Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Thrifters Around The World: Fashionista Kaelyn's Adventures Thrifting in Hong Kong

It's been a little while since we chatted with another thrifter from an exotic locale, so I was glad to work on one when Kaelyn offered to share her thrifting adventures. Kaelyn, a fashion-lover and thrifter from Malaysia, works and thrifts in Honk Kong. She blogs here at Colorful Buttons.

This shop is from a thrifting adventure Kaelyn had in Seoul, Korea.

Tell us a little bit about yourself please, Kaelyn!
Originally from Malaysia, I have been living and working in Hong Kong for nearly 4 years. I love traveling, looking for ‘treasures’ in flea markets, vintage-shopping and sewing.

When and why did you start thrifting?
I think started when I was studying in the university in Penang, Malaysia. I love to visit ‘Jumbo sales’ or charity sales. If I remember correctly, I bought a Mr. Bean teddy bear and several patterns (circa 1980s) from SPCA charity sale which I volunteered to man a stall. However, when I started working, I did not visit many charity sales. When I was studying part time course in fashion and dressmaking, I met one of my closest friends and she introduced vintage to me upon her return from her studies in Paris. From there onwards, I began to look for thrift stores and flea markets in the city or neighbourhood. [sic]

Few reasons why I love thrifting; price – it’s reasonable and cheap, one of a kind – some items are unique and hard to come by nowadays and playing part to help to save the environment (in a bigger picture).

Where do you live and what's thrifting like in your area?
Currently I am living in Lantau Island, Hong Kong. Sometimes the community organizes flea markets. There are Salvation Army’s thrift stores in different parts of Hong Kong. I checked couple of the thrift stores and these stores sell a variety of items from household items to clothes.

What do you think makes thrifting in Hong Kong different than thrifting in the United States or other places in the world?
Hong Kong is a slightly different market in the sense that majority of the people do not like used items and prefer new items. However there is the minority who does not mind used items and shop at thrift stores and flea markets. I would say foreigners and some local people would shop at thrift stores and flea markets.

Due to high cost of rental, the prices in thrift stores are not very cheap in Hong Kong. In Malaysia, I can find items in a thrift stores within the price of USD0.24 to USD10 but in Hong Kong, the prices are within USD0.10 to USD20.

What are the names for "thrifting" in The Korea Hong Kong? Any special nick names?
I don’t think there is any special nick name besides buying ‘secondhand’ items.

Is there a large thrifting/junking/second-hand shopping culture where you live?
Where I live, I would say it is relatively large because the community organizes flea markets at least twice in a year; one in summer, one in autumn or near Christmas.

Is there a stigma against second-hand shopping in your area?
Not really.

Are there any flea markets near you? What are they like?
Yes but only twice in a year. It is rather small with less than 15 stalls. It is a mixed of stall selling food items, wine, jewelry and stall selling used items from books, CDs, DVDs, bags, shoes to clothes.

Are there many dumpster divers and curb-side hunters in Korea Hong Kong?
I don’t think so.

Is there a large thrift and craft culture where you're at?
In general in Hong Kong, thrift is not a large culture here. Not too sure about craft culture; but I have seen some shops selling DIY project items such as beads, chains, tool for jewelry making etc.

It's the same way where my family is from, my family in Puerto Rico doesn't understand thrifting and the craft culture is very slowly on the rise. What are thrift stores like in your area?
The stores sell a variety of used items such as household items, books, clothes, bags, shoes, accessories etc. Sometimes, there are items donated by some organizations. The items are nicely and tidily placed on shelves.

What are you and the other thrifts usually on the prowl for in the thrifts?
For me mainly clothes, shoes and books, sometimes knick knacks.

Do you have any thrifted collections?
A small collection of vintage purses – tapestry and beaded. Some knickknacks.

Thanks so much for reading out to share your Hong Kong thrifting adventures with us! If anyone else would like to be featured e-mail me.

Where in the world would you like to thrift? Or visit? I'm jealous of the travels I saw in Kaelyn's archives!
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  1. I love thrifting around the world. When we went to Spain this Spring we went to the famous El Rastro Flea Market in Madrid, one of Europe's oldest and largest. It was very very packed - definitely a thrifting culture based on the amount of second hand stores in that area. You may want to see if you can hook up with a reader from Madrid to interview :)

    1. That sounds amazing! I wouldn't have pictured that for Madrid based on my first-hand experiences with other Spanish-speaking cultures but that's so awesome that you go to experience it :)

  2. I grew up in Hong Kong so I enjoyed reading this article! It's true that HK people are more into brand new things. I remember an Oxfam charity shop and second hand book sales at the church. Not much in the way of vintage clothes, though. How times have changed :)

    1. I didn't know you grew up in Hong Kong, that's so cool! It's the same way in Puerto Rico where my family is from, thrifting is somewhat frowned upon and everyone prefers new things.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, was glad she reached out for the interview.

  4. Ooh! I love this :) I'm a big fan of thrift shopping, which my Mum never got..she grew up with hand me downs and thrift store finds which explains it but there's nothing quite like a great thrift shop find.

    1. My mom grew up thrifting and loves it more than I do, haha. I've been thrifting my whole life.

    2. Ur, not lately though, to curb impulse buying. ;) I need a looong period of buying nothing but necessities.

  5. I appreciate this interview as I used to live in Hong Kong and I had an HK-based blog there in 2009 when there weren't as many bloggers; I also contributed posts about thrifting to a large women's lifestyle website called Sassy Hong Kong. However, there are many things I'd have to disagree with in this interview.

    There is a HUGE stigma with thrifting and secondhand shopping in Hong Kong, and Asia, on the whole. Just because a select few Christian charities organize a flea market twice a year on an island about an hour away from Hong Kong, it does not mean that the average person understands, or is even aware, that thrifting is a thing. In Asian culture, buying used wares is associated with a litany of negative things: some socio-economical, some cultural, some physical (e.g. buying used clothes will spread disease), and invariably all of them superstitious. There is also unequivocally not a large thrifting/junking/secondhand culture in Hong Kong. For every thrift store you get, you will get 1000 retail stores that sell new product.

    I don't mean to be negative, only informative. I wouldn't want someone going to Hong Kong to mistakenly think that there are a lot of thrift stores there, arrive, and be thoroughly disappointed.

    N.B. There are, however, a lot of hidden malls that have vendors who make their own products, but it's not "craftsy," it's very modern and contemporary. You'll get everyone from a jewelry maker to a stationary shop to a doll-furniture maker. I've seen the guy making his stuff in his booth on a Saturday night at 9pm.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences Jenn, I really do appreciate it! I've heard the superstitious ones ("What if it's a dead person's!?" -- so tired of hearing that, I know you are, too) and "What is thrifting- why would you buy OLD stuff?!" exclamations for years from people around the world and people in America, too.

    2. My dad used to tell me that buying used clothes would give me cancer or other contagious diseases. Well guess what, I'M STILL ALIVE DAD!

    3. So THERE! Haha, what a silly thing to say! My roomie always mentions the "dead people" thing but she likes the clothes I find.

  6. I would totally buy and frame those vintage patterns just because they're from Hong Kong! Nice interview by the way!

    1. Things being from exotic countries does make them a little more special for me, too :)


I love reading your comments. Thank you for adding to the discussion! I always reply to any and all questions.

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