Outfit: Ball Park Figure

Wearing: ShopAkira Varsity letter man jacket; Vivienne Westwood World’s end t-shirt, Dog tags, rings and shoes; Zara skirt; Steven Harkin clutch bag, All Saints sunglasses from TK Maxx; Chanel nailcolour in Holiday.

Woop de woo, everyone who knows me is all too aware that I am a jacket fiend!! Ok maybe not so much as with shoes, but jackets are second up there in my overstuffed wardrobe. I can’t resist a cool jacket and I’ve been thinking about all the bomber jacket styles on trend right now. We have seen classic baseball jackets like this come back into fashion this season, but I actually remember how much they were lusted after in the 90s. I had one in a silky-satin material with a cartoon ‘street wize guy’ on it. Watching films like Greese always had me craving a cool pink ladies jacket and Saved by the Bell a letterman jacket – it’s what all the high school hunks wore and gave to their girlfriend. This one is a soft jersey so can be worn as a cardigan as well as a light jacket, you can’t beat jersey for comfort and if it was good enough for Coco Chanel who can argue.

Mixing Animal Prints

D&G clutch, Zara boots, vintage belt

I just can’t get enough of clashing prints right now, but I’ve also developed my obsession further by clashing matching prints – if that makes any sense at all! I had been pairing my leopard clutch bag with stripes and gingham but seeing it sat beside my leo print boots I really liked them together. Throwing in the zebra print belt to break it up a bit but keep the theme going. I think they will look great with a floaty skirt and t-shirt or one of my vintage dresses which I have in all sorts of different prints. I have a pair of leo print shoes too, nice high heeled courts which I think would look good contrasting against a little black dress and the belt and clutch. I don’t have any leo print dresses but if I did I think the zebra belt would look really cool. There are all sorts of bright coloured animal print clothes and accessories around now too, I like the hot pink zebra prints and bright blue leopard’s.

Since I’ve not had chance to take some outfit shots testing my theory, I thought I would use some celebrity and street style images to illustrate my point. Seems perhaps that I’m the only one who thinks this is a good idea since I couldn’t find one photo. The best I could do was this page from Vouge, erm animal make up negotiable!

(Vogue image from iwantyourstyle.com)

One of a Kind Vintage and The Secret Room

Mini mountain of Vivienne Westwood shoes

I had the pleasure of visiting One Of A Kind vintage, Portobello Road, London and being invited to see the fabled ‘secret room’. OOAK is a jam packed shop, with rooms that twist and turn everywhere you look. The rails reach the rafters, no space is left bare, the motto seems to be if there is a space, fill it! The stock ranges from all eras and all styles, you name it and I guess you could find it in there. The thing which makes the shop so special however is the room closed to the public, viewable by appointment only, which holds the collection of rare and designer vintage goods. This was the main reason we decided to take a day trip down to London, having spoken to the shops enthusiastic manager and discovered not only did he stock vintage Vivienne Westwood but that he was a collector himself. As I had been so excited to see a collection of vintage VW, I knew Rich and Jen (fellow VW collectors) would feel the same so they joined Lawrence and I for the venture.

Unfortunately the manager Jeff couldn’t make our appointment for some reason, which was disappointing as even though his sweet assistant showed us around, it was Jeff who really had the knowledge of the collection. Even so we delved right in and as soon as we stepped through the back door, it was like entering Narnia. Even more crushed for space than the main shop, this little room held so much treasure, a real Aladdin’s cave. One foot through the door and I stepped into a mountain of Westwood shoes, a real mixture of styles from different collections. It was like being in a museum crossed with your best-friends closet as we sat trying on shoes which we had only seen in history books. There were many pieces we would have liked to have taken home, but things were not priced to sell. Rather the shop seems to make it’s livelihood from renting out items to celebrities and stylists.

The two stand out pieces for me were the mint green Witches trainers, the style was often worn by Vivienne herself during the 80’s. I had often wondered how they worked with the 3 tongue system so it was interesting to examine a pair. Jen tried them on with her jeans and they looked so modern, perhaps they will get a reissue soon. By far my favourite piece was a ‘Buffalo girl’ skirt from Vivienne’s Nostalgia of Mud collection. The sales assistant didn’t know what it was and so I discovered it by change as we went to leave hung on the back of the door. I hadn’t see quite how much detail went into these skirts, the embroidered leaves impossible to see from photo’s and the Peruvian inspired print full of character.

