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Creating your identity

Removing her face piercings and pulling her dreadlocks into an ‘up do’ Peta Stephenson was transformed into the persona of trustworthy bank clerk.

At lunch with the Women’s Table recently Peta shared this early career insight into just how powerful how and what you wear can be to shaping your identity. Identity and how it is created has been integral to the twists and turns of her own career.  

Years after her foray into the world of banking Peta was an academic with a PhD and a succession of scholarships and grants that left her free from teaching to explore aspects of identity in award winning books such as The Outsiders Within and Islam Dreaming. 

Now having established both the Dress Code and the Penny Lane Clothing Exchange, she is a key player helping shape Sydney Road Brunswick in Victoria as a ‘thrifting destination’. Peta left academia feeling that though she excelled, she’d more than met the goals she’d set herself.

She wanted to utilise her love of clothes and understanding of style to create a business for the community with the community. She also wanted to challenge throw away fashion. She thinks of her business model as creating a curated collection of pre loved clothes and along the way saving good clothes from landfill. It also responds to the needs of the 99% of women who don't have time for eBay but want to say goodbye to great pieces they often still love but no longer wear.

Unsurprisingly given Peta’s academic background though she went into business with little experience or funds she did do her research.  Summing up her ethos as: 

Buy better, consume less, wear more

an inspiration is the Buffalo Exchange.  It began with one resale fashion shop in Arizona. Today it’s a major US chain showing what’s possible with a focus on social responsibility and sustainable profitability.

Sustaining profitability, Peta has also learned about the need to plan ahead, allowing for the all-important vagaries of cash flow. She’s also adjusted to the realisation that she can't close the door when doesn't feel chatty. She’s learned how to create balance with her own need for ‘alone time’.

Naturally she is still writing books – still about the creation of identity but also helping to promote her business and her message. For example Palette and Proportion: The Art of Dressing is available when you sign up for Peta’s newsletter Style matters.

by Meredith Carter

Co-convenor The Women’s Table

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