Topshop’s former brand manager, Jane Shepherdson, is to take on a role at Oxfam in an attempt to rebrand the charity’s clothing shops as ‘ethically chic’. Ms Shepherdson told the Sunday Times ” … if you buy from Oxfam you are recycling.” You’re kidding?!
No. I must not poke fun at the clearly good-hearted Shepherdson who is going to do the job for nothing. If you live in Africa, though, shopping for second hand clothes is necessary in order not to go naked. Or mad; where I live it’s the only retail therapy I get (that and tomatoes and onions in the local food market which aren’t half as much fun as rifling through a pile of ‘mitumba’ on an old fertilizer sack on the ground in the hope I might unearth a little number from Dior, a pair of Gap jeans or a stunning Helmut Lang jacket as a friend did).
My habit for second-hand clothes translates during my brief sojourn in England as an inability to bypass any charity shop – Oxfam, Help the Aged, Cancer Research, Heart Foundation, Help for Obsessive Compulsive Second Hand Clothes Addicts (that one’s a joke btw) – without going in. My daughters have inherited same passion, so, to Ben’s horror, we all traipse in and begin scrabbling through other people’s cast-offs.
The experience I have gleaned from years of scouring African markets for fashion gems is useful here, certainly, (check seams for signs of straining, check zips and buttons, check the labels – not because I’m a snob but because labels are a good giveaway of wear) but it has been augmented further. Mum’s closest town is a drossy place with an ugly high street down which parade most of the UK’s population of teenage mothers and many of the morbidly obese too. The local Oxfam, therefore, reflects this and few treasures have been discovered. Yesterday, though, we found ourselves in a charming picture postcard town (the sort of place where local mothers do the school run in Range Rovers and where you need to take out a mortgage to buy the kids lunch because McDonald’s doesn’t feature) which was awash with charity shops. Needless to say, we dove into the first one we came to and exited with bags full of Finds.
I have learned, therefore, that the rich toss out a better class of rubbish. Much of which, happily, until now, has ended up in Africa.
Hope Shepherdson doesn’t make Oxfam too desirably chic.