Thrifting, op-shopping, charity shop chic – what ever you call it - it’s the art of discovering gems from people’s second hand clothing and helping the less fortunate at the same time. Canberra is one Australian city that has the art perfected, and this was demonstrated at the spectacular annual Help From The Underground charity fashion show, held in partnership between Zoo Advertising and the St Vincent de Paul Society.
The concept: Six local designers who showed collections at FASHFEST in May) had to each source from Vinnies Warehouse six total looks that reflected their philosophy as a designer.
This was, at least, the official line. But nothing could have prepared audiences for the looks that came down the runway on the night.Read on to find out more!
We saw on the night, monochrome sports luxe looks that could have come right from New York Fashion Week S/S’ 13; covetable sixties glam ensembles that would have had Rachael Zoe yelling ‘Omigad!’; and head to toe perfect pastels that had the audience buzzing with ‘I can’t believe she found that at Vinnies!’.
Some designers let their imagination run wild with inspired Avant-garde looks. Suzan Dlouhly’s (SZN) looks had a distinct Asian influence, and incorporated a number of unlikely items, like ski boots (in which the model looked like an oriental astronaut) and an office chair back supporter which was fashioned into a futuristic Japanese style obi. Jade Sargent (Sovata), known for her extravagant millinery, used what appeared to be kitchen accessories to create fantastical and whimsical hair ornaments.
Though the creator of each collection was not announced, each designer’s set of looks were so reflective of their individual styles that audiences were able to pick them immediately. For Mitch Thompson’s (Perpetually Five) looks, the beloved childhood cartoon character was the star. One model appeared with a Cat-dog stuffed toy hat, and another with a headband adorned with three Ninja Turtle figurines (if I’m not mistaken, Leonardo, Raphael and Donatello). No one could mistake one collection as being from the minds of Nicholas Ellis and Stephen Wright when their models came down the runway, one in pimped up cycling shorts (so representative of Canberra!) and another in an 80’s wedding dress and boxing gloves.
One can only imagine what inspired the designers in creating their unique looks. Zoe Brown (who styled her models in all over pastels) explained that she simply grabbed the pieces that she would have worn herself.
I could tell I wasn’t the only one in the audience getting excited about going op-shopping. After all, thrifting isn’t about getting second hand clothes and passing them off as new. That’s boring. It’s about ill fitting pieces that are rolled, tucked and cinched to create fits factories can’t mass produce, denim and leather with that naturally distressed look that money can’t buy, and finding new ways to use old things by thinking outside of the box.
While looking fantastic is one great incentive for people to head down to their local Vinnies shop, there is a more important goal of helping people less fortunate by buying from charity shops and donating much needed funds to charities such as St Vincent de Paul Society. Though Canberra is reported as having the highest standard of living in Australia, its homelessness numbers are always increasing. While poverty is one of the main reasons people become homeless, family crisis and domestic abuse are often major factors. That’s why St Vincent de Paul Society aims to support vulnerable people before their situation becomes desperate. To help them with this important mission, you can make a donation, online, as part of the annual Vinnies CEO Sleepout, here!
(Photos by Jiawa Liu as well as courtesy of Martin Ollman and Daniel Cummins.)