How to score in an ukay-ukay: Recessionistas’ insider tips

The ultimate ukay-ukay guide for unearthing something fabulous for next to nothing.

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Stylist Leona Lavina-Panutat shows off her ukay finds. Top: Skirts at 3 for P100 at Pennywise Trading ukay choices at ECEP Dry Goods Store.

Center: Fabulous finds at Pennywise Trading and a Moschino cheap and chic jacket at P65.

Lower bottom: ï¿½ Reworked vintage dress leather jacket at P 90, Green military cropped cardigan for P60.

Now that fashionistas are finding it hard to satiate their fashion urges, Manila has the best remedy: the ukay-ukay. Around for at least a decade, the ukay-ukay is not exactly a secret. Tucked inside Manila’s alleys and holes-in-the-wall, one needs to scour the streets and find the perfect ukay-every store houses different brands (sometimes original, most of the time, not) and styles. The most addicting thing about them? You rarely get the same thing twice!

Gone are the days when second-hand shopping was a no-no. Today, not only is it acceptable but anyone who has fashion cred has done it at least once. Fashionistas now get a bigger thrill in unearthing something fabulous for next to nothing than by buying the latest "it" thing. Finding something to-die-for amidst racks and racks of clothes is not an easy feat. Here’s SPOT’s ï¿½12-Step Battle Plan:

1. Research. Master the trends before embarking on your battle, so you can keep an eye out for certain colors, prints, cuts and fabrics and ignore what’s blah. But also keep in mind that classics never go out of style.

2. Dress down and dress tight. No dressing room? No problem. Wear something you can slip on and off without exposing yourself. Layer an oversized tank over a tight one, and wear leggings and sneakers so you can try on the clothes on the spot.

3. Look poor. Seeing that the customer is well-dressed, salespeople can hike up the price pronto. Look casual and discreet-most ukays are in dodgy locations so it’s best to blend with the crowd.

4. Bring barya. You can’t exactly haggle if you’re carrying money in P500 and P1000 denominations.

5. Haggle-frock. Haggle for half the price and meet halfway with the seller. Accumulate purchases and ask for additional items for free.

6. Ditch the handbag. Go hands-free-an oversized sling bag is perfect. Not only can you put your other purchases inside but it also lets you scour the racks with ease.

7. Be greedy. Never put an item down unless you’re sure you aren’t going to get it. Remember that these pieces are one of a kind and that another customer may be eyeing your choices and is just waiting for you to put it back. And finally, learn how to edit.

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8. Caveat emptor: It’s understood that once you purchase something, you take everything that comes with it: stains, smells and snags. So, check the underarm areas. If it’s overly-stained, dump it. Underarms are very sensitive parts and stains only mean that the previous owner did sweat on it profusely and the bacteria from it will never go away.

9. Discriminate: Stay away from bathing suits, always wear socks for shoes and always check for holes and stains.

10. Before you buy: Ask: Am I just caught up in the thrill of the low price? Do really I love it? Will I actually wear it? If the answer is no, then it’s just a waste of money.

11. Before you say bye: Tell the store you’ll be back soon and that particular branch is your favorite bargain depot. Befriend that staff and get the number so they’ll alert you for the next batch of new arrivals or even better, you get first dibs on the biggest sales.

12. After you buy: Rinse clothing in vinegar (known to eliminate germs) and wash it off. Another option is to slightly boil it to kill bacteria. Research on fabric care and handling so you don’t ruin your most-coveted bargain discovery!

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Ikayman Fashion House in Kamuning has Yves Saint Laurent and Viviene Westwood finds.

LEONA’S LIST:

1. ï¿½ ï¿½ ï¿½ CYLHIA RTW FASHION- Rizal Ave., Cor Blumentritt, beside Mercury Drug. Store Hours: Mon-Sun 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

New items delivered every quarter. Mostly women’s clothes arranged per category and price point. No shoes and accessories here. The store is pretty small so be patient. I was able to buy a Moschino Cheap and Chic Jacket for P65!

2.  ï¿½ECEP Dry Goods Store- G/F RJ Building, A.Bonifacio St. Bgy 81, Caloocan City Store Hours: Mon-Fri 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat-Sun 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Mobile: (0929) 864-5695

No set delivery date, so ask the store personnel to alert you for new merchandise. The store is pretty big but everything is arranged by category and price point so it makes it easier to navigate. Brands like Zara, Jessica, Theme, G2000 and Tough Jeans. Prices are pretty good- apparel, P200 and below, nothing over P350 for bags and shoes. I got a leather motorcycle vest reminiscent of Alexander Wang’s F/W ’08 Collection for just P90!

3. PENNYWISE TRADING- 151 UGF Quadrillion Manshion, N. Domingo San Juan Store Hours: Mon-Sat 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Sun 12 nn-8:30 p.m. Tel. 744-7083

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One of my absolute favorite shops. This store marks down their items every week. Clothes are full-price on the first week, 50% off on the second, 3 for 100 on the third week and 4 for a hundred on the fourth week. I bought so many things from here-even a Vivienne Westwood cardigan for P50. No set delivery schedule either, so leave your number.

4. IKAYMAN FASHION- Kamuning Conrer Edsa, beside Chowking Store Hours: Daily 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Pretty expensive compared to the others but they have a good collection. I found pieces from Vivienne Westwood and a bag from Yves Saint Laurent. If you’re willing to shell out a bit more for a designer piece then this shop is for you. Prices range from P180-1200.

5. FASHION DELIGHT ï¿½- Quezon Theater Bldg. Gen Roxas cor. Araneta Center, Soccoro Cubao, Quezon City Store Hours: Daily 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Probably the biggest ï¿½Ukay ï¿½in Metro Manila. Racks upon racks of ï¿½ clothing as far as your eyes can see. Try to go on a weekday as it gets packed on weekends.

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The best time to scour through the racks of Fashion Delight in Cubao is during weekdays, ï¿½as it is probably the biggest ukay in Manila.

BEA’S BARGAIN HAVENS:

1. Lucky Star Ukay-Ukay Luck Star building, Makati Avenue corner J.P. Rizal Street, Makati City

2. Iyaman Fashion House St. Girard’s Building, Alabang Zapote Road, Las Pinas City

3. Uky (a series of stalls) Beside the POEA building in front of Robinson’s Galleria along EDSA

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