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Cowboy Chic & Oversized Denim: Thrift Shopping with Mallrat, Whose Motto is 'The Weirder The Better'

Mallrat
Photo Credit: Tash Bredhauer

Mallrat

"Probably 90 percent of my clothes are secondhand," says the Australian indie-pop artist.

"Growing up, my dad really liked flea markets and odd shops," says rising Australian pop artist Mallrat (real name: Grace Shaw) while sifting through loaded clothing racks at a thrift shop in the East Village. "He'd be looking at furniture and books, so I'd be bored and go off and look at the clothes. That's how it started."

The singer/songwriter/producer released her third EP, Driving Music, in September, and is now enjoying some downtime during a stateside trip. "When I was in school, I'd find really cheap things that I knew the girls in my grade would buy. This is when I started making music and was trying to get money for studio time," she laughs. "I'd buy shirts and dresses that were on-trend for four or five dollars and then resell them at lunch for 20 or 30 dollars. It was my little hustle."

Shaw continues to reflect on the early days of her thrifting obsession as she hits a few essential city shops like Buffalo Exchange and then No Relation, with a handful of unplanned stops in between. Her DJ and best friend Denim, who is from Queensland, Australia, also comes along for the ride, and picks out a perfectly oversized denim men's jacket within the first 10 minutes of the trip. The two met in Brisbane, where Denim went to school, and now the inseparable pair does everything together -- from dancing on stage to traveling the world.

"It's funny because we weren't that close and then one day Grace was like, 'Will you be my DJ?' And I was like, 'Yeah, sure.' Did not know what it meant," Denim explains. "Now we're like... the tightest best friends ever."

Because thrifting in the U.S. is a bit different from thrifting in Australia, according to Shaw and Denim, they always make sure to travel with a half-empty suitcase in anticipation of the secondhand goodies. "It's our main activity when we have a minute on tour. It's like we're either getting some yummy food or checking out the vintage stores. Probably 90 percent of my clothes are secondhand," Shaw says. "I told Denim I'm not allowed to buy any more straw bags. They're so inconvenient to travel with. Straw bags, suede fringed jackets, and trench coats. I have too many and can't justify getting more."

Shaw spies a lime green tweed skirt suit. "It's preppy. Like early 2000s. If it fits well, it could be a gamechanger." Unfortunately, it isn't the perfect fit, but Shaw isn't discouraged. She goes on to try several other outrageous items like oversized jackets (her "go-to"), double XL sports jerseys, cowboy boots, and a green fur beret. "I'm mostly drawn to oversized tees and hoodies and jackets. Or '70s dresses," she says. "I like anything cowgirl-y, Western. Rhinestone cowboy. That's the keyword."

Her most prized at the moment is the short pink dress with white and green flowers that she's currently wearing -- the same one she wears in the video for "Charlie," the single from Driving Music. "This is basically what I've been wearing for the last three weeks. On tour, I find one thing that is comfortable and just wear it for the whole month, which isn't good, but it's easier when you don't have enough space and you can't actually see all of the clothes crumpled up in your suitcase."

When it comes to the do's and don'ts of thrifting, Shaw advises shoppers to "go straight for the men's shirts and jackets" before hunting for dresses. She also says to "avoid women's blouses" because "they're never good"¦ but also I never wear them."

An eclectic mix of high-profile celebrities and their looks inspire her style, from the flashiness of Rihanna to the simple floral beauty of Lana Del Rey, as well as Kanye West, Cam'ron, Dennis Rodman and Rosalia. "I like it when people wear outrageous things. Even if it's not the coolest thing ever or doesn't necessarily look 'hot,' I appreciate when people just wear what they feel like wearing," she says. "And I take influences from everywhere and mash them all together. I think that's how I dress and also how I make music."

As she walks from one shop to the next, New York also comes up as a particularly inspiring source. "People make so much more of an effort here and it's really nice. There are so many different styles," she observes. "The way people dress in Australia is much more casual. I don't think they step out of their comfort zone very much. Maybe in Sydney and Melbourne they do, but in general, people just dress comfortably for the weather because it's so hot. It's good but it makes it scary to wear different things. I always find myself dressing down when I go home."

But on the road, she lives by one fashion rule: "The weirder the better," she says, laughing the entire way to the next stop.

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