The secrets to op shopping success in Ballarat

For Ballarat sustainable fashion advocate Bianca Flint, the benefits of shopping preloved are threefold. 

“Firstly and most importantly, it’s the right choice for our earth,” Bianca said. 

“We know we are in big trouble when it comes to waste and we know the fashion industry is a huge contributor. By choosing to buy preloved, we are extending the lifespan of our garments, saving them from landfill and, in turn, decreasing demand for new wares.”  

“Secondly, it’ll save you a lot of money. It’s simply a more affordable way to shop.”  

“And thirdly, it’s fun! You never quite know what you’re going to find.” 

We spoke to the busy mother of three to get an insider’s guide to unearthing fashion gold at Ballarat’s op shops. 
 

Take us through your journey with sustainable fashion...  

"It started many years ago when I was just a small child, although I was unaware of it at the time. I have many wonderful memories from my childhood of exploring op shops with my mum, hunting for board games and any other little trinkets we could find and treasure. 

Once I had my own three children, op shopping was a great way to buy books and clothing for my girls, as well as something we could do together – without the stress of shopping in retail stores with small children!  

Once I had completed my family and my youngest was one, I started to think about what was next. I wanted to do something that I could run from home around my girls. It dawned on me that I could combine my two great passions of shopping and fashion. 

My business, The Wardrobe Green, involved sourcing the best quality preloved clothing and selling it online, in people’s homes and at speciality preloved markets. My business was well received and soon had a loyal customer base, many of whom still buy from me today. The Wardrobe Green soon became an opportunity to encourage other women to stop more sustainably. I was asked to run workshops and speak on the topic of sustainable fashion and, with that, my own knowledge of the benefits of shopping sustainably grew and it sent me on a path I hadn’t anticipated. Once you know the statistics and the real truth about the fashion industry, it changes you and there’s no going back.  

Hattie’s Wardrobe Green is a collaborative project between myself and Andrea Hurley from Hattie and the Wolf. Andrea and I crossed paths with our businesses quite a few years ago, collaborating on a photo shoot that celebrated preloved fashion and showcased her beautiful handmade jewellery. Fast forward a couple of years and Andrea opened her first bricks and mortar store after many years on the market scene. The opportunity to have some of my preloved clothes in her space presented itself. A few months on and we had launched our collaborative brand Hattie’s Wardrobe Green.  

I manage Hattie’s Wardrobe Green, sourcing stock and buying direct from our customers. Our promise is fresh, flawless and fabulous preloved fashion. Many people associate preloved fashion with being vintage but, in fact, we are not a vintage store. We may have the occasional piece that would be considered vintage (due to vintage being considered anything 20 years and older), however our preloved collection is modern and on‐trend." 

Image

Can you share with us some of your best op shopping tips and tricks?  

"My top five tips are: 

  • Shop the whole store and don’t leave any stone unturned as that is where you will find those hidden treasures. 
  • Give yourself enough time to look carefully – op shopping is slow fashion after all. Skimming is not good enough – look carefully because that’s when you find the best things. 
  • Visit often. Going once and not finding anything does not mean you won’t find anything next time or the time after that. No one has luck every single time they pop into an op shop. 
  • Ask the staff if you’re looking for something in particular. It may just be sitting out the back waiting for an opportunity to come out onto the shop floor. 
  • Think creatively. Don’t discard a piece of clothing just because it’s not your size or it’s missing a button. If there’s something about an item you don’t like, but otherwise love, see if you can work out a way to make it work for you." 
     

What are your top five Ballarat op shops? 

"Ballarat is quickly becoming known for its fantastic range of op shops. Some of my favourites include: 

  • Wozzles Warehouse (11 Grenville Street, Ballarat) 
    The space is well presented and the stock is carefully curated.  
     
  • Salvos (Corner of Beverin and Gray streets, Sebastopol) 
    This one isn’t for the faint-hearted – it’s enormous with so much to look at! The staff are wonderful and I have held many workshops here over the past couple of years. With the sheer amount of stock in there, I dare you to leave empty‐handed.
      
  • Wozzles Warehouse (1231 Howitt Street, Wendouree) 
    It’s light, bright and well laid out. Natural light is important when shopping preloved clothing.
     
  • Salvation Army Thrift Shop (1113 Norman Street, Wendouree) 
    Again, this one is not for the faint-hearted – it’s big, with a whole room dedicated to clothing, footwear and accessories. The prices are fantastic and the staff are so helpful. 
     
  • Vinnies Ballarat (60 Bridge Mall, Ballarat) 
    I love their dollar rack that is always out the front and they also have a 50 per cent off rack inside. Great brands and reasonable pricing."  
     

What are the benefits of shopping at regional op shops as opposed to their metro counterparts?  

"We still have ‘op shop prices’ here in Ballarat. Plus, there is often a lot of amazing vintage pieces still waiting to be found." 
 

If you want to learn from the expert herself, Bianca runs monthly op shop walking tours in the Ballarat CBD (except December and January). Tickets can be purchased online at www.hattieandthewolf.com.au 

Hattie's Wardrobe Green can be found at 218 Skipton Street, Ballarat.

Images: Tara Moore Photography