It was a fun chance to see pieces up close and personal, thank you OOAK for letting me take photo’s to share on here with you all.

‘Tied to the Mast’ collection SS1998

Seditionary Boot c1976

Pete Burn’s Vivienne Westwood boots

Gold Pirate boots, sample

The red ‘Face’ purse is early Westwood

Three Tongue trainer ‘Witches’ collection AW 1983

Bag Customised with the Chanel tattoo’s from the SS 10 collection

Buffalo skirt ‘Nostalgia of Mud’ collection AW 1982

Update: Since you asked approx prices: Vivienne Westwood shoes ┬ú2,000-3,000; Chanel handbag ┬ú3,000; 80’s gilt Westwood and Chanel jewellery ┬ú1,000. Many things were not for sale only rental so I think the prices reflected this, as I already said things weren’t really priced to sell. You can view some pieces for sale on the OneKind Online Shop.

Day Out in London Town

Wearing: Vivienne Westwood Anglomania ‘Monday’ dress, VW Gold Label ‘Roman 3 strap’ sandals, VW Worlds End pin’s, VW belt & socks.

Yesterday we went for a long planned and well over due day out to London. It was also the first time I’ve really had to don a full summer outfit, whilst I like summer I really prefer a bit less of it as I like to wear jackets too much! I am always a bit flummoxed when all of a sudden the weather changes, why can’t it gradually ease us into it rather than than just appear all of a sudden. So I shoved my hair up and pull out one of my versatile VW dresses, to make it more casual you can pull the fabric up through the pockets. You just put your hand in the pocket, grab a handful of the skirt and pull the fabric out with whilst turning the pocket inside out, you could do it on anything with pockets it doesn’t have to be Westwood. Fortunately the Witch-hazel took out the bruising from my arm, where I had an allergic reaction to the Pneumonia vaccine but you can still see it is swollen like an egg on my left upper arm. It is a lot better than it was but still very painful.

The moment you realise you’re all wearing the same shoes!

We managed to pack in a trip to Portobello Road for a quick look around the market, a terrifying venture with an automatic toilet and an appointment with One of a Kind vintage – more on that next post! After Portobello we headed down to Alfie’s Antiques Market, the place is a beautiful selection of the best antique and vintage clothes, jewellery, textiles, art and home-wear. The day seemed to be speeding away from us so we didn’t get time to look around everything, instead we made our way to the freshly renovated roof top terrace to eat lunch in the sun. Delicious food at really good prices and a little slice of heaven looking over the rooftops of Marylebone.

Alfie’s roof terrace

Our last stop was of course Vivienne Westwood’s Worlds End shop. No trip to London would be complete without a visit to our favourite shop. Warmly greeted as always by our lovely Lisa and Andy. We raided the shop – spoils to follow in another post, but they did include a golden cape! There was a mixed designer sample sale happening on the Kings Road so we popped in there too, tons of beautiful Viktor and Rolf, Westwood, MMM, Rick Owens and more. I did get a flyer with the next sale date so I will pass on the details, well worth a look in. Not rock bottom prices but a good 50-70% discount. Due to some total footie idiots on the tube we were delayed and ended up having to run for the train, as a result I can’t walk on my left leg this morning, ever the reminder of my arthritis. We made it with 2 minutes to spare only to have the train delayed by half an hour, typical! For someone who is never late for anything, ever single time I’m in London I end up in a mad dash for the train, don’t know how it happens! We had a super fun day either way and reminded ourselves we need to do it more often. I also got the nicest taxi driver in the world on the way home too, which topped off my day.

Rich wore: Alex Christopher shirt, VW Anglo + Lee jeans, VW┬á ‘Roman3 strap’ sandals and belt, VW skull ring and Gucci jewellery.

Jen wore: Comme des Garcons shirt, chinos and VW ‘Roman 3 strap’ sandels, VW earrings and antique rings.

Lawrence wore: Handmade hat, All Saints top, Valentino + Gap trousers, Russell and Bromley boots, vintage jacket.

Exclamation!

