The next time you head over to Queensway Shopping Centre to pick up sports apparel or indulge in a bowl of Katong laksa, don’t forget to pay a visit to Threadlightly. Tucked away in a maze of shops on the second floor, this store stocks stylish, pre-loved items, vintage and vintage-inspired pieces, as well as reworked t-shirts and bags.
What’s special about this place is perhaps its community focus. Rin Azhar, the 22-year-old founder of Threadlightly, started it up with the express desire to give back. Set aside the fact that thrifting itself is a sustainable practice – at Threadlightly, a portion of proceeds are donated to a different organisation every month, and there’s even a Local Corner that hawks products from local makers.
It’s a long way to come from Threadlightly’s days as a simple pop-up. We head down to the store to hear from Rin about her journey to opening the physical store, how she’s managing the business, and her thoughts on the thrift shopping trend in Singapore.
Hi Rin! Can you tell us all about how Threadlightly got started?
I started Threadlightly because I felt like I wasn’t really doing enough to give back to the community. There were vintage stores that were popping up then – stores like Loop Garms and Death Threads were very popular. But I felt like thrift stores weren’t as popular, but they are kind of sister ideas. So, I wanted to be able to do something related to fashion, and also be able to give back. And so I thought that thrift stores, or something along the idea of having somewhere people can donate items would be the best.
"I wanted to be able to do something related to fashion, and also be able to give back."
When did you come up with the idea of opening a physical store and what was the process like?
When I graduated from poly in 2019, I took a gap year to figure out what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. Last year, when it came about time to pick between going to school or starting my store, my parents sat me down and had an intervention. They were like, if you really want to start your store, this is the time to do it, you know?
Starting a physical store was my end goal anyway, so I decided – I have the means to do it, and I have the time as well. So, I was just like, let’s do it. And that’s how the store came about. I searched for the store for a few weeks and put aside some of my savings. My parents also gave me some seed money which I’m very thankful for. I also found this nice little spot, which I really like because it’s part of the Heritage Trail. I thought it was cool and kind of vintage-y as well. So, I’m very lucky and very happy to be here.
Your mom also does tote bags and things for the store. It’s great that your parents have been so supportive.
They have been extremely supportive. We collect donations and my parents are the ones who help me collect all the items. I think I trust them more than anybody because they know exactly how I want things to be done. My mom helps me with the bags – she loves sewing, she loves making stuff. She does that free of charge because she loves me. And my dad does the same thing. He always says, you don’t need to pay me, as long as you love me, that’s fine. Yes, I think they’ve helped me out a lot.
"We collect donations and my parents are the ones who help me collect all the items. I think I trust them more than anybody because they know exactly how I want things to be done."
So, what does a day in the store look like for you?
In the morning, if we have any donations, me and my mom go through it just to see what is okay and is not okay. Usually, we pick based on whether it's in good condition, and then we go through another round of sanitation, meaning we clean and wash them before packing them in bags. Usually, I just grab any bag to bring into the store, but because it’s been cold recently, I've been grabbing a lot more jackets and stuff like that.
Usually, I take the train from Woodlands and then come in, reply some emails, put up some stuff. I don't really go out for lunch breaks because my mom cooks me food every single day. I eat in the store while I do stuff and because the crowd usually comes in after four, I’ve plenty of time before that to eat and slowly do everything. At night, I sometimes help my parents with the pickups, but if I'm busy or if I'm out with my friends, then I usually just bring work home to do. So, it’s mostly just work.
It’s a good thing you love what you do, then. You also have three lines of clothing. Can you tell us more about each?
We have Rehome, Reclaim and Rework. Rehome actually takes up about 80 percent of the store now. It's all stuff that people donate. The idea of the store is to have a community-centred space, so being able to cater to people who want to be a part of the sustainable fashion chain is really important to me.
The Reclaim line is stuff that I curate on my own, from when I was travelling, or just interesting, vintage pieces that I see online. I've to do most of it remotely right now because we obviously can't travel. It also includes vintage-inspired pieces, so not all of them are actually vintage.
