Mukkle Thrift Is The Sustainable Pop Up Shop That Jamaica Needs

We stan a good sale—trust me—but what we stan even more are socially and environmentally-conscious, economically-friendly brands and Mukkle Thirft is just that. Co-founded by gyal bosses, Sarah Miles, Kathryn Lee, Ysabelle Hughes and Leah Brown, Mukkle Thrift is a semi-annual pop-up shop spearheaded by young women who stand at the intersection of fashion and meaningful change.

"Our goal is to create a shame-free thrifting environment, where Jamaicans can donate and shop, while supporting our cause of assisting boys and girls homes across the island. We donate our unsold items from each shop, and use the funds raised to purchase items in great need for these homes," said co-founder Sarah Miles.

The four friends are students and devote most of their year fulfilling academic obligations but twice a year they meet up to organize a Mukkle Thrift pop-up. Their upcoming shop is slated to be held from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on July 7th at the Campion College courtyard, so be sure to save your coins for good finds. For folks interested in donating, Mukkle Thrift is still collecting items and their upcoming donation drop-off dates are June 27, June 29 and July 4 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at My Jamaica store in Liguanea Plaza).

Between her busy schedule, we spoke with Miles about Jamaica's thrifting scene and creating a sustainable, conscious, fashion-forward brand.

Left to right: Kathryn Lee, Leah Brown, Ysabelle Hughes and Sarah Miles; Photo provided by subject.

Left to right: Kathryn Lee, Leah Brown, Ysabelle Hughes and Sarah Miles; Photo provided by subject.

BASHY: What is the thrifting scene like in Jamaica?

Sarah Miles: In Jamaica, I would say that the thrifting scene is basically non-existent, or if there is one, it’s very small. This void was part of the reason why we were so motivated to pursue Mukkle Thrift, and not let it just be an idea, but a possibility. I currently study in Montréal, and the thrifting scene here is such a huge part of the culture. Fashion is generated and influenced heavily by the finds in these thrift stores, and this was something we were interested in bringing to Jamaica. There had definitely been some development within the thrifting community within the past year; New Wave themselves had a thrift show last December. We’re so happy to see such progress in the acceptance of thrifting, and it is amazing that it is just the beginning in the journey towards its growth in Jamaica.

How did this idea come to you and your team?

Funnily enough, the idea came to some of our team members while we were in a swimming pool, around March 2017, (stereotypically) endlessly ranting, and somehow the idea just popped up. It’s one of those moments that you wish you could recite word-for-word, but it was almost euphoric. I remember previously seeing an American online Instagram shop, where thrifted finds were available to be bidded and I thought it was such a unique idea that could be introduced to Jamaica. Kathryn, Leah and I just created an idea and felt immense potential for it. I knew that if we were going to pursue this, Ysabelle would be so beneficial to our team. Over time, our ideas modified and shifted to fit the modern Jamaican market. We took time, delayed our first proposed pop-up, redesigned, presented new concepts, and slowly but surely made it into the Mukkle Thrift that is up and running today; the Mukkle that we hope will grow over time.

Are the clothes donated or for consignment?

All the clothing we currently receive are donated! The beauty of this is that we’re creating a nationwide community where Jamaicans both donate and shop, guilt-free, for a good cause. There are abundant closets in Jamaica that are overflowing with clothes; items worn once, items no longer in one’s personal style, even items with price tags left on them. There is such an uncalled for stigma surrounding wearing the same outfit twice or even being photographed in the same top as someone else. It’s inevitable, but we encourage people to resolve this by donating items that they know will find a better home. The larger the community, the greater the potential! With donations come some difficulties, however, such as sizing. Many of our donations for our first pop-up were sized small, which is always difficult for the average human being who doesn’t fit into that category.

Are there any negative ideas attached to purchasing second hand clothing?

