Ask Hannah Klose why we should all be thrifters and she says, “It’s about so much more than getting a bargain. It’s good for charities and it’s a more sustainable way to shop. Think about how much clothing [and textiles] end up in landfill – 6000 kilos every 10 minutes according to the ABC’s War On Waste – it’s a no-brainer. And it’s easy. I promise you it’s easy.”
Klose is a Brisbane-based radio journalist and dedicated instagrammer who runs Never Ever Pay Retail. Just don’t call it a blog. “My website is a multi-faceted platform to help people hop off the fast fashion train,” she explains.
“Everything on there is designed to help you find your sustainable fashion journey, from op shop guides and a pre-loved market calendar to an op shop locator, because the good ones are often hidden down side streets. There’s over 2000 shops in the database, which my husband entered!”
The site also features great snaps of Klose in thrifted gear. Second-hand, but definitely not second best. She knows how to put a look together. Complete with sunglasses, rain or shine, Anna Wintour-style.
“I have a toddler, those bags under my eyes aren’t Prada. It’s all to encourage people to give op shopping a try, I really don’t think they’ll be disappointed,” she says.
This week is National Op Shop Week, which encourages shopping in one of Australia’s 2400-plus opportunity shops, at which over 76,000 people volunteer, benefiting local community support programs and charities.
Op shops also give consumer goods, particularly clothing and accessories, an extended life and help divert them from landfill. Hence the event sees a flurry of activity from a new wave of online fashion activists – the op shop bloggers.
Personal style blogging is not what was at the turn of the decade, back when 14-year-old blogging sensation Tavi Gevinson could get a ticket to the Dior show (she is now a book publisher and Broadway actor). Millennials think email takes too much time, never mind painstakingly producing an online visual diary
What once was cool is now seen as rather naff. Narcissism fatigue and disappointing sponsored content are denting influencer growth. There are too many poseurs with not enough purpose. In 2017 the new currency is authenticity. You must snap your next selfie for a reason greater than yourself.
Alex van Os, AKA Op Shop to Runway, describes herself as a woman on a mission “to break down the stigma of pre-loved fashion. It still exists, especially when it comes to celebrities and television. It’s seen as the poor option, the second class choice, the compromise.”
Van Os makes a living as television stylist, but she’s making a name for herself as a fashion thrifter and runs op shop tours around Sydney in her minivan.
“I’m trying to make a difference and break down the bullshit. Just because you bought something for $1000 doesn’t mean you automatically look good. We have so much stuff and we’re so wasteful with it, but also, it’s not meaningful. The other part of my motivation is community. When you shop in an op shop you’re giving back.”
“These pants are from Vinnies, I found these Converse on the street and my jacket is from Goodwill,” says Ellen McMahon, who shares her op shop hints, tips and finds via The Only Way is Op.
“The key is to work out what you love and look for that, whether it’s denim or florals or shirts. For me, it’s colour obviously. Bright colours make me happy. My high school teacher called me rainbow girl.”
McMahon’s grandmother worked in a Salvos shop and McMahon was an op shopper as a student “because I wanted to find cheap clothes that were different to what other people were wearing”.
These days she op shops for value-driven reasons. “Op shops are community hubs, most of the people who work there are volunteers,” she says. “It’s putting the heart back into shopping, which sounds old-fashioned but I love it. You don’t get that opportunity to connect so easily in a regular shop.
“Three years ago my New Year’s resolution was to stop buying new clothes for a year. I had that classic mentality of wanting to wear a new outfit whenever I had somewhere to go and it was getting out of control. I actually still have it, but now I wear new-old, so it feels, ethically speaking, like a better outcome.”
Tara Castellan is a stylist and “mindful shopper” who shares pre-preloved fashion inspiration on Instagram. Her style, she says, is based on “great quality, classic items – and yes you can find these in op shops”. Castellan styled a mini fashion show at the Vinnies store in Sydney’s Waverley to celebrate the launch of National Op Shop Week on Sunday.
“We had four models in head-to-toe Vinnies, a mix of high/low and vintage,” she explains. “It was received really well, with comments like ‘I never would have thought to put that together’ and, ‘wow, you can really find anything at Vinnies!'”
Faye De Lanty has turned thrift blogging into a full-time gig as Salvos’ in-house eco stylist. She makes regular TV appearances, blogs and talks on the virtues of customising and upcycling thrifted fashion finds.
“In 2016, Salvos Stores diverted 30,000 tonnes of donated items from landfill,” she says. “So much can be done with what we already have and it never means sacrificing style.”
For De Lanty, Op Shop Week is her equivalent of fashion week – she’s had a hectic schedule of shows, styling workshops and thrifty events in NSW and Queensland including one in Sydney (full disclosure) that I’m working on too.
Van Os describes Op Shop Week as “like a thrifter’s Christmas – it’s time to celebrate a week of op shopping when everyone is getting behind it”. As bad news stories about the fashion industry abound, here’s a chance to feel good about shopping.
Clare Press is the presenter of the Wardrobe Crisis podcast.