Endless racks of second-hand clothing and the faint, sometimes even overpowering smell of mothballs is not what one usually thinks of when visualising a fashion destination.
However, things are changing. Op shopping young people can be found around the country panning through the racks for gold, creating what could be labelled a reversion aesthetic. From this people are now creating online followings, even careers from the “revolutionary” idea of secondhand shopping.
Alex van Os is a Vintage & Thrifted Fashion stylist as well as Australian Red Cross Ambassador. She has created her own brand from rejecting the idea of the fast fashion brand aesthetic and styling herself from op shops instead.
Topshop/Topman went into voluntary administration in May, and Forever 21 are currently reviewing their place in the Australian market. Can fast fashion coincide with the rise of op shopping amongst Australian consumers as an aesthetic? Australia has a seasoned and intricate fashion industry, with countless top fashion studios, ever-successful fashion weeks and local brands such as STRATEAS CARLUCCI making international waves showcasing on Paris runways.
It would have seemed to be obvious that international fast fashion brands would be successful here. However, Hilton Seskin, the retail titan who headed up Topshop’s opening here says the model by which the brand existed here was broken.
“Products that were made in Asia were shipped to the UK, put through a recycling plant, as you call it, a warehouse facility in the UK, converted from US dollars to GBP [British Pounds], (and flown out) to Australia,” Seksin, the head of Hilton Seskin told the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce lunch in Sydney.
The impact of only the tired, old stock being sold here may have been a reason that the brand failed. It could be said the direction of the Australian fashion aesthetic may also be to blame. That aesthetic is not clear or simple. It is an eclectic mix of inspiration that comes equally from our country’s history of immigration and what we see on Instagram.
A reflection of this can be found in our spending habits. Fashion retail is declining. According to the ABS, sales fell by 0.1% in February, a far fall from the 0.3% rise expected. However, there has been growth in one retail sector. Used goods revenue is expected to rise by 1.3% through 2016-17.
Op shops represent the diverse Australian aesthetic. Rather than buying brand new trend-driven clothing, it appears Australians would rather spend at charity stores. There, people can draw from a mix of trends to suit an individual style, and it can be done gloriously.