Miuccia Prada once said, “What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.” The quote quite precisely answers why people from across the globe, despite their religion, social status, skin color, or geographic location, feel the constant need to buy fashionable apparel to look presentable, and in most cases, even beautiful. However, not all of us can afford to shop from the outlets of posh luxury brands such as Gucci, Prada, Versace, and Louis Vuitton. Therefore, most of the people from the middle-income group either try to buy a copy of similar luxury items, thus directly or indirectly encouraging the business of selling counterfeit products, or go for cheaper brands that offer affordable quality products at a much reasonable price.
Nigerians, however, have their unique solution entitled the “Okrika market,” where the masses can derive the satisfaction of wearing more premium brands’ outfits and at the same time saving their pockets from getting empty.
The word ‘Okrika,’ also known and referred to as bend-down-select, Tokunbo, and Belgium, generally means the business of buying something for the purpose of reselling or reusing. The term originally came from a coastal town with the same name “Okrika,” situated in the Rivers State, Nigeria – a small island south of Port Harcourt. The city, because of its strategic position, during the colonial era, was considered as one of the most critical harbors for the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. In modern times, however, the city’s popularity is less because of its unpleasant history and more because of its massive business of second-hand retail clothing, which is popularly called the “Okrika clothing” by the locals.
The business of Okrika clothing initially commenced a long time ago when people started unloading second-hand clothes from Europe in the city’s ports. Today, howbeit, Okrika markets have also opened in several other cities across Nigeria where used garments, belts, bags, and other fashion-related items are sold. Most of these goods are sourced from Europe and Asia, while others are also donations from charity organizations. In an Okrika market, these items are usually displayed on a mat for the buyers to see and select. And although the price of the outfits varies, a pair of clothing can be easily bought somewhere under four or five US dollars.
Okrika was once considered clothing for the unprivileged. In current times, however, this segment of apparel is widely accepted and sought after, especially by the stylish Nigerian youth, and in some cases, even by Nigerian celebrities. The main reason behind the segment’s increasing popularity is its highly fashionable and affordable offerings.
The quality of Okrika apparel may vary from grade-to-grade. The outfits from the grade A category are usually expensive as those are brand new clothes from luxury brands and do not fall into the pre-used bucket. Some apparels in this category even come with their original price tags so the doubts of the buyers can be eliminated. The grade B category consists of new, good quality but more affordable collections than grade A type clothes. The third section, known as the grade AB includes both new and used clothes in good condition. The last category of Okrika clothing is the one that is cheapest and often consists of poor-quality goods. Okrika markets also do not readily accept the exchange of the items once bought.
In recent times, these markets have moved a step further by breaking down the conventional model of bend-down-select, brick and mortar stores. With the onset of the Internet age, these Okrika markets have moved to much convenient cyberspace by starting their digital retail shops in the most popular online shopping sites in Nigeria. Additionally, Okrika sellers have also gone to Instagram, Facebook, and other popular social media platforms to develop their businesses not just domestically but also internationally. Okriks.com is one such Nigeria-based website where a person can browse and order used but fashionable clothes from anywhere in the world.
For some, the practice of selling and wearing used clothes might seem a bit uncomfortable. But for the residents of a rapidly advancing nation such as Nigeria, Okrika is an affordable way to enjoy fashion.
About writer: Igbadi Blessing Chubiyojo, in short Chubie, is a Nigerian food and fashion blogger. Although she loves writing, her other interest areas include reading, listening to good music, and dancing. She loves her family and is committed profoundly toward each of her family members.
Editors: Rachana Gupta and Aditya Mohan