Follow this guide to op shop like a pro

Find a bargain and look great. Ahead of National Op Shop Week, we speak to Faye De Lanty to learn how her upcycling secrets.

Led by The Salvation Army, National Op Shop Week seeks to spread awareness of the importance of supporting your local second-hand store to help your local community, and more broadly – the environment too.

The idea is to find a bargain and look great - but also to be more aware of the lifecycle of a garment, and to highlight the idea of reusing, reinventing, and upcycling our clothes.

Here we chat to eco stylist, upcycling expert and ‘style revivelist’ Faye De Lanty, about what to look for and where to go.

What is upcycling and why should we care?

Upcycling, from a fashion perspective is a great way to reinvent what you already have or what is second hand and stop it from heading to landfill. Most of the time a slightly damaged or old, tired, or boring piece can be totally reinvented with some simple DIY.

It’s important to me because I truly believe in fashion being a force for good, rather than destructive on our planet.

What are your all-time top three op shop finds?

I’ve found so many, but my favourites include a DIOR Homme men’s jacket that fit like a glove at one of our Sydney Salvos stores for AU$30, some AU$800 Manolo Blahnik shoes with the price tag still on the sole for AU$25 at the Salvation Army Midtown store in New York City, a 1973 vintage Levi’s denim jack for AU$10, and a Givenchy Bambi t-shirt for AU$10. 

Some fashion magazines and online publications promote high turnover, trend based fashion that can be outrageously expensive. What do you read, where do you draw inspiration from?

Yes fashion at times can make us feel that we can’t afford the high end looks we see in magazines and online. I still definitely get my inspiration from the pages of Vogue, fashion sites like Who What Wear, and the catwalks. However, what I love to do is take it from the runway to reality, and show people how they can recreate what they see from an op shop.

For example, just last week I recreated the deconstructed suiting seen in this month’s Australian Vogue by using absolutely everything from Salvos stores. I’ve also recreated a few DIOR looks to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the couture house this year.

On that note, are there any great upcycled or second hand online stores you’d recommend – for when we don’t have time to check in at Salvos?

There are lots of great secondhand or ethical shopping options online. Gumtree has a huge amount of fashion listings – I’ve found incredible pieces there. Another great site is Carousel. Then there are awesome ecofriendly brands like The Reformation, and preloved designer sites like The Real Real if you’re after the big labels.

Do you still buy new things – what would be something you would want to buy new, and why?

Yes absolutely, I just try to be as mindful about is as possible. I tend to buy shoes new, nice handbags, and essentials like underwear, workout gear, and great quality basics like white tees.

Apps like Good On You are a great resource to help you make more informed and mindful shopping choices. I try to do as much research about the brands I buy so I know where my clothes come from.

I also apply the #30Wears rule as created by Livia Firth of Eco Age.  When I do buy new I make sure it is an item that I will wear at least 30 times, that I can mix and match, and truly love and appreciate the piece. 

Op shop looks seem to draw a lot of inspiration from 60s and 70s – has this trend changed over time, what’s new and what are people op shopping now? 

Yes and this is what I aim to shift people’s minds about! While this can be a cool look, op shops are so much more than just retro and vintage. They can absolutely be modern, on trend, and high fashion too. That’s why I use current magazines and catwalks as my inspiration to try to shift that perception. I think people are seeing that now and are definitely coming to op shops for their current wardrobe needs. It’s an exciting time!

Faye De Lanty’s top 5 op shopping tips:

  1. Educate yourself. Be hungry for Knowledge - read Fashion magazines, look at style websites, research brands, check out the trends, and understand cut, color, fabric and form. The more you know the better you can op shop.
  2. Be prepared. Go shopping with an idea in mind to avoid that overwhelming feeling.
  3. Follow the fashion fundamentals. Seek out and stick to the classics. Look for timeless pieces like a great pair of jeans, a white tee, a little black dress, a trench coat. Op shops are filled with great versions of these and once you have them you can build and play with the trends from there. 
  4. DIY and customize. You don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for ripped jeans or a bejewelled clutch when you can make it yourself. Surf the World Wide Web for inspiration.
  5. Set a good tailor on speed dial. Maybe the Chanel jacket you found has boxy shoulder pads, but if you have it altered it will still be so much cheaper than the original price tag.

To celebrate National Op Shop Week, The Salvation Army is hosting Salvos Curated in Sydney from Thursday 31 August to Saturday 2 September.

The pop up sustainable fashion market will be curated by Faye and fellow eco stylist Clare Press, and will also feature one off, personally selected items donated by prominent Australian designers and fashion editors like Bianca Spender, Dion Lee, Ginger & Smart, Kacey Devlin, Eva Galambos (Parlour X) and Zara Wong (Vogue Fashion Features Director). 

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