The Wisdom in Ukay-Ukay Shopping
Have you ever worn a 'hand-me-down'? I never did but my sisters did because I was the eldest among six children. In the Philippines, it is a common practice of parents, and really a practical one, to make the younger children wear the used clothes of their older kids when they've outgrown them. But, would you wear used clothes of people you don't know?
I have a friend in church who belong to the choir just like me. Every month we are given a scheduled color of tops to wear every week (as we are required to wear black or dark-colored pants only)--one Sunday, blue, another Sunday, yellow, and so on. This friend of ours would wear really elegant and nice blouses which look expensive until she revealed her source--Ukay-ukay. She said those blouses only cost her Php40 each and as a widow who relies on her small beauty parlor, she cannot afford to buy expensive clothes in department stores. We were all intrigued by this and eventually asked her to buy for us. But I was intrigued much more than they, so I researched about it further.
This photo is in an Ukay-ukay store in Baguio City courtesy of Photobucket.
In a paper written by Ma. Rina Locsin titled "Fashioning a Culture Through Baguio City's Ukay-ukay" published by ACSIS (Advanced Cultural Studies Institute of Sweden) in June 2007 and posted in the web, she said that the term "ukay-ukay" is derived from the Filipino term "hukay" which means to dig up. This term also describes this thriving imported secondhand clothing industry. In her paper, Ms. Locsin has also written about the evolution of the Ukay-ukay industry which I will discuss in my other blog "Awesome Pinoys: Disciples of Philippine Progress" (http://awesomepinoys.blogspot.com/).
I went to Bambang in Manila which is called the 'used clothing district' and I found out that these used clothes are classified into Class A, B, C and cram-packed into 250 to 300-pc. bundles sold by wholesalers from Php5,000 to Php10,000 depending on the quality. They also have used signature clothes, unused quality control-reject denims and clothes, shoes and bags. Many entrepreneurs or retailers go there and negotiate with the wholesalers to buy these bundles which they sell retail in various parts of the country. If you're business-minded, you can do the math, you would learn even from this blog that you can earn from selling Ukay-ukay. The paper by Ms. Locsin also mentioned that the reason why there are more Ukay-ukay shops in Baguio City is because a small group of female Baguio City traders forged an international linkage with the HongKong suppliers in order to assume control of the trade.
In retail Ukay-ukay stores, the products are classified and displayed in hangers and racks. But there are some which still put them in boxes, which is the original Ukay-ukay style, and shoppers just dig in to find what they like. Many of these clothes are still in good quality and some are signature items with brand names such as DKNY, Zara, H & M, etc. The only thing is, you need to know how to wash them properly. Many are priced from Php35 to Php50, some even give you 3 pcs. for Php100 and Php200 for a signature item. Many a lady's eyes have popped because of great finds in these shops for such a small price to pay compared to the ones you buy in the department stores for the same amount of money.
Remember the commercial of a detergent aired in our local television? A 'lavandera' or laundry woman can afford to buy a party dress in Ukay-ukay for her daughter who conveniently told her friend that it was from U.K. Funny, but this is one of the benefits of this industry--making fashion available to everyone including those who can't afford.