One man’s trash is another man’s treasure – a saying that Durban North fashionista Vanessa Osterroht has turned into her sustainable shopping motto. Now, she has taken it one step further by turning her recycled fashion passion into a side hustle that will update your wardrobe and help out a stranger all in the name of Poppin Tags.
We pinned 2020 as the year of vision. Instead, it became the year of the virus. Bucket-list travel plans – cancelled. Getting that promotion – denied. Saying “I do” surrounded by your closest – postponed. Besides robbing us of our freedom, Covid-19 also killed businesses – big and small – and forced people into dark places. We have had to reinvent ourselves to survive, start a side hustle to pay the bills or turn the pocket-money maker into the bread and butter winner.
After seeing first-hand how businesses and people were struggling during lockdown, Vanessa realised that relying on her corporate day job was not secure enough. She saw a gap in the shopping industry and knew her thrifting hobby could be the answer. “Who can afford clothes nowadays? Seriously?! I started thrifting a while ago and now, pretty much my whole wardrobe is thrifted! I love a good deal, especially when it is high quality, niche items that you won’t find anywhere else. Thrifting is life and I want to share that!”.
Noticing that other thrift stores were upping their prices too much, she took a leap of faith and started her own feel-good start-up business called Poppin’ Tags in July. “I was inspired by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ hit song Thrift Shop. I had this vision of me wearing a big fur coat – not that I could wear fur because I love animals – being this cool pimp of a thrift shop, poppin’ tags all day long,” laughs the 30-something, bubbly blonde. She has taken savvy shopping to the next level by buying gently-worn clothes from overseas and selling it for a fraction of the usual retail price on her Insta shop. “I basically buy a massive lucky packet and have no idea what is in it. When I’m done with my day job, I come into my little shop room, blast some French jazz and unpack all the clothes. My evenings are spent sorting, washing, steaming and uploading the newest items on Insta.”
Her clothes range from cute Mango tops to gorgeous Burberry cardigans and soon-to-arrive summer dresses. Pants, however, are a total no-no. “I have a golden rule – if it’s been on your bottom, it is rotten!”
And for each item you buy, you get a free one to donate. “I am very serious about quality and super straightforward about what condition the clothes are in, because I have felt conned before. The items I don’t feel comfortable selling go to the donation side. When you buy an item, you get your biodegradable baggie to take home and enjoy and you get a second one to donate to anyone who crosses your path. You don’t know what is in there and it is not for you to open.”
First-time shoppers are generally quite surprised by this novel idea and even feel rather startled. “Lauren Ginn, for example, is one of the ladies who randomly came through to buy a top one day. I gave her a second baggie and she was confused. At that moment, there was a mama going through the rubbish across the road and I suggested that she give the baggie to her. She did and it was such a happy moment. She put up this amazing post on social media and just blew me up out of the water. I owe a lot to her!”
Giving people the opportunity to share in these tough times is what makes Vanessa’s day. “I wanted to change people’s mindsets and it has taken off incredibly well. It has created something that is way bigger than me, it is a movement. Being able to pay it forward to a stranger and spread that sense of a community that cares is so healthy in these times.” Feeling part of that local love network is a newly discovered feeling for Vanessa and one that she intends to grow. “As awful and destructive as this lockdown has been, it has brought back a sense of community. People are hustling. They have to and it is bringing us closer. We are getting to know our neighbours and we are supporting each other. We are bringing back that village living feel. Starting Poppin Tags has made me support locals’ small businesses and I love it! The whole shift has been violently rewarding.”
Details: Instagram: @poppin_tags031
Text: Elana Wagner