Oxfam Posts: Three Key Reasons for Second-Hand Shopping

Clothes rail

For my last three blog posts for Oxfam Fashion I looked at why we might choose to buy second-hand clothes and accessories. Reasons and motives are more complex than you might first think and vary depending on an individual’s priorities and circumstances. I used an academic study as my basis and fed in elements of my own research (I should write a PhD update at some point). I then pulled the reasons into three key points:

Buying clothes second-hand (with a focus of charity shopping):
Saves money
Is more ethical/sustainable
Is fun!

If you want to read more about these reasons click on the links above to the respective posts. I’m always keen to hear about why people choose to buy things second-hand and what you buy, so let me know by leaving a comment or tweeting me @EmsWaight

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Oxfam Fashion at the London Mela

The London Mela was a free family festival held in Gunnersbury Park last weekend, on Sunday 1st September. ‘A celebration inspired by South Asian Culture’, there was plenty going on, including music, arts, dance and loads of food. BBC Asian Network partnered with London Mela for the 8th successive year hosting a spectacular line up on the Main Stage. Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation were the two charity partners. I went along with Oxfam Fashion who put on an amazing fashion show for the Mela crowds.

So much work went into prepping for the fashion show. The show was led by designer Neishaa Gharat with the aim of showcasing the amazing clothes that Oxfam has to offer and show how great outfits can be built with second-hand finds. Neishaa visited Oxfam’s Batley warehouse and picked the pieces she felt had the most potential, and the Oxfam team helped to prep garments at the sorting warehouse in Milton Keynes (check out the sneak peak of the sorting warehouse on I Want You to Know). She came up with about 100 outfits which had to be whittled down for the Mela show, plus she showcased her own gorgeous designs. Neishaa had some helpers too – see Catherine’s @DesignsInDenim guest post for Oxfam.

The show ran three times during the Mela, and each show had eight scenes or looks, so it was frantic backstage helping the models with their quick changes. I was put in charge of the ‘Fash Phone’ for the day and tweeting pics to Oxfam’s lovely followers. It was also great to catch up with Oxfam’s marketing co-ordinator Kelly, @crazyscissorgal Teresa, and to meet Oxfam’s fashion assistant Helen after many months of emailing and tweeting!

The Neishaa Gharat for Oxfam collection is available to buy online, do take a look. Here are a few pics of the day.

Running order for the show

Running order for the show

Outfits ready

Outfits ready

In make-up

In make-up

On the catwalk

On the catwalk

Did you know? Melas originate from the Indian sub-continent. The word Mela comes from the sanskrit “to meet” and is related to “milana” the verb to tune. It is commonly used to describe a large gathering of people celebrating artistic, religious or political events –like a festival!

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Fashion Books and Second-hand Kids Clothes

Here are my two latest Oxfam Fashion blog posts.


I was inspired to write about second-hand fashion and textile books after finding St CYR Vintage in Camden Stables Market when hunting for London’s best vintage shops. Alongside a beautiful range of vintage clothes they have hundreds of second-hand fashion and textiles books, well worth a look. It was also an opportunity to show off my scrummy 1930s needlecraft book. Take a look at the blog post here.

My July post was closely related to my PhD topic – the sale of second-hand baby clothes, toys and equipment. For the Oxfam post I didn’t go too deeply into the things that I am exploring for the PhD but I will be looking at mother’s emotional attachment to baby things and how the material harbours identities of women as mothers, allowing them to strengthen their role as nurturer and provider. Does consumption aid women’s transition to motherhood? The NCT nearly new sales that I am using as a case study provide a great opportunity to buy and sell second-hand baby things. There will be autumn/winter sales running across the country during October and November.

My sister, nephew and niece feature in this post! Like a kid in a charity shop.

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Oxfam’s Big Bra Hunt Urges Women to Sort through their Undie Drawer

Research by Oxfam found that women are hoarding £1.2bn worth of unworn bras in their lingerie drawer. The charity found that the average woman has nine bras, of which a third are unused. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, partly because we don’t know what to do with them when they become unwearable. I myself am guilty of not knowing whether a charity shop would take old bras, but it seems they do and not only do they take them, Oxfam are actively seeking them.

