Op Shop Queen: How To Bag A Bargain

Passionate about sustainability, Loraine teaches others how to shop preloved and save
  • Loraine Martin, 54, from Perth, WA, loves thrifting 
  • In 2019, she started volunteering at Solaris Cancer Care Op Shop
  • She also began workshops to inform others about slow versus fast fashion

Here Loraine tells her story in her own words.

Peering around the showroom, I was in awe of the beautiful vehicles on display.

It was October 2016 and, working for Mercedes-Benz, I was at an event.

What really captured my attention was all the gorgeous clothes people were wearing!

Eyeing a lovely lady around my age, I was instantly drawn to her stunning dress.

I used to be a wholesale fashion agent and have always had an eye for gorgeous garments.

‘Your dress is beautiful,’ I said. ‘Where did you get it?’

‘It was $5 from an op shop!’ she replied.

It was like a light bulb went off.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to look incredible, I thought.

I’d always loved to bag a bargain but now instead of shopping at retail stores, I’d spend more time at my local op shops, poring over their preloved treasures.

‘I love your jeans,’ said a friend one day soon after over a coffee.

‘They were only a dollar!’ I beamed proudly.

Op shopping is the best
Me at an op shop (Credit: Supplied.)

Then I began researching the detrimental impact fast fashion has on the environment. I was horrified to learn that the industry is the second-biggest consumer of water worldwide. It’s also responsible for around 10 per cent of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

Admittedly, I’d been seduced by fast fashion when it first took off in the 90s, but now I couldn’t look away from the destruction it caused.

Watching countless documentaries and reading books, I discovered that over 85 per cent of textiles end up in landfill each year – enough to fill Sydney Harbour annually!

‘It’s a tragedy,’ I told my partner, who agreed.

With no kids of my own, I often wondered what sort of legacy I’d leave behind when I passed on.

Suddenly I knew…

If I can inspire people to shop for preloved clothing instead of contributing to waste, it could help make the world a better place, I realised.

Loraine Martin
Mum, me and my dad (Credit: Supplied.)

Making it my mission to educate others, I soon converted my partner, friends and family to become bargain hunters too.

‘Your money goes towards brilliant causes and charities instead of greedy corporations,’ I’d tell anyone who’d listen.

In 2019, I moved back to Perth, as my lovely mum Jean, then 70, had been diagnosed with cancer.

There I began volunteering some weekends at the Solaris Cancer Care Op Shop.

I even held workshops where I’d inform others about slow versus fast fashion, and share advice on how to style their sustainable purchases.

‘Browse through every section of the store, including the men’s,’ I’d encourage the mostly female audience. ‘You’ll be surprised by what you’d find and how well it fits,’ I’d say.

‘And play around with accessories like quality belts,’ I added.

Loraine Martin
The Solaris team (Credit: Supplied.)

‘I had no idea it was so easy to create amazing looks,’ I’d often hear back from attendees.

This inspired me to set up my Instagram account @thefeelgoodfashionista where I share my thrifted finds, as well as my foolproof tips to bag a bargain.

The best finds aren’t always in the most affluent areas, I’d point out.

Some of the best treasures I’ve found have actually been in rural shops.

I also reminded people not to buy things just because they’re discounted.

‘Consider cost per wear. Even if it’s only a few dollars, it becomes wasted money if it never makes it out of your wardrobe,’ I said.

I’d also teach my audience the importance of buying quality, natural materials such as cotton, linen and wool over man-made fabrics, as they last longer and are better for the environment.

But one of my favourite tips of all time is to style from the inside out, rather than being influenced by outside opinions.

By choosing items that make you feel good instead of following trends, you end up with joyful pieces you wear year after year rather than ending up in landfill.

However, if you do fall out of love with your outfits, make sure you donate them back to your local op shop so someone else can enjoy them.

Recently, I bought a preloved designer Zimmermann maxi dress worth $1100 for just $80.

I even run a clothes swap at the op shop where I volunteer.

Recently I saw a girl swap one of her used items for a pair of Prada shoes – for free!

Loraine Martin
I won a Waste Champion award (Credit: Supplied.)

Mum, now 76, is still being treated for cancer. But she’s doing much better, and even helps out with my workshops. 

A clever seamstress, she shows others how to alter their buys to make them fit just right.

My dad, Tony, is one of my biggest supporters too.

For our family, thrift shopping doesn’t stop at clothes.

I’ve furnished my home with preloved wares, and I even thrift buy my friends and family’s gifts.

It’s about planet over profit, I think, happy my money is going to those in need and not big companies.

Incredibly, since meeting that stranger at the car event seven years ago, I haven’t spent a cent on new clothes – except for undies.

What started out as a passion has turned into so much more.

‘You’ve changed the way I shop forever,’ people often tell me.

Slow fashion can bring together a community – and that’s one of the most special things about it.

Top Tips:

• Go the extra mile. Replace a zip, fix a seam, sew on a button. I’ve repaired a designer Camilla skirt with a hole that I picked up for $100 worth $699. Now it’s like brand new!

• Dare to rewear! Outfit repeating is one of the best things you can do for the planet. Thirty plus wears is the aim of the game, making price per wear next to nothing!

• Search for quality materials like silk and leather, which last a lifetime.
• Ignore sizes, every brand sizes differently, so still try it on to see if it fits!

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