Prime minister Jacinda Ardern has long championed high-end locally-made fashion, she wore local brand Maaike at her election night party. Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson has recently started taking a different route with her wardrobe – choosing instead a secondhand suit for her election night appearance.
In the past few years, Instagram has become one of the best marketplaces for secondhand clothing. Independent resellers shop and sell thrifted goods to people wanting a sustainable option without the hassle of sorting through racks of clothing to find one-off pieces. The community of vintage resellers and op-shop stores on the social media site is always growing as more and more people utilise the free platform to make money.
Maria Richards (Ngā Puhi – Te Iringa Marae) and Shaye Straker (Taranaki, Ngā Māhanga-a-Tairi) are best friends from South Auckland who have recently joined that community with their page “Duo Drops” to share their love of shopping secondhand with people all across the country.
The pair run Duo Drops while also juggling other work and family life. They say it’s strange considering their Instagram page a “business”, because it was born from something both Richards and Straker consider a hobby: shopping secondhand.
“We’re both passionate and slightly addicted to shopping sustainable fashions. We just love that we can get unique, affordable fashions and it’s just so much fun hunting through stuff,” Richards tells The Spinoff.
In their eight weeks of business, the pair’s main focus has been styling one of New Zealand’s most well-known politicians: Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson. They sourced the power suit Davidson wore while giving her speech on election night, and dressed her for many television and media appearances. For Richards, it was a dream to work with Davidson on her campaign look.
“That was so empowering to see her go onto that stage so confidently… We wanted a power suit and we found that power suit, we found it on TradeMe.”
Davidson has been shopping at second hand clothing stores her whole life. She remembers being dragged along by her mum to sift through racks on the weekends, and has passed that on to her kids and her granddaughter.
“It’s been a way of life for me since childhood, it’s always been a thing for us and I’ve passed that on to my children and now my granddaughter, dressing her in op shop clothes. That’s always been an important part of my life.”
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Being conscious of her environmental footprint is something Davidson takes seriously, and shopping secondhand is one way she hopes to do less harm on the environment. As an MP, especially through the election season, Davidson wears a lot of different outfits – which usually tends to cost a lot of money.
“It always makes me feel a little bit better about how I’m treading on the earth if I’m not getting new things, and that’s not just clothing. I have a little bit of a sick in my stomach feeling when I think about going into shopping malls to buy things, so op shops help me to be a little bit kinder to the planet.
“I also don’t particularly want to prioritise spending thousands and thousands of dollars a year on a new wardrobe, so it is quite nice to know that, if I added it all up, I reckon in the last haul I probably saved thousands of dollars.”
Like many people, Davidson’s busy schedule means often it’s not possible to buy her wardrobe from op shops herself. It’s a time consuming task, explains Richards, which is why brands like Duo Drops can be so useful.
“It does take hours and it does take patience. You have to be able to put the work in. You can’t just walk into a shop and say ‘I want this, this, this and this,’ you have to dig through the haystack to find the diamond.”
While many secondhand clothing resellers on Instagram markup their items to almost full-price, the Duo Drops team have made a commitment to the wāhine they shop for, and Richards says it’s never been about the money.
She and Straker donate 10% of profits to charities like Women’s Refuge and have plans to help women reentering the workforce by donating clothing to “give them that confidence they need”.
The duo are also working on hosting their first second-hand styling session, like a Tupperware party – but fun. They have Stacey Morrison and Anika Moa on board to help drive the event and hope it becomes an entertaining girls’ night activity.
“We want to do styling parties, how you have hens parties or birthday parties, we just want to get the girls together. We’re working with Anika and Stacey to have our first styling party and get people together to go through the racks.”
Davidson’s talked to many other MPs about her new wardrobe, too. She says a lot of the Greens’ wāhine already shop secondhand, and she’s been surprised how many of her parliamentary colleagues have shared stories of the op-shop “diamonds” in their wardrobes.
“I think for Green MPs it’s something we’ve naturally done for some time, which probably isn’t news at all because it aligns with our philosophy. I’ve had conversations across all political parties… Tracey Martin, many Labour women have been avid op-shoppers and we’ve held onto that when we become ministers.”
Richards says both have their families to thank for support as they spend their spare time creating this business from scratch. They want to be able to take it full-time at some point, but until then are happy following their passion and getting sustainable clothing to people all over the country.
“It’s not easy to balance work and family life but we’ve rediscovered what life and passion feels like and if we could do this full time we would absolutely love to.
“We’re making sustainable fashion affordable to all wāhine. We’re about wāhine empowering other wāhine, if we can bring that joy to them that’s all we need.”