During the month of April, Oxfam have launched the Big Bra Hunt. The Big Bra Hunt is a new campaign to get women up and down the country to donate their old bras. It is supported by celebs Helen Mirren, Zoe Ball and Miquita Oliver and launched on the first Sunday of the month at Spitalfields market.

When you donate bras to Oxfam, many will be sold in Oxfam UK high street stores and others will be sent to Frip Ethique (meaning ‘ethical second-hand clothing’), a unique project run by Oxfam in Senegal. Frip Ethique trades Oxfam UK’s unsold second-hand clothing and provides employment for local people. As bras are so complex to manufacture, they are highly sought after in West African second-hand clothing markets.

For those who want to arrange a group collection with their friends, there is a collector’s kit available complete with invitations and party ideas. For discreet individuals with only one or two bras to give, you can download a freepost label and post them directly to Oxfam’s recycling facility, Wastesaver, to be sent straight to Senegal.

Also as part of the ongoing M&S and Oxfam Clothes Exchange, bra hunters who donate an M&S bra (still the nation’s favourite) to their local Oxfam shop will receive a voucher worth £5 off a £35 spend on clothing, home and beauty at M&S stores and online. Visit www.oxfam.org.uk/bras to find out more about how to donate.

Photo credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith

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Oxfam Fashion Interview: The Future of Vintage Fashion

Whether or not you call it a trend, vintage fashion has clearly made a resurgence over the last few years. Of course there are the vintage trends on the high street, but more and more people are actually choosing to seek out the real thing second-hand. This is of course sustainable, encouraging the principles of recycle, make do and mend. Oxfam have done a fantastic job at making vintage fashions cool again, far more so than any other charity shop. They regularly take their second-hand pop-up shops to festivals and events, as I saw first hand when I went to the Clothes Show with them last December. To find out more I spoke to Thea of the Oxfam Fashion team:

1. Do you think vintage fashion is a passing trend or a permanent shift in people’s shopping habits?

The good thing about vintage is that it is effectively never out of style, although vintage trends can often change according with what is ‘in vogue’. For instance the collections of Gucci, Miu Miu, and Jonathan Saunders for A/W 11 heavily referenced the 1940’s and 1960’s. Go back a couple of years ago in 2006, however, and Alexander McQueen was referencing Nineteenth Century bodice jackets, whilst Marc by Marc Jacobs played with both twenties and sixties silhouettes.

Moving away from high design onto the high street, the pattern of consuming second-hand and vintage items is certainly widespread. Looking at vogue.co.uk’s street style section, a majority of those stopped wear a mix of high street and vintage or second-hand to create their unique looks.

In my opinion, fashion almost always plunders previous era’s for inspiration, but the high street also relies on vintage trends to create their collections and encourage buyers to invest in particular era’s according to the trends of the season.

Whilst popular vintage trends certainly affect people’s shopping habits and the acquisition of certain items, vintage clothes themselves retain a certain wearability, as they can be stored, passed down through generations, and re-worn at a later date. This is why I believe that vintage will not loose its desirability or its place in people’s shopping habits.

2. Do you think there has been a shift in consumer’s perceptions of charity shops and wearing second-hand pieces?

A recent survey produced by Charity finance which highlights that profits in the charity retail sector have risen by 12% (the third consecutive year charity shops have reported a rise in profit in this survey), suggests that consumer perceptions to charity shops are certainly changing. Whilst some may point to the recession to this rise, it is also my belief that it is not just austerity which drives people to charity shops. Charity shops are certainly upping the ante when it comes to changing the face of second-hand clothing, and I believe that the creativeness enacted by the charity sector in creating specialist stores, (such as the Oxfam and the Red Cross Boutiques, and the Oxfam shops at festivals) are examples of presenting second-hand clothing in an attractive way in order to persuade previously disinterested shoppers into charity shops.

3. Does Oxfam fashion have any exciting plans for 2012?

Oxfam Fashion is currently working on a number of exciting projects. We are also really looking forward to Oxfam’s Clothing Conference where we will hear talks from Frip Ethique, and learn more about what happens to our clothing beyond the charity shop. London Fashion week, International Women’s Day, and Fairtrade Fortnight, are also all things we will be involved in, and look forward to! To learn more see @oxfamfashion where we keep our followers updated on all our goings-on!

Follow the Oxfam Fashion blog: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/applications/blogs/fashion/

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