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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Glastonbury Festival 2013: Good, Green Fun

It’s been a couple of weeks since Glastonbury ended but I’m still revelling in the positive energy. It’s just a happy place, like Never-Neverland but without the threat of pirates. It was my forth time at the festival, the first was 2007 – one of the wettest and muddiest on record yet still I had the time of my life. I wouldn’t put up with five days without showering anywhere else, but at Glastonbury I couldn’t care less. At Glastonbury anything goes, and for a few days you can just focus on pure, hedonistic fun.

View of the site on Thursday - slightly overcast

View of the site on Thursday – slightly overcast

As much as I don’t feel a need to justify blogging about such adventures, I will pull it back to the theme of my blog – its eco/green credentials. Clearly when 170,000 people descend on an area normally left as fields, it’s going to have some kind of impact, but Glastonbury has its roots in the free festival movement (some might say hippie) and as such remains committed to limiting negative effects on the environment wherever possible. After lazy campers left behind a bumper crop of tents in 2007 leading to the death of one of Michael Eavis’s cows after it ingested a metal tent-peg left in the soil, the Festival devised its ‘Love the Farm, Leave No Trace’ campaign. The campaign encourages and reminds revellers to respect the environment and clear up after themselves. New initiatives in 2008 included biodegradable tent pegs handed out free to all campers and biotractors running on waste vegetable oil. These new efforts were rewarded with The Greener Festival Award in 2008.

I borrowed my dad's 1987 camper van, not so eco-friendly I'm afraid

I borrowed my dad’s 1987 camper van, not so eco-friendly I’m afraid

This year, the festival organisers pushed hard for visitors to make use of public transport. Those who arrived by bike (as one of our crew did) had their own camping field complete with nice showers. And it wasn’t just the party-goers who were targeted; they also ran Green Trader’s Awards, commending traders for energy efficiency, ethical trade and sustainable food. Greenpeace used their presence at Glastonbury to highlight the plight of the Arctic. Sadly, I missed it but they had an Arctic Dome which offered people the opportunity to disappear through a crack in the ice and take a magical 15-minute trip to the North Pole, where ice towered and the Northern Lights danced, amazing! 4,000 people signed up to the ‘Save the Arctic’ campaign, the same one which had six female activists scale The Shard in London last week.

As always Oxfam had a strong presence at the festival, providing more than 2000 stewards who volunteered their time to help the smooth running of the event. The festival was the charity’s biggest opportunity of the summer to encourage people to show solidarity for the people of Syria who are suffering an unprecedented crisis. Oxfam asked visitors to show their support for the campaign by posing for photos sharing a heart symbol, wearing a badge, having their face painted and, most importantly, signing the charity’s petition. They collected 10,000 signatures over five days. They also had not one, but three Oxfam shops selling on manner of vintage clothes, accessories and fancy dress.

There’s so much to see at Glastonbury, you could never see it all. I had a fantastic time and was really sad to leave, but then I realised real-life is pretty awesome too and although Never-Neverland is great for a visit, I couldn’t live there forever, could I?

Not just about the music, we made candles!

Not just about the music, we made candles!

Me, still looking fairly clean

Me, still looking fairly clean

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Record Numbers Swap Clothes as Part of M&S and Oxfam’s Latest Shwopping Event


Swishing/swapping parties have taken off big time over the last couple of years. Giving the opportunity for people to swap clothes that they don’t wear for clothes that they do is a fab idea. It’s sustainable and quite often totally free (although some parties might charge an entry fee, often donated to charity). What’s more, if you took part in one of the recent Shwopping events by Marks and Spencer’s and Oxfam, you will have received a £5 M&S voucher, amazing!

The One Day Wardrobe Clear Out was held on Thursday 9th May and asked customers to help ease the landfill burden by bringing their unwanted clothes into M&S to swap for pieces donated by other customers. 435,000 used and unwanted items were shwopped over 12 hours – the equivalent of 604 items a minute.

The event, as part of M&S and Oxfam’s sustainable fashion initiative Shwopping, will see every item left donated go on to be re-sold or recycled by the charity, cutting waste and raising much-needed funds in its fight against global poverty. The record number of items shwopped will raise an estimated £504,600 for Oxfam.

Adam Elman, Head of Marks & Spencer’s Plan A Delivery, said:
“It’s amazing to see so many people taking part and shwopping their clothes to support Oxfam. 435,000 clothes donated is a fantastic achievement; this is by far the most successful clothes-recycling event we have ever had! It doesn’t stop here, with over 1 billion items sent to landfill each year in the UK, we hope that customers will continue to adopt a ‘buy one, give one back’ culture when they shop and help us to build a more sustainable future.”

Since its launch in April last year, Oxfam has received over 4.3 million items of clothing thanks to Shwopping, worth over £2.8 million for the charity. All money raised by Shwopping, fronted by Joanna Lumley, is used to support Oxfam’s projects around the world. Don’t forget to check out the Oxfam Fashion blog and remember you can shop for Oxfam pieces online.

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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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Donating Clothes to Charity has never been Easier

It has literally never been easier to donate unwanted clothes and accessories to charity. As well as the parade of charity shops on our local high street, there are donation banks at the supermarket, car parks and workplaces and well-known names are starting to take donations into their stores too.

This year’s ‘Give Up Clothes for Good’ campaign for example ran from 1st-30th April 2012 and asked people to drop off their unwanted quality clothing, accessories and homeware at their local TK Maxx store. All the stock was then sold in Cancer Research UK shops, raising an incredible total of £3.1 million for research into children’s cancers. Since 2004 the TKMaxx/Cancer Research partnership has raised over £13 million.

H&M did something similar stateside, but the story to gain most recent press attention is that of shwopping at M&S. M&S have put a huge amount of resources into a TV and print campaign with Joanna Lumley to advertise their shwopping scheme which is described on a press release as follows:

“All M&S clothing stores will now accept unwanted clothing of any brand, all year round. It’s a new, free service for customers aimed at creating a new ‘buy one, give one’ culture on the UK high street. Through Oxfam, the clothes will be resold, reused or recycled and the money raised will go to help people living in poverty. Not a single item will go to landfill and the ultimate aim for M&S is to recycle as many clothes as it sells – 350 million a year.”

I have no doubt that this is great PR for Oxfam, and for M&S for that matter, but I see publicity as the main outcome of this scheme. Who is going to traipse around town with a bag of unwanted clothing to drop off at M&S (which is big and busy and will probably require queuing) when the nearest charity shop is at the end of the street? And will M&S employees have a clue what to do with the items when they receive them? Perhaps TKMaxx is a good example that they will and I am being far too sceptical.

Any encouragement to develop a more robust second-hand culture where it is the norm to donate and reuse rather than throw away is clearly beneficial.

So how do customers shwop?

In stores, M&S customers will be invited to leave their old or unwanted clothes in specially designed ‘Shwop Drops’ (cardboard recycling boxes). There will be over 1,200 Shwop Drops across the UK (at least two per store) alongside till points. If customers would like to register their shwop they can follow the instructions on the box to text and enter into a monthly prize draw.

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