The Art of Ukay-Ukay

Juice.PH goes second-hand shopping with Garovs, stylist and (according to Preview Magazine) one of Manila's best-dressed.

By Liz Anne Bautista
Photos by Pat Bondoc using Ricoh GRD III

To be technical, the term ukay-ukay traces its roots to the Filipino verb "halukay," which means “to rummage thoroughly.” Nowadays, a mention of the word "ukay" conjures up images of stores selling used clothing and accessories imported from foreign countries like Hong Kong and the United States. If you’re lucky (and patient) you may even find pre-loved designer duds in ukay-ukay stores, like a friend who once scored a Balenciaga belt and a Comme des Garçons shirt that were still in good condition for no more than a hundred bucks.

Garovs, stylist and one-half of the photography and design collective EverywhereWeShoot!, was among the first to get wind of the many wonders of ukay-ukay shopping. 

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“I've been 'ukay-ing' ever since 2005, I think, when ukay-ukays started popping up everywhere,” she says. “It was more fun then because only a few knew about ukay hunting and it is harder now since almost everybody goes there to spice up their wardrobe.” 

Of course, Garovs has always been known for her individual style and this year, she was deservedly among Preview magazine’s Best-Dressed, which is an annual award given to Manila’s most stylish set. “I like to dress funny, purposely mismatched most of the time,” says the stylist who admits to just picking up random pieces from her closet and not giving her outfits much thought when going out. 

And this kind of creative, and rather nonchalant, attitude towards dressing is what makes her the perfect person to take with us on an ukay-ukay adventure in Cubao (and to bug for tips while we’re at it).

(Hip finds and ukay-ukay shops at Cubao X. Check it out.)

“The most shopping that I do is window shopping. I shop like a man, only when needed.”

“Bring Alcogel and tissue as most ukay-ukays are non-airconditioned.”

“Wear a light top with sleeves for when you want to try on sleeved garments you won't feel too icky about it. Leggings so you can fit bottoms easily. Thick socks so you don't get your feet dirty when fitting shoes. Slip-on shoes so you don't have to tie your laces every time you try on shoes.”

(Check out The Collective in Makati for cool buys.)

“It’s always fun to have a friend with you. Being alone in a big ukay store can certainly drives fashion hounds crazy!”

“When asking for price, ask with a stern voice and don't look too excited when you see something awesome as they will hike up the price!”

“P25 items are usually the dirtiest, don't take too long looking there, not worth it. Anything below P100 is a steal! If you like it, get it!”

“My favorite ukay-ukay stores are Desibels and Fashion D'lite in Cubao and one in JP Rizal corner Makati Ave.”


The Challenge: Find two whole outfits with only a P500 budget

Garovs' Reaction to Challenge: “You surprised me with the challenge to come up with two complete outfits for P500! I got nervous! I thought it was just an ukay-to-death challenge, with no budget constraints whatsoever!”

Total Items Bought: 6 items

Total Amount Spent: P445

(Great online buys at shopnow@eyp.)

Found: neon floral silk top P50, Laura Ashley floral cotton skirt P50, yellow shoes P120

Found: b+ab dress P125, twisted jeans P50, gold pumps P50

(More shopping features at EYP.)


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