There are so many negative connotations attached to purchasing second hand clothing, not only in Jamaica, but across the world. The stigma surrounding the kinds of clothing donated is insane and completely unnecessary. Fast fashion is in, and clothes are forgotten in closets quicker than they entered. Many feel ashamed or embarrassed if others find out that their clothing is second hand, but for what reason? So many of these attitudes derive from our own stush behaviours that often need to be checked. After all, many of us inherited ‘hand-me-downs’ in our childhoods and weren’t negatively affected by it in any way. Thrifted clothing isn’t necessarily ‘old’ or ‘dirty’, but is instead preloved and ready to find a new home that will get more beneficial use out of it. The thrifting scene will only be able to grow if we tackle and fix these ideologies head on.

Photo: Denise Lee

Photo: Denise Lee

"Every mikkle mek a mukkle", explain the connections between this and your store name.

“Every mikkle mek a mukkle” is a famous saying that we have all been raised hearing. It’s such a powerful sentiment in many Jamaicans’ lives, and is one greatly influential towards our store. Realistically, though we would like to make tremendous change in the world, it isn’t feasible. Unfortunately, not all of us will go down in history ‘Nelson Mandela’ or ‘Michelle Obama’-style. However, any small action we can take works towards a bigger picture. Every choice one makes can either produce positive or negative consequences, one which may be beneficial or detrimental to their future. Each transaction, donation, and customer who walks into Mukkle Thrift is a ‘mikkle’, which contributes towards the ‘mukkle’ we want to see in the future. We actively encourage our customers to turn their ‘mikkle’s into ‘mukkle’s daily and think consciously about the aftermath of the actions they take. Incorporating this phrase into our store name solidifies and strengthens our mission which, through thrifting, can create a tremendous impact throughout Jamaica.

Explain why you've made the price-point policy $1,500 JMD and under.

We knew for sure that our items needed to be a bargain. After all, the team received these donations for free, out of people’s pure generosity and kindness. However, we also knew that we needed to raise [a] reasonable [amount of] money for our cause. It was important for us to not cheat out both ourselves, and consumers while pricing items. As a team, we surveyed our target market and, based on their responses, thought realistically of what the maximum price one would be willing to pay. Additionally, we knew that with attached stigmas, pricing the items highly would not retail well. $1,500 JMD as a price cap seemed rational and so alluring. Often, we only reserve this price for highly valuable items, reassuring our consumers that our steals are some of the best they’ll find. We even joke that $100 can’t even buy someone a beef patty nowadays, yet we have a table stocked with ‘$100 only’ items! We want to make Mukkle Thrift accessible to any Jamaican, and an affordable option for thrifters, or prospective ones, across the island.

Photo: Leah Brown

Photo: Leah Brown

Is this a storefront or pop-up?

The premise of Mukkle Thrift surrounds semi-annual pop-up shops. Currently, we plan to expand and push our limits. This format is suitable, not only for the team, as three of us study abroad and are often away from home, but also for Jamaicans. As Jamaicans, we are constantly on the move, and life changes daily and quickly all around us. With these locations, which pop-up within the heart of Kingston, our shop is convenient to the mobile, contemporary 21st century Jamaican who is constantly on the go. We hope one day to spread our reach all across the island and have multiple pop-ups a year, in various parishes. This is important to us, especially, as urban centres are often the most fortunate, and targeting communities which are sometimes ‘forgotten’ would be more effective.

Thrifting, in general, is a environmentally-conscious approach to reducing, reusing and recycling. In what other ways are Muckle Thrift aiming to reduce ecological footprints?

Photo: Leah Brown

Photo: Leah Brown

From the beginning, we recognized that what we were initiating would be an environmentally-conscious movement. So much waste across the world is generated from not only clothing itself, but the manufacturing and production of it. Thrifting is only one step in a shift towards a greener world, one which turns the ‘old’ into something with a ‘new’ life. Whether one is thrifting to wear, DIY into a new project or make use of in any way possible, they are making a difference environmentally, no matter how small. As a non-profit, whose whole premise surrounds reducing waste, we have incorporated ways to reduce our ecological footprints ourselves. We encourage our customers to bring their own bags when shopping, or otherwise offer to wrap purchased items in recyclable brown paper. Many of the items which are the foundation of our shop, such as hangers, racks, tables, are second-hand or donated items, opposed to new items. Demonstrated in our company name, it’s these little things that we believe end up making a ‘mukkle’, which is precisely our goal.

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This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.