Late last year I had the pleasure of meeting up with sisters Rachael and Nicole who organise and put together the Melbourne Frock Swap market in Williamstown, Melbourne.
It was such a great day; I barely made it past the entrance while waiting for the sisters when two garments caught my eye. Calling to my companions on the day “what’s that over there? Quick, pull that out for me ….OMG don’t let anyone take it until I snap a pic of Rachael and Nicole and get over there to try it on”. I tell you, it was a close call but I am the lucky owner of two gorgeous pre-loved dresses thanks to the Melbourne Frock Swap, phew!
And that’s not all….two clutches, a hat and a pair of shoes also came home with me (you’ll see them throughout this article). It was rather a comical affair actually; between myself and two girlfriends we hadn’t brought along much cash so had to pull our resources and decide who could afford to buy what before we had to resort to actually having to visit a teller machine in town. I think we all came away with much more than we expected and some lovely ‘new’ additions to our wardrobe.
Rachael and Nicole were kind enough to tell me all about how the market started and everything you need to know about Market Day.
Where did the idea come from?
Well, we’ were both very active members of our local buy, swap and sell Facebook page (still are); and had been buying great pieces from our neighbours for a while – which was fun – but it’s hard to buy something without seeing it up close and trying it on; and we thought – wouldn’t it be awesome to get all these wonderful bargains into the one room, with change rooms and mirrors, and do our buying there instead! And that’s how we started. Our first market was supposed to be 20 stalls, but we ended up with 45 and had to find a bigger venue for the second one!
How long have you been running Melbourne Frock Swap?
This is our third year. We started with just 3 markets per year, but demand made us increase to 4 this year, and that works well for seasonal shopping.
Are you both guilty of being ‘fashion hoarders’ in the past?
Yes! We’re both mums too, so we’ve both gone through the phase of hanging onto things that we thought we’d eventually get back into. The Frock Swap has helped us change that, and now we do regular cleanses. It really changes your life, having a wardrobe where the clothes actually fit. Men will never understand this problem of having a full wardrobe and nothing to wear – but the struggle is real!!!
How do you think recycled fashion is changing people’s perspectives?
I think recycled fashion has come a long way from the old op shops. We’ve both always been mad op-shoppers, but when we were younger, there was a stigma attached to it – people thought that you only bought at op shops if you were poor, or that if you shopped there you were taking clothes from the less fortunate. But that’s changing and people are starting to realise (correctly) that reusing, repurposing and recycling benefits us all. Clothing isn’t disposable.
Having sisters myself, we’ve always been able to ‘share’ or handover unwanted garments to each other; have you both been able to ‘share’ wardrobes through different stages of your lives?
Yes and no. We do share a lot of things – but we are very different in size and shape. Nicole is a straight and thin 8-10 and Rachael is a curvy 14-16. We did “borrow” (read – “steal”) clothes off each other when we were teens though, and it once lead to a very major falling out between us! So maybe it’s a good thing we’re now so different!
How would you describe your own style, both being busy mums on the go?
Hmmm…. Well, we’re both into quirky and eclectic pieces; we love bright, bold and unique prints and patterns – but Nicole is a little more polished and Rachael is a bit grungier. Nicole is more likely to dress up a bit, and occasionally wear some heels. Whereas Rachael lives in jeans and boots.
But being mums, nothing works better than a good pair of jeans. We’re always on the lookout for good jeans at the markets; you can never have too many!
On Market Day, what can we expect? How many stalls are there?
We’ve grown so much in the last 3 years – and we’ve up to over 80 stalls at each of our events now. That’s makes us the biggest fashion market in Australia – and it’s all indoors, in the one space. Oh, and don’t forget that there’s always a couple of food vans and the all-important coffee cart there too, right inside with the action, to keep us going. There might be a few of the bigger sellers with their own EFTPOS facilities, but the market is primarily cash only. However there is an ATM about 3 minutes’ walk away.
Are there a variety of stallholders with different sizes and style trends?
Yes – we get feedback from women who love our market because they can come with their mum and nan and they all enjoy it! We really do cater to everyone and we have a great mix of stallholders covering all ages and sizes. There’s always a few retro and vintage stalls, some professional pre-loved fashion sellers, and then we have the ladies who are just cleaning out their wardrobes and that could be anyone from uni students to pensioners. We see a lot of great brands, but we also see a lot of clothing we’ve never heard of. It’s amazing where people get clothes from – they could be from all over the world! And with 80+ stalls to browse through, there really is something for everyone.
Sizing can be a mind field between different brands, is there privacy to try clothes on?
We know that! We have 10 change rooms scattered throughout the market, and plenty of mirrors too. And there’s something great about buying something from someone who has already worn it – they can give you invaluable advice about how things fit too. Many times we’ve had stall holders suggest items for us to try on based on our shape and size – and we’re found some really flattering pieces this way (can you tell we spend a lot of time shopping??)
At the end of the market if stallholders still have items they don’t want, I understand you’ve lined up something pretty unique by teaming with The Red Cross?
Yes, we have an ongoing relationship with the Red Cross, who turn up with a truck at the end of every market and take away anything that stallholders don’t want to take home. The donated items are then sold through the Red Cross stores across Australia to help fund their humanitarian efforts. They are really appreciative of the donations they receive on the day, and we’re happy to help both the Red Cross and the stallholders who are trying to cleanse and don’t want to take things home!
What are some of your favourite bargains you’ve picked up on market day?
There are so many – and we have new favourites at every market – but Nicole did pick up a gorgeous Gorman jacket for $45 and a pair of saltwater sandals for $4 in June; and Rachael got a pair of bright blue boots for $20 last market, and some Country Road blouses, jeans & lots of scarves. We also tend to grab a new pair of sunglasses each time, to add to the collection. Sometimes things are less than $5, and it’s hard to even get a good coffee for that, so we just grab things and try them on later. If they don’t work, they just go back to the Frock Swap next time. It’s a cycle for us now!
If you’re in need of some ‘new’ (to you) threads or love the thrill of the search and a bargain, pop along to one of the next Frock Swap Markets to be held on 26th February, 28th May, 27 August and 26 November 2017. Or if you’ve recently done a cull of your own wardrobe why not hold a ‘store’ or share one with a friend at the Melbourne Frock Swap, you can apply using the link here.
Have fun bargain hunting!