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It was when we arrived in Andalusia, in November 2021, that I met Manon, founder of the ContraBanda thrift store, in Granada, Spain.
Being myself a long-time fan of second-hand clothing, this is the kind of place I actively seek out wherever I go. We quickly got into our habits in this city for which we had a real crush, and going to ContraBanda was one of them, after having our little coffee at La Finca coffee roaster, in the center. We were eager to discover the newest clothes of her shop, in addition to having always super interesting conversations with Manon, a real eco-preneur !
1) Who are you, where are you from and what is your background?
My name is Manon, I am 28 years old and I was born in Brussels, Belgium. I studied sociology and anthropology. In the begginning, I was heading towards ethno-musicology, which particularly interested me. I had the chance to travel during my studies, and I discovered Granada for the first time while doing an Erasmus there.
And then at a certain point, I realized that I didn’t necessarily want to continue my studies : I wanted to have a concrete and visible impact on the world. My brain was tired and I had too much anger in me to continue in research at university.
2) When and why did you decide to found ContraBanda?
I had a revelation, the one that pushed me to start my own thrift store : indeed, I have always loved the world of second-hand clothes, it was for me a very good way to express my style without necessarily breaking the bank.
You should also know that I spent my childhood in flea markets in Brussels, so that forged me a lot. I found in these places a lot of sharing and letting go on the question of materialism. In addition, it gives life to the neighborhoods and creates spaces for exchange between people. I was also actively involved in a social center where we received donations of clothes that we resold at free prices. I loved the atmosphere and the different publics that this place could bring together. And above all, it led me to see the staggering amount of barely used and “stored” clothes in people’s homes.
So that’s where the idea of ContraBanda came from, as an answer to this problem: to create spaces to allow these unused clothes to be put back on the market and contribute to the circular economy.
3) Tell us a bit about ContraBanda’s mission and vision!
It’s been ten years that I have an ecological and social awareness which are omnipresent in my life and which determine my daily choices, whether it be to travel and to move around the city (by bicycle in particular), but also everything related to food, etc… it gives meaning to my life, in addition to representing a real fight, the one of going against the neo-liberal world.
ContraBanda’s mission is to bypass the current fashion industry, of mass textile production, by offering people who are beginning to have questions about this production-destruction system a concrete alternative, cheap, in a pleasant and friendly place.
So all the issues on which I position myself with ContraBanda are the destruction of the environment, the contamination of water, air and soil, the dependence on oil and chemicals, but also the tax injustice, the increase in inequalities and the monopolization of wealth by a minority, specific to the capitalist system.
The ethical and human aspect is also very important to me. When we know in what conditions our clothes are made, it’s a real modern slavery… It saddens and revolts me that most consumers prefer to close their eyes to these dynamics under the pretext that they take place in other latitudes or simply because they are painful to accept.
In short, these are noble ideals, but sometimes very difficult to implement in an oppressive system like the one in which we currently live. A system in which everything leads to blind consumption. This is why it was important for me to take action, and to invest on local trade and recycling represents a solution to all these issues.
4) What does your typical day look like at ContraBanda, what are your main daily activities?
Apart from receiving donations, and managing stock of clothing (women, men, children, accessories), labeling, social media management, I also take care of organizing ”swaps” and textile customization workshops every month. I also exhibit works by local artists at the shop.
I find abandoned clothes on the street almost every day, I receive donations and swap with customers. This is proof that there is no need to source elsewhere, because the stock is more than enough to run the store. Indeed, you should know that many ”vintage” and second-hand stores are supplied abroad (by boat, in tons of clothes) to obtain specific requested pieces, when in fact there is no need for it! We could all operate with a much more local and circular approach. That’s what I blame them for.
5) What are the values of ContraBanda and why is it important for you to convey them?
In addition to those of respect for the planet and for humans, I strongly advocate inclusiveness at different levels. All sizes and styles are represented, and I try to ensure that people can travel between areas of the store as much as possible, regardless of gender. The children’s area is unisex. Socio-economic inclusiveness is even more important to me. Children’s clothes are 1€/piece and I also make it a point of honor to have fair prices and help people who need it. They know me and know that I can help them out. My credo is really to create social links and a safe place for everyone.
I also try to collaborate as much as possible with the different alternatives that exist in Granada, whether they are associations, collectives, shops, or even cultural places. Together, we are stronger!
6) How do you see the future of ContraBanda?
Promising. The “second hand” is more and more successful. The big brands have understood this well and are trying to take it for themselves. You have to be very attentive to greenwashing practices. We hope that the big fish will not eat the small ones.
The fight is still complicated here because the locals find it more difficult to adhere to it. The Andalusians are still very influenced by the Catholic Church, so the “second hand” is still very much associated with donating, with charity. Spain has gone through such moments of poverty, like a societal trauma, that it reassures people to be able to buy new clothes and to be able to change them often; this mentality is still very entrenched. Internationals are therefore those who visit my shop the most at the moment. But it’s changing every day and I’m happy about it.
I hope that these barriers and prejudices will come down in the future and I try to contribute to this with ContraBanda. In addition, I try to make people aware of how to distinguish honest and ecologically coherent proposals from those, dishonest and based on pure profit, from large groups.
I intend to give more visibility to the store, and at the same time continue to convey my ideas and the importance of the fight that is in place, but also to inspire other people to carry out similar initiatives by sharing my experience with them. It is truly rewarding and satisfying work. I hope that some ContraBanda-babies will be born from these encounters!
And if one day I run out of clothes (which is not the case at the moment), I would love to take a tour of the flea markets in Europe to bring back clothes and meet people, just for fun!
Shop’s website : www.contrabandashop.es
Facebook page : ContraBanda Granada
Instagram : @contrabandagranada
Picture Credits : Secondfashionweek & S. Nacchia