Wearing: Wendy Brandes ‘Exclamation’ ring, Gembid topaz ring, Chanel ‘Holiday’ nail polish

When Topshop decided to rip-off Wendy B’s swear rings I was so mad. What I really wanted to do was stomp around Topshop wearing my Exclamation Mark ring on my extended middle finger, however Topshop caved in and removed the rings from sale, yay! So instead I will just sit here and show you my ring in a more elegant manner.

Since I have the annoying habit of adding a million exclamations after every sentence – I blame social media, it is the perfect ring for me. One other really cool aspect is the fact the ring size is adjustable, this means I can alter it depending on how bad the inflammatory arthritis is in my fingers. I can’t wear most of my rings now, even days when my hands seem ok in the morning sometimes they swell in the afternoon so I can’t get the damn things off again. Wendy does quite a few adjustable rings in her ‘Wendy B’ range, which is more affordable than her main line.

There are so many gorgeous pieces Wendy has created, I’m currently lusting after the Emoticon Heart ring set and the Clemence ring. Best get saving!

Shoes: It’s Time to Get the Sandals Out

Quick the sun is out, best grab your chance to flash those summer threads whilst you have the chance! Two of the biggest trends this season are tribal and colour block. With tribal everything from clashing animal prints, ikat patterns and strings of beads goes, it’s that feeling of letting your hair down and going wild on holiday. For those of you who like it bright and loud then embrace the colour block trend, yellow, orange, lime green and azure blue are key this summer. Wear a splash of one colour or clash them all together. One overriding theme covering all the trends is the idea of traveling, picking up bits of inspiration from around the globe and throwing them all together in a personalised way. Think of the trinkets you brought home in the past, shells from a Bali beach, silver bangles from India, spices from Egypt, leather from Greece, even pink sticks of rock from Blackpool!

Every year as soon as the mercury rises we all reach for a comfy yet stylish pair of flat sandals, a true symbol of summer, but this year I think there has been a real turning point in the trend. Gladiators and metallic styles remain in fashion but there are just so many other options to choose from this year. I have to say I am stuck between lusting over something tribal, I like the idea of strings of jewel-like beads around my ankle. Yet on the other hand I really feel in the mood for a bright and bold colour fest on my feet. Looks like I may have to treat myself to both,

(All images from Barratts shoes prices from just £3!!)

Outfit: Hiding from the Sun

(Wearing: Kenzo hat and All Saints sunglasses both from TK Maxx, Vivienne Westwood Red Label shirt, VW World’s End ‘Tracey Trainers’, VW bag, Topshop jeans)

Don’t worry it’s safe to come in, I promise not to be all shouty and ranty like yesterday! I did however want to make a further point on the matter by showing the outfit I wore. It wasn’t one I intended on posting but after the points I made in yesterdays post felt it necessary. As I said it’s not the kind of outfit I would usually wear for the first days of summer. I always have a stack of favourite light and airy dresses and crazy heels at the ready. There is nothing I like more than swapping over my seasonal wardrobes and there is always something I have been eager to wear. Unfortunately this heat wave came all of a sudden, we didn’t have the mild in between stage, it went from freezing to boiling so my body was in a bit of a state of shock. My eye’s have become sensitive to bright light due to one of my medications but I didn’t expect my scalp to start burning or to feel a bit dizzy from only standing outside for five minutes. Lucky I had this lovely Kenzo straw hat to hide under. It is anther TK Maxx find only ┬ú25 from ┬ú200! I don’t have any summer dresses with long sleeves so I had to wear a shirt to cover the awful mess my arms are in right now, the jeans I have no excuse for, that was just plain stupidity I was boiling!

Drip Diets & Detox’s: Why the Disgusting Trend for Hospital Treatments Makes Me Sick

I admit I was horrified to read a feature in Grazia the other week on the new ‘Drip Diet’ craze, but I’m not one to judge and if these silly girls want to risk their health to loose weight then whatever. As you know I’ve been sick lately but had to drag myself out today to run some errands, I picked up a Grazia to read on the way to cheer me up, but ended up in a rage.

I’m ill, I feel like utter shit. It’s a gorgeous sunny day but I’m covered up, every inch except my hands and the bottom half of my face. I have to cover my arms up because they are full of bruises from needles and one arm is a swollen mess due to a bad reaction to a vaccine. One of the drugs I have to take has made me super sensitive from the suns so I’m hidden under huge sunglasses and a hat. Ironically I also have a vitamin D deficiency so I really need some time in the sun, I will go and roll my sleeves up in the garden when I get home in where nobody can see me.

