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.