Emmie Cosgrove shares with you the best places in London to find secondhand clothes.
With the increasing growth of the slow fashion movement, charity shopping has become a popular way to shop more ethically. Buying clothes in charity shops usually means they are cheaper than high-street retail brands. By purchasing recycled clothes you’re helping the environment and your money is being put towards a charitable cause.
However, charity shopping can be a very hit or miss experience. Sometimes you walk into a charity shop for a quick browse and end up finding a bunch of items completely up your street, coming home with several new purchases. Other times you can spend ages traipsing through charity shop rails and return home empty-handed.
Personally, for me, more times than not, I usually find at least one or two really good items whilst out charity shopping, sometimes I’ve even found several items in one store. Most of my wardrobe now consists of charity shop purchases. A lot of people still seem surprised when they ask me where I got a certain item of clothing and I respond with “I found it in a charity shop”.
Being someone who loves charity shopping, I have decided to create a guide to my favourite charity shops in London: where they are located, what each charity’s mission statement is and what you can expect to find in each shop. So, if you’ve struggled with finding clothing in your style or not knowing places that sell good secondhand designer clothing, furniture, or so on, look no further.
Prime Locations: Brixton, Camden and Peckham
Mission Statement: “TRAID is a charity working to stop clothes from being thrown away. We turn clothes waste into funds and resources to reduce the environmental and social impacts of our clothes.”
Why Shop Here? Traid know how to market to a younger audience. With their whacky and artistic window displays, they use visual merchandising to appeal to younger generations. From dressing up shop window mannequins in skirts made from bin liners one week, to draping them in red mesh and roses the next, there is an undeniable amount of creativity that goes into Traid’s window displays. It makes each store appear cool and quirky, which is exactly the type of clothes and accessories you’ll find in Traid.
It is a great store for rummaging around in. If you’re looking for a few basic wardrobe essentials such as a pair of jeans or are on the hunt for an elaborate evening dress – Traid will always have what you’re looking for. Every couple of months Traid will also hold a sale, selling all items for just £1. From recycled clothes from Boohoo and Topshop to obscure vintage labels, the variety and coolness of Traid’s stock will never fail to impress.
Prime Locations: Elephant and Castle, Camberwell and Finsbury Park
Mission Statement: “Crisis was formed in 1967, as an urgent response to the growing homelessness crisis. Since then we have helped tens of thousands of people out of homelessness, and campaigned for change”
Why Shop Here? They have a section dedicated to clothes and accessories from brands such as ASOS and COS. Their store windows are full of well-styled mannequins sporting fashionable trousers and shirts, as well as a range of handbags pinned up in the windows too. You can expect to find a range of clothes from brands such as ASOS and COS within Crisis.
Not only do Crisis have an entire section dedicated to clothing and accessories, they also take pride in up-cycling used furniture including re-painting it if needed and having staff members create a vintage wooden look by using teabags to stain used wooden tables.
If you are looking for a fashion bargain or are feeling like redecorating a room with some up-cycled furniture, then Crisis is your go-to charity shop. You can expect to find beautiful wooden tables and old rustic storage units, as well as a great range of books and other quirky items such as vintage record players.
Prime Locations: Brixton
Mission Statement: “No matter who they are, what they have done or what they have been through our purpose is to transform the lives of the UK’s most vulnerable children. Our vision is to realise Thomas Barnardo’s dream of a world where no child is turned away.”
Why Shop Here? Barnardos has a great mixture of clothing, selling clothing from your everyday high-street brands like H&M or Zara etc. as well as a large number of second-hand designer pieces. Their stock and the labels you can find in Barnardos are always changing. However, the constant change in stock and having such a large mixture of labels is why Barnardos is a muchloved charity shop. It keeps shoppers on their toes.
If you’ve shopped at Barnardos for a while or are a newcomer, you will always walk in not knowing what to expect but then walk out with several great finds. Maybe a rare designer dress or a pair of 60s-style sunglasses. If you like shops that have a wide variety of products and want to find both designer and high-street brands at a good price, as well as supporting a charity, Barnardos is the shop for you.
CANCER RESEARCH UK
Prime Locations: Marleybone
Mission Statement: “Cancer Research UK is dedicated to saving lives through research. Our mission is to prevent, control and cure cancer through our groundbreaking research and in the last 40 years our work has helped double survival rates.”
Why Shop Here? Located right around the corner from Oxford Street, the Marleybone-based Cancer Research UK store is one of the charity’s most well-known and visited stores. Having two whole floors to browse around, this charity shop has some of the best vintage designer finds you could wish for.
Due to its location and stock, it can be considered pricier for a charity shop, however, considering the labels and items it does sell you’re still saving a lot for durable, high-end designer clothing. Not only is it designer pieces, you can also get some great vintage finds here.
If you’re looking for a stand-out jacket or a pair of 60s platforms, head down to Marleybone High Street and check out the Cancer Research UK store there. You’ll end up with bags full of vintage designer gems.
BRITISH RED CROSS
Prime Locations: Chelsea
Mission Statement: “The mission of the British Red Cross is to mobilise the power of humanity so that individuals and communities can prepare for, deal with and recover from a crisis, summed up by the strapline ‘refusing to ignore people in crisis’.”
Why Shop Here? The British Red Cross in Chelsea is the perfect charity shop for finding bargain designer clothing. Being Chelsea’s most visited and popular charity shop as well as sharing the same street with designer stores, including Manolo Blahnik’s only store in London, you can imagine the labels you can find here. Rails are filled with clothing from some of the most renowned designers ranging from Vivienne Westwood to Max Mara.
This store is particularly good for finding second-hand designer pieces that are workwear appropriate. With stock including fancy blouses and smart designer dresses, Chelsea’s British Red Cross is the go to store if you feel like zhuzh-ing up your work wardrobe.
Prime Locations: Pimlico
Mission Statement: “FARA’s Mission is to marshal and focus the resources and relationships needed to cure FA by raising funds for research, promoting public awareness, and aligning scientists, patients, clinicians, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies and other organizations dedicated to curing FA and related diseases.”
Why Shop Here? Disguised as a vintage shop, similar to Traid, Retromania appeals to a young and hipster generation who love to shop vintage. Having purple and yellow coloured mannequins standing outside the store dressed in loud 80s attire and boldly patterned swing dresses with a heavily decorated window, the colour and clutter is impossible to walk past without paying a visit.
Walking into Retromania is like stepping into a time machine. You’re transported back in time and surrounded by clothing from all walks of time. From vintage 30s gloves to 60s swing dresses, if you’re looking to shake up your style, have a fancy-dress party coming up, collect vintage pieces or maybe just fancy purchasing a few funky items of clothing, then Retromania is the charity shop for you.
Whether you want to shop more ethically or are thinking about donating your clothes but are unsure which charity shop suits your style best – I hope this guide has helped you. As recycling clothes becomes far more popular in the more environmentally conscious time we live in, head out to these charity shops rather than highstreet ones. You’ll be surprised what you find at cheaper value and your money will be going towards a cause, rather than churning out more fast fashion clothing.
You can hear more from Emmie over on Twitter at @StylesEmmie