A Beginner’s Guide To Sustainable Fashion

If you are like me, you love shopping at op shops, get a kick out of selling your old clothes, and would rather hire a dress than buy one, then you might be well on your way to becoming a sustainable shopper without even knowing it. Give yourself a pat on the back because not only are you saving money but you are also (pause for dramatic effect and insert drumroll) SAVING THE WORLD. I wasn’t kidding about that pat on the back, saving the world is no mean feat.

Sustainable Fashion

I have heard people talking about sustainable fashion for a long time but thought that it meant sacrificing my style and adopting an organic hemp harem pant wearing lifestyle. A lifestyle that I cannot afford and let’s face it, even if I could afford it I definitely couldn’t pull it off. That was until I stumbled across a blog post by Anita Vandyke about the benefits of embracing a ‘no logo’ life. It was unlike anything that I had ever read about sustainable fashion. Rather than suggesting we ditch all of our favourite clothes and abandon our style, Anita refreshingly explains how we can embrace creativity to develop our own sense of style even further.

Anita Vandyke – A Zero Waste Life

Anita is a waste warrior, with a stunning blog dedicated to ‘A Zero Waste Life’, an Instagram account with over 17,000 followers and a book due out in July this year. Oh, and in her spare time, she likes to dabble in a bit of Aeronautical Space because she is an actual rocket scientist. You can go ahead and add her to your #wcw rotation right now because she is one inspirational woman.

Anita Vandyke https://www.anitavandyke.com
Author and rocket scientist Anita Vandyk.

Anita was kind enough to take some time out of blogging/winning the war on waste/rocket scientist-ing, to answer some of our questions about how to make more mindful fashion choices and become a sustainable shopper.

Alex: What does sustainable fashion mean to you? 

Anita: Sustainable fashion to me is about leaving a gentler footprint on the planet using style as the tool. It is about transparency from the start of the supply chain from the way materials are chosen to the labour conditions in which the workers are subjected to. Transparency is the key!

Alex: Where is the best place to start for someone who is wanting to make more mindful fashion purchases? 

Anita: Start by shopping your own wardrobe. Before you begin, you should always consider what you already have. Streamline your style and wardrobe before you buy anything new. Nine times out of ten you’ll find that you are more creative with what you have because you have less choice. In a world of excess, start with minimising your clothing items to curate your style. Trust me, people will notice how stylish you are because you are making more effort with less items!

Sustainable Fashion - Anita Vandyke
“In a world of excess, start with minimising your clothing items to curate your style.”

Alex: Is there anything specific to look out for when purchasing clothes? Are there certain words on the tags to look out for, brands to avoid, preferable fabrics? 

Anita: My only rule is to never buy plastic materials – this includes polyester, nylon etc. Microfibres from washing these plastic materials is one of the biggest micropollutants in our waterways. These particles are ingested by marine life (mistaking it for plankton) and then enter the food chain. Always buy natural materials such as cotton, silk, wool. They feel better on your skin and much better for the planet in the long run!

Alex: I read on your blog that you haven’t bought new clothes in 3 years, which is amazing, but if people aren’t in an area where they have access to amazing op shops or great buy swap sell groups, are there any retailers that you would recommend for new clothes?

Anita: I haven’t bought anything new for over three years, however, my favourite ethical brands include Everlane, Patagonia and People Tree. These brands are vocal about transparency, environmental issues and social issues. For shopping secondhand, I suggest you go to your local markets, try eBay or Gumtree or even organise your own clothes swap with friends!

A Zero Waste Life In Thirty Days by Anita Vandyke
A Zero Waste Life by Anita Vandyke

Anita’s book ‘A Zero Waste Life’ is available to pre-order now from Penguin.

Find Out How Sustainable Your Favourite Brands Are In Seconds

I decided to google some of my go-to brands and was surprised to find that a few of them were anything but sustainable and had some questionable labour conditions. I also found an app that makes finding this information a breeze. The Good On You App rates brands based on the way they impact people, animals and the planet. They can even suggest better brands with a similar style and budget!

The Good On You app is available now on iTunes.
The Good On You app is available now on iTunes.

How To Find The Most Stylish Vintage Clothes

Buy Swap Sell 

As I mentioned in all of the How To Sell Your Stuff posts (because I am obsessed) Buy Swap Sell (BSS) is one of my favourite ways to shop. Do yourself a favour, go and search your favourite brand on Facebook. Almost every brand has a BSS group, I am a member of Witchery, Spellbound, Seed, and Country Road! People post amazing clothes in near new condition at a fraction of the retail price. It’s also a really great way to find out about garage sales.

Markets

As Anita mentioned, markets are a great way to shop sustainably. My favourite vintage market is Suitcase Rummage, I like to go towards the end of the day when people tend to drop their prices in order to get rid of whatever they’ve got left. For super stylish new clothes head to your local Young Designer Markets. Not only will you find quality, one-off pieces but you’ll also be supporting local talent.

Suitcase Rummage Markets are a great way to score cute vintage clothes super cheap.
Suitcase Rummage Markets

Vintage Stores & Op Shops

I have two favourite vintage shops, Camp Hill Antique Centre and Little Sister Cafe. I always look out for things like denim jackets, overalls and leather skirts, quality items that are durable and can stand the test of time. When it comes to op shopping I head straight to Instagram. There are so many awesome ‘Op Shop Insta Gurus’, my favourite is @nevereverpayretail by Hannah Klose. Hannah has amazing style and posts daily about her op shop finds. To find all the best op shops near you head to her blog and check out some of her local lists. If you have absolutely no idea where to start then her post ’10 Commandments Of Opshopping’ is the perfect beginner guide!

