I grew up on hand-me-downs from people I didn’t know. My dad would come home with those large black garbage bags and I would get so excited at the thought of what I’d be able to find. To this day, I still have a piece hanging in my closet, which is in the most perfect condition and it was from 20 years ago!
My thrift journey began at the age of 10. I owe it to my dad who taught us what quality was. He taught us not to be a slave to society’s standards, to make our own decisions and how to make the best of them. He did not shy away from receiving something second-hand: previously worn, previously sat on, previously read. His rationale was simple: if someone no longer needed something and we did, then why not. Whenever he’d bring these preloved pieces home, he would always show how amazed he was at the quality of the items that people would give away.
It was my dad who taught us to walk into op-shops and thrift stores with integrity. We were not a poor family. We all attended private schools, went on regular holidays and had the best food served to us for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The reason I’m bringing this to your attention is because of a common misconception that ‘thrift stores are for poor people’. The reality is, there are people from all walks of life wandering through the thrift world. People who think otherwise are usually misinformed or have a superficial understanding about the topic. Since when did it become a bad thing to buy something previously owned?
You see, there are so many reasons to shop second-hand. We’ve all heard the term fast fashion: cheap, mass produced clothing that is made to keep up with consumer expectations (that’s us). But this ‘fast and cheap’ production method includes cutting corners that take a heavy toll on our environment and can cause irreversible damage to our planet. There is a growing culture of people throwing away items they deem as ‘outdated’ and ‘unfashionable’ to keep up with the speed in which trends are set — a vicious cycle of waste and unsustainable demands. When you purchase second-hand, you are causing a shift in consumer demands — a small but significant change.
British fashion icon, Susie Faux, famously coined the term ‘Capsule Wardrobe’. This refers to a collection of versatile and practical clothing items put together to create a wardrobe for an entire season, and usually consists of 30-40 pieces. In this era of fast fashion, this concept helps us to think about how we wear clothes and how we can inspire change in our consumption habits. Once
we are able to downsize our wardrobes, it is important to choose wisely when buying clothes — a belief upheld by Vivienne Westwood, a British designer, who advocated that people should ‘buy less, choose well, make it last’.
Living in a digital age where most of our life is online, it is easy to get caught up in the ease and convenience of online shopping when all our wants are just one click away. So how do we take a step back from something too easy to do and too hard to resist at times? Well, it’s all about embracing the thrift store experience. What I enjoyed while thrifting was seeing the quality and uniqueness
in each individual piece that carried its own story and practically envisioning how I would add to it. I was more conscious about how each item contributed to my style, almost as if each piece I chose was tailor made for me — my personal runway collection.
Lastly, we should try to make it last. Wear our clothes until there is no wear left and if there is, there’s always the option of donating your preloved items back to a thrift store.
This brings me to the next part of my journey: I have recently been given the chance to open and manage a thrift store. I am grateful to NZF (National Zakat Foundation) for giving me the opportunity
and space to channel my passion for thrift and fashion. NZF is an organisation that addresses local issues of financial hardship, domestic violence, and homelessness. They have addressed more than 13,000 cases and have distributed more than 9 million dollars since 2013. As such, working with this community organisation to open a thrift store has made it a much more fulfilling endeavour.
So, if you’ve never gone thrift store shopping, I hope I have you convinced that there is a world of second-hand sustainable fashion waiting for you to find. If you’re like me, all it takes is a little curiosity and sifting through racks with quality hidden gems and timeless pieces. All it takes is a second look.