Two week old needle bruises, I don’t heal at a normal rate anymore

So when I open my magazine to see a feature on ‘Party girl drips’ I totally loose the plot. I remember seeing the photo Rihanna tweeted of her on a drip, I felt sorry for her being sick, I know what that’s like, having to be poked and prodded with needles in hospital is the bane of my life. But to now find out celebrities and ‘party girls’ are paying to have vitamin infusion drips to cure hangovers really upset me. I am not one to judge, each to their own, but to make such hospital treatments that other people have to save their lives into some frivolous fancy for these rich and stupid bitches is too much. I was also severely disappointed to see at the end of the feature one of Grazia’s editors trying out the treatment. I could have respected a critical review of the worrying situation, but to try it out like a new lipstick only shows encouragement.

An allergic reaction to the Pneumonia vaccine I had to have prior to starting a new medication – this was two days after the shot you don’t want to see how bad it got after that, I suffered 5 days before I could even get treatment for it (excuse the mess and the fact I’m in my bra I never intended to post this photo, I only took it to show my friend who is a nurse).

So here is some reality, a reality I hope none of these silly celebrities ever have to face. For those of you who don’t know I suffer from a disease called Psoriatic Arthritis (previously thought to be Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia). It is a difficult thing to correctly diagnose hence the number of different diagnoses I have had so far. Even this one disease has many different variations. Either way they are all auto-immune conditions, this means my immune system doesn’t work correctly, rather than defend my body it actually attacks it. In the two years I have been suffering with this I haven’t had one day where I wasn’t in pain. Some days I cannot get out of bed, every single part of me hurts – there is now way I can ever describe this, my joints swell up, I can’t walk without feeling my hip joint grate in its socket, my fingers are now permanently two ring sizes bigger, my feet will only fit extra wide shoes now, I throw up most days because of the meds, I constantly have stomach ache from the meds… the list goes on and on.

Treatments are available to help manage the condition and try to prevent further onset, however there is no cure. I’ve tried so many different drugs I lost count, many of them having severe side-effects, one put me in hospital when I had a migrane for five days, I thought I was going to die. Right now I am left in the situation where all the ‘safer’ drugs have failed and I am now facing a drug called Methotrexate. Methotreate or MTX for short is a cytotoxic drug, it is a chemotherapy used in higher doses to treat cancer. That is how serious it is, this I am told is my last resort because I am not sick enough to merit the Biologic drugs which have better sucess rates, yet are 100 times the price. Mr Cameron does not think I am worth ┬ú10,000 per year. I must wait until I am near crippled, even though medical research proves it is vital to stop the disease early before it gets to irreversible damage levels. Having said that MTX does have a 30% sucess rate, it is something of a wonder drug for those people allowing them to live an active life. For the other 70% the side effects are very scary, ‘minor’ side effects are nausea, dizziness, stomach pain and hair loss, ‘major’ includes liver damage, seizures, breathing difficulites, oh and death. I don’t have a particularily good track record with side-effects so I admit I am absolutely terrified to start this drug. I have two weeks before I start it so am planning days out and a party with my friends before hand, just in case I’m too sick to see them for a while.

My friend having blood taken for tests

I probably know a lot more about this drug than the NHS booklet would like, this is because I am an administrator in an Auto-immune support group. This is a private group where we can share stories and offer a shoulder to cry on. In our group one member had been on MTX for 15 years it is really helping her, others however I have seen suffer from it immensely. Constant nausea, stomach pains, mouth sores and hair loss. Because let’s face it, as much as I would shave my head right now if I thought I would be cured, the fact is it’s a prospect nobody wants to face. Whilst the dosage I will be on is not as high as that of a cancer sufferer, where the hair is pretty much guaranteed to fall out, it can still be effected. I have read stories from people just experiencing slight thinning to one woman loosing 70% of her hair a few weeks prior to her wedding. It really is stupid to be worrying about something so insignificant, but when you are used to having a disability you can hide, something so visual as your hair makes it very much public. Just like the bruised arms, suddenly you look sick.

Having the Methotrexate injection, my friend has them in hospital as she is very sick and needs to be closely monitored. Usually the injections are self administered.

