Fast Fashion, Real Slow

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Out with the new, in with the old

Retro. Vintage. Thrift. Pre-loved. Recycled. Resale. Distressed. Your grandma’s coat. Whatever you want to call it, shopping old is fucking awesome.

It’s also a global macro trend that’s here to stay. By 2022, according to a recent ThredUp report, the resale market will be worth US$41B by 2022, and in 2018 Lyst reported that it saw a 47% increase in searches relating to sustainable fashion. 

I first started throwing on throwback threads when I was 15, and going through my (first) grunge phase. I would traipse King Street with my school friends in search of anything that would make me look like Courtney Love, which generally resulted in an outfit of tie-died slips combined with fishnets, a tiara and purple fudge highlights in my hair.

Back then, all second-hand stores smelled of that same vaguely musty-incense-y aroma, however these days things have changed. Whilst a number of those early King Street staples are still there, a newer, fresher breed has arrived in inner-city suburbs like Surry Hills, Darlinghurst and Potts Point, armed with Insta profiles, on point displays and high-end designer finds. These retailers aren’t just selling to the alt crowd, they’re marketing to the mainstream, millennials and the environmentally conscious.

Potts Point’s The Clothes Library, owned by Sarah Freeman-Vagg, is relatively new to the scene, but has already has a red carpet following thanks to her sweet selection of designer label bargains and consignments.

Freeman-Vagg, however, is the first to admit that she hasn’t always been that concerned about the planet.

“For me, shopping has always come down to affordability. The concept for my business came about when I was trying to think of a way to get other people involved that was a win-win for customers and the community.

“Then I realised that the environment’s the biggest winner – you’re not using any natural resources, not creating any more pollution and you’re saving clothes from landfill. In the past year, we’ve saved 30,000 pieces of clothing”.

Sarah believes that, unfortunately, the majority of Australian consumers are yet to prioritise the environment when they shop. As a result, she focuses on reaching them through price point.

“My goal is to reach the people that want fast fashion second hand, because it’s affordable. I know that when someone tries on a dress, people aren’t thinking about the planet. They’re thinking ‘does this look good?’. Even the people who think about sustainability will buy the dress that looks good,” says Sarah. 

In agreement with Sarah is retro royalty Shannon Dooley, whose passion for vintage fashion is so dedicated that she founded the authentic 80s aerobics empire Retrosweat several years ago.

“Sadly, I think people generally determine to own something new so they truly feel it’s theirs,”

 “I have always loved vintage fashion. The garments almost have a soul if they belong to someone else before me, their imperfections tell a story. I love wearing clothes that have that energy about them.

“I have a pair of purple stirrup tights that have ‘Sarah’ and and a landline phone number written in texta on the inside label. I would love to know who Sarah is!” 

In a global marketplace where consumers are used to being seduced by aspirational lifestyles at bargain basement prices, slow fashion businesses must act like a mainstream fashion brand if they want to survive - and for their customers to be a part of the solution. 

Want to pop some tags for the planet? 5 tips for being a pre-loved pro

  1. Plan ahead - Whether you’re going garage sale trailing, vintage shopping or to your local grower’s markets, mapping out where you’re going so you have a plan keeps you focused.

  2. Allocate time – The key to finding your perfect outfit is in the amount of time you allow yourself. If you need to find a rainbow-glomesh-minidress for Burning Man in 20 minutes before you head to the airport, chances are you won’t.

  3. Negotiate – Most retailers will negotiate on price if you are buying several items.

  4. Wear appropriate underwear – If in doubt, go with the classic nude thong. It blends with everything.

  5. Only buy things that fit you at the time you try them on.

And the golden rule? Shoes can make or break an outfit.  

The Clothes Library is located at Shop 17, 1-21 Darlinghurst Rd, Potts Point 2011. Visit www.theclotheslibrary.com for further details.

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SustainShastri Haines