Style Fashion

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Thrill of the thrift: Ireland's most stylish women share their expert advice for second hand shopping

Secondhand September may have stopped trending for now, but how do you give fast fashion the elbow and embrace vintage for life? Sophie Donaldson asks five experts for their tips

Roz Purcell for Weekend magazine. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Roz Purcell for Weekend magazine. Photo: Gerry Mooney
DJ Tara Stewart
Sonya Lennon
Bryan Lyng
Courtney Smith
Roz Purcell for Weekend magazine. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Thrifting, pre-loved, consignment, vintage - whatever you want to call it, secondhand clothing is one of the most sustainable ways to shop.

Last month, the charity Oxfam ran a high profile campaign to encourage shoppers  to forgo buying anything new for a month. #SecondhandSeptember took over social media, and was bolstered with some serious fashion credentials - the accompanying photoshoot starred nineties supermodel Stella Tennant and her teenage daughter Iris, both looking supremely stylish in clothing from Oxfam.

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It would seem secondhand clothing has never been so cool - but is it possible to keep the momentum going when the hashtag stops trending? We asked five fashion insiders for their tips on how to get the best out of your secondhand shopping experience. If reducing your fashion footprint wasn't enough motivation to start scanning those overstuffed rails, then a peek at their best secondhand finds should provide enough inspiration to get shopping - sustainably, of course.

Tara Stewart

DJ Tara Stewart

DJ Tara Stewart is a regular fixture behind the decks at fashion events, and she also has her own show on RTE's 2FM. Her inimitable personal style is made up of vibrant vintage prints and retro sportswear.

I have been shopping in secondhand stores since I was a kid. My hometown had a few and I used to love getting tops and jackets from the eighties. I think secondhand shopping is so important, especially in today's climate. You can find the most amazing pieces if you really look and have an open mind. I found a Burberry suit recently and even a Prada ski jacket (that I didn't buy and still regret to this day), Dior bags and Gucci sunglasses.

I love finding designer items on the cheap, but there are also so many other brands and labels you can find. I got this dress from Enable Ireland for €3 on a sale day. It was originally a maxi dress but I was drawn to it for the fabric. I tend to shop with an open mind so I bought the dress and took it to my seamstress Karen, of Rag Order, and asked her to make it into a co-ord. Making it into a two-piece means I can get more wear out of it and mix and match with different outfits.

For somebody unfamiliar with shopping in charity shops, usually the shops are divided into colours or size. So as soon as you walk in, go to your favourite colour first so you're not wasting time. Be patient. And don't be disheartened if you don't always find something. Some days you'll find a rake of things, some days you won't find anything.

TOP TIP: Look in both the men's and women's sections. Men's sections usually have a lot of designer as well. And have fun with it! Go with a friend and make a day of it.

Brian Lyng

Bryan Lyng

As a student studying Creative and Cultural Industries, Brian became heavily involved in his college's Fashion Society. After working as an assistant to some of the country's most successful stylists, he began styling his own editorials. He currently works in fashion and retail PR, and is an avid collector of vintage clothing.

I've been shopping secondhand for around five years. It started with a love for finding items that were a little bit different to what I could find on the high street and grew when I started collecting vintage pieces. I love the thrill of finding hidden gems.

My best clothes are the ones I've found unexpectedly in secondhand or vintage shops. My favourite go-to jacket is this emerald green corduroy blazer that has been with me for years. I was lucky enough to find it hidden away in a St Vincent de Paul charity shop for only €12. The rooting process can be slow and tedious, but I find it to be meditative and all the more rewarding when you find that extra special piece.

I think the key thing is to approach it with an open mind. Sometimes you can leave stores frustrated after searching top to bottom only to go home empty-handed. Check in regularly and shop around - no two stores are the same and stock is ever changing. Buying secondhand is one of the easiest methods we can utilise to reduce our impact on the planet.

TOP TIP: Keep an eye out for colours, prints and silhouettes that work for you and try things on! I like to scan the rails for something that catches my eye before I ever start to really look through what's there. It saves you time and you're more likely to leave with something that you actually want.

Courtney Smith

Courtney Smith

Fashion stylist and creative director Courtney Smith has worked with some of the biggest names in fashion, from luxury brands to glossy magazines. While she has access to some of the most lust-worthy clothing around, her own wardrobe is filled with vintage and secondhand gems she regularly re-works with the help of a tailor.

