In Mexico, influencers make Castoff Cool clothing | Popgen Tech

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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO — The cries of vendors mingle with stalls selling food, fruit and household items at the Tianguis Las Torres flea market in eastern Mexico City. Under the tents, a pile of clothes is piled on containers, boards and pipes. People look at garment after garment, holding them up to gauge their size and draping selections over forearms and shoulders. Vendors watch from above, shouting out prices and watching for the occasional theft.

Bale clothing, or second-hand clothing, often referred to here as “ropa americana” (American clothing), is widely available at stalls in open-air markets, or tianguis, in Mexico City and Mexico State. These clothes, often smuggled from the United States, used to be an affordable clothing option for Mexican families.

Not anymore. Around the world, internet-savvy young consumers are embracing second-hand clothing as a fashionable alternative to fashion. At Depop, one of the largest clothing platforms in the world, about 90% of its 26 million users are under the age of 26. Young Mexicans are also behind the growing trend.

“I think it’s representative of our generation, putting aside the ‘Oh no, what are people going to say if I wear clothes made of bales?’ in favor of “I want to wear clothes made of bales,” says 21-year-old Moises Molina, who has seen the transformation up close. He grew up among the city’s tiangui when his mother ran a bale stall, which at the time was frequented, he said, mostly by middle-aged housewives.

Molina now has more than 80,000 followers on TikTok, where he models—with lots of fun and a dash of camp aesthetic—the second-hand items he carefully selects from tianguis each month. “The ideology of my content is to look expensive with cheap clothes so you can look incredible without spending more than 500 pesos [around $25]”, – says Molina. “I don’t want to spread the message of consumption, the consumption of clothes on a mass scale, just being able to have your own style at a low price.”

“I don’t want to spread a message about consumption, mass consumption of clothes, just being able to have your own style at a low price.”

Malina and influencers like him curate — picking up the most unique and unusual bale clothes and creating chic fashion looks. In their hands, Bale becomes vintage, retro, beloved. As Efren Sandoval, an anthropologist who specializes in frontier economies, puts it, curation involves cleaning clothes—literally and metaphorically: “Clothes are dirty because they’re made of a bale, and they’re dirty in a social sense.”

Nadia Reyes, 26, started selling clothes on Instagram and TikTok from her bedroom in Mexico City five years ago, but unlike Malina, she also resells them for a small profit. Twice a week, she visits tianguis, both large and small, where she spends up to three hours carefully choosing clothes. When she comes home, she washes them, irons them and puts them away. On Fridays, she delivers orders to customers around town.

“At first I was selling 15 to 20 a week, but now I’m selling 80 to 100,” she says. Her account has just over 16,000 subscribers, but some videos have more than 2 million views. “It used to be taboo. People were ashamed to say that they bought clothes from bales, [that] these are poor people’s clothes that have bugs in them,” she says. “And now it’s fashionable.”

Reyes isn’t the only one looking to cash in on the resale market. According to the 2022 report by thredUP, an American resale platform, thanks to technology, well-known brands and retailers are making big bets on second-hand clothing by opening their own resale and rental locations. The same report predicts that the global used clothing market will grow by 127% by 2026, driven largely by North American consumers.

GoTrendier, a Mexican online used clothing site founded six years ago, has tripled its user base during the pandemic, says Ana Isabel Arvañanos, the company’s Mexico manager. Its 6 million users, both in Mexico and Colombia, upload an average of 20,000 items of clothing a day to the platform, she adds. The upsell is what Arvagianos calls “heavy sellers”: “those who already have a lot of clothes and are very good at using the platform.”

But what happens to those customers who rely on Mexico City’s tiangui to clothe themselves and their families with so many opportunities for profit?

“I used to always buy clothes for myself and my children at Tianguis, but I don’t buy as much anymore because the price has gone up,” said Anabel Gutierrez, 40, a mother of four children between the ages of 9 and 16 and a resident of the municipality of Tecomac in State of Mexico.

“I used to find t-shirts for 5 pesos [25 cents]but now they sell for 50 each [$2.50]. Imagine shopping for my kids, me and my husband,” says Gutierrez. She says she doesn’t know why the prices of clothes have gone up. Now she’s turning to stalls that sell what some call “third-hand clothes” — clothes perhaps rejected by young Mexicans and influencers.

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