And for Rework, right now it's only acid wash and tie-dye T-shirts, as well as mini tote bags. Some of them are made from repurposed textiles – stuff that would have been thrown away, my mom collects them, and she makes them into new tote bags.
"The idea of the store is to have a community-centred space, so being able to cater to people who want to be a part of the sustainable fashion chain is really important to me."
About the Reclaim line, what do you look out for when you curate vintage and vintage-inspired pieces?
It kind of depends. I take into account what people are looking for. A lot of people are looking for vests, skirts and blazers. So, when I'm curating stuff, that's what I look for. If you’re looking at vintage pieces, there are a lot of different ways to tell whether or not they are vintage. Usually, vintage pieces are 100 percent made of a single material. Newer pieces are usually a mix of different materials. And you can also tell when an item is vintage or from a certain era because it looks outstandingly different. As far as fast fashion goes, they're a lot thinner. They don't last very long. I think there's a very, very solid difference.
You’re on Tik Tok too – is that where you’re getting your feedback and your audience?
In the beginning, yes actually! I was just doing Tik Tok for fun. It really started because I was annoying my brother, because at that time, it wasn’t really cool for anybody above 18 to be on Tik Tok. And then when the store came around, I was like, yeah, I’ll just make one Tik Tok about it, which then blew up a bit. During the opening, I was asking people how they found out about the store and most of them said that they found me on Tik Tok, so I decided to continue making more.
Your online aesthetic is also pretty appealing. Do you handle the design across your social media, website and look book?
Yeah, social media is all handled by me, so I really try my best. Of course, I’m surrounded by creatives because I was from Mass Comms at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. My friends are always there to give me feedback on things that could be done better and I’m very, very open to that because running a man one show makes it a bit hard to get feedback.
Just rewinding a bit – what gave you the confidence to say, what gave you the confidence to open up your physical store?
I had no idea it was going to work. I had one pop-up and the rest were all online. So, I had no idea whether or not it was going to be anything fruitful. I’m just very, very lucky. I was just kind of taking a chance really.
Do you think that thrift shopping is getting more popular now though?
Yeah, I definitely think so. Everyday going on Tik Tok there is a new thrift store coming up, which is very great. I’ve very happy to see that the sustainable shopping trend is rising in Singapore. Because not everyone can shop for new, sustainable clothing. If you want to shop at thrift stores, it’s a lot more viable.
Do you think it’s just a fad? How can we sustain it?
I think everything is a fad! Everything starts from a fad, right? But whether or not something stays and becomes a habit is a totally different thing.
Fast fashion is really convenient. But I think because sustainable fashion is a fad right now, people will want to know more about it, and educate themselves about it. And I think that's how it will become something more and not just a trend. I think even if the sustainable trend fades away, we will be a lot more conscious about the way we buy and not over purchase.
"I think even if the sustainable trend fades away, we will be a lot more conscious about the way we buy and not over purchase."
How has your own sense of style changed over the years?
I feel like I touched on every single kind of fashion look. I went through a Hypebeast phase, which was not good, but going through different phases is very important to see what you're most comfortable with. I’ve been very lucky that the people around me have been very supportive throughout all my different, very strange phases. But for now, I think I've mellowed down and kind of just wear whatever I’m feeling like.
In three words then, what is your sense of style now?
Three words! I would say mellow, neutral and... the third word is always very hard. Ever-changing? Does that count as one word? I don't think I fit into a specific style; I just wear whatever.
"I went through a Hypebeast phase, which was not good, but going through different phases is very important to see what you're most comfortable with."
Ever-changing – we like that! To cap it off, what are your plans for the business?
Right now, we donate to different beneficiaries every single month. So, the plan is to find a bigger space as well as to collaborate further with different organisations, more than just putting aside a portion of money for them. I'd like to maybe be a host – where people can come in, sign up to be a volunteer or run a food drive, that kind of stuff. Working with them a bit more deeply would be one of my goals.