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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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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

 

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What goes around, comes around – The circular economy

There are so many buzz words that circulate when we talk about ethical fashion, but one that has well and truly caught my attention is the ‘circular economy’. I was quite confused about what a circular economy meant when it came to fashion, but the more I learned about it, the more and more fascinated I have become.

So what exactly is a circular economy? The Ellen Macarthur Foundation sums it up beautifully.

A circular economy is one that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles”

Did you catch that? I feel like the concept of a circular economy is an onion. There are layers. But I best understand the concept by breaking it into 2.

Onion Layer One – The technical side 

The circular economy is the overall utilisation of resources between different companies and bodies through creative collaborations.

If I have learned anything from my obsession with sustainability, it’s that collaboration is key to a successful circular economy. A great yet unexpected example of a successful collaboration, was that time that KFC here in Aussie land transformed 60,000 KFC uniforms into 25,000 m2 of carpet underlay.

Woah! Can we just take a moment to appreciate how epic that is? Unfortunately, most work uniforms cannot be resold in op-shops, so I am sure you can imagine the hundreds of thousands of tonnes that old work uniforms alone make up in landfill each year. The mass production of uniforms is something that I never even thought about which I think goes to show just how unfathomable the amount of textile waste on this earth really is.

Most importantly, how the heck could KFC pull off such a large logistical feat? well, KFC partnered with their existing food delivery suppliers, Cut Fresh Salads and Unifresh to tackle the challenge of returning 60,000 uniforms across the country. Instead of transporting empty loads after a regular delivery, KFC utilised the empty space in their supplier’s delivery trucks by backloading 7,000 kilograms worth of materials to Pacific NonWovens from their distribution centres where they could then be recycled and turned into carpet underlay, thus saving money and using the resources already available to them through creative thinking.

That’s 60,000 tonnes of clothing NOT adding to the already unfathomable amount of landfill that exists on this earth. It is this innovative collaboration and utilisation of resources that really characterises the technical side of the circular economy.

Onion Layer Two – The microbiological side 

 The circular economy goes even deeper than that, as deep as the fabric that makes up your favorite dress. Technological growth and changes in lifestyle have demanded and driven the growth in the production of complicated fabrics, but unfortunately when it comes to recycling man made, synthetic clothing, the technology needed to break them down in a sustainable manner simply does not exist yet. This then means that complicated, mixed fabrics have less recycling options as they take much longer to breakdown and are either limited to donation (If it makes it) Rags, or yep you guessed it, landfill 🙁

Cotton is one of the most biodegradable fabrics you can own, so much so, you can compost your old 100% cotton shirt and it will breakdown in as little as 2 weeks (Under the right conditions of course)

Ok maybe my hippie is showing, but how RAD is that! composting your clothes!?

I don’t imagine everyone running out to start a compost to compost their old cotton clothes, buuut just in case you do, know that clothing made from synthetic fibers such as Polyesters/nylon and acrylic shouldn’t be added to your compost as these will not breakdown naturally like cotton, linen, pure wool, silk and hemp will.

What our clothes are made from is very telling as to where they will end up. Think of it like this – when you purchase a piece of clothing, you are having a direct say in its end life. Will they go straight to landfill and take years to breakdown contributing to CO2 emissions? Or will they be recycled back into its original form to then make up another piece of clothing with an awesome story to tell?

It’s hard to know what our clothes are made from and which fabrics should be avoided, but here are 2 super cool clothing brands that have made this their mission-

Mud Jeans 

Mud jeans really encapsulate what the circular economy is. Firstly they are based on a lease or buy outright system. If you lease a pair of jeans from Mud you usually pay around 7 pounds a month, but the awesome thing is, when you decide you no longer want them for whatever reason, you can return them! (This is pretty frikking cool considering you can trade them over for the next best style without adding to landfill) Mud will then break them back down into their original properties and turn them into a ‘new’ pair of Mud jeans.

