In Conversation with Thrifting Expert Rosie Okotcha
If you haven’t heard of Rosie Okotcha yet- where have you been??
Rosie and I first met on a Beyond Retro ‘The Future of Fashion’ panel back in October 2022. She’s a model & sustainable fashion advocate with a platform dedicated to sharing educational resources, sustainable fashion inspo, and a weekly series called “Thrift with Me” Thursdays, dedicated to exploring different secondhand hotspots in London (and around the world).
Being a seasoned expert on London’s second-hand scene, we couldn’t think of a better person to go thrift shopping with around the city. Today, it was a charity shop battle between King’s Road in Chelsea vs. Streatham High Road. Read on to discover which place came out on top and how Rosie tracks down the best vintage finds.
Rating King’s Road a 7/10, Rosie shared that it’s a great place to find good quality branded vintage bits, however, the prices were quite high, even for London.
Streatham got a (winning) 8.5/10 mark. While you might have to do a little more digging, the pieces were cute, and at a much lower price-point, (even compared to the rest of London), making for a more authentic charity shopping experience.
There’s no better person to learn from than Rosie when delving into the second-hand market, so we sat down with her to ask some top-of-mind questions when it comes to making smart decisions when shopping second-hand.
Do you usually go secondhand shopping with a need-to-find agenda in mind or just hope to stumble on some treasures?
Rosie: I have an idea in my head of things I need or have wanted for an extended amount of time and try to stick to that. For example, I recently got a pair of little ballet flats. I'd been hunting for them for about 6 months (I know that sounds like ages!!), but I wasn’t desperate for them and I really enjoy the hunt for an item. When I finally found them in a little charity shop in the middle of nowhere, I told the lady at the till and she looked at me as if I was bonkers!
But the reason I waited so long is that it gave me time to decide if I really wanted them or was just being influenced by trends and social media. The pumps in question are a simple black ballet flat with a heel. I had wanted Repetto ballet flats and ended up finding some never-worn Clarks pumps that were identical! So to me, there is something extremely satisfying about having a list of things and setting out on a mission to source them second-hand!
What are 3 things you look out for when second-hand shopping?
- Fabrics - particularly silk or cashmere.
- Vintage brands - for example, the old M&S label, St Michaels has some incredible quality pieces.
- Lingerie - I always check the lingerie and sleep section as you can find corsets and slip dresses.
What are 3 things you absolutely don't compromise on when deciding whether to buy something?
- Quality/durability: To me, there is no point in buying something if I know it’s going to disintegrate after a couple of washes.
- Ultra Fast Fashion: This comes hand in hand with the quality, yet, it also has to do with the fibres and chemicals used by many ultra-fast fashion brands that I wouldn’t want on my skin.
- I'm not sure about a third thing because I don't mind buying things that have a little damage if I know I can easily repair them or items that aren’t my size as I can have them tailored.
How do you decide whether or not to get a piece you weren't necessarily looking for but caught your eye?
None of us are perfect, and this is definitely where I'm still growing in my sustainable fashion journey. The rules I try to go by are:
- I will never find it again (maybe it’s a handmade garment or a rare vintage piece).
- Does it make me feel powerful, and can I see myself loving and cherishing it in 20 years?
What are 3 of your favourite second-hand pieces which you've thrifted?
I got a stunning long sleeve floor-length Save the Queen dress that I wore for my graduation, and I feel like an effing princess whenever I wear it. It's an absolute work of art.
The most incredible white silk dress that I think was either a wedding or prom dress from the 80s. It has tiny white silk buttons up the front and along the sleeves — it's so delicate and pretty.
Red leather jacket — this one is hard to describe but looks like something straight out of the 70s (Daisy Jones and The Six Vibes). I got it in a charity shop when I was about 14 and have been obsessed with it ever since!