In secondhand engineer duds, Eastern Congo locals are defiantly clean-cut …

July 12, 2015 - fall Denim

Diesel jeans for $10. Converse hi-tops for $8 a pair. iPads for $250.

Status-conscious though cash-strapped Goma hosts a strong trade in all secondhand. My initial days there, we gawked during a march of engineer and code names – Versace, Chanel, Gucci, Ray Ban, Adidas, Lacoste – channel my trail on a roads of broken-up volcanic stone and dirt.  

Out on a Saturday night, my Gap jeans and no-name T-shirt felt provincial among a well-tailored blazers – with silk handkerchiefs in a chest pockets – and soaring stilettos, a engineer labels mostly secretly visible. To compensate for a turn of drinks my fixer pulled out dollars – as many a internal banking as a Congolese franc – from a Gucci waist belt he mostly wore.

Within Africa, a dual Congos – Kinshasa and Brazzaville – are famous for their artistic conform clarity and their adore for brands. And nonetheless Kinshasa is aristocrat when it comes to selected engineer finds, Goma is no slouch. This city of 1.3 million, overshoot by rebels dual years ago and thousands of miles from a pier or production point, has no offered mall or large box store. But it’s secondhand markets make it easy to demeanour good.

This is a nation of sapeurs – dandies who enclose pointy get-ups daily notwithstanding a poverty, oppression, and dispute mostly surrounding them. Being a member of a so-called Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élegantes (SAPE), will acquire we a multiple of rolled eyes and a yap of glee. The classification uses sauce good as an act of rebuttal opposite formidable resources – in Eastern Congo that would be a cycle of assault and everlasting coherence on charitable assist for simple needs.

Yet provoke a well-dressed male in Goma by job him a sapeur, and he’ll act frightened – though be gratified he looks pointy adequate to earn the name.

Everyone from fashion-conscious 20-somethings to mothers of 3 can be found pawing by mounds of wardrobe during a single-item stalls of Virunga Market, Goma’s largest secondhand market. Dealers pierce in thousands of kilograms of used wardrobe each month, ecstatic from the ports during Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, piling it high in warehouses where emporium owners buy it by a 45-kilogram package.

The distance of a secondhand economy final sequence and hierarchy. In this manufacturing-deficient country, etiquette income creates adult 45 percent of Congo’s inhabitant budget, and a supervision is vigilant on creation certain a secondhand equipment don’t shun taxation. And nonetheless they seem totally informal, a several markets have associations, manners for joining, and care that make decisions and try to forestall stolen products from entering a market.

Used socks, too

At Virunga market, we will find a obstruction of stalls offered all from a infamously entire T-shirts left over from sororities’ gift 5ks to Steve Madden high heels. And on each street, you’ll find a hawker offered a integrate dozen pants, shirts, and jackets unresolved from a circuitously corrugated steel wall.

Even Goma residents with disposable income contend they cite used pants with a good name over a new, no-name options or knockoffs. “It’s usually politicians and NGOs who use code new stuff,” says George, an confidant to North Kivu Province’s mercantile apportion who declined to give his final name. He estimates that 70 to 80 percent of a race – himself enclosed – wear mostly secondhand items. This rich supervision central wiggles his feet and rises adult his pants leg, indicating to his socks. Used.

“One thing is for sure, secondhand garments is a tip business. It’s always relocating quickly,” he says. “In a few days or a week, [a dealer] will tell we he finished already” offered his many new import of used clothes. New garments don’t pierce scarcely as quickly.

Nyangi Mulonda Innocent, a conduct of one of a secondhand wardrobe cooperatives in Goma and a jeans seller, says his many renouned brands are Versace, Calvin Klein, and Levi’s. They all sell for $10 a pop.

“Everywhere in a world, people like labels, people like brands,” he says, adding that a Chinese knock-offs tumble apart, a colors using on initial wash.

Secondhand, though singly you

And they also honour themselves on originality. If we buy a T-shirt in one of Goma’s few grave stores (patronized mostly by United Nations peacekeepers, high-up politicians, and general NGO workers, according to a owners of a store called Gucci Fashion), we risk using into someone wearing a same thing, says Dunat Iseso, one of Goma’s 7 traders of used clothes.

“Here in secondhand [stores], if you’re propitious we get a good shirt and it will be usually for you,” he says, disposition on one of a shrink-wrapped bundles of wardrobe temperament labels like “swim trunks” or “jogging pants.” Sometimes we also find mint equipment packaged in with a rest, he marvels.

Sandra Ngalula, who buys bundles from Mr. Iseso and sells them out of her home to area women, assents.

“Secondhand we get something that belongs usually to you,” she says.  

When asked if we can dress good relying usually on secondhand clothes, she gestures to her dim spare jeans, tank top, denim button-down, and strappy sandals. All secondhand. 

“Just suppose when I’m smart!” she says. 

This story was reported with support from a International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF). 

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