Brunch

One year of the Chakre Shop

Kumarini and Tiffahny – both undergraduates – never got the opportunity to work together despite going to the same school their entire lives. After leaving school and upon finishing up their degrees, they decided to start something of their own and try and make a difference through their business. So, they launched Chakre Shop – a thrift store that believes in sustainable concepts. 

Kumarini and Tiffahny

Brunch had a chat with the two to learn more about their values and what to expect in the future.

How did you land on the idea of running a thrift store? Was this a dream you pursued or just an impulsive decision?

We always liked the idea of running our own business, but we were not quite sure of what we wanted to commit to. As a recent undergrad and a university student at the time, we knew that any initiative we embarked on required an affordable investment. What we both (and perhaps many other young women and men in Colombo) had in common was an unprecedented number of clothes which we never got the chance to wear, or which would no longer be worn. This is how we decided to start a thrift store. 

What inspired the name Chakre Shop? Does it hold special meaning?

We wanted our business to be meaningful to its core. The term Chakre (not Chakra) means cycle in Sinhala. Thrifting is essentially circular fashion. Which is why we thought it to be most appropriate. But the cycle we had in mind wasn’t merely where a customer purchases an item previously owned by another, but also to allow their money to be channelled towards a charitable cause. 

Tell us about your aim. What was on your mind when you started running a thrift store?

With so many businesses starting up in the wake of the pandemic, our goal was to create an impact through the success of our business. It’s not the profit we earn, it’s the precedent we create and the inner feeling of achieving something by helping someone else. 

What about your store sets you aside from the many other online thrift stores?

All online thrift stores are absolutely essential to lower the demand for fashion. It also provides consumers with an opportunity to purchase various items on a single platform at affordable prices. Perhaps the environmentally friendly angle which we have taken to promote circular fashion, in conjunction with our charitable projects, have been the key elements to distinguishing our business. 

Throughout the year, our packaging has been simple and unique, i.e. through the use of newspapers. At the end of every month, we calculate our profits to set aside a portion towards a charitable cause. Last year in December, we distributed protective facemasks to homeless people on the street. Following this, we manufactured masks for patients in state hospitals. We also donated money towards the purchase of relief supplies for garment factory workers in the free trade zones. At the same time, we partnered with our primary donor to allocate her commission towards the AMI Tsunami Children’s Foundation. More recently, we collaborated with a consciously produced clothing line to upcycle an item where its profits will be allocated towards the Sri Lanka Cancer Society. 

You will be celebrating your anniversary soon. Where do you see your store in a few years?

Chakre will be turning one tomorrow (26). We are very happy with how the store has developed and the impact it has made. Although we don’t know what the future holds, we hope to grow in terms of sales, through which we can make a bigger impact on communities that are in need of help.

Why should the general public indulge in thrift shopping?

There is definitely a stigma around thrift shopping which is prevalent in our country. We have been hoping to remove the stigma of secondhand clothing being perceived as “unclean” or “unfashionable”. 

Fast fashion brands that are popular amongst the public have a negative impact on the environment. A lot of unused clothes are sent to landfills every year, which is a huge waste. The issue is that many people are unaware of the consequences of their purchase, and they don’t think that thrift shopping is necessary. 

It is important for more people to buy preloved clothes, rather than brand new ones. In a way, people will also be sending a message to clothing stores to reduce any exploitative working conditions that their staff are subjected to.

How do you buy and sell secondhand goods?

Packaging

The way the cycle works is by accepting clothes from third parties. This approval process takes into account our probability of selling it, and the quality of each item. Once the items do sell, we pay the owners a nominal commission. 

Purchasing from the Chakre Shop is simple. You direct message us on Instagram with your order, upon which you’re asked to fill out a form to confirm your purchase. Accordingly, payments and deliveries will be made. 

Do you like to thrift? Why?

After understanding the consequences of fast fashion, we have really minimised our rate of purchasing. But when we do see an opportunity to purchase something, we resort to secondhand clothing. It just makes us feel really happy to know that we are doing something good for others and for the environment. 

Instagram: @chakre.shop