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Reloved Collective
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

The Reloved Collective: more than just a thrift store in Chinatown

Thrift shopping may be in trend now, but The Reloved Collective is offering more than just retail therapy

Delfina Utomo
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Delfina Utomo
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Chinatown is known for plenty of things – the culture, its history, all the glorious food, heritage businesses and more. There's one more to add to the list: thrift shopping. Lifestyle store The Reloved Collective opened early this year and it is where you can find secondhand clothes and other handmade upcycled gems – but it promises to be more than just another thrift store. When it comes to over-consumerism, Singaporeans are guilty. Fashion and textile products account for 137,000 tonnes of waste – of which only a mere four percent is actually recycled. The Reloved Collective aims to give the community a sustainable and enjoyable experience when shopping for secondhand items. Ultimately, the store wants to add value to society and the environment by promoting responsible consumerism.

Besides donated items, the store also supports local businesses undergoing liquidation through stock acquisition, as well as provides consignment options for entrepreneurs selling green and upcycled products like a lamp made out of gin bottles and a hip bench made from an old skateboard. Who says secondhand items can't be cool? We talk to co-founder Christopher Boey about this humble store filled with gems in Chinatown. 

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Tell us more about the concept of The Reloved Collective.

I've always been interested the whole secondhand culture. Growing up, I enjoyed buying and selling things on forums, browsing and buying stuff on Carousell and also visiting secondhand and flea markets. This hobby stayed on and I started wondering if I could do something with this interest of mine that would help or benefit the community and drive a movement. I wanted it to become something everyone could join in and also love. The concept of The Reloved Collective was built on that, with the focus on responsible consumerism. 

In Singapore, when we want something we go to a shopping mall and we buy something new for almost every occasion – Chinese New Year, Christmas and everything else. And when we don't need it anymore, it becomes junk and let's be honest, we don't know – or always know – where it goes to. In my experience, I've seen some pretty spectacular things that Singaporeans have thrown out, which would otherwise be appreciated by someone else. 

I wanted to come up with an idea, like a social enterprise to bring all this together. So the idea is to promote responsible consumerism through the sale of secondhand items geared towards fashion and lifestyle products.

So you're really big on upcycling.
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

So you're really big on upcycling.

Recycling is easy. You take something you don't want, it gets recycled to be created into something new. Recycling takes a lot of energy, resources and effort. Whereas with upcycling, you create something new from its current state. There's a certain element of artistry to it. I would say it's a relatively new thing and we want people to fully embrace the concept here. It's things like turning bottles into lamps, old fabric into tote bags and other wearables – actually, you can create something that you think you don't want into something of a masterpiece

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What workshops can visitors expect here?
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

What workshops can visitors expect here?

A big component of what we do at The Reloved Collective is the workshops. We want to see people get hands-on with upcycling. Some of the classes we've held includes weaving where we use scrap fabric to make new things like coasters and runners. We also held a soap making class as well in this space. 

What does sustainability mean to you?
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

What does sustainability mean to you?

Sustainability is not just about environmental sustainability. It's really about making things last. Sustainability is relevant across a social perspective, economic perspective and environmental perspective. Although we're a social enterprise, we very much still have to run like a business.

 

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What do you like the most about thrift shopping?
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

What do you like the most about thrift shopping?

I love the hidden gems! You won't believe the range and quality of things people throw out these days so you'll never know what you're going to get. 

Even at The Reloved Collective, I run through a lot of the stuff that comes and a lot of these stuff are either almost new or branded. If you think about it, you can actually live a life of freeganism here in Singapore. There are so many places that also throw out perfectly good food items before its expiration date. One man's junk is really another man's treasure!

Go there now

  • Shopping
  • Second-hand shops
  • Chinatown

Thrift shopping may be in trend now, but Reloved Collective is offering more than just retail therapy. The store opened this year and is a place for secondhand gems, crafted upcycled products and also the place to be for workshops and classes. 

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