About six months ago my neighbour told me of a friend who had thrown a jacket in the bin because the button had fallen off. My horrified neighbour had asked her why on earth she hadn't just sewn a button back on, to which the young lady replied, "Well firstly, I just don't know how, and secondly it was only £4, so I just went and got another one."
This story really got me thinking about our attitide to clothes, and the increase in popularity of 'fast cheap fashion'. Coupled with that is the sheer number of items of clothing many of us seem to own (and after rummaging through plenty of wardrobes and running a dress agency, I can vouch for that!) and I began to wonder where it will all end.
In the UK, we throw away some 10,000 items of clothing every 5 minutes...yes you heard that right. Shocking, isn't it? And that's what we simply chuck in the bin and send straight to landfill (a huge 12% of landfill space is taken up with textiles). This prompted me to dig deeper and find out more about recycling of textiles, and I found that almost any type of textile can be recycled, whether it is wearable or not. I also discovered, that by recycling what we currently have in our wardrobes, and not buying so many new clothes, there is a massive environmental benefit (did you know it takes around 800 litres of water to make just one t-shirt?), as well as a huge personal saving (the average house spends £1,700 a year on new clothes).
I've been an avid charity shopper for well over 25 years, from the first time my nan took me to a jumble sale, I was hooked. In my experience, I know that it is perfectly possible to dress amazingly well without having to buy new clothes from the high street. Now as a trained personal stylist, I know that once I show a client their unique rules for dressing, then they can shop anywhere and look amazing. I regularly take clients on special charity shopping trips, some of whom have never even been in a charity shop before, but at the end of the trip when the've got a big bag of beautiful clothes for about the price they would have spent on one dress, they are delighted!
Say No to New started really as a personal mission. I wanted to prove that it was possible to dress brilliantly without buying anything new. I started about six months ago, and worked out the rules - obviously I still had to buy underwear, nightwear and swimwear new, but I also found that footwear, sportswear, and your basic jerseys (things like vest tops, leggings, and t shirts) were really difficult to find in a decent enough quality secondhand - luckily I've found a supplier of fantastic quality basic jerseys who have great production ethics so now I only buy bits from them. I also didn't include jewellery – again for hygiene reasons, although I'm often to be found rummaging through a basket of beads in Cancer Research! Everything else, cardi's, jackets, dresses, tops, trousers, skirts, jeans etc come from charity shops, jumble sales, recycling centres, off ebay, swaps with friends, and re-vamping things I already have in the wardrobe.
After a very enjoyable and creative six months, I decided that the word should be spread and started the 'Say No to New' campaign to encourage more people to get involved in the fun of buying second hand clothes, swapping with friends, and re-vamping existing clothes in their wardrobe. Say No to New is a personal challenge to anyone who wants to take part to not buy new clothes for 12 months. Anyone can join the campaign at any time, and support it by liking the Facebook page or following the twitter feed. There's also a website of tips and ideas, and we encourage a community of like minded people who can share their tips and ideas for clothes online. As well as online participation, we’ve got a series of events planned for the year, including the UK’s biggest ever swap shop, charity shop fashion shows, and a national second hand shopping day.
So, if you're thinking of taking part, have a look at the facebook page, and to get you started here are my top five tips for getting the best out of charity shopping. Have fun!
1. Know what you're looking for. If you've had your colours and/ or your style and shape analysis done, all the better as you'll know the rules for dressing that apply to you. Stick to your rules, even if that jumper is only £2 because otherwise your purchase will sit in your wardrobe and never get worn. Even if you have't had a 'rules' session, sort through the wardrobe and keep a list of some items you'd love to find that will be great additions to what you already have....but don't expect to always find it right away - this is a long game. It's also good to plan ahead - got a wedding coming up? Start hunting now.
2. Check it. This is key - there are five checks you must always do - fit, label, fabric, wash and quality:
a) Fit: the only way to check the size and fit is to try it on. Pre-worn fabrics may well have shrunk or stretched, so ignore the size label and try it on to see if it is right for you.
b) Check the label - always look out for a good quality label - and if you're not sure of the designer, look for where the item is made - places like italy and france often denote a quality designer.
c) Check the fabric - I always avoid the manmade fabrics and look for quality fabric labels such as 100% wool, merino or silk.
d) Wash instructions - if it's dry clean only factor in an extra £10 in the sale price to get it dry cleaned....is it worth it?
e) Check the quality...many times I've brought home a charity shop bargain only to find a hole in the seam, or a small bleach mark. Before you leave the shop check over every inch of the garment you want to buy to make sure there are no holes, marks or damage.
3. Location, Location, Location. Lots of people suggest trying the charity shops in wealthy areas to get a designer bargain, but I've not found that to always work. I would always recommend trying places that have at least five shops in a small geographic area - that way you get as much choice as possible in as short a time frame as possible. I also love browsing the charity shops in new places when I go on holiday - you never know what you're going to find! Once you've found a place you like, keep going back and browsing for the items on your list.
4. Talk to the staff. Most of the people who work in charity shops are volunteers, and they are freely giving up their time to support their chosen charity. Talk to them, find out more about the charity, or why they love to do what they do. It's always a fascinating conversation. If you're after something specific it is well worth asking as it may just be at the back of the shop. All the staff I've met are so helpful they'll even look out for something for you if you just chat to them and ask.
5. Browse around. Now this may be a tricky one for charity shop newbies - I know the very idea of browsing can put a lot of people off. But it is always worth taking time and having a good rummage. Sometimes gorgeous ladies wear can get tucked in with the mens and vice versa. Or there may be the sweetest teapot that would make a lovely gift for your auntie. Children's games and DVD's are also a favourite browsing point of mine.
So, why not join Say No to New and give charity shopping a go? In no time at all I can guarantee you'll be a complete convert to the thrills of charity and thrift shopping, it is surely the ultimate in guilt free shopping!!