Picture this: you’re seventeen, don’t have much of a sense of style and have a whole wardrobe of pieces your mum bought you from the mall. Then you sit down one day, open up Netflix and start watching a documentary about fast fashion. You become obsessed with learning about where your clothes are made, the working conditions and environmental impacts. You know you can never shop the same way ever again.
This was my exact journey to slow fashion.
I want to start by saying that no one is perfect, and I am certainly far from it. I still find myself overconsuming clothes, buying unsustainably and messing up all the time. Many even argue that there is no ethical consumption within the framework of capitalism, but I think we owe it to ourselves and to the world to do our best. That it is far better to try than to do nothing at all.
Why I Choose to Thrift
After finding out the harsh realities of the fashion industry I realised I had three options:
- Magically become rich so I could afford sustainable brands
- Never buy anything ever again
- Start to take op shopping seriously
(clearly, I chose the latter)
I became pretty obsessed with op shopping very quickly; scouring the racks across Adelaide to find the best pieces out there as often as I could. For the first time ever, I started to find joy in fashion. There was no one telling me what was trendy or worth my money, that was up to me. I began to appreciate clothing for the quality of its make and what fabrics it was made from, and finally developed an eye for my own style. All of which I did not feel as inclined to do when shopping fast fashion.
One of my favourite things about thrifting continues to be that you, as the shopper, are in control. Gendered sections are irrelevant, because you realise fabric is just that, and the way a garment makes you feel becomes most important over any social construct. I know it probably sounds so dramatic, but thrifting has really empowered me, and to know my choices are working toward a cleaner and more ethical future is SO cool.
Now, just about every outfit I wear contains a second-hand piece, whether in the form of clothing, accessories or shoes. Some of my finest finds include those pictured on this very page!
Steph’s top thrift tips
New to thrifting? Want some guidance? Here’s my best tips to get you closer to the finds of your dreams!
- Go where the gold is
Eat the rich, then buy their clothes (basically).
It’s worth driving a little longer to good neighbourhoods for high value pieces – like the snazzy Tommy Hilfiger sweater you can see me wearing here.
- Focus on fabrics
Trade in all that polyester for some quality cotton, corduroy, silk and cashmere.
Fabrics like these make for quality clothing but can be hard to come by at affordable prices. Check the tags of the clothing you pick to see if you have snagged a good one.
- Keep an open mind
No gendered section or style is off limits.
Thrifting is about working out your own style – there is no mannequins to do that for you. Keep an open mind and see what wonderful pieces you can find.
- Take your time
You never know what could be hiding on a stray hanger.
I really recommend taking the time to delve through as much of your chosen thrift shops as you possibly can.
- Give and you shall receive
Karma is real, right?
Donate your used clothes to local thrift shops, sell pieces online or swap with friends. Do the right thing by the planet and the thrift gods will thank you.
Ever since I was in my early teens, my mum would take my little sisters and I out on what we called ‘op-shop tours’. We would go around to as many thrift shops as we could in a day to find the best bargains we could. After many trips, we built up knowledge of the best ones around Adelaide. We always considered the best thrift shops to be inexpensive and crowded with goodies.
A thrift shop that tricks both those boxes is Save the Children in St. Agnes. It is a small thrift shop, down the road from Tea Tree Place, with amazing prices and staff that hype you up as you come out the dressing room. My favourite find from there is a bowl from Urban Cow Studio which says, ‘Hey Good Looking’; it now holds my keys and loose change and a heap of books, which now make up most of my 2021 TBR list. I also found a really cute shirt that has now become a stable in my closet.
While I still have quite a long way to go on my sustainability journey, sustainability means to me finding ways of repurposing and reusing things I already have. Sustainability makes me more conscientious of what I purchase; it makes me consider if I need it and how will I be able to use it. Thrifting is one of the main ways I try to be more sustainable. It helps cut down on waste that would otherwise be put into landfill. Thrifting helps me bond with the people I love and also discover items I would not have known existed otherwise. It is a fun way to keep waste out of the bin, keeping money out of fast fashion and getting cute clothes into your closet.
Although I have no favourite op shop in particular, Savers at Tea Tree Plaza is usually my go to. Also, Salvos always has great tops and formal wear, whilst Fox on the Run Vintage has great casual wear. As for some cool pieces I have accumulated from op shopping, I have a patterned brown dress I bought at Savers. I know it’s a keeper since I have worn it to the past couple formal birthdays I have attended and my friends have also borrowed it. I have a pair of denim shorts that I bought from Fox on the Run, back in 2017, and have worn them to death since. One of my favourites is an oversized blazer I found at Salvos down Magill Road, which is the best for winter, and a mesh floral top. Although, my favourite accessory I have found is this patch work suede backpack from an op shop somewhere up in the hills. I don’t wear it enough, but it is probably one of the coolest things I own.
