Have you ever thought about how our old clothes can be used? In western countries, people donate their old clothes to charity organizations, or shops. But what happens to old clothes in Bangladesh?
In our country, old clothes are sold in multiple locations. In the last few decades, A large old clothes' market has sprung up in Becharam Dewri at Begumganj area in Old, with more than a hundred shops arranged in rows on both sides of the road. This is considered by many as the hub for second-hand clothing.
Traders opined that old clothes are not without value and can be put to multiple uses.
Ambar Shah is involved in old clothes trading in the market for over three decades.
Talking to The Business Standard, he said, "After independence, during the 70s, five to seven clothes traders from Munshiganj district first started the clothing business in this area. However, in Old Dhaka, clothes trading started long before then - in the Chawkbazar area of the old town."
According to traders, each store in this wholesale clothes market sells products worth Tk5,000–8,000 daily, though sales are higher in some outlets. Prior to the pandemic, however, each shop sold clothing worth Tk15,000-20,000 daily.
During a recent spot visit, this correspondent saw different garments, including old jeans, shirts, lungis, sarees, t-shirts and blankets piled in front of each store.
One shop was entirely full of clothes. The salesman was barely visible, sitting on a plastic chair in the corner.
Shop owner Asadur Rahman said he buys clothes with their colours almost faded and sells them to owners of printing presses, motor, and furniture shops.
"Those who sell old clothes on pavements in and outside the capital are essentially the main customers of this wholesale market," he added.
Abdur Rashid, owner of Samrat and Sajjad Store, has been involved in this business for over 15 years, selling only old jeans and lungis.
He said that hundreds of hawkers who trade in old clothes for silver kitchen utensils all across the country are the main suppliers to this market. They throng the market at Becharam Dewri every morning to sell the old clothes they've collected.
Wholesale buyers like Abdur Rashid buy clothing from the hawkers.
Rashid said the older the clothes, the cheaper they are. I buy each pair of old jeans pants for Tk3-5. If the item is of better quality, it gets slightly pricier. I buy a lungi for Tk 5-10, a shirt for Tk 10-20, a saree for Tk15-20 and a quilt cover for Tk 30-35.
"The workers at rod factories in our country wear special types of gloves while on duty, and old denim jeans are used to make these gloves. The companies that manufacture the gloves are the ones that end up buying old jeans," Rashid told TBS.
Old lungis are used to clean furniture, and also to clean machinery in printing presses, while old sarees are used to brighten the colours of a painted car.
Old silk sarees are used to shine newly built furniture.
Many old clothes trading hawkers reside in the Becharam Dewri area for the sake of their business.
He said, "We first divide the collected clothing into three groups. Clothes that are still usable belong to the first group, while the rest are divided into the last two groups according to their quality.
Trader Jahangir Alam buys old clothing from Becharam Dewri and sells them in different locations of the capital.
He said, "These clothes are in huge demand by people from lower income groups, primarily because of their lower price points and because they can be worn for quite a while."
Like other business sectors of the country, the corona pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to traders of old clothing in this market. Many shop owners owe several months in rent and are currently going through an extremely difficult time.
Trader Abdul Jabbar Khan said, "Due to the crisis triggered by the pandemic, I was not able to pay my store rent for three months. Since the shutdown was lifted and the market reopened, business has been recovering at a slow pace. I am now paying the rent arrears in phases.
"We are not going to get any incentives from anybody. That is why during times of crisis, we have to depend on ourselves," he observed.