Something borrowed, something new: Jordanians jump into thrifting trend

Models show off second-hand items thrifted by Sura Al-Zubi and resold on her Instagram-based “Iris Thrift Shop”. (Photos: ReemaShatat)
Models show off second-hand items thrifted by Sura Al-Zubi and resold on her Instagram-based “Iris Thrift Shop”. (Photos: ReemaShatat)
AMMAN — A woman walks into the room and all eyes are on her. Her outfit is unique, with a vintage silhouette but a modern feel.

This is the kind of girl Sura Al-Zubi, the founder of Iris Thrift Shop, picks clothing for.اضافة اعلان

Models show off second-hand items thrifted by Sura Al-Zubi and resold on her Instagram-based “Iris Thrift Shop”. (Photos: ReemaShatat)

Zubi is one of several young Jordanians remolding the fashion industry through Instagram-based thrift stores. On Zubi’s page, iris.thriftshop on Instagram, she posts glamorous photos of the romantic, feminine items she sells: rustic embroidered white dresses, pastel miniskirts, and unique antiques like a glass decanter with a Russian doll handle.

Rather than strolling through department stores in search of the perfect garment, making an order is as simple as sending a direct message, and within a few days, the item in question would arrive.

Zubi launched the online shop in the midst of record-high unemployment rates in the Kingdom following the pandemic.

The business is a natural outgrowth of Zubi’s academic studies and personal interests; she is currently studying for a master’s degree in environmental design in Russia. “Ever since I was a teenager, people complimented my taste in clothes,” she said in an interview with Jordan News. “They were shocked sometimes because I buy some of my clothes thrifted.”

Models show off second-hand items thrifted by Sura Al-Zubi and resold on her Instagram-based “Iris Thrift Shop”. (Photos: ReemaShatat)

“When you look at the environment, it’s crazy how we spend money and energy and resources on making clothes, and we keep producing clothes even though we have them and we can reuse them in a nice way,” she said. Her concerns about the environment and her natural knack for picking out thrifted clothes were the perfect combination for the shop.

The name of the shop is based on Jordan’s national flower, the black iris. Each order arrives in a bag stamped with the iris logo, and includes a card made on recycled paper — small emblems of the intense care Zubi puts into each aspect of her business. Each item is also carefully washed before it is sent to its new home.

To collect stock for her Instagram page, Zubi spends hours scouting used-clothing shops in Amman, Irbid, and Salt. “Every time I see a place, I go there,” she said. “Even if I find one piece — if it's unique, it's good.”

Rather than prioritizing brand names, she hunts for unique, flattering, and feminine pieces. “Every piece I choose has a character,” she said. She imagines herself wearing each piece, and sometimes makes small adjustments to the fit and style.

“My style is about simplicity and being comfortable, and embracing your body,” she said.

For Zubi, branding and styling are almost as important as the clothes themselves. She spent a month developing the shop’s logo and branding. “I wanted it to stand out,” she said. She collaborated with creative friends for modelling and photography, like photographer Reema Shatat.

“People like unique pieces that they can’t find in the stores,” she said. She recalled one customer who bought the whole outfit she posted, a testament to her styling skills.

The process has involved trial and error. Zubi had never worked in fashion before — “I had only styled myself” — nor had she ever operated her own business. “It was hard, but it was fun” launching the shop.

With over a thousand followers on Instagram, the store has been a success so far for its founder. “I actually cried” when the store launched, she said, moved by the positive attention she received.

Reusing and recycling across the globe
The movement to make thrifted clothing cool again is not unique to Jordan. While thrift stores may have once been stigmatized, they have become popular in many parts of the world for providing unique items at affordable prices and reducing shoppers’ environmental footprint. The fashion industry is responsible for 10 percent of the world’s carbon emissions and is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, according to Business Insider.

Online apps and stores have made the thrifting process even more convenient by cutting out some of the time shoppers may spend combing racks for the perfect vintage dress. On mobile apps like Poshmark and Depop, for instance, users can sell items from their own closets, turning every fashionista with an overflowing closet into a bedroom salesperson.

In June, online sales app bought Depop for $1.6 billion, one indication of the growing pull of clothing resale. More than 90 percent of the app’s 30 million users are under the age of 26, which also suggests that the social-justice-oriented youth are leading the way and making more deliberate choices about how they buy their clothes.

Jordanians, many of them young and entrepreneurial like Zubi, have jumped onto the trend as well. Just searching the word “thrift” on Instagram now brings up dozens of Jordanian shops, with names like “Amman Thrift” or “Thrifted Closet Jo.”

Zubi views Iris as “not only a thrift store,” and hopes to expand the shop into the future, hosting pop-ups and other events. One potential area for growth is men’s fashion: she’s received many comments from men asking her to stock styles for them.

She dreams of collaborations with fashion designers, and hopes that one day the store can be her only source of income.

Not all Jordanians are open to hearing messages about environment-friendly shopping, according to Zubi. However, “some people love this idea,” especially, when second-hand clothes are presented in the glamorous, romantic setting Zubi puts them into in her photoshoots.

“That’s actually my message. You can wear used clothes, and you can help the environment.”

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