Perth car broker Loraine Martin admits it wasn’t that long ago that she was just a regular retail shopper, albeit one with a background in fashion and eye for a bargain.
A former wholesale fashion agent for label giants like Lee and Oakley, Loraine developed a keen sense of style and would often splurge on high-end labels and designer outfits.
But a chance encounter with a stylish woman at a luxury car show seven years would ultimately change her life forever.
Martin (right) with friend, decked out in a thrift store purchase. The car broker has become a cult figure in bargain shopping
Yes, even swimwear. Martin flashes a Seafolly bikini snapped up at a thrift store
‘I had left the fashion industry and was working for Mercedes Benz on the Sunshine Coast and we were holding an event for our VIP clients and some celebrities,’ Loraine tells Daily Mail Australia.
Loraine’s tips for op-shop success
Sizing is so different in charity stores because there are garments from manufacturers from all over the world. So ignore what the tag says, try it on and get a feel for the fit and the fabric.
LOOK FOR LABELS
I do this not because I am a label queen but because often the fabric is a better quality and the garment will have a better second life down the track.
DISREGARD THE LOCATION
Posh suburbs don’t mean better stock. Often charities sort and stockpile at one big location then send everything out to all areas so the stock is evenly distributed anyway.
This is a big one. Sometimes people throw something out because its missing buttons or its too long. Altering is cheap so its worth spending a few dollars on some buttons if it means getting more life out of it.
BE MINDFUL OF FABRICS
Retail fashion today is all nylon and polyester and that stuff is basically like plastic. It doesn’t break down in the ground. In op shops look for fabrics like cotton, linen and silk – you can often find great things of really high quality that aren’t going to harm the environment.
Always keep an eye out for leather. Belts, jackets or shoes, whatever. Leather can be conditioned. It has such a long lifespan. I can’t believe anyone ever throws out leather.
WEDDING AND FORMAL DRESSES
It’s always worth looking at these in a charity store. These dresses are, with few exceptions, only worn once. So amazing things can be found.
MAKE A LIST
Whenever you think of something you need or want, put it in a list in your phone. Then, when you’re shopping you can refer to it. It’s amazing how quick you tick things off.
‘There were so many well-dressed people there and wearing the most incredible designer label outfits, you know, Gucci and Saba things like that.
‘But there was the one woman there who stood out from everyone else. She looked absolutely stunning and I couldn’t stop admiring her outfit.
‘Finally, I actually, you know, had to walk up to her and tell her she looked amazing and ask her where she got it.
‘But she didn’t say anything at the time and just smiled politely and thanked me.
‘And then right at the end of the event when everyone was leaving she, sort of, quietly walked up to me and leaned in and said “the whole thing cost me $5 from an op shop”.
‘Well that was it. It was like a light bulb went off. I realised you really don’t have to spend a lot of money to look incredible.
‘And that’s when it all started.’
Now a self-described ‘pre-loved pro’, Loraine – with the exception of buying underwear – has not set foot in a retail store in years and has thrown herself into the ‘sustainable shopping’ movement which rejects fast fashion and aims to reduce global textile waste.
The 53-year-old has become something of a cult figure in the world of op-shopping, regularly posting her incredible finds on Facebook and Instagram where she posts under the handle ‘The Feel Good Fashionista’.
Her recent buys include a Scanlan and Theodore sequin top (tag still on) worth $650 which she snapped up for $67, a $695 Zimmerman dress for $39 and a $1,300 Muubaa leather jacket purchased for just $25.
Loraine is also lauded for her uncanny knack of being able to pull an outfit together from multiple pieces – some of which cost just one or two dollars.
She volunteers at a local cancer charity store near her home in Perth and teaches fledgling thrift-shoppers how to hone their foraging skills.
Their are several key factors, she says, to always bagging a bargain. The most important are time and patience.
‘So many friends of mine say they can’t find anything decent when they go into an op shop and I say “that’s because you’re in and out in five minutes”.
‘I would rather spend three hours in one shop as opposed to hitting five shops in an hour.
‘I look at every single rack, because most of the time the staff are volunteers. They’re not retail experts so sometimes you might find a woman’s garment hanging in the kids section.
‘So it’s worth taking the time to look through absolutely everything.’
Another important tip, Martin says, is to always try clothes on before buying, and style the outfit with whatever is on hand in the store to get an idea of different ways it can be worn.
Martin is also lauded for her styling prowess; her uncanny knack for being able to pull an outfit together from multiple pieces – some of which cost just one or two dollars.
‘A $25 Zara dress that is now 3 summers in topped off with my $7 Tokito jacket’; Martin shows off a bargain outfit
‘For example, I always go into the change rooms with a couple of belts or a couple of pairs of shoes so I can see how I can wear it once I get it home.
‘That is also another way to find amazing accessories. I am always buying belts. They’re often good quality leather and they’re usually no more than a couple of dollars.’
Loraine says she is often asked by fans and followers what her favourite charity shop is but she says she doesn’t have one and dispels the myth that the best stores are in affluent suburbs.
‘I always say my favourite op-shop is one that is open,’ she says.
‘And I will pull over and have a look anywhere regardless of where it is. In my experience, the suburb doesn’t matter. Treasures can be found anywhere.’
But despite building a profile as the poster-girl for thrift shop culture, Loraine says more still needs to be done to win over the new generation of young – mostly female – shoppers seduced by cheap, online shopping giants.
Silk and leather are some of the fabric Martin says shopper should keep an eye out for due to its long lifespan
‘They’re hardest to get through to I think…because they’re sold this lie that ‘more’ equates to ‘better’,’ Loraine says.
‘I see these videos of girls pouring out their Shein order bags filled with mountains of stuff. And you can tell the fabric is horrible and the quality is bad.
‘But it’s the volume of garments that they think is impressive and that’s the part that is so wrong.
‘When I talk to younger women I explain that the woman who made those clothes is probably working 14 hours a day in Bangladesh, and getting paid the equivalent of what a cup of coffee costs here.
‘That is the message that we need to be trying to get across. And that your self-worth shouldn’t come from quantity but quality.’
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