Sustainable Fashion - Hannah Klose Never Ever Pay Retail
Never Ever Pay Retail – Hannah Klose in one of her vintage finds.

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I Held a Group Garage Sale And This is How it Went

I have been wanting to hold a garage sale ever since I moved into my new place a year ago and filled our garden shed with boxes that I had been hoarding since high school. Deciding that I couldn’t possibly hold onto my ‘best friends forever’ photo frames and ‘Happy 18th’ yard glasses for another second, I quickly created a Facebook event. I gave myself one week to get my shit together and find everything that I wanted to sell. I knew that a few of my friends also had things that they were wanting to sell, so I invited them to bring along their stuff and create a mini market on my front lawn.

This was the first garage sale that I have thrown as an adult. My Mum used to have them all the time when I was growing up, and my little sister and I loved helping her set up and haggling with people over $2 mugs.

Garage Sale Day

Advertising

The first thing I did was create an ad on the Facebook Marketplace, listing all of the obvious information including the date, address, time etc. I also added a list of the types of items that I was selling to attract more specific buyers. I made sure to include the terms “no holds and no door knockers thank you,” serious Garage Sale Goers rock up crazy early, so I did not want people tapping on my door at 5am. I also didn’t want a million messages prior to the day from people wanting me to hold specific items for them. I copied and pasted the details from my Facebook Marketplace ad into two of my Buy Swap Sell Groups, one for my local suburb and one for all of Brisbane. A lovely lady commented on one of my ads and invited me to join a South East Queensland Garage Sale Page, so I posted the ad on there as well.

Marketplace Ad
Gumtree is a good place to advertise on as well because a lot of people use it especially to find garage sales. However, I did get a lot of people messaging me on there asking me to hold items and haggling with me before I even told them the price. I did consider not replying but that felt a little rude, so I just let people know that I wasn’t doing holds and told them I’d see them on the day.

Lastly, I went old school and plastered my neighbourhood with homemade signs. It wasn’t until my 5th sign on the main road that I thought to myself “this doesn’t seem legal” and sure enough when I got home and checked my local council’s website I realised that is was in fact not allowed. So I recommend checking your local council site before you put time and effort into signs. Full disclosure, I did leave the signs up and that is what attracted most of my customers but I did take them down as soon as it finished and spent the whole night feeling like a felon and waiting for the sound of sirens.

Garage Sale Ad

Where I Went Right

I started at 7am, just early enough to catch all of the serious Garage Sale Goers. This was a good decision because I made 85% of my money in the first hour!

I priced everything the night before and set up the clothes rack, I made sure everything was clean and ready to be put out as soon as I woke up.

Clothes Racks

I invited organised friends with good merchandise and lots of brand name items so the sale looked really full and enticing.

The day before the sale I checked how much each item was worth on eBay, and I am so glad that I did because I nearly ripped myself off. When I was going through a box of kitchen items that hadn’t been opened since 2012, I found a set of casserole dishes that I had been given by my Aunt when I first moved out of home. She has super classy taste and they looked kind of antique-ish so I googled the details underneath and it turns out they are now worth $150 each!!! The same thing happened to my friend Molly who unknowingly bought a vintage gold mine hidden in a box of toys to sell. My eyes lit up with dollar signs when I saw that one of them was a Rainbow Boom Crystal Series Furby, find out why in the Vintage 90’s Toys edition of the How to Sell Your Stuff Series.

Where I Went Wrong

We had a great rush of about 20 people in the first 2 hours and then nothing. Not a single soul! After hours of pondering in our deck chairs, we came to the conclusion that the reason for the lack of customers was because we had the sale on a Sunday instead of a Saturday so we had missed out on all of the usual garage sale crowd. It was also insanely hot, the kind of heat that keeps people locked inside with the air conditioner on.

What I’ll Do Next Time

I will definitely be holding my next garage sale on a Saturday. I’ll be starting at 6:30am to make sure I catch the serious shoppers. I’ll be even more organised next time with items ready for sale in big storage containers and buckets, so all I have to do is put them out in the morning. This time around I started setting everything up on blankets 30 minutes prior to starting and had three people waiting, watching my every move like they were seagulls and I had a was a chip sandwich.

Seagull Giphy

We are also going to try a different location next time, a house closer to the main road, with more traffic.

I’ll also be posting more pictures of the items I have for sale and listing all of the brands in my advertisements.

How Much Did I Make

So you’re probably wondering if all of that effort was worth it in the end? In the first 2 hours, I made $60 which is not a lot, however, what happened after made it totally worthwhile.

As we were packing up we decided to take photos of everything we had for sale and posted it all on Buy Swap Sell and eBay that afternoon. Within an hour my friend Amber had someone offer to buy ALL of the clothes that she had put up for sale on a Buy Swap Sell Page. I sold a teapot, a play mat, a baby rocker and two boxes of baby clothes, taking my tally to $140! My other two friends have since sold some of their items on the Facebook Marketplace.

Photo by Amber Schmidt

We all managed to sort out some clutter, and I have donated most of what I didn’t sell to charity. All in all, I would call it a success, I had a super fun day with my friends, I managed to clear out my shed, and I got some extra cash out of it!

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