Secondhand Steal

05 January 2017

We dig up the facts on the local bundle shopping scene.

Charity shops. Vintage boutiques. Kampung bundle stores. These are all the places where one can get down for a good hunt, sift through the racks, and score a vintage piece or two. According to the United Nations Comtrade Database, Japan is the tenth largest exporter of secondhand clothes in the world, exporting USD100 million worth of secondhand textiles annually. And by far the biggest buyers for Japanese clothing are Malaysians, importing some USD51 million of it. The reason is simple – the Asian fit.

Inspired by the huge secondhand scene in Japan, 33-year-old Wafi Shari opened Bandoru, a preloved concept store in Batu Tiga, Shah Alam, just off the Federal Highway. Bundle stores have long been associated with the somewhat less-than-savoury experience of rummaging through piles of discarded clothing, breathing in musty smells of mildewed threads. However, Bandoru aims to change that by making bundle shopping accessible to all; Bandoru peddles clothes that have been sorted, cleaned, steamed and folded at its sorting factory in Port Klang before they hit the racks.

A visit to Bandoru is a strangely familiar experience – it has a layout similar to the likes of H&M, the cheery staff greet you with a chirpy “Welcome to Bandoru!”, it boasts clean white furnishings, and red price tags clearly display the price for each item. It does make for a pleasant browse: clothes are categorised by menswear (jeans, shirts, jackets, and there’s even a rack dedicated to Hawaiian shirts), womenswear (dresses, kimonos in good condition, cardigans and more), as well as kids’ clothing.

More highlights: a display case with designer bags (we’ve spotted Dior and Aigner during our visits), a curated section by local designer Ziaf Damahom (who recently did a collaboration with Bandoru at the Mercedes Benz Stylo Asia Fashion Week), and interestingly, a space called “Celebrity Picks”, where local celebrities are invited to display some personal items or clothes of their choice, whereupon proceeds from the sale would go towards charities. For now, Bandoru is displaying some leather jackets from Amy Search.

Bandoru store manager Amy Muhammad Zul Hilmi

According to store manager Amy Muhammad Zul Hilmi, who did bundle selling on a small scale before joining Bandoru, he believes that people from all walks of life buy bundle, but there are some who are poorer than others: “Bila ada orang minta diskaun untuk barangan RM5, you tahu dia dari golongan yang memang memerlukan [When someone asks for a discount on a RM5 item, you know they’re from the (lower income) group that really needs it].”

Moving on from Shah Alam to its bordering town of Klang, it’s difficult to walk into Stwo Bundle and not be dazzled by the rails of shoes, but it’s easy to see what has made the nearly two-decades-old, footwear-focused bundle establishment such a success: it caters for the teen (Converse shoes abound), the trendy college kid (Doc Martens galore) and the shrewd, mature shopper (Ferragamo leather soles, anyone?).

Founder Wan Muhammad Hafiz has been in the business for many years (he claims to have started bundle shopping since year three in primary school), and the stock at Stwo Bundle is kept fresh. While items may be slightly expensive, at the end of the day, you’re paying for know-how, handpicked pieces, and quality. Ask him about any pair, and Hafiz has a story to tell about the label, the stitching and the soles.

Stwo Bundle founder Wan Muhammad Hafiz

Hafiz believes that the bundle scene in Malaysia first began with clothing such as jeans. The rise of bundle shoes started when people saw that there was a demand for secondhand shoes when some began to sell stolen shoes at Chow Kit market. A collector himself (he has a formidable collection of Converse shoes dating back to the 1940s), Hafiz sources for vintage shoes from Japan.

While quality vintage can cost as much as retail (or even more), Hafiz still prefers buying vintage over retail. “First, the quality is good. If an item has been around for 50 years and still looks new, there’s a certain quality lah.” Hafiz continues, “Also, there are some stuff you just can’t find in Malaysia.”

Within the larger ecosystem of bundle shopping in Malaysia are the smaller boutiques touting a curated selection of clothing. One of them is W6, also known as wewillwearwhateverwewant, a pop-up consignment and thrift store focused on menswear.

“I was doing communications, and it’s another clichéd story: I didn’t really like what I was doing, and my friends kept asking me where my clothes were from – they were mostly thrifted, by the way – so I thought I’d give it a try,” said 27-year-old Sherwan, founder of W6.

W6 began showing at local markets as well as bazaars in Melbourne and Singapore, before finally making its way to Findars, an arts space on the fourth floor of a multi-tenant lot on Jalan Panggong near Chinatown. With a space to house his selection – mostly tops and outerwear sorted in pleasing, muted tones of green, blue, grey and mustard – as well as run his design consultancy, Sherwan’s happy with where he is now.

“I began thrifting when I was in college. It was just fun to check out bundle stores to create different looks. We don’t do that as often now. My customers are mostly middle-class college kids. I really think it’s an age thing.”

Sherwan, founder of vintage shop W6

He continues, “My customers have told me that W6, being located in Findars is a bit difficult to find, but I think that’s part of the experience.” At the end of the day, Bundle shopping is also about the thrill of the hunt, and finding something that fits you for a song. Cop it, wash it, and now go get some compliments.

Bandoru PT7, Federal Highway, Batu 3, 40150 Shah Alam, Selangor (011 1423 2572). Open Mon-Fri, 11am-10pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-10pm.

Stwo Bundle Jalan Sungai Rasau, Padang Jawa, 41300 Selangor. Open Mon, Thu-Sun, 11am-12midnight; Tue-Wed, 12.30pm-12midnight.

W6 Fourth floor, 8 Jalan Panggong, 50150 Kuala Lumpur. Open Wed-Sat, 12noon-6pm.

By Jamie Quah



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