These last two photo’s are of my very dear friend, I won’t use her name but she knows who she is. She set up our support group and is one of the bravest women I know, as well as one of the most generous and kind hearted. She is always trying to help raise awareness of our conditions and took these photo’s as a means of doing so. Her condition is far worse than mine, she has multiple strains of auto-immune diseases. She gave us all a bit of a worry the other day when she was rushed off to hospital and we hadn’t heard from her. Thank god she is ok but she is currently having to have a drip infusions to keep her alive.

So forgive me if I don’t want to have such medical procedures trivialised in a glossy magazine. Grazia I unsubscribe.

Outfit: Scribble Check

Wearing: Vivienne Westwood World’s End ‘Drape’ shirt and scatter pins, VW Red label velvet shoes, VW Japanese label tights, VW + Melissa ‘Lady Dragon’ shoes.

I wonder how this person would feel if I painted his wall, its starting to peel and make my photo’s look bad! I didn’t realise just how many crazy pairs of tights I owned until I was putting my bedroom back together after the decorating, I filled two draws just with tights. Half of them still in the packet because they don’t even go with anything. Oh well sure they will all get worn eventually. I really like this scribble pair but find I can’t pull them off with low heeled or flat shoes, they have to go with the highest heels or my legs looks chunky. I really love them with these red ones. I took these photos during that really rainy few days we had – a good thing about Melissa shoes is that they are waterproof, I always wear mine when it rains.

I’m really sick at the moment, I’ve been sick for the last two weeks but luckily always have some posts backed up. I just ran out of back up so threw this one together, starting to feel a bit better though and hope to be live and kicking by the weekend. But bear with me if post are scarce, especially outfit posts, I’d scare you if you could see me now! At first I got the flu, not so bad right? But when your immune system is being suppressed (due to my inflammatory arthritis meds) it is like the worst flu you ever had x 10. This was really annoying as I got the flu the day after I was told I had to have flu and pneumonia vaccines in prep for a new treatment (will bore you with that in another post). So the flu starts to clear up and I went for the vaccines last week, only to have an allergic reaction to the pneumonia jab. I now have my left arm swelled up like a balloon and is red hot like a sunburn as well as excruciating to the touch, on top of feeling┬á utterly horrendous, every limb hurts with a throbbing pain, oh and I have the flu symptoms back again. I only got treatment for it yesterday (long story again) but am feeling some small improvement already.┬á Perhaps I should start a new blog called Medical Misfit.

Hope you are all well and enjoying the sunshine x

Talking Points: Why Charity Shops Aren’t Cheap

Oxfam also sell a range of fair-trade snacks

This must be one of the most interesting and also one of┬á the most difficult posts I have faced the challenge to write. In fact I have been sitting on it and tinkering with it for almost two months. Why? Because put simply, it is so important. I am sure you have all either heard, read or taken part in one of the many debates over charity shops and how they work, doing the rounds at the moment. The main argument seems to be that charity shops are too expensive. I hold my hands up and admit I too am guilty of saying this, at times I have been floundered by the price of something I have seen. I became somewhat jaded with charity shops, seeing things for sale more expensive than their original retail price or knowing I could get it cheaper on eBay. I had also heard stories of the fat wages the charity shop executives and managers were on, that our money wasn’t even going to the charities. I admit I didn’t really know what to think any more, the final straw was a sign in one local charity shops saying ‘No Primark’. I simply didn’t understand why they were being greedy wanting only things they could sell for a high profit. Why not have a 50p rail for the Primark then? Surely it would still raise money for the charity and people would appreciate the bargain price. With that I abandoned charity shops, I stopped shopping in them and stopped donating.

That was until I met Jacky from North West is Best. Jacky works as manager at the Oxfam on Oxford Road, Manchester and is passionate about what she does. We had exchanged a few conversations and she had started to show me the other side of the argument. One day Jacky invited me to go see how it all worked for myself. So off I went to volunteer at Oxfam for a day and truly find out what it was all about.

Books and gift packages

I wasn’t undercover as a reporter or anything, but I left the note pad at home and went into it like any other volunteer would. I was shown around the shop and taken to the back room to meet the other volunteers working that day. What first struck me was the wide variety of backgrounds everyone had, most students from overseas. Everyone was friendly and said they really enjoyed working there, it was a great way to meet new friends and get work experience for the CV too boot. I can see why it appealed and I guess it is something I had never considered before, having studied myself close to home.