But this awesome concept is only possible because Mud jeans are made out of the one simple fabric,100% organic cotton and the technology to re-use 100% cotton actually exists. There’s a bunch of other really cool things that Mud do and represent but I’d be here all day, so you should really check them out for yourself 🙂

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RUMI X

Rumi X are an awesome company which makes beautiful active and yoga wear out of recycled bottles. If that’s not zen AF, I don’t know what is? The process starts with non-recyclable materials being removed from the bottles. The bottles are then shredded, melted and dried into flakes. The flakes are then pulled into yarn and the yarn is then spun into the Rumi X fabric. Unlike Mud Jeans though there doesn’t seem to be a reuse system in place where you can return your Rumi X clothing to be recycled again. (Perhaps this recycle process is more difficult compared to cotton) but the fact that Rumi X use existing resources which would have only contributed to landfill and water pollution this makes them a pretty awesome contender in the circular economy fashion sector!

Do you know of any cool Australian brands that are based on the circular economy business model? If so give them a shout out here as I would love to highlight our local conscious talent!

 

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H&M Sustainable?

Guilt. What a shitty feeling. More and more I feel guilt about being human in the western world. It was guilt that turned me into a vegetarian and it was guilt (among other things) that turned me into an avid op-shopper. I guess you could say that although a shitty feeling, guilt has its place in making change.

Ok, I don’t want to get all ‘Dear Diary’ on your arse, but there are times that my obsession with living a sustainable life can become overwhelming and stressful. Sometimes I wish I could unlearn truths so I can go back to eating meat and shopping frivolously at H&M like a large chunk of the western world.

Ignorance. Is. Bliss.

But as cliché as it is, it’s all about balance. Not that I can really preach about being balanced, but what I do know is that balance isn’t something that you obtain and just keep, it’s something you must continuously work to maintain.

So if you’re anything like me, just remember that it is impossible to live in this world without a footprint, and killing yourself with guilt over that is simply unproductive.

Speaking of balance, shopping at fast fashion giants isn’t the end of the world if done responsibly! Slowly but surely the awareness surrounding fast fashion is growing and fast fashion giants are actually starting to listen.

H&M’s announcement of world recycle week, April 18th – 24th is definitely a step in the right direction. If you don’t know about world recycle week, basically it’s an ethical fashion initiative launched by H&M where you can bring your unwanted clothes in shop for recycling and in return for each bag, you receive one 15% off your next purchase voucher, with a maximum of 2 vouchers per day.

But. There is always a but.

Of course I want to focus on the positive here, but the only way we can work towards positive change is to always ask questions. It’s so easy for a big companies to position themselves as heros with declarations like world recycle week and unfortunately, most consumers are instantly satisfied and suddenly feel better about their purchasing habits without looking for further information. But hey, that’s human nature and I for one can relate first hand.

H&M announced world recycle week to be from April the 18th– to the 24th coincidentally overlapping with the Fashion Revolution campaign. Fashion Revolution day (now week) is dedicated to raising awareness around the lives of garment workers by encouraging us all to ask ‘Who made my clothes’ This week was also created to commemorate the 1,134 garment workers who were killed and the 2,500 workers who were injured in the Rana Plaza disaster on the 24th of April 2013.

Although the motive behind world recycle week is a positive one, it definitely raises a few questions.

Why would H&M introduce World Recycle Week the same week as Fashion Revolution week, which is the anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy?

Introducing world recycle week during this time diverts the attention from the Rana Plaza tragedy and remembering the Rana Plaza tragedy is integral in driving change in the fashion industry, after all is was the Rana Plaza tragedy which brought to light everything that is wrong with the fashion industry.

Isn’t offering customers a 15% off voucher for their old clothes just encouraging the production of more clothes? I mean they really seem to be missing the point here right? the last thing we need is to create more clothes to purchase.

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Of course H&M want to appear like they give a shit about sustainability and this marketing campaign is a great way to do so. But it is misleading to say the least. Due to the current technologies, it would take up to 12 years for H&M to use up 1000 tons of fashion waste, and the real kicker here is that H&M produce 1000 tons in clothing in a matter of days!

Although this is a good indicator that fast fashion giants are finally caving to consumer pressure, I think it’s safe to say that H&M have a very long way to go and we shouldn’t all go rushing to our closest H&M for our next purchase.