The closure of shops has hit Dublin culture – hard. Small businesses and events that relied on footfall have been left in the dark. Sustainable fashion was already fighting a Goliath in the (factory cut) form of fast fashion brands, but flea markets and thrift shopping have gained huge popularity and give a vital platform for local designers and artisans.
Sustainable Fashion Dublin is at the forefront of this fight against fast fashion, using its Instagram page to promote ways to enjoy fashion sustainably – from repair tricks and workshops to guidelines on how to recycle properly. In normal times, Taz Kelleher and Geraldine Carton – the pair behind the initiative – host a regular flea market in Workman’s Club, selling the wares of independent local creatives.
But now, with the country in de facto lockdown, that’s all changed. Carton tells me that “when all this kicked off it was a bit like a slap of a wet fish in the face”. She adds that “we really felt downtrodden and were really concerned that all our hard work was lost. You can imagine an events based company is surely going to go under if no events can take place. We decided to take the perspective of being opportunistic and positive and seeing what we could do”.
They have not let the closure of shops prevent their sustainable fashion fight, adapting to the change by hosting their very own virtual flea market. The market is based within their Instagram stories, allowing shoppers to peruse and thrift from the comfort of their beds.
The story will be up on Sustainable Fashion Dublin’s Instagram every Saturday, with links to different “stalls”. Each stall has a short description of the owner and how they began creating their pieces, as well as pictures of their creations. Swipe-up links take you to the Depop or online retail platform for each stall.
“We have over 25 artisan producers and local independent retailers and even just young people selling on Depop”, Carton says, “so it’s all engaging either the sustainable economy or the circular economy”.
Kelleher and Carton say it is a “one-stop shop for those amongst us who miss the delights and discoveries that flea-markets bring”, adding that “the aim is to support the local businesses who are trying to stay afloat in these troubled-water times, and highlight the brilliant talent and creatives from all around the country”.
The online nature of the market allows the creators to host it virtually every Saturday for the foreseeable, socially isolated, future. Vendors also come from all parts of Ireland, as opposed to only Dublin-based vendors. According to Carton, they still closely curate the virtual market to make sure they have the “best of the best”.
They plan to showcase stalls from different areas of Ireland each Saturday – one of the benefits of no longer having to occupy a physical space for their market. Hand-crafted clothes, bags, homeware and jewellery are all available.
For anyone who has taken up a creative pursuit during isolation, this is the perfect opportunity to start raising awareness for your designs and could be the start of a small business venture, especially if you have previously been intimidated by the prospect of selling them in a physical market. Carton wants to encourage new vendors, particularly young sellers on Depop: “We have a mixture of new people and people who have already sold at our flea markets, which is so exciting. There is just so much creativity around Ireland right now and we are delighted to be able to support it.”
The closure of shops has left a huge hole in many people’s lives. Just wandering through markets and stalls on a Saturday morning brings joy to many of our lives, and seeing creations made with love and care by individuals is a form of retail therapy that does not have to feed the fast fashion machine.
Many may feel lost without this, and perhaps turn to scrolling through ASOS in the hope to find some entertainment in the long days of social isolation. But the virtual flea market is a great way to continue to explore and support the work of Irish designers without falling into unsustainable and environmentally harmful practices.