Your old rags may be worth a lot more than you think. Mayi Picazo, a smart Filipino, makes a good buck, thanks to donated second-hand clothing. Ironically, by selling it back to western costumers.
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For five years, Mayi (46) has been rooting ukay ukay (second-hand shops) all over the Philippines in search of valuable clothes – which is not hard since the South East Asian country is buried in second hand clothing from western non-profit organizations.
There is quite some criticism on this kind of development aid. The free donation of clothing (or any other good for that matter) can be considered unfair competition for local industries. But that’s something you will probably not hear Mayi complaining about.
Jordan & McEnroe
In a storage room, he proudly shows some items from his large collection of rock t-shirts, sports wear and advertising shirts, all from the seventies to early nineties. A faded red Michael Jordan t-shirt is for sale for no less than 180 dollars. A pair of retro tennis shorts à la John McEnroe does around 30 to 50 dollars.
As you might tell from the price tags, not just any old wardrobe reject will do, it has to be vintage. ‘What draws people to vintage is the history behind it’, explains Mayi. ‘If you don’t know anything about pop culture or old movies or old advertising shirts, than you will probably not be able to appreciate vintage clothing.’
People pay for real vintage
Mayi shares his passion for vintage clothing primarily with western customers. He hardly sells anything in his own counrty. ‘Filipino’s are very brand conscious. They would rather wear a second hand Gucci or Tommy Hilfiger.’ That’s why Mayi sells his goods only online, mostly to the US and Europe. Last year, he made up to 2500 US dollar a month. That may not seem spectacular to western standards, but in the Philippines it means you can live the good life.
‘Some clothes are worn out, some have holes. But people are willing to pay for a real vintage t-shirt’, Mayi says. ‘My most expensive item was a shirt of 70′s punkband Ramones. I sold it for 200 dollars. At the ukay ukay it cost me 60 cents.