Op Shopping – A Generational Love Story

Is there anything more Aussie than an arvo spent Op Shopping?

Whether you have a local Salvation Army store, a St. Vincent’s or one of the numerous fund-raising charity shops that dot our cities and country towns, the Opportunity Shop is a fixture of many suburban high streets. And op shopping is alway a great way to spend a few spare hours – especially when you are in an unfamiliar area.

How many of us go through our cupboards every year or so and put together a bag of old clothes or household items that we no longer need and gift them to the nearest thrift store? And when you move house, what’s the first thing you do? Work out how to get all that stuff that you don’t want to take to your new place down the road to the Vinnie’s or Salvo’s shop. And it’s a real bonus if they’ll come and collect that bed that’s falling apart!

I’m proud to say that my family are multi-generational op shoppers.

As a kid, my spent many a happy Sunday afternoon in flea markets and jumble sales (the op shop wasn’t such a big deal in the UK when I was growing up, but jumble sales were in a league of their own) with my mum and dad. During my teens, my friends and I often hopped on the train into London and browsed some of the – now famous and pricey – secondhand stalls in Camden Market next to the canals. Either that, or we’d spend a day by the sea in the now well-known Brighton Lanes.

When I settled in Sydney more than 30 years ago, it didn’t take me long to realise that Newtown, which was a short train ride from my home, had a wealth of vintage stores and op shops as well as a fabulous range of secondhand dealers offering everything from furniture to newly ‘trendy again’ vinyl. Op shopping for pre-loved books and cool men’s jackets to wear on nights out become a favourite pastime.

Op SHopping - browsing racks of womens clothes in an op shop

A move to Melbourne came as our young family began to grow and recent years have seen my teenage daughter discover the joys of op shopping for herself. Sunday mornings often see me dropping her and a friend at the Camberwell Sunday Market and having a quick browse myself whilst they try on pre-loved clothes at various stalls.

This Saturday, we have a while day of glorious op shopping planned. I’m taking a carload of bargain hunters up to Savers at Ringwood (the chain has sister thrift shops around Melbourne and Adelaide) to browse the racks and see if we can find some vintage pieces and cheap steals. We’ll probably follow it up with a trawl through a couple of the neighbouring op shops and come home with a car boot full of recycled clothes and books.

The Op SHopping ‘Recycling Loop’

Sadly, there is one thing about sustainable clothing and ethical consumerism that people often forget. Recycling has to work both ways. It’s a loop of donating and buying.

Many people happily donate clothes to charity shops and secondhand markets, but don’t like to shop at them. Many of us like a bargain, but pre-loved things are sometimes thought of either as dirty or unfashionable if someone else has thrown them out.

Well, in our household we have no such qualms!

The ethos of slow fashion with its focus on sustainability, recycling and holding fewer, more valued pieces in your wardrobe rather than constantly chasing the next fashion trend makes sense for us and the environment.

And if that jacket is an unusual, vintage t-shirt or a classic, battered leather jacket, so much the better.


The Uncomfortable Truth about the Clothes We Wear

Organic Fair Trade Clothing

The Dark Side of the Fashion Industry

Ethical Clothing: What Exactly Does it Mean?

Fast Fashion: A Modern Curse

Fast Fashion Crackdown – The EU Proposes Action

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