Out with the new and in with the old: Charity and Vintage shopping is the future of today – by Julia Nelson

I grew up going to charity shops with my style-savvy Mum from a very young age, so I’m not precious or snobby when it comes to shopping in them. They’ve survived all the recessions up until now and perhaps they’ll be the only shops left on the high streets in ten years time, won’t that be weird? Can’t see TKMAXX going anywhere though.

I managed, without really intending to, four of FARA Charity’s large flagship charity shops in three years and it took over my life. I still think about it. Probably because it was so life consuming at the time I guess and hard to forget.

If only some people could comprehend the amount of work that goes into running charity shops (it’s intense physical work), they would be gob-smacked and maybe not ask for discounts..yes people REALLY DO ASK THAT. One very famous customer even asked me once and I couldn’t believe it. Obviously, some second-hand shops are totally worth rummaging through (I just know this from scanning them in a few seconds) and others, again, I JUST KNOW, aren’t worth my time.

It all comes down to the person in charge of sorting, technically the person managing the shop and training the staff how to sort. If the person sorting doesn’t have the eye for stylish and good quality pieces, then the whole thing doesn’t work. Then there’s the visual merchandising and the pricing (you have to know the original price of every, individual item before you can calculate the selling price) etc etc it’s a whole big production let me tell you. If the shop window or the rails don’t look stylish and cool and playful, then, I personally am not inspired to browse. Too much stock on the rails is also very irritating and deters people from selecting items to try. The words ‘less is more’ are tattooed on my brain.

I used to separate my designer stock from the low, mid and high-end high street brands by implementing a designer-only rail in the shops and this ramped up the sales. Sounds a bit basic, but it was very effective to the sales and the customers loved it! And the competitive sales targets felt no longer out of reach. People just don’t have the time to sort through the designer from the high street and some people just want designer, which is fine.

I used to pick out key trends well in advance of Season change, so we could launch the Seasons with really style-forward items. I would highlight items that were really on trend or timeless and classic or just beautiful in the windows (and keep replenishing them when they sold) and mix colour palettes and prints on the rails that blended and clashed and looked visually fun and hip! I’d get really creative with combining colours and prints, dressing the mannequins and styling the shop windows – it was a lot of fun. I felt like a Stylist a lot of the time.

The only way to display the stock that got donated non-stop every day of the week was to group everything into categories, so both the customers and staff knew exactly where everything was. If a bloke came in for records or a t-shirt, he’d go straight downstairs and check them out with a real sense of purpose it was very cute. Grouping (as we called it and this method of arranging things works in your home too) was the only method of managing and displaying the constant and chaotic drop off of donations. We’d group anything made from glass together, books, ties, men’s shoes, ladies shoes – we grouped everything into separate categories. The donations were relentless as was tidying up the shops. Amongst the generous donations were some brand new designer pieces STILL with the labels on. We had our fair share of famous donators and customers.

As a loyal and long-term fan of charity and vintage shopping in London and abroad, I simply prefer vintage and second hand to high street. Not only does it benefit your own budget, it also helps save the environment by cutting down on manufacturing demands and keeps more items out of landfill. Re-wearing and recycling old and pre-worn clothes displaces the need to make new virgin fibres. Dressing in second hand and vintage (ethical fashion to be fair) is the antithesis of throwaway fashion. Why isn’t there a Vintage Week might I ask? If people keep buying fast fashion they’ll be no vintage left. And who wants to look mainstream when you can find rare, one of a kind pieces?

Classic Car Boot Sale, King’s Cross August 2018

Charity and vintage shopping advocates sustainable living and isn’t it better to contribute to conscious consumption by re-using old clothes instead of buying new bland items from the mass market? Recently, I purchased an 80’s mohair cardigan from Peckham-based vintage clothing brand ‘Little Sister’ at the annual classic carboot fair in Granary Square in Kings Cross (a celebration of classic design including vintage fashion), a khaki green military shirt/jacket from the original Rokit vintage shop in Camden and a pair of leopard print pumps from the charity shop Traid in Camden. Could I get something like these from Gap on the high street? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t even bother looking in there. I’m not saying you should only buy second-hand but maybe mix it up a bit and mix some old with some new? I bet if you do, you’ll start warming more to the old stuff. That’s what happened to me. Wearing the same high street brand or designer brand from head to toe communicates no imagination or creativity and we don’t get to see that unique personal sense of style in the person. We were all born creative so there’s no excuse not to get creative with your style.

Classic Car Boot Sale, August 2018, King’s Cross

The Classic Car Boot Sale is the latest venture under HemingwayDesign’s sub-brand, Vintage Festival and the next one is in April 2019. We hope to see you there for a bit of vintage shopping! The selection is going to be so fabulous. In the meantime, go visit your local charity and vintage shops so your money stays in your community.

FARA CHARITY SHOPS http://www.faracharityshops.org

CLASSIC CARBOOT SALE  https://www.classiccarbootsale.co.uk

LITTLE SISTER VINTAGE SHOP @littlesis_rocks

ROKIT VINTAGE SHOPS https://www.rokit.co.uk

TRAID CHARITY SHOPS https://www.traid.org.uk

Written by Julia Nelson

I’ve been working in fashion and lifestyle journalism, retail management and PR for a long time now and I keep going back to fashion retail and do you know why? I love shops and I love shopping and nothing beats walking into a shop and picking up something you adore.