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NTU Sustainability in Enterprise

Charity Shop Fashion in Nottingham

23 February 19 words: Anna Murphy
photos: Dan Hodgett

Charity shops. Just for nanas? Don’t think so, duck. Once seen as a bit tired, blamed for “clogging up the high street” or perceived to be filled with junk, charity shops are actually a treasure trove, allowing customers to reuse, recycle and repurpose. We spoke to three Nottingham outlets who are helping local folk ditch the throwaway fashion mentality, and dug out a few gems from inside the shops...

Emmanuel House
Gill Barker, Marketing Assistant at Emmanuel House, says, “People who buy from us get really good value, but buying from our charity shop directly supports a local charity; one that’s quite literally on the other side of the door.”

Emmanuel House Support Centre was established in 1976, with the adjacent charity shop running for thirty years. The centre is the only service of its kind within Nottingham, where people can walk in and receive support to recover from homelessness. In 2018, there were 20,337 visitors: a sobering number in a city the size of ours. All the money earned in the shop is spent within the same building, providing life-changing support to homeless and vulnerable people. Yet it’s not just the local impact that Emmanuel House are passionate about.

“Buying from charity shops extends the life cycle of a garment,” says Gill. “Today, both workers and the environment are suffering because of the way fast fashion is made, sourced and consumed. Consumers may think they are getting a bargain, but there’s a huge cost to people’s lives and to our planet. Sustainability is crucial; we need a huge shift in our culture to recognise the value of clothing, and to become better at looking after what we own. This is where a person’s creative flair can come to the fore, by creating different looks through customising and showcasing clothes and accessories.”

Emmanuel House are challenging the way society looks at clothing and encouraging this creativity by partnering up with students on the Fashion Design course at Nottingham Trent University.

Gill explains: “The aim is to utilise the excess waste from the donations at the centre by giving level-one design students the opportunity to select fabrics to use for their projects. We hope this partnership will raise awareness of Emmanuel House, how important donations are to the service users, and the role that design can play in upcycling unwanted clothing.”

Sue Ryder
“A common misconception about charity shops is that people believe the clothes may not be clean,” says Sue Ryder’s Store Manager, Sophie Stevens. “All our clothes go through a strict sorting system before being put on the shop floor to make sure all the items are in the best condition to be worn, so don’t worry!”

At five years old, the Sue Ryder store on Goosegate is a vintage treasure trove. With everything from womenswear, menswear, furniture and accessories, it also has a pretty Instagram-friendly array of vintage bikes.

The charity was founded in 1953 and supports people during the most difficult times in their lives. For over 65 years, their doctors, nurses and carers have given people the expert care – and compassion – to help them live the best life possible.

“Our most popular items are definitely our vintage dresses. But we also sell a lot of our vintage bikes, ceramics and frames. There’s so much on offer, I think everyone should be buying from charity shops. It’s good for the environment, it helps fund a great cause and it’s reasonably priced. We offer one-off, handpicked items, so we can promise that you’ll be the only one strutting down the street in that retro piece.”

White Rose
You could mistake it for the window of a regular high-street shop, but White Rose isn’t your standard fashion retail space, and it’s certainly not like your standard charity shop either.

“We wanted to get away from the charity shop stereotype, which some people think are unfashionable and in undesirable locations. We provide a recycled high street fashion boutique for people already shopping in Topshop, Zara and others,” explains Sam Boarer, Regional Development Manager for White Rose. You can see his point. White Rose is a fashion boutique first and a charity shop second; because of this, it ushers in a different audience.

However, don’t let the aesthetics fool you: this is not a case of all style, no substance. “White Rose was started in 2008 by Nottingham graduate students,” explains Sam. “It supports the Aegis Trust, who are the UK’s leading genocide prevention organisation. Aegis works in multiple countries around the world to stop genocide and to support affected communities.

“We look for any clothing donations, although our designer and brand-labelled goods sell like hot cakes,” says Sam. “Also, often due to size changes or impulse purchases, they’re items that have most likely been sitting in people’s wardrobes. These items could do so much good if they were donated to charity.”

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