Since I can remember I have loved shopping secondhand. My local community used to do a Christmas market every year and even as a seven-year-old I would buy scarves and hats from all the bric-a-brac stalls. I love the hunt! Half my wardrobe is vintage or secondhand or passed down from my mum and they are all my favourite pieces.

I love the idea that clothing has a story to it… who wore this before me and what is that piece's history? Fashion designers nearly always have rails of vintage pieces in their studios that they take inspiration from for their new collections. My favourite item I've bought has to be this stunning eighties-style linen blazer by Balmain. It was €50 in Oxfam.

I think it's brilliant that shopping this way promotes sustainability. I love to give old clothing a new lease of life whether styling it in a new, more modern way or revamping it with alterations. I've been going to the gang in Zip Yard on Dublin's South Anne St for years. There's a brilliant seamstress called Jeanie who I work with who helps me bring to life new ideas to update outfits I already have.

Alterations can completely transform an item so it's like shopping in your own wardrobe. I also bring my mum's old clothes in to get them resized to fit me and continue the circle of life for that garment.

TOP TIP: Start at the front and work your way back so you don't miss a thing. Don't worry about sizing because things can be altered... instead, fall in love with a fabric, a style or a print and imagine what it could be.

Roz Purcell

Roz Purcell for Weekend magazine. Photo: Gerry Mooney

After making her name as one of the country's most successful models, Roz Purcell has become a powerhouse lifestyle brand. Her early career as a model instilled in her a love of style, and she's garnered a large following online thanks to her chic ensembles that effortlessly mix secondhand and statement pieces.

I've always shopped secondhand but in the past 12 months I've really shifted to sourcing almost all my clothing from secondhand or vintage shops. It can be hard to suddenly decide you won't consume fast fashion, especially because it's so affordable, but ask yourself a few questions before your purchase: do I need this? How many wears realistically will I get out of this? Do I have anything that's really similar and does the job already?

There are so many clothes in the world and so many that go to landfill every single year. We don't need to keep producing new ones. There are great sustainable brands out there who remodel fabrics and great curated secondhand shops that cater for every style. It's all about just having a little more patience and caring where your clothes came from - you also get some really well-made clothing.

Shopping secondhand brings out a creative side because you're not buying a ready-made trend, you're exploring and searching to find your own look. It's also a comfort knowing no one else will arrive in the same rig out! I have so many gems I've found secondhand, from biker jackets to the best fitting jeans and retro sports gear. I picked up this pair of LEE Jeans from Finders Keepers in Bray and I wear them to death.

TOP TIP: Take time to shop. If you try to do it in a rush you won't enjoy the experience or find anything.

Sonya Lennon

Sonya Lennon

Designer and broadcaster Sonya Lennon is as known for her signature glasses as she is for her fashion nous. With over 30 years' experience in fashion, she's an influential voice in the industry. She sources designer accessories from consignment stores and has a wardrobe that's peppered with collectable vintage items.

This Chanel necklace was an investment piece; I paid around €500 for it on eBay. My mum always wore a snake necklace in the seventies and it was so redolent of her glamour and I'm so in love with the best of the seventies' fashion. Funnily enough, only last week I saw it in a US auction house for $3,500. It was nice to see it climbing in value, although I don't think I'll sell it on. I think that's the beauty of vintage, you're tapping into another era and buying a piece of history. I have a daughter, so it could well become an heirloom piece. My wardrobe is peppered with vintage pieces and I love that something can stand the test of time and still look good, whereas something contemporary might not make it into the annals of good taste. I would buy a lot on consignment from the likes of Vestiaire Collective, which is online, and there are amazing shops like Siopaella in Dublin; you know it's verified and the real deal. My label Lennon Courtney is the spine of my wardrobe but accessories have always been a joy. Buying consignment is a great way to buy pieces that you wouldn't be prepared to pay for brand new. It gives you access to a world where these pieces suddenly become affordable, and I love that.

TOP TIP: eBay shopping can be tricky. Your filter and search functionality has to be pretty adept to sift through loads of rubbish. Reviews and ratings are key. The constant caveat of eBay shopping is: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

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