White skater dress with sheer back and front panel from Topshop- Thrifted, Yellow Open toe Heels- Thrifted, African Clutch- Kariakor Market

I enjoy a bargain, every
reasonable person does. I do not know about you but I always try to look good
on a budget. Do not mistake me for frugal, I know how to spend a good buck too
but only when it is worth it. I started this blog because I believe that
everyone owes a duty to themselves to be well dressed. As a self-diagnosed
shopaholic I have my secrets around price tags, the biggest being THRIFTING or
second hand clothing. I was raised on ‘mitumba’ (second hand clothes) I think
most Kenyan children my age and older have. I remember shopping from a very
early age, back when the alley behind Fire Station Lane was called Backstreet
and was lined with hawkers from end to end. I was also a regular of Githurai
Market on Sundays which I believe is still market day to date. I knew Toi
before it was ever made famous by any fashion blog and the real Sunbeam that
was where what is now African Nazarene University Town Campus stands.
I shop anywhere and everywhere, true story! I
still manage to look decent, quite decent actually. The art of thrifting is a
gift. It is a gift that certain people have learnt to perfect over time because
it is also a lifestyle. It has solved my closet and more emotional problems
than a psychiatrist could handle for ages and I am not about to give it up
soon. Today we are delving into the ins and outs of mtumba and how to make it
work for you whether it’s for work, school or that red carpet event.   
 Pictured on stage  with artist Biko of Sub-sahara Entertainment. (Long story this)
Open air markets are a good
start. Gikomba which is the source and I think also the most difficult one to
navigate unless you have a spirit of adventure. I still get lost from time to
time here and you must be very careful of your belongings. The infamous Toi
Market is more organized, and it starts from the pricier Adams Arcade heading
into Kibera slums where Toi is. Ngara is a dwindling market in my opinion and
thrives mostly in the afternoon to late evening. However I would be extra careful
here the clothes may sometimes not be of great quality as they appear and the prices
even more astonishing. Mtindwa has existed for decades but I have only recently
just discovered this pearl. It has its moods but there is always something for
Random hawkers are a good bet,
these guys line up in the CBD from late afternoon into the night. Dealing with
them is quite risqué as the local authorities might lay an ambush anytime and
this will lead to teargas and sometimes even cost lives. It is not for the
faint hearted, you must be a quick decision maker and always have loose cash at
hand otherwise you will lose a lot of money to street vendors.
Night hawker, these guys lay
their wares comfortable on certain streets in town and sell without fear. The
guy that never disappoints is along Moi Avenue around Bookpoint. Sometimes he
could be across the road, sometimes he is where the Nakumatt Downtown used to
be. I have always bought Chino pants from this guy, I recently got a few
leather items and he is very reasonable. There are a few other people along
Kenyatta Avenue towards I&M building and across the road from that. As well
as the Kimathi Street corner near The Hilton and on the Tom Mboya Statue
outside Mr. Price.
Leather jacket~ Mtindwa Market, Top~ Mtindwa Market, Travel bag~Ngara
Black Bodysuit- Gikomba Market, Black leggings~ Random hawker in CBD, Cap-toe heels from Primark~ Sense & Style

