A passion for sustainable fashion
Edwina Robinson, 11 July 2016
Organic cotton. Photo: Wikipedia.
For many Canberra women, Rebekah Griffiths of Material Pleasures is an institution.
Rebekah began selling second hand clothes at Gorman House markets 30 years ago. Since then she’s been a regular at the Old Bus Depot Markets, the ANU, Folk Festival and Hustle and Scout Twilight fashion market.
When asked how it started, Rebekah quips that she has a “love of thrift and hate of waste” and that she has a passion for recycling and can’t throw anything out.
She used to source second hand clothes from op shops throughout the southern states of Australia. As her business expanded so did her vehicles. Eventually she needed a truck.
In the early stages, Rebekah salvaged unwanted clothing from the Mugga Lane tip before it was privatised. You can still find her on weekends scouring the Trash and Treasure markets in Woden and Belconnen.
‘I have a love of thrift and a hate of waste. I love recycling and can’t throw anything out.’
Today the focus is on choosing second hand designer labels for customers with a focus on quality fabrics. Rebekah favours natural materials like silk, wool, linen and cashmere. She only chooses synthetic garment with aesthetic merit that are not mass produced.
Crocheted top in maroon and lime. Photo: Material Pleasures.
As well as laundering garments prior to display staff make small alterations, like repairing tears, shortening hems, modifying extreme shoulder pads and replacing buttons. Rebekah claims ‘nobody under 30 can sew a button anymore’!
As well as having a wide range of women’s fashion, Material Pleasures stock a small selection of menswear but Rebekah says it’s harder to source men’s second hand clothes. They also offer reused jewellery, bags, scarves and shoes.
The business has grown to nine staff and a spacious shopfront in Barrier St Fyshwick replete with an edible garden. After 30 years selling quality clothes to women in Canberra, Rebekah plans to be around a while longer - she’s just signed a 10 year lease on her premises. When asked about the future she muses that her 8 year old daughter may one day take over her role.
Rebekah Griffiths (back left) with her staff inside the store. Photo: Material Pleasures.
After their seasonal sales, often micro-sized garments remain unsold. These are shipped off to charities in countries, like Indonesia.