When one mentions Nairobi, the last thing one would think of would be thrift shopping. However, it is one of my favorite things to do in Nairobi.
For years and years, the sprawling markets of Ngara, Gikomba and Toi have adequately clothed Kenyans who are on a budget. Second hand clothing, commonly referred to in Swahili as ‘mitumba’ are easily found at these markets at affordable prices. Some markets, like Ngara, mostly offer clothing items that are all the rage while others like Gikomba, offer virtually every piece of clothing in existence. And I mean every.
As a veteran thrifter, I have learnt a lot from my thrifting endeavors. A great tip I would give is that when going shopping, one should dress very casually (and by casually I mean an old t-shirt and a pair of jeans) lest a seller ‘mistakes’ you for being very loaded and hikes the prices.
One has to wear very comfortable shoes, ones they’re not scared of muddying, as sometimes one has to trudge through very muddy paths. One has to have their haggling face on and prepare to bargain, bargain, and yes, bargain. One has to practice a lot of patience because sometimes you will have to dig through bales and bales of clothes just to get the perfect item of clothing. Also, one has to have a very good eye for pieces. For instance, a dress may be some sizes big but can be sized down to the proper fit. Or a discolored shirt could just need some bleach and voila, you have yourself a cool shirt.
I think that the best thing about thrifting is that it is very rare to find someone else with a similar piece that you thrifted. This is unlike retail stores where clothing is mass produced.
The second hand clothing industry is a source of income to many families and some students even deal in second hand clothes as a side hustle. I would definitely recommend a good dose of thrift shopping to anyone new to Nairobi and would love to invest in some good affordable clothing.