Sustainability is very important. Not only is shopping second hand a fun experience (like a little treasure hunt) it’s better for the environment. We all know that fast fashion is bad but, reading up on it, I learnt that globally 87% of clothing that is not bought is sent to landfill. Thrifting is a great way to get into sustainable fashion. With trends from the 70’s, 90’s and 00’s coming back it’s easy to create outfits that look like something you could find in Cotton On or General Pants. When I first started thrifting, I found myself just buying whatever I liked, but hardly ended up wearing most of it. Then a couple years later, I donated it all back. My mentality thrifting now is, ‘how much wear can I get out of this and is it something that will last me a long time?’. This way I end up saving money and not hoarding heaps of clothing.
I love thrifting because every experience is unique. You never know what you will find and sometimes the sketchiest shops pull the best finds. My absolute favourite op shop would have to be Black Market Vintage in Toronto, Canada. The basement floor shop is barely furnished. It has concrete walls and flooring with the occasional flickering fluro overhead. Although, looking past that… wow. With an ‘everything for $10.99CAD’ sign and hundreds of vintage pieces literally everywhere, it is the store that fuels the grunge aesthetic of the city. There is an obscene amount of jackets, denim, vintage snow gear and t-shirts with even a barbershop hidden away down there! It’s where I bought my 80s windbreaker which is honestly my most beloved clothing item. It was a bit beat up when I first got it (a couple of stitches were coming undone) but, after I fixed it up, it has come pretty much everywhere with me.
The state of the environmental world is overwhelming and I feel we are constantly bombarded with our necessity to live sustainably. You want to do the right thing but sometimes you have no idea where to begin. Though thrifting is such a great way to start and many op shops support charities, so it is doubly great for the environment and also for helping out people in need too!
The Benefits of Ethical Clothing with Laura Vogt of Sustainability Clothing Co.
If you take a trip down Hindley Street and descend down a staircase to shop 34B, you will be lucky to find the Sustainability Clothing Co., company that celebrates sustainable clothing. Thanks to Communications and Media student, Nate Drewett, Verse was able to secure an interview with the owner of Sustainability Clothing Co. Together, Nate and Laura sat down and discussed sustainability and fast fashion amongst other subjects.
What is the one thing you would preach to people about where to start with slow fashion and ethical clothing?
When you wear any vintage or pre-loved garment more than 30 times, then you are actually making up for its environmental impact. Every single piece of clothing ever created has had some sort of impact on the environment and getting just 30 wears out of that will help to reduce the impact. So, you can start by even just re-wearing stuff that you already have in your wardrobe and, if you get 30 wears out of it on average, then you are doing a great job!
What is ethical clothing and why is it important to the world?
Ethical clothing means a few various things. From my perspective, ethical clothing is focused on recycling the clothing that has already been made. So, when you buy anything that is vintage or pre-loved, you are extending its life on average by 2.2 years which means you are keeping it out of landfill. It’s not producing any greenhouse gases and then if you are really into sustainability you can swap it with your friends, give it to your family or upcycle it and so all of those things are also incorporated into sustainable fashion. [Ethical clothing] also means sustainable fabrics like hemp, bamboo, organic cotton, silk [or] anything that is biodegradable and has a positive impact on the environment throughout the growing manufacturing process and towards the end of its life.
You have said that one of your aims is to teach people about the value of consignment and the harms of fast fashion; do people have a hard time understanding the benefits of slow fashion or do you ever have trouble convincing them of the pros and cons of slow versus fast?
Everyone is sort of used to the $5 t-shirts and the $10 shorts and they are so used to buying and discarding, instead of recycling. So, it can be a little challenging sometimes for people to understand the prices because it might have been worn or it might have been owned by someone else previously. But, we have a lot of really high-quality brands here and the benefits of you buying something second hand obviously reduces your impact, but you can also invest in brands that you would have normally paid normal price for. So, say you go into Myers and there is a $150 Ralph Lauren polo or something like that, you can come here and get it for $50 even though it may have only been worn once. It might not have been worn at all, but you can still get those really good brands and you are able to incorporate them in your wardrobe.
You are at the forefront of ethical clothing movements in Adelaide; what about your job puts a smile on your face the most though?
I love when people come down here and they just want to play dress ups and really experiment and dress to their style […] I really love that interaction and being able to style someone and have them walk away with a smile on their face feeling good about the money they spent and the time they have been there. A lot of people do come here and feel it is a safe space as well. They feel very comfortable being here, because we do not have any gender categorisation either. So, whatever you identify as, you are welcome here, there is no specific sections where you have to shop or you cannot shop – it is just open. I feel that has really helped the community and also really the sustainability side of things as well.
Words by Laura Vogt
Interview by Nate Drewett