With the highest ratio of retail space per consumer in the Middle East, it is perhaps no surprise that Dubai came late to second-hand shopping. But if the success of My Ex Wardrobe is anything to go by, the trend is catching on. Since it launched in May last year, My Ex Wardrobe, which gives people the opportunity to sell their unwanted clothes, has held more than a dozen events in the city, with the next on November 24 at The Shelter in Al Serkal, Al Quoz, from 5pm to 9pm. Sian Rowlands, 31, one of three co-founders, tells how it started.
How did My Ex Wardrobe start?
[My two sisters and I] got together one lunchtime and were having a brainstorm about what I could do with these packing boxes of clothes that I had sitting in the corner of my apartment and how I could dispose of them without just chucking them in the rubbish or whatever. We came to the realisation that there isn't really an avenue to get rid of second-hand clothes here in Dubai.
How does it work?
At the moment we run monthly events which function basically like a pop-up shop. We go into a restaurant and create a social evening which is filled with second-hand clothes shopping, but also other things that are related to fashion.
How do you find the clothes?
Customers come to us. At the moment we have a long list of people who are interested in being sellers with us. But 50 per cent of the time I would say they are people who said I have been along to your events, we love what you are doing. Some of it is also word of mouth.
Do you vet every piece that goes in?
We have quite strict rules in our terms and conditions. When someone agrees to be a seller with us they have to ensure all the items are certainly clean. We don't want anything with stains, and nothing that is damaged. It all has to be in good condition. We try and encourage them to carefully select the items that they are giving us.
How do you make money?
We take a small admin fee to start off with. It depends from event to event but at the moment it is about Dh 150 (US$40) for up to 20 items, so it is around about that much. Anything they make over Dh 500 we take a small 15 per cent commission. What we try and do is make it very reasonable. We're not out to make millions and millions of dirhams with this. It's a new business and we have always kind of agreed that in the first year or so we were never going to turn a profit and it would be about raising awareness. And part of what we're doing is educating the public as well. You find in Europe that second-hand and vintage are all quite big, whereas here there isn't so much of a market.