New East Digital Archive

Thrifting and teen thrills: photos of Russian youth’s love affair with second-hand clothes

For Russian teens, the little-loved second-hand shop is a place of experimentation and rebellion.

17 June 2019

Vintage and second-clothes play a prominent role in discussions around sustainability in fashion. In part, this is because they are so relatable: everyone has their own outstanding thrift store finds and old garments they’ve cherished for years. The cultural significance of these wares, though, can be complex. Russia and Eastern Europe might be famous for their second-hand stores and markets, but in these countries, the trade in used clothing is not always regarded as something positive.

In Soviet times, shopping for second-hand clothes was perceived as a sign of poverty. Things are changing, though, for younger generations. Photographer Turkina Faso spent a summer with her younger sister and her friends exploring what second-hand fashion means to them: experimentation, freedom, and fun.

“When I had the idea to do a project about second-hand clothes, I started exploring local shops in my hometown of Yessentuki, in the North Caucasus,” the photographer says. “I realised that people there had only recently started to dress in second-hand. Before that, it was quite shameful —people preferred to get their clothes at local markets, which were full of bootleg fashion and weird modifications of current trends. My idea was to create a lookbook or a campaign using just second-hand goods.”

For the story, Turkina photographed her sister Alice, her long-time muse and collaborator. Together with her friends, they walked around local thrift stores picking outfits. “My sister told me that exploring ‘shitty’ local stores is a fashionable act, but has only become so recently. It happened after the international rise of labels like Gosha Rubchinskiy and Vetements, which draw a lot on thrift-store aesthetics.”

A spirit of mischief and playfulness pervades the Used Good series: Turkina has combined the visual tropes of fashion shoots, which she knows so well from her experience in the industry, with the witty and anarchic spirit of a bunch of teenagers playing with their identity and style in a small town. The combination reflects the beauty of thrift-store culture, its creativity and DIY spirit. “That’s what’s great about vintage and second-hand,” Turkina concludes. “It is fun, cheap, and sustainable.”

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