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Melbourne, an Op-Shopper’s dream

Over the past 10 years op-shopping has changed, which I guess is to be expected, I mean 10 years in human years is kind of a longish time. The term Op shop is short for ‘Opportunity Shop’ so basically an op-shop is a shop that provides opportunity to those who have less money to spend on clothing and are usually run by charities to help those in need.

As a child there was a certain stigma attached to shopping in op-shops as it showed that your family was less well-off and couldn’t afford to buy brand new. But that’s all changed. Now op-shops are often just as expensive as buying brand new (depending on the product and brand of course) and as an avid op-shopper, this is something that has really irked me.

Once an embarrassing way to shop, buying second hand flipped on its head and became trendy AF and during the early-mid 2000’s the vintage trend was at an all-time high with serious thrifters picking the op-shops clean of all the vintage pieces and on selling them in their Etsy and Ebay stores for 5 times the price. I mean, I should know, I was one of them. Soz not soz guys.

Maybe the op-shops became aware of this fact and decided to raise their prices as they realised that some of the used goods donated to them (I reiterate – donated) were worth quite a bit of money. Maybe us vintage pickers changed the game and ruined it for everyone? But hey, it takes time and effort to sort through the junk, so realistically vintage pickers have done all the hard work for you, but babe, it’s gon’ cost ya!

Another reason that seems to really stand out is the fact that the fast fashion industry has really distorted our understanding of what things are worth. I really despise being expected to pay the same amount for something that is used as it was brand new and often this is the case for many items in opshops, especially pieces of low quality ready to fall apart. It’s so hard these days to find that really amazing piece we’re all chasing as more and more op-shops have become flooded with clothing from poor quality fast fashion brands, especially in Australia where quality vintage is just so hard to come by. At least in Europe there’s still vintage treasures to be found, I mean they sure have the history for it.

This past January I spent a month in Melbourne wandering the streets in search of the best of the best op shops Melbourne had to offer, and not to add fuel to the Sydney vs Melbourne debate, but Melbourne delivers the goods over Sydney hands down. I spent a lot of time riding my bike around Coburg and Brunswick and visited every op-shop down Sydney Rd from Coburg to Brunswick. Sooo naturally, I have put together a Coburg to Brunswick, Sydney Rd op-shop guide.

Here goes!

Salvos – 452 Sydney Rd Coburg Vic – (03) 9350 1167

Ahhh Salvos, where would my wardrobe be without you? Salvation Army op shops are hands down my fave amongst all the charity opshops. Their pricing is consistent and they often have sales making their stock even more affordable at random. This salvos in particular is a quaint store on Sydney Rd in Coburg with young, friendly staff. Although their clothing selection is nothing to write home about, their collection of vintage and second hand leather hand bags is! So if you’re after that fancy, vintage glow mesh or tooled leather at a very reasonable price, then baby look no further cos this Salvo has got the goods.

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Vinnies – 260 Sydney Rd, Coburg VIC 3058 – (03) 9386 6666

This Vinnies is large and in charge. The first thing I noticed was their amazing selection of bric brac. Boy I’m a sucker for bric brac. They have an amazing selection of beautiful vintage china, think the highest of all the high teas, teapots, tea cups and saucers, super cute vintage plates, punch bowls and those adorable vintage spoons that your grandma bring back whenever she went on holidays. But the real gem was the amazing Soup serving bowl in duck form. Yes, a duck form soup holder. Basically it was a duck bowl that came with a ladel to serve your guests, most probably from the early 80’s and it still hurts my soul to this day that it couldn’t be mine.

The soupy duck that got away…

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Their selection of clothing is also quite decent with loads of vintage finds, especially accessories and hats, but what really got me stoked about this Vinnies was their huge array of furniture. They have a big furniture room out the back with some seriously cool retro couches. So if you’re after that retro addition to your living room, then this is the Vinnies for you!

