Alternative Mall: Is It an Option?
Also known as Bend n’ Pick Boutiques, Alternative Malls stock clothing items of all ages and type. They are just like the conventional Up-market Mall, save for the low prices at which the items come. Tracing their history to the beginning of the clothing industry, alternative malls became acceptable to the majority who could not afford the new clothes from high-end shops, whose price was high due to their high production cost.
The extravagance associated with the rich dictated that they shun appearing in the same apparel for many days. They consequently handed their clothes to their subordinates as soon as they felt they had worn them often enough. The low-class had a chance to wear ‘near new’ clothes at a little or absolutely no cost. With time, the handing-over of clothes from the top guys to the low-class became a business that Bend n Pick Boutiques are today.
Second hand clothes continue to play a key role as alternatives to new ones. The boutiques have gained their lifeline from many factors. The high quality of fabric in clothes found in alternative malls beats the new items from outlet shopping, whose material would probably be synthetic, and the durability and quality suspect. Another plus for the boutiques is the possibility of finding high-end branded clothing in next- to-new shape. This is because the people who could afford to buy the original high-end clothing probably didn’t wear it every day.
Given the current economic disparities around the world, well-off people can afford new clothes from any store of their choice. The low-earning majority would want to have a similar item but they can’t afford. Since the same item at ‘their mall’ costs five-times cheaper, they will go for it. Those who pledge loyalty to the second hand market will prove to you that uniqueness and alternative malls are synonymous. The probability of meeting someone on the streets with a dress similar to yours is very minimal unlike new store-bought clothes whose mass production makes them a ‘uniform’ in town.
‘Unbeatable’ as it may seem, the Bend n Pick Boutique has its downsides. By the time a dress owner unconditionally dumps their vintage item, there is usually a hidden truth that very few can discover. The dress might be having a damage or stain that one may not notice as they bend and pick it at the ‘boutique’. The element of getting the right size for your body contour is another huddle and finding the latest trend in-sync with the prevailing fashion style may not be guaranteed.
Of course, issues of health, hygiene and safety always crop up. One may purchase a dress item (especially under garments) whose previous owner had infections that may be transmitted by the same. Then there is the trouble of meeting the original owner if say the dress was stolen before it found its way to the market. The risk that you may not prove your innocence if you do not have proof of purchase for the item is high, a common characteristic of business transaction at the alternative malls.
Although the sector is seen as a high-risk environment, smart shoppers have discovered many ways of refurbishing second hand items to look new. They re-dye them, replace faulty areas or resize them to achieve better fits. Of late, the alignment towards the sector is threatened by entry of Chinese products whose price is equally low yet they are new. Whether or not the Chinese items are less durable than those in the alternative malls is an analysis people have to make for themselves.
If your sister or brother offered you a jacket they had worn only once, you wouldn’t think twice about accepting it – yet it would be second-hand! …What if the jacket does not fit you? What if they gave it to you because it was ‘dry-clean only’? Like making a business decision, choosing to or not to shop in alternative malls is a matter of risk and adventure. It is all about you and your individuality.
By Antony Odeo
Mr. Odeo is an African Executive Staff Writer