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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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 Haberdashery for Sewing Sorts


Yesterday we had an Oxfam fashion bloggers meet up at their PR agency in London. It was a great chance to meet the other Oxfam fashion bloggers and discuss ideas and features for the fashion blog. I am a bit different in that I don’t keep a personal style blog – my personal blog here is more academically research related or linked to ethical fashion and consumption, and the ClothesUK blog is general fashion news and style advice. The other bloggers do lots of exciting posts about upcycling and charity shop finds. Having said that, I did recently have a go at making a machine embroidered Valentine’s Day card for a blog post for tinygreenmom.com.

It is always nice to get the sewing machine out when I have time and if you are the creative sewing sort you should be aware of Oxfam’s growing haberdashery range. I got to see some of the new spring products at yesterday’s meeting which you can see in the photograph. For Christmas I actually got a couple of bits from Oxfam, a retro themed tin of pins, a collection of patchwork fabric swatches and a cute needle book. You can delve into Oxfam’s haberdashery range online or in stores. They have needle books, bags of buttons, transfers, applique patches and more.

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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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