Often during awards season as they broadcast the red carpet shows, the most common question usually goes something like ….”who are you wearing?” to which the star with a twinkle in their eye answers proudly, Miu Miu,Prada, Zuhair Murad, Zac Posen etc… Allow me to snap you back to the reality that is our beautiful country. If in rarity you happen to walk into a store that sells genuine designer items, let’s just say it might set you back a couple of zeros on that credit card. But fret not, for in various oasis distributed generously around our beloved motherland are pocket friendly gems that harbor such expensive brand names at throw away prices. The most common you can find include, genuine Chanel bags, Balenciaga, Hermes, DKNY , Ralph Lauren ,Calvin Klein,the more affordable brands such as H&M, Cotton On, New Look,Marks & Spencer etc… I have been fortunate to find some of these brands in mint condition, I recently ran into some original Valentino studded flats that would usually cost $600 and I got them at KES.400 let’s just say I did the happy dance.
In other more advanced countries, these second-hand markets are disguised with fancy monikers such as thrift shops, flea markets or goodwill stores, Where I come from, it’s simply known as “Tush” and that is where we go wild and come out with closet worthy designer pieces. It might be Gikosh, Toi, Adams, Mtindwa, Kongowea, Kware Kongowea etc… As I said, it’s usually pocket friendly but there is a catch, you have to be in a certain mind state. I have years of experience shopping in these markets and have come up with a guide on how to exactly go about it.
Be Prepared– These markets often have days where “new stock” is available. Make sure you know the market days in your town so that you can get up early to make sure you don’t miss the good stuff or what they commonly refer to as “Camera”
Dress for Success– Ladies please,ditch the high heels, the make up, the fancy top and anything that might make you look expensive because the more expensive you look, the higher the price quoted. So if you can, put your hair up in a bun,put on your local youth center tee, tie that headscarf, get some canvas shoes because chances are it might be muddy/dusty. In short, more relaxed and less black tie.
Company– You might think you are macho and all but believe me you are not. So take a friend(s) and make a big deal of it, This is essential for second opinions on clothes picks, wallet guarding, bag carrying plus it’s usually a fun activity to do with friends so have at it.
Language– My dear friends, the English, please, it will ruin your chances and your pockets. This is a chance for you to get tribal for a good reason. So if that vendor sounds Kikuyu, drop all the Kikuyu words you know, it will get you a good price on that pair of jeans, apply this to any other language spoken by the respective vendors.
Manners– I hope you have learned all that your mothers have taught you and please take it to the market too. Be very polite to the strangers coz after all they do hold your financial state in their hands for that day. Plus most of these vendors usually turn into sour grapes by telling you that you are not even pretty anyway when you reject their clothes. The temptation might be nigh to lash out but please don’t, just smile and move on swiftly.
Bargain Bargain Bargain!– In some markets like Gikosh, local lore is that the vendors buy jeans per kilo from the wholesalers. I laughed when I first heard this, it might be possible that the jeans calling out to you were actually purchased at KES.50 per kilo and you just bought one at KES 700. The only way to know this is quoting your price lower than what the seller has asked for and see if he will budge. Otherwise, your bargaining power will actually determine what you end up paying.
Agenda shopping– These markets are full of merchandise some of which you don’t really need but might end up buying. Am an advocate for agenda shopping, a term I coined to basically mean shopping for only items that you need within a set budget. Go to these markets looking for specifics, it will keep you in check. If it’s a dress you needed, shop looking for dresses only, it will keep you from straying to the skirts and pants only for you to leave the place sans cash and dresses.
Be friendly– It will cost you nothing, or something budget friendly in this case and if that seller remembers you, next time you might get a discount.
Stay off the inner wear: Ladies, some of y’all just push it a bit too far, stay off the under thingies or you might catch something nasty…eewww! Even the former president discouraged it but still some people are allergic to brand new coz you are still on that second hand underwear high. Please! I love you but some things are just meant to be brand new and stay that way. Otherwise you might discover the hard and itchy way that cheap is sometimes very expensive….to treat!
Disinfect– Finally and most importantly when you get home, don’t just do some basic hand washing and hang out to dry, DISINFECT, otherwise you might get the itches.