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Salvos – 740 Sydney Rd, Brunswick VIC 3056 – (03) 93864080

Ok, this Salvos means business. It is huge! With a massive amount of clothing and quality shoes it even has a furniture section that could give the previous Vinnies a run for their money. The standout feature of this Salvos is definitely their super trendy, friendly staff and their huge selection of really great quality shoes. I picked up an almost brand new pair of leather sandals for what I thought was $10 but ended up $3 – what what?! Those badboy’s are leather! AND I found a pair of Nudie jeans. Who gives a pair of Nudie jeans away?!

They even have a pretty decent bric brac section for you bric brac fiends.

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Don Bosco Opportunity Shop – 368 Sydney Rd, Brunswick VIC 3056 – (03) 9381 2271

I’d never actually been to a Don Bosco op-shop before and the only real thing I would write home about was their large selection of books and their amazing air conditioning (Hello Melbourne heatwave)

Savers – 330 Sydney Rd, Brunswick VIC 3056 – (03) 9381 2393

Ok, why didn’t anybody tell me that Savers existed in Australia?! Savers is a frikking dream and a half. It is HUGE with detailed and categorised racks and racks…and racks of clothing. When I lived in Canada I shopped at Value Village religiously. Savers is basically Value Village, well at least that’s what Canada calls it. They actually have everything. My favorite thing about Savers besides the fact it gets me nostalgic of my Canadian living days, is their epic shoe collection. I think it’s really hard to find quality shoes in op-shops but Savers has me sorted! I picked up a bright pink pair of Nike sneakers for $10 which I then proceeded to wear with every outfit for the following 2 weeks.

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Savers has over 230 stores throughout America, Canada and now Australia but you can only find them in Victoria and South Australia. Sorry NSW, but we can always do with another excuse for a Melbourne trip right?

Vinnies – 107 Sydney Rd, Brunswick VIC 3056 – (03) 8388 7084

 This Vinnies is centrally located and receives a lot of foot traffic so I feel like a lot of the good stuff gets picked pretty quickly at quite high prices as well. Unfortunately I can’t say there was anything that really stood out to me in this op-shop besides the higher price point.

There are loads of other op-shops in Melbourne and Sydney Rd is just the tip of the glorious second hand iceberg! Happy Thrifting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We need to talk about your ‘Hand me Downs’

I love flea markets, maybe you picked up on that? I especially love flea markets in other countries. There’s nothing quite like sussing out the best second hand clothing in foreign countries. Yesterday, Wayan our lovely Balinese driver was rattling off all the different things to do in Ubud – Rice paddie walk, jungle trekking, second hand clothing market, cycle tour… Wait, what? Second hand clothing market? Do I just subconsciously scream, “take me to your second hand everything market!” or is this an actual touristy thing to do? (I totally scream that, who am I kidding?) and why I was surprised I don’t know, especially since Indonesia is one of the leading countries that receive imported clothing from the western world.

After convincing my fellow travel companions, we of course worked in a cheeky visit to the Pejang second hand market just before the Gianyar night market. Visiting the Pejang second hand market reminded me again of the unfathomable amount of clothing that is currently in circulation around the globe. Think piles and piles of mostly unsorted clothes from Japan, china and America, all laid out on tarps on the ground. I didn’t really go to buy anything as I am currently traveling and need to be as light as possible on the clothing front, but I really just wanted to check it out.

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Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see used clothing getting a second life and not slowly (and I mean really slowly) rotting away in landfill, but it highlighted yet another issue that the fast fashion industry has created.

The importation of used clothing from other countries is illegal in Indonesia and many other countries like India, China and throughout Africa.

Of the bags and bags of clothing you have donated some of it is bought by larger wholesale second hand traders and sold off to many third world countries. The reason why it is illegal is because the importation of used clothing is flooding and slowly killing local clothing markets along with traditional clothing craftsmanship.

Importing and selling used clothing is often a very lucrative trade for many locals and although it has been made illegal in many countries, policing this can be incredibly difficult, especially in countries like Indonesia where the coast lines are huge with many potential ports.

This then of course stirred up some conflictual debate. Am I now meant to give up my passion for shopping at used clothing markets when I am visiting a different country? Two words. Heck. No.

By focusing on ripple effect problems, we tend to overlook the bigger picture, which is of course the fast fashion industry.

