The average person in Australia buys 27 kilograms of clothing every year and only wears an item seven times before throwing it away.
The enormous environmental impact of fast fashion and consumerism has prompted these women to make change and inspire others while doing so.
Bianca Flint and Meg Rayner are op shop faithfuls and are spreading their message of sustainability through their love of fashion.
They are seeing more women interested in shopping this way and taking up the challenge of buying nothing new.
Bianca Flint, the pre-loved fashion guru
Ballarat sustainable fashion advocate Bianca Flint has been op shopping since she was a young girl.
Her pre-loved fashion store The Wardrobe Green was born four-years-ago as an opportunity to provide an appealing alternative to the fast fashion cycle and educate women about the environmental and financial benefits of op shopping.
“When I started The Wardrobe Green it got to the point where I was getting these comments about what I was wearing and where I got it from and was being told by friends that they struggled to find things at the op shop or didn’t like shopping at op shops,” she said.
“For me it was never just about sourcing and reselling on. It was about educating women on the impacts of fast fashion and finding their own sense of style so they didn’t feel they had to constantly keep buying.”
Ms Flint said for the last four or five years, 95 per cent of the clothes she has bought for herself and her three young girls was pre-loved.
“The financial benefit is huge but also as I learnt more and more about the impacts of fashion on the environment that became a focus for me too and I didn’t want to be consuming lots of new clothes. I wanted to make use of what I had,” she said.
Bianca’s top tips for a sustainable wardrobe:
- Shop your own wardrobe – edit what you have, think about your style, how you live your life, what clothes you need and want – you might be surprised with what you find.
- Write a list of the gaps in your wardrobe, for example jeans or summer dresses. I think people can make the mistake of picking up whatever is cheap. Don’t over consume even when at the op shop. Shop mindfully and shop to fit your list rather than over indulging in clothes you might not end up wearing.
- Visit lots of different op shops, on lots of different days. Just because you haven’t found something in one day, it doesn’t mean the next one won’t have the exact piece you’re looking for.
- If you can’t find what you need at op shops, trade with friends.
Bianca’s favourite op shop buys:
I found a vintage Prada dress a few months back which was stunning. Just recently we came back from Kerang and stopped at some of the country op shops and I found a pair of Italian made leather shoes in size 11. I never find shoes in my size! They were $2! And I found a couple of dresses in excellent condition. I went into one op shop and found three rashie vests in each of my girls sizes.
At another shop I found a board game I used to play as a child called Masterpiece and my girls have been playing with a vintage flower press that we picked up for $2.
Data shows 73 per cent of the world’s clothes end up in landfill once they are no longer needed, creating 53 million tonnes of waste every year.
The fashion industry has notoriously low recycling rates at less than one per cent.
Meg Rayner, the fashion queen and pre-loved Instagrammer
Former Ballarat resident Meg Rayner took on the challenge to buy nothing new for six months last year, as part of her 2018 New Year’s Resolution.
The fashion lover made the resolution after feeling she was ‘accumulating too much’ and was becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of fast fashion and clothing waste.
“From January to June I didn’t buy anything new,” she said.
“I really shopped my wardrobe and made use of what I had already. I also realised there were a lot of things I didn’t need or didn’t like and I donated those to op shops and to friends who I knew would like them to give them a second life.
“For anything I needed or wanted I would pop into op shops and keep a mental catalogue of what I was looking for. When you pause and you shop a bit more mindfully I think you realise how impulsive you are and how you’ll want something and buy it straight away at the shopping centre.
“Taking time to recreate a look by shopping second hand is so much more satisfying and so much more fun and you end up finding better things along the way. Pieces mean more because you have sought them out and you treat them with a bit more love because you have gone to the trouble of finding them rather than just walking into a store and pulling your size off a rack.”
Ms Rayner’s challenge this year is to sustainably furnish an entire apartment by purchasing second hand from op shops and online marketplaces.
Meg’s top tips for a sustainable wardrobe:
- If buying nothing new is daunting and you rely on the chain stores, start by having a look at your wardrobe to see what you have already got. I kept buying grey t-shirts and I finally looked in my wardrobe and found I had eight grey t-shirts yet I would see them in shops and I would buy them.
- Try dipping your toe in the water. Small church op shops can be great.
- Now is the time to go shopping because everyone is having these big cathartic wardrobe clean outs and dumping these bags of amazing things and you see incredible brands. Things will start at $3 or $4.
- Op shops are also a great place to get second hand furniture. Facebook marketplace and Gumtree are amazing for that too.
- Be mindful, if you are going to be donating things. Make sure it is something that can be sold, because a lot of charity money and volunteer time goes to putting goods in landfill that can’t be sold.
Meg’s favourite op shop buys:
I have found some amazing things over the years. I found a Gucci bag recently for $14 at an op shop. I find I pick up a lot of dresses. Recently I have got lots of jewelry, some fun Mimco pieces people have tossed away. And you can pick up some really great Levi jeans. I love picking up leather boots from op shops. You just give them a wipe out, get them re-heeled and you have a brand new pair of boots.
The Grampians Central West Waste and Resource Recovery Group has released a guide to op shopping in the region titled Op Shop Adventures. See the guide below.