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Interior of Peak Thrift with a high angle view of racks and shelves featuring colourful vintage clothing, accessories, and books.

Op Shopping vs. Fast Fashion – How Repurposing Vintage Fashion Can Save the Environment

Did you know the average Australian purchases 27kg of new fashion items every year? It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? It’s even harder to believe that 23kg of that (a whopping 85%) is discarded by consumers, ending up in landfill. We now buy five times more clothing than our grandparents’ generation, resulting in the fashion industry becoming the second worst in greenhouse gas emissions. Op shopping is a great zero waste fashion alternative: it’s environmentally friendly, cost effective, and fun! Not to mention it stands for “opportunity shop,” so who knows what great finds are waiting for you. If you’re wanting to minimise your fast fashion environmental impact and get into op shopping and upcycling, here’s everything you need to know.

Fast fashion’s environmental impact

So what is fast fashion? With fashion and catwalk trends changing so rapidly, the fashion industry is seeing mass production of cheap clothing, which is then pushed through stores quickly in an effort to keep up. These garments are usually not made to last, with 500,000 tonnes of textiles ending up in Australian landfill every year. As a result, Australia has become the world’s second largest consumer of textiles, meaning that as a country we are majorly contributing to worldwide environmental damage.

Why is fast fashion so damaging? Let’s break it down:

  • Unsold fast fashion garments are either burned or put into landfill. This has a significant impact on air pollution, fossil fuel emission, and water usage
  • The dyes and chemicals from clothing in landfill leaches into the soil, resulting in water pollutants
  • The production of fast fashion also consumes a large amount of land for textile farming
  • CO2 emissions from the fashion industry are predicted to increase 2.9 million tons per year by 2030
  • Two thirds of fast fashion garments aremade from synthetic fibres; a single synthetic garment can generate over 1900 micro-plastic fibres in one wash

Seeing statistics like this can be quite confronting, but we can do better in becoming zero waste, and we can have fun while we’re at it!

Thrift shop wall with a hanging rack of colourful vintage clothing with a shelf above full of quirky thrift finds such as a bull skull and retro television.

Op shopping, thrift shopping, and all that good stuff: the benefits of repurposing and upcycling vintage clothing

Op shopping, thrift shopping, vintage – they’re all very popular right now, and for good reason. Op shopping is far more ethical than fast fashion and much kinder to the environment by keeping clothing out of landfill and effectively reducing your carbon footprint. What’s better than an eco-friendly fashion alternative? On top of that, op shopping is cost efficient, particularly if you have kids and struggle to keep up with their growth spurts! And op shopping is not limited to clothing – furniture and homewares are also much more affordable, and often made to last compared to newer, quickly produced products we see on the market nowadays.

Op shopping is also great in that it supports charities and local stores, meaning that it’s great for the environment and the community. Plus, it’s a great social activity that you can do with friends and family – the hunt for hidden gems and the satisfaction of finding that perfect piece can be so rewarding. As op shop selections are everchanging, there are always different options to check out, with more unique pieces than what is currently on the fast fashion market.

And you’re not limited to purchasing – you can donate your own old clothing too, and make way for all those new thrift finds!

How to start op shopping: tips and tricks

It’s easy to get started with op shopping. Grab your reusable shopping bags and hit the road, keeping in mind these tips:

  1. Do your research. There are many op shops out there, and an abundance of resources in finding op shops near you. OpShop.org is a great location to go for a collective list of all op shops in your area. There is also an abundance of blogs out there; a quick Google search of “op shops near me” is guaranteed to give you a list of the best places to visit.
  2. Be patient. Op shopping is often about the hunt. This might mean digging through the bargain bins or flipping through a lot of clothing hangers before you find that perfect piece. If time is not of the essence, you could always try and find a vintage store that has already been curated. The items here are usually at a higher price point, but you’re guaranteed to find some quality pieces that won’t break the bank.
  3. Have an idea about what you’re looking for before you go. Do you need a new pair of jeans? A funky jacket? Some cool accessories? Have a plan before you set out so you don’t get too overwhelmed.
  4. Shop mid-week. This is apparently the prime time for op shopping, as people tend to donate at the end of the week and the clothing takes a few days to sort through.
  5. Be open-minded. As we know, op shop stands for opportunity shop, and this is the perfect opportunity to get experimental and try some new styles, as everything is so affordable. There is also potential to thrift flip anything to suit your needs!
  6. Look out for sustainable fabrics. Natural fibres like organic hemp fabric and linen are great; both use little water and pesticides. Organic cotton is also a good option, and even better if it’s recycled. And keep in mind: synthetic fabrics do not equal bad! Fabrics like Tencel fabric, made from dissolved wood pulp, is a great sustainable fabric, plus is moisture-wicking and anti-bacterial. Check out Good On You for more detailed info on sustainable fabrics.
  7. Only buy what you really need. It can be tempting to go a little crazy when everything is so affordable, but the aim of op shopping is to reduce waste – if you don’t really love it or need it, leave it behind for someone else to pick up.

Close up of a clothing rack with colourful vintage clothing on wooden hangers.

So, you’ve thrifted your way through all the op shops near you – what’s next?

Now that you’re pleased with all of your new thrifted finds and said sayonara to fast fashion, you can get to wearing and enjoying. If you’re feeling creative, there are a bunch of DIY fashion projects out there. Why not have a go at the tie dye trend we have going on at the moment? Get yourself a plain tee or hoodie from the op shop and a tie dye kit and get crafty! (Check out this great article on how to DIY tie dye sustainably).

There are also great instructional videos on thrift flipping out there; why not turn that dress into a skirt and top, or crop that super long tee to get more wear out of it?

Upcycling is also a great option. Apps like Depop have gained a ton of popularity as it is essentially a curated op shop online. A quick Google for online op shops will also result in plenty of online stores specialising in repurposed vintage tees and other goodies. You can even sell your own old clothes, allowing someone else to enjoy your cast-offs.

Do you enjoy op shopping? Will you be op shopping more in the future? Send us your best/favourite op shopping finds or thrift flipping ideas! We’d love to see them.

Cool Cats vintage store interior with racks and shelves full of colourful vintage clothing, hats, bags, and accessories.

Op shops near me?

Ready to get op shopping? Here are some great op shops in Perth.

Great op shops and vintage stores in Perth

Great op shops in Fremantle

References

Op shopping Sustainability Sustainable Fashion

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