This issue should be acknowledged along with all the other issues that have been created by the fast fashion industry, but we need to continue to put pressure on fast fashion giants by continuing to demand transparency and being conscious about where we spend our money.

In saying that, the used clothing industry has also created loads of new opportunity for local traders. Buying a bale of imported clothing is affordable and the potential profit made is quite high. The demand for used clothing in Indonesia is continuously growing as more and more Indonesians desire different styles at more affordable prices. So although it is having a negative effect on local business, it is still creating new opportunity for people AND giving used clothing a second life, saving it from landfill for a few more years. So just like any business model in this world, if you are no longer providing what the customer wants and you are unwilling to change, then how can you expect to survive as a business?

How very controversially capitalist of me!

I wholeheartedly agree that traditional clothing craftsmanship should be preserved as much as possible, and I think this is only another reason among the many as to why our consumption of things, specifically clothing, needs to slow the heck down.

So what is the answer?

Applying restrictions on fast fashion giants regarding the amount of clothing they are allowed to produce? What about laws that require giants to use a certain percentage of recycled materials in their product?

Maybe that’s unrealistic, as where there is money to be made, there is very little chance that restrictive laws could ever be applied especially since climate change, global warming and all environmental science is struggling for a political forefront in many apparent forward thinking countries. Australia embarrassingly being one of the main contenders.

If we can’t introduce laws to restrict fast fashion chains, we can reduce the demand of clothing from them.

Don’t think your purchases or lack of purchases make a difference? Large chains like H&M are beginning to feel the pressure, in fact H&M is the largest user of organic cotton worldwide and they’ve even released a sustainability report which details information on all aspects of H&M’s supply chain. (http://goodonyou.org.au/the-ethics-of-fast-fashion-hm-and-zara/) This is a HUGE step in the right direction, but this isn’t to say that H&M should be your number one place to purchase your clothes as there’s is still A LOT of work to be done, but these changes prove that if we continue to demand change, change will happen!

So I say, keep shopping second hand no matter what country you are in. Second hand for life yo!

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Everything you need to know about the leather industry

Every year, the global leather industry slaughters more than a billion animals and tans their skins and hides to create leather. (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) Whether you’re a vegetarian/vegan or not, that stat is disturbing. But if you know anything about factory farming, it’s really not that surprising.

I use to justify buying leather because like many people I have spoken to, we just assume leather is a by product from the meat industry and if the skins aren’t turned into leather, then we’re just being distastefully wasteful (Not that anything about factory farming is tasteful)

The leather misconception

But this is the main misconception. Somehow buying products that are made out of the skin from dead animals is justified simply because it would go to waste otherwise. It’s a general consideration that leather is a by-product of factory farming, but this isa weak argument considering the disgusting practices that take place in order to obtain said leather and the fact that leather is the most profitable ‘by product’ of the meat industry (Deng-Cheng Liu, “Better Utilization of By-Products From the Meat Industry)

By buying leather you are still directly contributing to its demand and the horrific practices of factory farming used to obtain said leather.

Factory farming is part of the fast fashion industry

In order to create leather, animals must endure the same horrors of factory farming, think overcrowding and confinement, un-anesthetized castration, dehorning and skinning, starvation and general all round, cruel treatment.

Majority of the world’s leather comes from countries like China and India of whom have very few laws to abide by when it comes to animal, worker and environmental welfare. By no means can the western world be proud of the way they treat animals in factory farms but due to the very few laws that exist in China and India, the poor treatment of farm animals in these countries really has no limit.

Cows are considered holy creatures in certain parts of India and it is known that they are forced to march without food or water for days across borders for slaughter to avoid breaking local laws, not to mention how they are treated if they are too tired to continue. Think beatings, stabbings and the use of chillie peppers which are rubbed in the eyes of cows. These practices barely scratch the surface.

It’s very common practice in China to not only slaughter cows for their skin but also dogs and cats (Not that a dog or cat’s life is more important than a cow’s) but your favourite hand bag could be made from the skin of man’s best friend (Insert stereotypical dog’s name here) and of course the reason for that is because there are no regulatory laws in place surrounding the labelling of said leather and their origins.

