Vintage Shopper

Treasure Secrets Of Charity Shop Chic


Charity shops are mushrooming. The Mirror recently reported that “austerity Britain has triggered a 30 per cent surge in the number of high street charity shops in just five years. One town has as many as 12 in a single parade and another has 10 within 400 feet.” The article warns fears of charity clone towns, with many townsfolk worried that their spread is having a negative effect on high streets. Will Thomas of Eccount Money says ‘boo’ to that, “charity shops might not look pretty but it means that shop units are open, they keep footfall up in town centers. It’s a symptom of a depressed economy and it’s what people need right now, not in least of course, they help the charities that run the stores.”

Bargain-hunters have always known the joy of a good rummage – and the thrift store is ideal if you like to buy clothes, handbags, ornaments and accessories beyond what the High Street dictates is in season. And there’s an extra reason to head to the bargain rails now – you could find fashion gold.

Charity Shop

Treasure Trove

This autumn, “Tatler has plotted with the fashion elite to donate some top designs to Cancer Research UK shops across the UK.” The Tatler Treasure hunt offers budding bounty hunters the chance to find designer goods hidden in Cancer Research UK shops around the south east. Designers including Chanel, Prada and Jimmy Choo will each donate one piece per season – over the next three seasons – to the hunt, as an enticement to get people exploring their nearest store. Handbags, clothes, scarves and shoes will be dropped off at random and sold for a fraction of their price alongside goods donated by the public.

The lifestyle magazine announced: “Did you ever do a treasure hunt when you were younger? Remember the thrill of the trail and the trove of treats at the end? Now’s your chance to look for real treasure around the country and by ‘real treasure’ we mean designer items SO stunning they’ll make you swoon. Products will be dropped off at random and will be hidden alongside the other items so you will have to be on the ball (last time we checked, there was no limit to how many times you visited a Cancer Research UK shop).”

Other designers and designer brands contributing pieces from their new collections include Alberta Ferretti, Alexander McQueen, Anya Hindmarch, Belstaff, Bulgari, Burberry, Carolina Herrera, Christian Louboutin, Fendi, Matthew Williamson, Mulberry, Paul Smith, Ralph Lauren, Roland Mouret, Rupert Sanderson, Stella McCartney, Temperley and many more.

Kate Reardon, editor of Tatler, says: “It’s ALWAYS worthwhile popping in – you might just find something spectacular!”

A Great Vintage

Oxfam in Amersham recently had a designer windfall with an anonymous donation of more than 200 pairs of designer shoes and more than 300 items of vintage and designer clothing. Shop manager Linda Smith said, “I did the window of designer shoes and they literally flew out…this is just an amazing thing to have happened. There are some lovely jumpers and my favorite is a beautiful taupe coat with faux fur trip. It’s beautiful!”

New Shops And Specialist Stores

Age UK is giving its stores a makeover and plans to open 78 new shops. Another major High Street presence is British Heart Foundation. A recent find at one it of its stores was a pristine leather Chesterfield settee with matching footstool for less than £200. The BHF has more than 700 shops, including more than 160 dedicated furniture and electrical stores so there is bound to be one near to you.

Scope, which helps people with disabilities and their families, says “Good quality, great value and a warm welcome await you at any of our 250 charity shops. You might be surprised at what else you find. As well as charity greeting cards and new goods, we also sell good-quality donated goods to suit all budgets.”

Thank you messages sent to the charity include: “Found these black Uggs in a charity shop! Thank you Scope!” and “Found this beautiful dress in the Scope charity shop today. £3.49!! Such a bargain! I have plans for this dress :)”

The Designer-only Charity Shop

Savvy shoppers head down the Kings Road to check out a Red Cross shop with a difference. As the Daily Mail revealed, “Finding a designer gem among the second-hand tat in a charity shop can be hard work. But the refurbished Red Cross shop in Old Church Street, Chelsea, is an exception. Instead of suits with shiny elbows for £15 a throw, it is bursting with Vivienne Westwood bags and collectors’ vintage gowns.”

Five Tips For Charity Shop Success:

  1. Monday, Monday – a lot of people clean out their closets at the weekend so it’s worth popping in to your charity shops early in the week for the cream of the crop of bargains.
  2. Look closely – a garment might be hung on a size 8 hanger but actually be size 18. Check the labels for size, make and fabric. You may not think you need another plain black T-shirt, but if it’s silk and a good brand, and costs less than a fiver, it might be a better buy than your £10 cotton one from a High St store.
  3. Use your imagination – if a skirt’s too big or you love the fabric but not the style of a vintage dress, take it to an alterations service, or learn to get handy with the sewing machine yourself.
  4. Pop in often – you’re more likely to find the particular items or brands you like.
  5. Be friendly – most charity shop staff are volunteers so it’s nice to be nice, and if you get to know them, they’re more like to be able to point you towards your heart’s desire.

Happy treasure hunting – and don’t forget to donate your own cast-offs!

Chester-based writer and charity shop-lover, Jessica Bourne is keen to explore the ways readers can enjoy shopping and furnishing their home without breaking the bank. Jessica has written for a broad range of publications and websites – she loves vintage and is the proud owner of a 1930s typewriter, though she tends to use a computer for work these days.

January 4, 2014 |

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