Hot take: thrifting is as close as you can get to being a treasure hunter without buying a hat and a whip and flying to Egypt. (It’s also the closest we can get to being Harrison Ford, but that is neither here nor there.)
The thrill of digging through racks at an op-shop or browsing local markets for hidden gems is hard to beat. You usually end up saving money, and thrifting is wayyyyy better for the environment than buying new.
But like real-life treasure hunting, it can be hella hit-or-miss (how many treasures did Indiana Jones actually find in the movies? I don’t think he ended up with anything tbh), so we reached out to some thrifting experts to give you the lowdown on how to up your thrifting game.
Jess Tran (who operates on IG as @jessglistening) is an Aussie-born, USA-based Senior Partnerships Manager at Intrepid Travel, and also a master of thrift shopping. Virtually everything in her wardrobe is second-hand, and she makes it look effortless. Jess is passionate about sustainability and encourages people to buy second-hand wherever they can.
“The textile and clothing industry is one of the most wasteful on the planet. Aussies send 85% of textiles to landfill—23 out of 27 kilos of average new clothes per year is thrown out. It takes an enormous amount of water and energy to produce clothing, and even more so when it’s fast fashion.”
“Apparel and footwear accounts for more than 8% of global climate impact, which places it above flying! The net carbon effect of buying a piece of clothing that is already available and produced is zero and doesn’t consume further resources to make it.”
“When you buy second hand, you’re extending the life span of a garment and getting more use out of the precious resources that were required to create it, avoiding adding to already overflowing landfills. It also redirects demand from the production of new, carbon-producing items of clothing and supporting an industry that is one of the biggest contributors of waste and environmental destruction (not to mention the human cost).”
(P good endorsement, if you ask us.)
Liam Ebbs (or @liamebbs on Insta) is a Sydney-based musician, student, style icon and thrifting expert who thrifts not only for his own wardrobe but also to make a little $$$. When he’s done with an item or finds something really hot, he sells it on Depop (check his store out, it’s one of the best). He’s also a big advocate of thrifting for its environmental benefits.
“First and foremost, we must buy second hand as a means of combating the fast fashion industry. If we are to buy something new, we must make sure it is an object that is thoughtful, made from quality materials and will last us a long time. Fast fashion is the opposite of this. The waste generated by the industry is quite disgraceful. We must avoid financing such thoughtlessness.”
So where do our experts go to find their killer looks?
The best places to buy vintage clothing
“Look for the shabbiest markets you can find,” recommends Liam, as “they often have the most interesting things for lower prices. Be prepared to be patient and spend time really looking.”
Jess also has a bulletproof system for finding the best items.
“I go to Poshmark for second-hand fast fashion (e.g. Madewell, ZARA, Nike), I go to TheRealReal for designer, and I go to local stores for real vintage or for mass-produced labels sold second-hand.”
“I go to markets when I want to interact with real people and to find vintage and second-hand bargains, and I hit up all the above semi-regularly with the understanding I may not find something great every single time.”
“The most important thing is being considered even when buying second-hand – what are you really looking for? If I have a specific item I’m looking for, like a Reformation dress, I’ll usually set up alerts on Poshmark and EBay and do frequent searches on ThredUp and Depop once a week.”
What to keep in mind while vintage shopping
Jess also relates that it’s important to do your research, and choose items that’ll scrub up and last the distance.
“It’s also important to familiarise yourself with fabrics and construction to make sure you’re buying something that will last—check the care labels for fabric makeup and for care instructions. I look for 100% wool, silk etc.)”
“You don’t want to be stuck with a piece of clothing that’s impossible to take care of.”
What to ask yourself first
Jess’ most important tip is to consider why you want a piece of clothing.
“Never buy something that you don’t feel 100% comfortable or great in. The point isn’t to acquire more clothing, it’s to find special things that are unique for you.”
#1: Go shopping often, at lots of different places and with a focus.
#2: Understand how clothes are made so you can make informed purchases. Buy things that are gonna last you a long time, whether that’s new items or second-hand finds.
#3: You won’t win every time. Sometimes you’ll go to Vinnies and there won’t be anything that suits you, for example. That’s ok – that’s why it’s important to browse a variety of different places.
Lead images via depop / @b0yish / @duranlantinkyo / @litlelotusboutique.