Thrifting in Krakow, Poland
Stepping through the door of one of the many shops on Jozefa in Kazimierz, John headed off to look for retro football shirts, and I expected his return within minutes. Struck by the rails and rails of clothing, it was clear John wouldn’t be returning any time soon! I headed for the dress rail first (naturally) and what did I find? Many, many dresses, all in varying conditions. A beautiful monochrome vintage dress with a gorgeous white collar sat nestled next to a Primark knitted jumper dress. The rail was cluttered with many budget British brands like Dorothy Perkins, George and F&F. Still, that didn’t deter me. I’ll always look for the diamond among the tatters.
With prices written informally on pieces of neon paper, and of course, in Polish, it’s hard to work out exactly what an item costs. It’s not just the language barrier that can make it difficult. Prices can significantly vary depending on what day of the week you shop. Monday is notoriously more expensive as it’s the day the stock comes in, whilst Saturday is apparently the cheapest day of the week. We visited on a Monday and, using Google Translate, we discovered dresses were priced at 24 Zloty which is around £4.
You might think that isn’t expensive, I certainly don’t for second hand clothing that is in nearly new condition…but the clothing I saw, was clearly pre-loved. Bobbles, tears and faded dresses all mingled together. It was because of this that I decided against the silver glittery Zara boots I’d made a beeline for and also returned the vintage dress to the rail when I spotted a huge tear. Whilst shopping, a thought struck me. Is this where our cast-offs go when we sell them to private companies?
So, on our return, I decided to look into it.According to the United Nations Comrade Database, Poland sells the most clothing imported from the UK each year. $74 million worth to be precise. And it’s not just the clothes we choose to sell on. Brace yourself. Reportedly, our charity shop donations can also end up sold to wholesalers who then sell our goods to retailers.
The burning question I left asking is, why is cheap clothing big business in Poland? Reading forums, as well as articles, seem to suggest that the lack of limited discount retailers forces shoppers turn to used clothing. In the UK, we have a plethora of discount clothing shops and even on a strict budget, shops like Primark can help us afford the basics.