Shopping Sustainably (and Cheaply) in Johannesburg

by | Mar 29, 2022 | Johannesburg, Johannesburg City Centre, Markets/Shopping | 8 comments

You all know I’ve become obsessed with second-hand shopping — especially thrifted clothes curated by my friend Ryan of @threedogsthrift. And while I buy most of my clothes directly from Ryan, I’ve also become interested in sustainable shopping more generally. Joburg is a major hub for buying and selling second-hand clothes and I’m really keen to learn more about it.

So yesterday morning I tagged along with Ryan on a shopping mission to Cheap! Cheap!, a popular used clothing shop in downtown Joburg.

Shopping at Cheap! Cheap! in the Johannesburg CBD
Cheap! Cheap! is at 216 Lilian Ngoyi Street in downtown Joburg.

Bargain Shopping at Cheap! Cheap!

Cheap! Cheap! (best name ever) is like a cavernous, bare-bones department store full of used clothes. The store periodically receives massive bales of wholesale clothing — probably from Europe and America — and notifies its customers via Whatsapp when it receives a shipment. Ryan usually goes to Cheap! Cheap! first thing in the morning after a bale of dresses arrives.

Inside Cheap! Cheap!
Inside Cheap! Cheap! Photos aren’t officially allowed so I had to sneak a few on my iPhone.
Shopping for denim at Cheap! Cheap!
The walls are mostly lined with denim.

Almost everything in Cheap! Cheap! costs R100 ($6.85) or less (I did see some winter coats priced at R150), with the majority of items in the R50-70 range. The middle of the store is filled with overflowing bins — some with dresses, some with sweaters, some with bras, some with jackets — and customers huddle around them, digging for treasure.

R100 bin at Cheap! Cheap!
A jacket bin. Looks like corduroy is in this winter.

Ryan came seeking dresses but didn’t find any she liked from the new shipment. She did come away with one fabulous, 80s-style sweater though.

Ryan with her vintage sweater
Do you covet this classic number for your own? Tune into @threedogsthrift tonight (Tuesday) after 5:00 p.m. South African time — I believe you’ll find it for sale.

I hadn’t planned to buy anything. But I spotted an A-line denim skirt by Esprit, probably from the 90s, and remembered I’ve been wearing the same Eddie Bauer denim skirt for at least two decades and it’s starting to fall apart. Then I spotted the huge rack of unworn LuLaRoe leggings, in a blinding kaleidoscope of colors and patterns, for R40 each.

LuLaRoe leggings
A LuLaRoe bonanza. Yes, I know LuLaRoe is a culty pyramid scheme that ruined many people’s lives. I also know these leggings are insanely comfortable — putting them on feels like dipping your legs into a cloud — and this bulk shipment somehow made its way to Africa and needs to be bought before it winds up in a tangled mess at the top of a landfill. So I bought some LuLaRoes and I will probably go back for more.
Heather shopping at Cheap! Cheap!
Photo: Ryan Brown
I’m calling this my Punky Brewster ensemble.

I’ll definitely go back to Cheap! Cheap! again. It’s right in the middle of the CBD (central business district), which can be intimidating for some, even for me. But the area is quite safe and we were able to park easily right outside the store at 8:30 on a Monday morning (when the shop opens).

Sustainable Shopping at Maven

While I’m talking about second-hand clothes, I need to mention another fun, sustainable shopping experience I had a few days ago. Last Friday I was invited to a shopping pop-up event for Maven Sustainable, which is a very different kind of second-hand clothing business from Cheap! Cheap! but equally cool in its own way.

Maven Sustainable pop-ip at Vice Cafe
The Maven Sustainable pop-up. Does that mural look familiar? The pop-up took place at Vice Café, one of my favorite Jozi coffee shops.

Maven, which sells its clothes mostly online, obviously offers much more curated, high-end stock than a place like Cheap! Cheap! (Some of the shoes in that photo above are Jimmy Choos.) But the items Maven sells are all in perfect condition and far, far, cheaper than the same items sold new.

I walked away from the Maven Sustainable sale with a warm winter poncho and a fantastic faux leather bag, big enough to carry my camera and laptop, for R900 (about $60) total.

Items from Maven Sustainable
My Maven Sustainable outfit. (Full disclosure: Maven gave me a gift voucher for shopping. But I love these items and would definitely have bought them with my own money.)

With the exception of socks, underwear, and a few other specialty items, I no longer see any point in buying new clothes. I’ve always enjoyed second-hand shopping but my obsession has officially reached a fever pitch now. I guess there are worse things to be obsessed with.

If you’d like to learn more about the clothing/fast-fashion industry and its impact in Africa, Ryan (who is a journalist as well as a thrifter) published a couple of articles on the topic recently. Click here and here.

8 Comments

  1. Justin Chamblee

    WOW!! This looks amazing!

    Reply
  2. dizzylexa

    Love all that denim on the wall. Thrift shopping definitely the way to go. I got a Bialetti Moka pot in Navy the other day for R20 from the charity store, it gives one such a feel good feeling.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yes, it’s so satisfying somehow.

      Reply
  3. AutumnAshbough

    Oh, I love that poncho. It looks very cozy. Also “Punky Brewster” LOL

    Reply
  4. Anneliese Cianfanelli

    Heather you look great and have excellent taste, love the look from Maven and sorry to have missed that opportunity. Best wishes Anneliese

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Thanks so much, Anneliese.

      Reply

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