PAULUS KAYIGGWA explores Kigali’s secondhand clothes businesses
Multicoloured piles of second hand trousers, skirts, and dresses, rows of shirts and jackets, lines of trainers, sandals and leather shoes present a daunting retail experience.
But most are confident that hidden in there somewhere is the great deal that will vindicate their long and arduous search.
Jane Umutoni says that getting complimented on an outfit makes anyone feel good, especially when you know that what you’re wearing is one of a kind.
“It’s the thrill of the hunt for an amazing piece of second hand clothing, as it gives the consumer an opportunity to discover great clothes for a very low price,” she said.
Most people prefer dressing in secondhand clothes not only because they are cheap but because of the good quality and unique colour and designs you can’t easily find in thehops, Umutoni said.
“It’s very common in town to see more than five persons wearing the same thing,” she said.
Charles Mustafa, a stall vendor in Nyabugogo market, said that second hand clothes are brought into the country by wholesalers from UK, Italy, Dubai. Other times solo retailers buy them in small quantities from Tanzania, Kenya and occasionally Uganda.
Mustafa explained that in UK, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, and Dubai there are people who collect secondhand clothes and pack them into bundles.
“We get their address from the internet and then we begin our transactions from there,” he said
He added that after the negotiations between the two parties, he then sends them money and they send to the orders.
The cost of each bundle abroad varies depending to the country of importation, transport costs, quality and type of clothing.
“The price of the bundle on our market here ranges from Frw15,000-100,000 depending to the type of cloth you want to buy,” he said.
He revealed that sometimes sellers send poor quality secondhand clothes not worth their money thus leading to great losses.
“The cost of women and children clothes are relatively low compared to men cloth bundles,” Mustafa said.
He explained that in a period of two months, he receives between 350 and 400 bundles of secondhand clothes from abroad.
“If they are of good quality, people of all social classes buy them,” he adds.
Some people just dislike what firsthand clothes are made from and what they stand for.
“I just lose interest when I see like, twenty or more of the same pair of trousers all lined up in different sizes in various shops in town,” said Mustafa.
He added that buying secondhand clothes is especially beneficial for families on a budget and in case of children who grow out of their clothing before it’s worn out.
“Buying secondhand clothes is cost effective in such situations,’ he said.
In town here with firsthand clothes you cannot be exceptional and it even becomes worse if you see your clothes being worn by others.
“You can come to hate that cloth to an extent of giving it away to another person far from your surroundings,” Umutoni said.
John Rwakawungu, the owner of a stall with secondhand clothes in Remera Tax Park, said that some people think secondhand means cheap, but you shouldn’t expect a garment to be inexpensive just because it’s used.
He added that if you look at a dress made in 1994, there’s only one of those, you can’t get anymore, it’s one of a kind and if it’s in good shape, it can be worth more than a something you get from some shops dealing in firsthand clothes.
“It’s the reason why most young people especially girls who need to appear unique always come for them,” said Rwakawungu.
He added that they always experience a boom of young customers during school holiday, at the weekends and when salaries are paid.
“We sell different kinds of secondhand clothes but our bestsellers are jeans, long skirts for ladies and plain long sleeve shirts for men,” Rwakawungu noted.