

I used my savings to buy an affordable mini sewing machine as a Christmas present, and then I started to learn the basics. I finally decided to invest in a better sewing machine for more and better-upcycled clothes, and that’s also when I renamed my business from To the 90s to Mariéa. 

Thrift and flips: Filipino designer "re-works" old clothing for sustainable fashion

Was this a dream you pursued or just an impulsive decision?

It was a dream I pursued. In 2018, I asked my parents to buy me a sewing machine as a Christmas present. That machine is only worth P1800 (US$34) as it is just a mini version of a domestic sewing machine. I’ve always wanted to have a sewing machine, but that dream felt impossible before because of the financial challenges we faced.

Can you share with our readers what is flipping to you?

Flipping is also a term for upcycling or revamping. This is where you make a piece of clothing and then use your creativity to flip it into a more fashionable way.

What ignited this passion?

Since I was a kid, I have always loved fashion, and that genuine love for fashion has grown over the years. Fashion allowed me to be more creative and be myself.

Thrift and flips: Filipino designer "re-works" old clothing for sustainable fashion

What do you love about flipping?

What I love the most about thrift flipping clothes is that you can freely make your vision into reality. And there are no rules with it! 

How did you start flipping professionally? Where did you learn how to design and sew?

I just watched tutorials on YouTube Fashion and sewing vloggers were my teachers. I also look at design inspiration on Pinterest, my surroundings, magazines, and even the environment.

How do you buy and sell secondhand goods?

I go to thrift stores and carefully handpick all the secondhand and thrifted items I can upcycle. 

My strategy is to create vision boards first before going thrifting, as this will help me be more creative and inspired when handpicking. I also carry all those heavy eco-bags myself! [to carry the thrifted clothes].

What’s the best or weirdest thing you’ve ever found second hand?

The best item I got from a thrift store is a pair of vintage Levi’s because I only got them for Php35 (US 50 cents). I haven’t found anything weird yet as I always upcycle them, and I always treat thrifting like treasure hunting.

Why should others participate in the secondhand market?

Our planet has been struggling for years. Even though we all love fashion, the industry has always been a large contributor to pollution.

I believe that small ways to shop secondhand can better contribute to our environment. Secondhand shopping helps lower the impact of all the things we consume, as we are reusing clothes that have already been produced, which helps prevent clothes from going to landfills.

What are some online thrift stores you love to shop from? Help our audience with a list!

These are the online thrift stores we should support more and love:

  • Vintage Chic: @ph.vintagechic
  • Buy, Wear, Slay:
  • Wear Exposed: @wearexpo
  • Poll Clothing: @poll.clo
  • Oh Dianna: @oh.dianna
  • Podo Suhwag: @podo_suhwag
Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

A digital content manager based in the Philippines, Kaycee Enerva has written for multiple publications over several years. A graduate of Computer Science, she exchanged a career in IT to pursue her passion for writing. She's slowly practicing sustainability through period cups, and eating more plant-based food.