Holes, rips in the seams and
discoloration caused by sweat these are the most common ailments in second hand
cloths. Also it has been a common (Especially in Ngara) that while a piece may
read Size 16 it has been cut to fit a Size 6, these alterations may not be
correctly made so just be careful that the seams will not rip on you or that
the shape of the item is not distorted.
Look for prints, patterns or
colours that grab your attention first. Turn the pile over and over, start from
one end to the next. Usually if a certain pile has potential you can just see
it from looking at the clothes in general. 
Then be sure to exercise patience,
this is a true virtue that you will learn painfully while shopping at thrift
Items that you can wear many
times or style differently, this is very important if you are going to maintain
a good collection that you can transition with over the years.
Learn to differentiate between
stains and mud and something that fits or if it does not fit it can be resized
without distorting the beauty of the item.
Thrifting has gone digital for
all of you the working girl that has no time to forage through piles and piles
of clothes in a dusty market by the roadside. Online shoppers have made this
easier for you; they dig and dive and sometime wash, iron and even style their
pieces before they put them up for sale. Most of these people deliver which
makes it that much more convenient. All you need to do is know your size, surf
their site, select and pay via Mpesa, how great is that.
Second hand clothes are not only
sold by the roadside but possibly in the malls and exhibition right next to
your office buildings. Following the closure of the popular Sunbeam most of the
vendors went into mainstream shops, I know because I still buy from them. In
fact some of the clothes featured in magazines and worn by some of the
presenters on TV are second hand. They have really good stuff though, so good
it almost always is still unused. If you are not comfortable with a roadside
bargain you can visit Elegant Exhibition, Jamia Mall, Market Stalls, the
numerous Sunbeams in building in town and some of those new exhibitions that
have popped up recently on Moi Avenue. I will not mention specific names
because I am not on anyone’s payroll and I prefer that you discover. Thrifting
is after all an odyssey into one’s style.
Black peplum top with lace back~Ngara, Pink Skirt~ Pearl Fashion Market
Mustard blazer~ Toi Market, Skater dress~ Pearl Fashion Market, Black Court Heels from Primark~ Sense&Style

Brokers, sometimes when you are
shopping there is always that vendor who is just unreasonable. He will not
budge no matter how much you try to negotiate. If you have already met this guy
he is who you call the broker. He does not own the item but is selling it so
that he can earn his commission. The owner has a set price he will sell it at
triple the amount. Leave the item and walk away. If you are lucky the true
owner might intervene and agree to your price without a second thought.
Fast-talking vendors, I generally
do not like people who speak fast, I think they are sneaking in words that I
can’t hear in order to deceive me. A fast-talking vendor is the worst type of
fast talking people there is, he will talk and talk and you will have little or
no time to think. He is probably concealing a huge distortion in the goods,
like trousers with one leg considerably smaller than the other. In fact he
might even sell you a bag of air if you are not careful. Let nobody rush you,
take your time. 

Denim shirt with lace detail~ Toi Market, Blue cap-toe heels from Primark~ Sense&Style
Be choosy, just because it is
cheap doesn’t mean you should buy everything. I have learnt this from
experience. Standards are equally important in shopping as in choosing a life
partner. You do not want to end up with a wardrobe full of things that you
cannot pair.  I have come to value many
trips to buy a few items at a go, you really find the best things when your
purse is limited and you will always hold out until you are sure what you have
is the best.
Bargain or should I say haggle.
In some customs it is considered rude if you do not haggle with the vendor for
a good price. The item may be unbelievably cheap but you have your right to a
better price moreso if you buy many items at once. The only time when this is
unacceptable is when the vendor is calling for items and announcing his price.
Do not be tempted lest you want a show down of colourful language sprayed at
you in public. If you are not planning on buying a particular item do not start
haggling for it.
Make new contacts while shopping.
Every girl must make three people her best friends, your hairdresser, your
gynecologist and…your hawker/vendor. It is mandatory! Networking does not start
and end in the workplace it spills out into every aspect of our lives. I literally
have a guy for everything. These contacts are extremely useful, especially if
the vendor understands your style. My dress guy sends me Whatsapp images of
dresses he knows I love that are in my size. My shoe guy calls me immediately
he receives shipment of court shoes my size and they are always in mint
Lastly these contacts come in
handy because as much as you may have access to places like Gikomber, the
distributors are sometimes known to refuse to sell to retailers who are after
their own pieces in place of vendors who will give them a lower price.
Monochrome sling bag~Adams Arcade, Black court shoes~Sense&Style
Ombre hi-low shirt~Ngara
Dress~Adams Arcade
There are only two things that
cannot be solved by thrifting:
1.       Crisp
white shirts with collars still stiff (someone point me to a shop that sells
new shirts)
2.       Intimates…I
am not going to even explain why you ought to buy new undies!
Be sure to share with me your
experiences with second hand shopping, and include tips or a question that you
may want me to address.