How to shop for sustainable clothing in Melbourne

A person in a clothing store looking at a vintage handbag.

Stand out from the crowd and help protect our planet when you shop at our city’s bevy of ethical and sustainable retailers.

Many of us have bought clothes that we’ve only worn once or twice, and fast fashion is thought to be the world’s second-largest polluting industry.

Leeyong Soo is one of our city’s most passionate sustainable style gurus. She loves to seek out vibrant items from local designers, ethical labels, and op-shops and showcase them on her blog, Style Wilderness.

She also blogs for Vogue Japan about things to do in Melbourne.

Leeyong enjoys creating her own clothes out of pre-loved finds, including her own line of designs made from vintage kimono and obi. Her style is bold and, in her words, ‘the more bizarre the better’.

Her current favourite items include a floor-length tartan kilt, a baby pink jumpsuit and a table runner she made into a skirt.

‘It’s quite easy to look fantastic without damaging the planet,’ Leeyong said.

‘It may sound like only a small personal contribution in the grand scheme of saving the world, but if everyone put a little thought into their purchases, the change would be massive.’

Leeyong encourages people to explore Melbourne beyond the main streets to support more businesses and discover one-of-a-kind fashion items to treasure.

‘Duck into boutiques in laneways and upstairs, keep an eye out for pop-ups and generally just get off the beaten track to mix up your shopping experience as much as you can,’ Leeyong said.

‘You might have to hunt a bit for the smaller brands, but that’s what Melbourne is all about. If you do nothing else, even just remembering to bring your own coffee cup and shopping bag is a great start.’

Leeyong’s top tips for ethical shopping

1. Recycle
Search op-shops and flea markets before you look for new clothing.

2. Swap
Take part in clothing swaps such as The Clothing Exchange or stage your own. ‘Buy, swap and sell’ groups are also a great way to meet people and save money on items you might only use a few times.

3. Support local businesses
Visit The Big Design Market, Finders Keepers, or places like Craft. Very often, the people behind the stalls are those who are actually making the products. Small-scale production is generally much better for the environment, too.

4. Ask about the supply chain
Buy locally-made products where possible. Some of the larger labels have Ethical Clothing Australia accreditation, while smaller brands should be able to tell you about their supply chain if you ask.

5. Keep exploring
Seek out sustainable brands by reading ethically-minded publications and blogs.

 Handmade homewares


Where to start

Here are just a few of Melbourne’s more sustainable and ethical retailers.

Watson Place
Roam this colourful store to find one-off jewellery, ceramics, textiles, books, prints and glass handmade by local artists. Craft has supported Melbourne makers for 48 years.

Conscious Closet
Lonsdale Street
Find covetable vintage and designer items in this well-curated store that rehomed more than 7350 items of ‘unwanted’ fashion and accessories last financial year. All proceeds support Fitted for Work.

Radical Yes
Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Slip into ethically-produced, stylish and practical footwear, handmade from high-quality materials such as natural plant-based rubber, animal-free glues and vegan options.

Yesteryear Vintage
Faraday Street, Carlton
Make a statement in original and distinctive period fashion pieces sourced from all over the world. Vintage glamour is in abundance – just make sure you give yourself time to enjoy the rummage.

Cathedral Arcade
Choose from small production runs of timeless investment pieces, featuring distinctive prints, fabrics and colours, and vegan footwear. Made in Melbourne from ethically sourced materials.

Hunter Gatherer
Royal Arcade
Browse stylish, hand-picked finds from this Brotherhood of St Laurence op shop, which overflows with colourful prints, unique frocks, local artisan jewellery, upcycled vintage items and more.

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