Credit: Nick Watt
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You see them everywhere. Those chain stores filled with cheap, mass-produced clothing. Under hot halogens, they flash bright colours with beckoning price tags.
And wide-eyed shoppers, eager for their fashion fix, flock to them, eagerly handing over their hard-earned dollars for the latest look.
The fashion industry decides what stores should stock and, in collaboration with the media, presents a narrow view of what we should wear.
But by deciding to shop in a different way, the style savvy consumer can subvert mainstream fashion and take back control of how and where they spend their fashion dollars.
Much of the latest fashion is disposable, designed to be cheaply made and cheaply priced for short-term use.
But even these items take a long time to decompose, emitting harmful gases into the atmosphere for years as they break down.
A more sustainable outlook on clothing dictates that it needs to last for more than one season.
For the environment-conscious consumer, shopping less frequently, making fewer purchases and replacing fast fashion 'throw-away' buys with carefully chosen, classic clothes is the way to go.
Be your own stylist
Better yet, thinking green can actually encourage fashion experimentation.
'Wardrobe_ remix' is the tag line for the 7,000-member, do-it-yourself fashion collective hosted by Yahoo's photo sharing site Flickr.
Started in 2005 by 32-year-old freelance fashion designer Tricia Royal, wardrobe remixes are inspired by the colourful, original ensembles paraded in the streets of Tokyo's Harajuku district.
Here, the trick to do-it-yourself style is being able to spot the potential in an item of clothing you might already own and combine it with recycled garments and vintage pieces to create new looks.
It's not so much about buying an outfit as restyling and reusing existing clothing - a bit like a game of 'dress ups' - as a way of placing emphasis back onto the individuality of the wearer.
Looking beyond the retail mainstream to develop a more creative approach to the day-to-day business of getting dressed can be fun. Beyond that, it makes our clothes more ecologically sound.
Recycled or secondhand clothing is the only truly environmental fashion option currently available in Australia and represents the very antithesis of conformed fashion.
A wide variety of market stalls, op-shops, specialist stores or the Internet can help you find recycled clothes that offer uniqueness and individuality.
The resurgence of interest in retro garments is also one of the few clothing trends accessible across the social spectrum - from budget-conscious bargain hunters and frock exchange devotees through to vintage couture wearing celebrities.
How to op-shop like a pro
Op-shopping is an affordable way to acquire gently used, one-of-a-kind classic clothes. But be prepared to work for your booty - searching these treasures out will take some effort on your part. Here are some tips:
- Tear out the looks you like in magazines and think about how you might copy them. Visit your wardrobe and have a clear out. Think about what you actually need.
- Head for charity stores in regional areas and suburbs where quality clothing is likely to be stocked. Visit regularly and dress comfortably - wear good underwear, separate top and bottom and slip on shoes so you can try things on easily.
- Scan the racks for trendy shapes or trims, favourite colours and fabrics and think about how you might combine these with your existing wardrobe.
- Keep an eye out for classic pieces that never date - trench coats, white shirts, pencil skirts, tweed jackets, silk blouses, cashmere twin sets, great prints, quirky hand knits, pre-loved jeans, surf shirts and vintage tees.
- Take time to search out interesting accessories including scarves, belts, bags and purses, shoes, hats, leather gloves and costume jewellery.
- If it tickles your fancy, try it on - challenge yourself and have fun.
- Check for moth holes, missing buttons and signs of excessive wear. Don't buy things in need of alteration unless you feel capable of fixing them. Don't buy things that are stained.
- When you bring your purchases home, throw open the doors of your closet again and try on your new finds in as many different combinations as you can. Layer them under and over things you already have, try different colours and patterns together with different coloured and pattered tights and different kinds of shoes and accessories. Go crazy, loosen up - you're in your own house. Get used to seeing yourself in a different light and perhaps you'll even have the confidence to wear some of your eco-chicest concoctions out of the house!!