WORDS Nicola Donovan
As I pushed open the glass doors and walked inside, a rack of colourful garments caught my eye. I began flicking through each piece of clothing.
“Can I help you?” a voice behind me asked.
“Ah, yes please, how much is this?” I replied, holding up a designer blouse.
“That one’s $7”.
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m in an op shop: a place where you can pick up luxury labels for next to nothing, pretend you’re in a Macklemore video clip, and buy items that already hold a world of memories.
An op shop (or thrift store) is a retailer that sells second-hand items, generally to raise funds for a charitable institution. A valuable resource for people on low incomes, these stores provide furniture, clothing and household goods to people in need. Recently, op shops have been given a new reputation and purpose thanks to the return of vintage fashion trends. “They’re not op shops anymore, they’ve evolved into regular retail stores,” says Val McCarton, supervisor of Vinnies at Wyong Centre.
Op shops are the best places to find vintage items and just because you’re paying less doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing quality. I was curious to just how many luxury labels were donated, and how the stores authenticate them. “Jimmy Choo, Collette Dinnigan and Prada are some labels that we have been donated,” says Annette Scott, senior coordinator of Vinnies at Toukley. “We go through rounds of checking a product to the best of our abilities to determine whether it is or isn’t authentic.”
Either way, I can’t complain about a great quality, designer top for less than $10 – Macklemore wasn’t kidding around when he sung about thrift shops being “fucking awesome”. If you’re still not convinced, consider the good karma you’d receive for supporting a charity.
5 things NOT to buy at an Op Shop
- Underwear: It’s most likely been used. Enough said?
- Mattresses: Many hold bed bugs in them people are unable to see with the naked eye, the former owner may not even know the mattress has them.
- Makeup: Whether it’s old or new, all makeup has an expiry date. If you’re after cheap makeup, the best thing to do is buy from a chemist so that you know how long you have had the item for, and around the time it will expire. For example, you should be throwing away your mascara every three to four months. Unless you enjoy clumpy, spider-leg lashes that is.
- Stuffed animals: No matter how cute that stuffed puppy looks, it was a best friend to a child while they were growing up, and that child put it through hell. Babies and toddlers slobber, drool and make messes. All of these things are done with their trusty best friend right by their side. Now, put the puppy back.
- Helmets: Second-hand helmets are just dangerous. Let me explain: if the helmet has had impact from a previous owner, it becomes less protective from future impacts. You won’t know what the helmet has been through once it’s for sale in an op shop. So, it’s better for your own safety to just spend the extra money on a new one.