Second-hand clothes the austerity fashion in Eastern Europe
The global financial crisis hit hard in central and eastern Europe, but one industry has thrived: second-hand clothing stores.
While in western Europe the squeeze on household finances prompted many consumers to turn to discount retailers like Primark (ABF.L), their peers further east - where wages are significantly lower - have shifted to the used clothing sector.
Second-hand clothes retailers in Hungary,Poland,Bulgaria and Croatia have grown rapidly and, as the pace of income convergence between the West and Eastern Europe slows, they are investing millions of euros to expand their businesses further.
Brisk trade in Bulgaria, for example, has prompted one company - Mania - to open new stores in Romania and Greece, while in Hungary major player Hada is opening a 1.6 million euro sorting hall to cope with booming demand.
These companies and their rivals source their goods from western countries, buying them from so-called cash-for-clothes firms who pay people to recycle their old or unwanted outfits. Some are in pristine condition with the original price tag still attached.
There is no shortage of demand for their wares in central and eastern Europe, where most people are in lower-income brackets, by western European standards.
In Hungary,central Europe's most indebted nation, where the economy has yet to catch up to pre-crisis levels despite a jump in growth this year, the import of used clothes has more than doubled from 2008 figures to 56 million euros last year.
Hada, which has 60 stores in Hungary and controls about a third of the market by its own estimate, will open the 1.6 million euro sorting hall in eastern Hungary next year, adding 155 jobs to bring its workforce to around 900 people.
The firm imports 30-40 tonnes of used clothes per week from Britain- its main sourcing market. It has grown into an operation with annual turnover of 32.4 million euros ($40 million), from a family business started in 1995 and run from a decrepit hall in a remote village near the border with Ukraine.
In Poland, the region's biggest economy, over 40 percent of people shop for second-hand clothes regularly and 100 million euros worth of used clothes were imported in 2013, up from about 60 million on average in the previous years. They mainly come from Britain, Germany and Scandinavia.
Poland was the only EU member to avoid a recession during the global crisis but its recovery is also slowing as the Ukraine conflict and weak European growth are taking their toll.
However the consumer spending squeeze in western Europe has had a knock-on effect for used clothes sellers further east.
"Everything's got more difficult recently, because of the crisis, and so has this business," said Jolanta, who has worked in one of Warsaw's shops for six years.