Adelaide’s once-thriving community of art and fashion markets has begun to make its post-pandemic comeback. For Young Street fashion exchange The Commons, it comes with a renewed emphasis on buying thoughtfully and locally.
“We started to scale things back unanimously with our neighbours Twenty Fifty-Two and Transition Records in late March – before things really shut down, but we were suffering on this end of town in terms of foot traffic,” Emily Sheahan says of her Young Street fashion exchange and retail space The Commons.
“We decided to just go solely online, and we had a great response – the community really rallied around us, and so did international sales which was kind of nice.”
With a curated selection of second-hand items and an emphasis on conversations about sustainability in fashion, Sheahan was pleasantly surprised by the online uptick even amidst wider economic upheaval. It’s something the Slow Fashion Festival co-founder thinks reflects how some consumers have been using lockdown as an opportunity to invest more time and thought into what they purchase.
“It’s tricky because I deal specifically in second hand, but I noticed a rise,” she says. “I think it definitely had a big impact; there are some people where financially it was a bit hard, but with the stimulus I think people have been choosing to make more conscious decisions about what they buy.
“People are looking for alternatives; with social distancing they weren’t just walking into Target and getting something for 20 bucks. Given that extra time they might have had behind the computer to look something up, chances are they’ve gone to the ‘About’ page, and learned more about the product.”
“Coming back into it, it’s been quite a gradual and slow process which I think we’ve really enjoyed,” she says of reopening The Commons’ physical shopfront. “[On coming back] we’ve been able to reflect on our approach to business; we’ve had a reduction in our hours, and we decided to do this little market as a way to encourage and invite a few of the artists and collaborators around town [into the space].”
With producers ranging from artist and jewellery maker Olivia Kathigitis and artisan shoemaker DONE by Matea to local leatherworks Stuff by Glad, Sheahan’s first pop up market promises an eclectic collection of local creators.
“I think it’s quite a mix; I really reached out to artists without anything specific [in mind]. It’s a chance to make a bit of money, and have some face time with the public given everything that’s going on.
“There’s been a big push with the food and wine industry here, but I feel like these guys get left out. It was also a chance for us to go quite broad; I know Olivia Kathigitis is doing not just her jewellery but a wide variety of art she made over the COVID period. Mineral Tufts are doing everything from ceramics to clothing, it’s a real mix.”
While South Australia’s COVID-19 outlook is currently looking optimistic, with the rising interstate caseload Sheahan is committed to ensuring the market caters to everyone’s level of post-lockdown comfort – including encouraging the wearing of masks.
“It varies – you have to be respectful of all peoples’ stages,” she says of easing customers back into physical retail spaces. “It would be silly to assume that now we’ve come out the back end everyone will be eager to try everything on. I think it’s just about taking it on a case by case basis, reading people’s personality, their behaviour and body language.
“For the most part, people just want a safer space to be in, and if you respect that distance and privacy, they’re going to have an enjoyable time. We’ve put in measures like face masks, and sanitiser at the door to encourage that safer kind of thinking.”
Header and Acne Studios images: Jack Fenby
Olivia Kathigitis image: Sia Duff
*This content was originally posted on The Adelaide Review and has been republished with permission.