• Fashion

Confessions of a lifelong thrifter

For the love of thrift, with Emma Scanlan 

By Emma Scanlan

My wardrobe is 80 percent pre-loved. Recycled. Second-hand. Thrift. Consigned. Whatever you’d like to call it. I realise my love for a bargain, or really a love for fashion and wanting to be able to wear clothing without the designer price tag, is based on nothing less than affordability. 

But what was instilled in me as smart shopping (thrift shopping), now forms part of the circular fashion movement and contributes to my personal sustainability.

My parents are proud middle-class Australians who were not raised during a time of fast fashion and popular culture, clothes were handed down and shared amongst cousins and siblings, toys and household needs were found at local garage sales, and the local charity shops were also visited if not for a cheap bargain.

What was just a way of life is now somewhat in vogue and highlighted even more after putting together a sustainability fashion series for a client recently.

But perhaps the character-building values driven in to me by my hard-working parents (my mum only retired this year after working for 35 years for the same company), were the biggest value of all…and that simply was that clothing was not as valuable as other things to us:

The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.

emma scanlan

Emma poolside in LA with thrifted Marni top, and Birkenstocks

THRIFTING: Why buy new when you can buy second hand

A recent trip to LA further drove my excitement for being able to sniff out a cashmere jumper for less than $50, or find a Lucy Folk robe hanging in a Santa Monica charity shop.

Ebay, Poshmark, Instagram, Depot, Good Sammy’s, vintage shops, designer consignment, I’ve tried them all.

Don’t get me wrong, I do buy new as well. But those pieces have to be investment pieces of very high quality, or Australian made…and a heavily reduced sale price also helps.


Charity shops

There is a fine line between a charity shop and a second-hand/vintage shop.

If I’m shopping at a charity shop, I’m not paying anything over $30 (unless it’s a known brand).

I don’t really shop at second-hand/vintage shops who have the same stock but are curated, I would rather my money went to Vinnies. 

When it comes to charity store shopping the further away from the CBD, the better. And a tip I learned from my friend Lara Einzig, a stylist and author of Women Making Waves, is shop the men’s section first to find old band t-shirts, knits and denim jackets. I just found a black Burberry trench coat for $70 that I was very happy to buy from Good Sammy’s in the suburb in Perth that I grew up in, which definitely isn’t trendy (yes, my parents are still in the same house they have lived in for nearly 50 years!), hence the coat was probably hanging up unseen for a few weeks or months!

Emma and her business partner Olivia

Emma Scanlan

Emma in her thrifted $60 LucyFolk robe


Ebay is my favourite. I stalk brands that I like, then the sellers. I have a list of saved sellers who I vet through what they have bought or other items they are selling, to make sure of the clothing and quality. My favourite ever Ebay-er lives only a few kms away from me, which is very handy as I can try on her things before buying now. And she knows me by name.

Poshmark and Depop I find are targeted at a younger audience than me, heck I’m over 40 and can’t quite rock crochet, crocs or corduroy. But I have found a bargain on Poshmark, when I was in search of a pair of sunglasses that had sold out everywhere.

I have notices and alarms set up on Vestitaire also, as I am a size 42 shoe and they are not that easy to come by.

My girlfriends who I’ve known my whole life, know that I’ve always been thrifty, the new friends not so much. But there’s nothing I’m more proud of sharing than letting people know the price I paid for something. Perhaps now I need to be telling people the amount of land waste I’m saving by continuing on my love for thrift.


I’ve lived in Sydney and overseas, but now back in my hometown of Perth and have been shopping with Helen Swift for over 15 years, at least. Helen has the best stock that I’ve seen anywhere (even LA), because I really feel that Perth women do know how to shop overseas and online, and know how to clear their wardrobes for the next season.

Helen is my go-to for Agolde, Isabel Marant, Ulla Johnson – all brands that I know fit well and cater for a 5ft 10 inch, size 12 get up.

Perth is also lucky enough to have quarterly second-hand fashion sales by Banjo Style, founded by two friends of over 30 years (Bianca and Jo) and have women lining up to get into their doors.

In Sydney, I was a devoted follower of Hock Your Frocks, and managed to grab some amazing Celine sneakers in size 42 before she grew and people caught on to her amazing services (when things used to be flashed up on Instagram and you said sold).

Emma lives in Cottesloe, WA and runs CHARACTER Communications with equally thrifty-loving business partner Olivia Pouskine. They set up CHARACTER after meeting in Sydney nearly 9 years ago in a somewhat serendipitous / sliding doors moment. 

She loves nothing more than a margarita (drink), her dog Bruce, her husband and three kids and everything about Jessica Reed Kraus House in Habit. In no particular order.


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