Sustainable fashion and how to ace op shopping

Gisela Medina is a part of the thrifting movement of sustainable fashion. Taranaki Community News caught up with her to find out her top tips for finding the best op shop treasures.

Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Gisela and I am the founder and creative director of Elle Boheme.

The slow fashion movement was coined by Kate Fletcher, a professor of Sustainability, Design and Fashion at the Center for Sustainable Fashion in London. When I heard about it, I liked the idea and I started researching. It was a good cause for the planet and an ethical business, and that’s how Elle Boheme started.

Elle Boheme built its base on two important pillars – slow fashion and ethical fashion. The general principle is “being fashionable should NOT cost us the planet and much less life”.

Elle Boheme’s Instgram shop stocks vintage Levi jeans

The industrialized fashion industry uses cheap labour that costs life, since these workers are forced to work for long hours and in unhealthy conditions in buildings that do not meet the basic safety requirements. Every year they produce their collections which are fashionable only one season and consume high amounts of water, energy and use chemicals that have an irreversible environmental impact.

Ethical and sustainable fashion focuses on the procurement, manufacturing and design of clothing that minimizes the impacts on the environment.

Through the philosophy of responsible consumption Elle Boheme aims to raise awareness about the impact of clothing production on the environment, the depletion of resources and most importantly – that we change it.

Thrifting shops have had an explosion recently, especially on Instagram. Why do you think this is?
It’s good to say that thrift stores have recently had an explosion, but let me tell you that they have come to stay, and for a very good reason. The time has come to change the relationship between the consumer and our clothing.

Second-hand stores are not a seasonal trend, but rather a philosophy of responsible clothing consumption. Behind them there are much deeper reasons than just buying good, cute and cheap, and I think that is about awareness.

On Instagram there are countless second hand clothes and second hand stores, for a simple reason – because reusing clothes reduces waste and pollution. Every garment purchased second-hand means one less new one is produced, which is important because regardless of material, the production of clothing is costly to the environment.

The benefits that second hand stores offer to the consumer are many but the most important are:

  1. You’ll develop a unique wardrobe.
  2. You can find genuine vintage items and vintage clothing is often higher quality
  3. You may discover designer products at a fraction of the price.
  4. You can find items that are no longer made.
  5. You can find unique gifts. 
  6. You can furnish your first home without spending millions.
  7. Thrift stores make it easier to know where your money is going. 
  8. When you are buying second hand you are supporting a small local business and the family that is behind it.
  9. You can install good spending habits in your kids.
  10. Thrift shopping is environmentally friendly
Gisela Medina is the owner of Elle Boheme

Your vintage finds are really awesome. How do you find such great stuff, and do you have any top tips for people out there hunting for vintage treasures? 
Well to be honest I do not have a manual of how to find vintage treasures, I think it really comes down to chance and luck.

There are some guidelines that are important to me and they work for me when I go out looking for my vintage. If you do it correctly, you will come out with unique clothes.

They are :

  • On time: Visit the stores frequently as early as possible; You will be one of the first customers to see the merchandise of the day. If you are late you probably will not find as many surprising things as not all stores are renew their stock during the day, many do it when closing the store or early the next day.
  • Choose quickly but carefully: Taking the time to look at each garment or piece will take an eternity and probably while you are tossing and turning a garment you lose other better ones. It is therefore important to master the art of thifting – that is to know precisely what are we going to buy? Also, and no less important, is to master the art of scan. You must carefully check the garments to avoid buying something that later you end up disappointed with when you get home. My tip for this is very simple – pay special attention to the areas where wear and tear is usually noticed. If it’s a shirt, check the neckline first, and then do a total scan of the garment. Although this seems easy it is not, and it is a skill that develops over time.
  • Dress comfy: Thrifting can be exhausting, especially if the store does not offer shopping carts (like Stratford’s Salvation Army, it would be nice if some supermarket would donated them some shopping baskets). You can easily spend hours in a thrift store and to avoid fatigue you must dress appropriately. I recommend comfortable clothes and shoes, some leggings, baggy shirt, nothing tight, and a shoulder bag, this is the most important one of all since you must have your hands free to be able to search without worrying about losing your wallet in a pile of clothes.
Homewares are another thing Gisela keeps an eye out for in op shops in Taranaki

What’s the best thing you’ve ever found at an op shop? 
This question is very simple, but for me it is very difficult to answer. I have found many things that have taken my breath away. Sometimes they have been furniture, sometimes they have been garments, and other times they have been objects of decoration, like some of the wooden sculptures that adorn my house.

Where’s the best place to find beautiful pre-loved goods in Taranaki, aside from Elle Boheme? 
One of my favorite places is the Family Store of the Salvation Army in Stratford. There I always find genuine vintage clothes that make my heart vibrate. The other place I like is the Hospice in Westown in New Plymouth. If you have a good eye and you are at the right time you can find excellent clothes and incredible decoration objects.

But, in my experience all the stores have something that make them worth visiting. Plus the excitement of ​​going through a store without knowing what treasure you’ll find is really indescribable.

You can follow Elle Boheme on Instagram.