Sydney Paradise for Vintage Shoppers

Market-stalls in Glebe.
Market-stalls in Glebe. | © Laura Wrobel

Laura Wrobel loves vintage clothes. As soon as our editorial intern has landed in Sydney, she is already hot on the heels of trends and flea markets.

Life in Sydney isn’t cheap, but that shouldn’t keep anyone from wearing beautiful clothes and staying true to their style. The budget of university students in particular often doesn’t stretch to getting the latest season collection. So what do you do when you’re looking for unusual clothes for very little money and are once again stricken with the “I absolutely need a third poncho” malaise? You embark on a vintage shopping tour.
 
After all, if you don’t define the term “sightseeing” too narrowly, inspecting local shops is quite cultural, too. With flea markets, op shops, private designer vintage stores and more, Sydney offers innumerable opportunities to buy pre-loved clothes. In Germany, visiting flea markets has become a trend over the last few years, and clothing swap parties are popular, especially in Berlin. Sydney seems to be a similar case: flea markets every weekend, vintage shops in every suburb.

Op Shops

Op shops, short for opportunity shops, are usually run by charitable organisations. They offer donated items at affordable prices. In the UK and the US, they are called thrift shops or charity shops. Germany has shops run by the Red Cross or the Caritas charity.
 
What’s special about these shops is that apart from clothing, they also offer decor items, small furniture pieces, records and household items. These goods aren’t selected according to a particular style, meaning there is something for everyone – from punks to politicians. The best part: the prices. At a second-hand shop, you will often get an entire outfit for the same amount you would spend on a single piece at a regular shop. The main reason is that op shops constantly take in new donations, like The Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross: “We have a constant flow and a lot of donations every day. That’s why we can sell our clothes at very cheap prices,” volunteer Michael tells me. And if you have time to browse, you can find unusual, unique items or, with a bit of luck, even a designer piece. “Some customers come in five times a day because they know exactly what treasures are hidden here.”
 
Another factor to keep in mind is that second-hand fashion is less harmful to your health. Frequent washing flushes harmful substances and chemicals out of the fibres. Pre-loved clothing also has a reduced impact on the environment as well as on resources and strengthens local communities. Unwanted, washed and undamaged clothing can be dropped off and donated. What’s more, this offers the Samaritans of this world yet another opportunity to do good: “The money we earn goes straight back into Wayside’s programs and services to help the members of our community and to realise projects,” Michael explains. 

Flea Markets

Every weekend, there are flea markets all across Sydney. Some of them are held weekly, others once a month. Apart from a large selection of used clothing, they also offer jewellery, shoes, decor items, household goods, collector’s pieces, antiques and much more. Food stalls make sure that hungry bargain hunters don’t starve, and music programmes provide entertainment while they’re browsing.
 
A particularly nice flea market is the Rozelle Collectors Market, held out in the open between the suburbs of Balmain and Rozelle. Junk experts are guaranteed a feelgood experience. However, so as not to disrupt the pleasant atmosphere, visitors should adhere to Australian trading practices: It is uncommon to stubbornly haggle for a dollar or two. Coins are usually not accepted gladly, which is why prices are principally negotiated down in five-dollar increments. It should be noted, however, that prices are in most cases fair and acceptable to begin with.
 
An appealing aspect of Australian flea markets is the trust in their customers: There are fitting rooms for people to try on clothing, which means you can take your collected loot with you without leaving a deposit.
 
The advantage of flea markets lies in the stall owners’ desire to sell. They are generally only there for a specific day and are keen to get rid of all their wares; which is why prices decrease over the course of the day. The downside: On weekends, a lot of people visit the markets, and, accordingly, demand is high. This means that items you may have your sights on can sell out quickly.
 
Laura’s tip: Make quick decisions, don’t agonise over them.
  • Laura at the Rozelle Collectors Market. © Laura Wrobel
    Laura at the Rozelle Collectors Market.
  • Skyline over the Kirribilli Market. © Laura Wrobel
    Skyline over the Kirribilli Market.
  • Jewellery stall at the Rozelle Collectors Market. © Laura Wrobel
    Jewellery stall at the Rozelle Collectors Market.
  • Shoes and boots for sale. © Laura Wrobel
    Shoes and boots for sale.
  • Surfer-shirts. © Laura Wrobel
    Surfer-shirts.

Private (Designer) Vintage Stores

Apart from op shops, Sydney also has numerous private vintage stores offering pre-loved designer pieces and brand-name fashion. Each of these shops has its very own, unique character. While not everyone can see the appeal of op shops, visiting a vintage store is a true fashion statement. Easily discernible from the outside, they are flashy, colourful and attention-grabbing. Some specialise in funk and retro t-shirts from the 70s and 80s, others focus on designer bags, wedding dresses or men’s fashion. Sydney’s vintage stores even attract fashion editors and TV producers looking for authentic clothes for film and TV productions. Good-quality designer and brand-name clothing is selected professionally and with love. By the same token, that explains the not-so-inexpensive price tags that can occasionally give you palpitations.
 
Reuze Vintage in Paddington focuses on a reliable selection of distinctly Australian brands – reasonable pricing included. Potts Point Vintage on the other hand, specialises in vintage wedding dresses and sells clothing from the 1890s to the 1980s.
 
Laura’s highlight: Cream on Crown in Surry Hills. Spread over two floors, this shop sells, among other things, new clothing and bags made from old shirts. Everything is sorted by pattern and style, making it easy to get your bearings. Retro sunglasses and good-quality Dr. Martens at reasonable prices will quicken the pulse of vintage hearts.
 
As we have seen, Sydney fashion lovers can get their money’s worth even on a small budget. Buying pre-loved clothing isn’t just a trend or a lifestyle, it’s also good for the environment and fosters a sense of community. In addition, it avoids the questionable production paths used by large textile dealers.  #Shoppingforagoodcause
 

SYDNEY's GO-TO MARKEts

  • Glebe Markets: Every Saturday from 10am until 4pm. Market with food-trucks, live-music and a grassy picnic-area. Shoppers can find, among other things, second-hand clothes, jewellery, bags and shoes.
  • Surry Hills Markets: Every first Saturday of the month from 8am until 4pm. A colourful market that offers new as well as preloved goods.
  • Rozelle Collectors Markets: Every Saturday and Sunday from 9am until 3pm.  Food from around the globe and small bands give the market its unique vibe.
  • Kirribilli Markets: Once a month from 8.30am until 3pm. Besides the market offering preloved goods there is also the Kirribilli Art, Design & Fashion Market.
  • Bondi Markets: Every Sunday from 10am until 4pm. Taking place on schoolgrounds right next to popular Bondi Beach, this market offers coffee, pasteries and a play area for kids.