Nestled neatly along Thornbury’s busy high street lies a peachy perfect treasure trove of vintage fashion. Yarn Yarns was founded by Katherine Cotton and Sophie Woolley, who just so happened to have the perfect last names to start a fashion business. Strangely enough, the girls discovered that Katherines great great great Grandfather had actually met and been photographed by one of Sophie’s relatives! Small world hey?
The pair have filled Yarn Yarns with a carefully chosen collection of vintage and second-hand fashion available for sale and rent. It’s one of those shops where you know you’re going to find something special and even a few pieces from their own wardrobes are available in store! I picked up Katherine’s blue and white striped jumpsuit to try on (loved it, obviously) without knowing it was hers and played dress up in the shop all afternoon.
Unless you’ve had your head in the sand for a while you are probably aware that fast fashion and consumption, in general, is getting out of hand. We buy 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year which is 400% more than the amount we consumed just two decades ago. Plus, considering our global population is fast approaching 8 billion, this means we are producing 900% more garments each year than there are humans on this planet. To make matters worse, Australians have apparently started to consider fashion disposable, with four out of 10 people surveyed by YouGov saying they had put unwanted fashion items in the bin, rather than trying to repair or recycle them. Even if they had donated them, we now know that charities have to spend staggering amounts of money each year to send our clothing to landfill because we are giving them too many items and they can’t sell them even if they are in fine condition. Why are we consuming this much? Why are we wasting this much? How the heck are we going to stop it?
Well, Cotton and Woolley have a plan to help. Yarn Yarns chooses to stock secondhand rather than new to save beautiful pieces from ending up in landfill. Plus it gives them an excuse to go op-shopping, which is always fun! They also choose to offer clothes for rent so that customers get a chance to wear special clothing for an event that they may never need to wear again. No more guiltily stashing that once-worn dress in the back of your closet, simply return it to the shop and know that someone else will get to enjoy it too. Plus you paid a fraction of the actual cost to buy it, score!
“In the spirit of rekindling old habits, we want to reverse fast fashion by extending the clothing life cycle of every garment. Each rental garment comes with a little story the owner has with it that doesn’t just make for great conversation, but a way to build a deeper connection to the things we wear.”
While I had fun trying on outfit after outfit, I asked the team a few questions to find out more about the shop…
I am always interested in the story behind brand names…So to kick off, where does ’Yarn Yarns’ come from?
Yarn is spun thread usually made up of Cotton and Wool (like our names!) and yarns is a colloquial word for stories. We thought of this name because we initially started a blog where we told the stories behind clothing in order to build a deeper connection with the garment and extend its lifecycle. The history behind clothing is something we are really interested in and we plan on developing this side of Yarn Yarns in the future.
What inspired you both to open a vintage rental shop?
We have both worked in fashion retail for many years and it has always been a dream of Cotton’s to have a vintage clothing store. We were inspired to develop the rental side after writing the blog and realising how many people were deeply connected to garments, were unable to part with them permanently but were happy to share them around. We thought that Yarn Yarns could facilitate sharing these garments and it was a beautiful way of developing their stories and lifecycles even further.
How old are most of your renters and what are the events they rent for?
We get people aged between 20 and 60 shopping at Yarn Yarns. People tend to mostly hire for festivals and weddings, with those aged between 20 and 30, hiring for festivals and then 30+ more frequently hire for weddings.
Since some of the clothing is your own, is it odd to see other people wear it?
We love seeing other people wearing our clothes. People wear clothes so differently, the garment seems to transform to suit the wearers’ personalities.
What happens if a rented item is damaged?
We take a security deposit so if a item is damaged we will take money from that deposit to repair/replace it. So far everyone has been great and there has been no problems.
Is there much interest in men’s rental clothing?
We have had a few men enquire about renting clothing but there hasn’t been a lot of interest so far. It is something we would be willing to explore in the future.
What are a couple of your favourite pieces for rent/buy?
Cotton: My pink jumpsuit. It is the kind of garment you wear to the most fun occasions and it is impossible to have a bad time in it.
Woolley: I love the Aqua Sequinned Gown, anything sequinned I love, and this piece is really unique and will transform you into a mermaid goddess.
I saw a ‘Sellers’ section is coming soon to your website…
What can we expect to find?
This is very far into the future as we are still working on it but we hope to one day have a marketplace where people can set up their own profiles and sell/put up for hire their own garments and deal with customers directly rather than go through us.
What fashion era would you most love to live in and why?
Cotton: I love clothing from the 1920s because it was a very progressive era for women’s fashion, indicative of how society was moving towards women’s independence. Women started rebelling and wearing trousers and for the first time they were not forced to wear restrictive corsets.
Woolley: I would have to say the late 60’s and early 70’s. I love print and colour and how they accessorise. I also love the hair and makeup of this era.
Where would you like to see Yarn Yarns in 5 years time?
Cotton: At the moment the buying side is still more popular than renting but I would love people to see the benefit of hiring and for more people to choose to rent over buying. We would also like to develop the storytelling side and for each garment to have a bunch of stories from when people hired the garment. We also hope that further down the track we will have the marketplace on the website set up so that people can sell or hire out directly to customers.
Woolley: Pretty much everything Cotton said but also to get men’s clothing, which we mentioned earlier.
Yarn Yarns has an awesome online store where you can buy and rent online across Australia, plus you can hire clothing ahead of time for specific dates, so you can guarantee your favourite outfit for a special event.
Have you ever tried renting clothes? I for one am keeping my fingers crossed for a red carpet invitation… or maybe just a baby shower? Who needs an excuse to wear a sequin aqua dress anyway?