Sunday, July 25, 2010

The indie/mainstream dichotomy

I'm on the train and there's a group of five teenage girls. Three of them are dressed almost identically – ankle boots, black semi-opaque tights, short graphic print dresses and hooded faux-leather jackets. It's scary and I'm suddenly very glad of my flats, footless tights, skirt and collared velvet jacket, even if it's only because I'm going to work.

I wonder how much the girls paid for their outfits – they look the type who'd be sporting plastic bags stuffed full of loot from Supre, Dotti or Cotton On. These days even those tweenie shops charge at least $30 for pieces. Those jackets were probably a lot more. So we're looking at minimum $100 each – to look exactly the same. The only things in my outfit that are new are my shoes – paid for with work discount – footless tights, and basic black shirt. The skirt and jacket were both from an op shop and under $10. I'm wearing a necklace, an explosion of pink quartz chips on fishing line, which I borrowed from my mother since the skirt is the only thing I own with pink in it. Smart casual, and not slavishly trendy, for almost literally half the price those girls paid. Oh, wow... another girl just got on the train and sat next to that group. She is wearing the exact same sunglasses as two of the other girls. If I didn't know any better, I would have assumed she was a part of their circle!

I'm not sure that I'll ever really understand the appeal of big-name labels or brands. Give me a beautiful, unique op shop find every time – you can even find brand name things in there, a little worn maybe but for a much more reasonable price. Or point me towards an indie shop where the prices reflect creativity, hard work and passion; not corporate greed, fluorescent lights and subversive ads in magazines, telling you you're not going to be pretty enough unless you drop dollars on the latest fads.

The funniest thing about all this is where I work now, why I'm all dressed up and made-up. I work in a brand name leathergoods shop, where people spend more than my weekly paycheck on a handbag! It's no surprise to me that my favourites in the shop aren't leather at all, they're made of recycled industrial seatbelt webbing. It's one of the few Australian-designed products that we carry. The pieces are hand-made, unique, practical and beautiful. They're not the cheapest items in the shop, but to me the price is far more justified. There are bags marked down to $150 on the company's web site – more than I've ever paid for clothing in my life, but it's a product I know I can live with, both in terms of using and in terms of ethos.

I want to write – that will be my career. However, it takes either explosive success or years of hard work before one can make a substantial living – financially – off writing. So I have to think about jobs I'd like to do in the meantime. I've done hospitality, I've done retail, I've dabbled in admin – but the job I'd love to do, into and even beyond my writing career, is one I might never be able to. I respect indie creations so much, but I don't have the time or talent to start my own business. It's just not something I'd be able to make a proper job out of. But what I would love to be able to do is to help an Aussie creator. I could do the pesky paperwork and customer service things, while they created and produced. I'm good with tasks – inventory, orders, answering emails, packaging and mailing. It's a very time-consuming part of the indie selling business, we all know that. To help out in that way would be very gratifying for me.

Maybe one day. For now I'll just have to content myself with saving up for more delightful Etsy finds, and hunting for Aussie shops like Inner Earth Soaps and Eccentric Cosmetic.


  1. Heehee, people like that make me giggle. I'm not going to act like I'm some superior indie clothes shopper or something, because I'm not. I shop at Old Navy and Aeropostale and American Eagle like pretty much every other 18 year old girl around here... but I do buy probably 80% of my clothes from the amazing used clothes store in town. I love getting the same stuff everybody else has for 1/3 of the cost :D Clothes are something I am extremely cheap about, especially now with my changing weight so rapidly, I'm not going to shell out lots of cash for something that might not fit in a couple months.

    I feel the same way about wanting to assist an indie company! Ever having my own would be so cool, I have the time but no talent, lol. I always think it would be so cool to work with the places I buy from and help with packing and CS and stuff.

  2. This is like the story of my uni life :| I dont understand why people would pay so much just to look the same. Then again, clothes have never really been my thing, so maybe that's why I don't get it (I'm a tacky cartoon bag and shoes and makeup girl ;D)

    I feel the exact same way as you about indie creations and wanting to work for an indie company. I'd love to have my own indie makeup line, but frankly I'm not very creative and other people just do it so much better :) ironically though, I've decided that I wouldn't mind working at a large cosmetics company once I graduate uni :|


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