The environmental and health Impact of the leather industry

Another misconception with leather is the ridiculous notion that it is far more sustainable because it decomposes faster than unnatural materials. Uhh No. Leather undergoes the tanning process to prevent it from decomposing by stabilising the collagen and protein fibres, therefore leather can take up to 12 years to fully decompose. 12 years is a huge amount of time for an apparent ‘natural’ material to sit in landfill.

During the 1800’s animal skins were air dried and tanned with vegetable oils and tannins, however the industry has changed dramatically where we now use dangerous chemicals like Formaldehyde, Chrome, Natrium and Ammonium salts. Ok those words may not mean much to you, but over exposure to said chemicals have led to debilitating diseases and genetic deformities in future generations of those who work in the leather tanning industry, not to mention the damaging effect the chemical waste has on our communities, waterways, ecosystems and wildlife

Oh and FYI, factory farming is the single largest contributor to global warming and climate change. (Meat the truth documentary)

How can I put this simply?

In order to house and feed livestock, rainforests are cleared in order to create space. This then means there are less trees to do their thang, i.e. capture carbon dioxide through photosynthesis (so basically clean the air of pollutants) then the livestock fart all day everyday only releasing methane gases into the atmosphere.

Where the heck are the trees to clean this shit up? OHH that’s right, we cut them all down because, yay MEAT AND LEATHER!  Soz rant city.

What are the alternatives?

There are stacks of alternatives to leather but the alternatives can be quite conflictual. The main reason as to why leather has been in use for such a long time is because of its amazing durability and the fact that it lasts for frikking ever (If cared for correctly of course)

So yeah, I get it, and although some would argue that leather IS the more sustainable option because it’s less likely to fall apart and we’re likely to keep it in our wardrobe for longer, one must keep in mind the horrific leather making processes.

Although vegan leather is kinder to animals, majority of faux leather options are super unsustainable as they are often made from synthetic materials some of which can be dangerous to humans and the environment. “Some types of faux leather make use of petroleum-derived materials. These can include polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that can be harmful to health because it contains chlorine that also is bad for the planet as it causes pollution. Besides for chlorine, PVC also contains toxic additives such as lead” (Giulia Simolo)

There is so much information out there and researching our every purchase can be exhausting, so it’s easy to become greenwashed with deceiving marketing terms like ‘faux’ ‘vegan friendly’ ‘green’ ‘imitation’ etc etc as many of these terms aren’t actually regulated.

Unfortunately the leather debate is a vast spectrum of colours that nobody likes, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, but by being aware you can indeed make better decisions.

Only buy second hand leather

There are so many beautiful second hand and vintage leather goods out there. By buying second hand, you are no longer directly contributing to the demand of leather production. You are also giving that beautiful tooled leather handbag a second life and saving it from landfill for at least another few years.

Be a legend with your unique handbag while doing your little bit to care about the earth.

Only buy from reputable alternative leather brands – Piñatex

Piñatex Piñatex Piñatex!! I am SO excited to tell you about Piñatex. Piñatex is an innovative sustainable, non-woven textile made from the waste fibres of pineapple leaves. Sourced and made in the Phillipines, Piñatex has provided new industry and provides additional jobs and income for farmers.

Piñatex is a more sustainable alternative to leather and other petroleum based products by leaps and bounds and is comparable to animal leather in durability, texture, and versatility. Unlike animal leathers, no extra land, water, fertilisers and pesticides are required to produce Piñatex as the by product from pineapples is used in its production, truly encompassing the cradle to cradle approach.

Although Piñatex is not yet fully biodegradable post manufacturing, it is compostable under the right conditions. It is an innovative material and Ananas Anam (the company that discovered and produce Piñatex) are looking to develop the product to be fully biodegradable. So watch this space!

Piñatex have also been certified as a ‘Vegan Fashion label’ by PETA AND have received PETA’s innovation award in 2015 alongside Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and Simone Rocha.

 

I cannot express my excitement and love for this amazing material enough, and am so excited to see it grow in popularity, so here are a list of companies that are already using Piñatex to make their products

Po-Zu

ello v black piñatex

Vegemoda pinana bags

Rombaut sneakers

BASS pineapple sneaker with rubber sole BLACK