The first thing which really surprised me was the donations pile, literally a small mountain of bags and boxes, all different sizes and shapes. For someone with a naturally nosy instinct I found this pretty exciting. Everyone eyed me with a knowing look. I soon came to see why they were all a bit more reserved, not all the bags contained treasure. In fact some of them were only fit for the bin. Before setting to work on the sorting, Jacky explained the Oxfam protocol. All donations brought to the store and sorted through, the good stuff such as clean, clothes in new or very good condition are priced up then put straight out onto the shop floor. Anything which isn’t in a sale-able┬á condition such as very worn clothes is sent off to be recycled. The charity gets money for the recycled material, not so much as profit from a sale but every little helps. Ok that sounded straight forward enough, but oh boy it really wasn’t. I know a lot about clothes, fact. I also know a lot about brands and designers, fact. I sell and trade clothes too, all round I would say I am a bit of an expert. But given a random bag of clothes, in varying conditions, from varying brands, some I had never even heard of and told to grade them into excellent, good and not good is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

I stood staring at the clothes on the table before me, armed with the grading and pricing guide. The condition and the type of item determined the price, anything not in good condition was to be sent for recycling. It sounds so simple, even as I am writing this now it is difficult to explain. Quite frankly it is bewildering. Who am I to decide what is ‘good’. I take lead from the two other volunteers as we chatter away, they show me examples of how they have graded things. Basically you have to get out of the ‘charity’ mindset and into the ‘retail’ mindset. For most people when you clear out your wardrobe at home, anything you don’t wear any more gets thrown into a bag. Unless it is falling to pieces then it goes into the bin. You don’t consider it’s worth to someone else. You also have some sentimental attachment to it. I make the rookie mistake of holding up a dress and saying ‘But someone will like it’, everyone laughs. That is the sorters cardinal sin! Yes someone might like it, but you aren’t there to take pity on old, unloved clothes. You are there to make money for the charity, so you have to think, if this is for sale out there in the shop will many people want to buy it.

A huge variety of clothes and accessories

Jacky explained, shop space is scarce so only the very best items can go onto the shop floor. The aim is to sell things quickly and keep a fast turnaround, so there is always something new for the customers to buy. Every item is marked with the date it was put out and the sorter who priced it – take a look if you find any ‘Pearl’ items! The date is so that things which don’t sell aren’t left gathering dust. They are reassessed and either sent off to be tried for sale in an alternate Oxfam store – all the stores have different target markets; or for recycling. I didn’t know this before and it really makes you keen to revisit your local charity shops often to check out the new stuff!

I quizzed Jacky on the types of┬á ‘Oxfam customers’. Interestingly the location of the Oxfam stores really makes an impact on who shops there. For example this shop is in between The University of Manchester and Manchester Royal Infirmary hospital. The student attraction I already guessed, myself often visiting the shop as I studied and work at the Uni. It was common knowledge around the uni that this shop is especially good for books, it helped build up my swelling collection. One thing I would never have considered is that the shop was also a real asset to the hospital, be it relatives or patients wanting a quick change of fresh clothes or visitors looking for a book to keep them occupied or a ‘get well soon’ card. Having far too much personal experience with hospitals I think they should all have a nearby charity shop, there are many times I would have appreciated a new book or just a wonder around to keep my mind of the eternal waiting.

Knowing the types of customer the shop attracts also helps determine what will be ideal to sell there. Manchester is very lucky having a fair few branches of Oxfam, famously the two specialist shops Oxfam Originals for vintage and Oxfam Emporium for books in the city centre. The sorters can send things off to the specialist shops, but as a donator it is also good to know where best to take your items to donate.

Donations waiting to be sorted

Back to the sorting, I have to say I was ashamed for the people who had brought some of the things. Dirty, paint splashed, unwashed, ripped clothes. It seems that many people use charity shops as a dumping ground. Fair enough Oxfam can make money from recycling the clothes not fit for sale, but please send them in a clearly marked ‘recycle’ bag to save the sorters time and also their health!┬á Because volunteers are scarce, their time is even more precious. Half of our day was wasted having to separate unsaleable goods. Fortunately I was spared any really horrors, but the others told me sometimes bags they opened could contain, lets say ‘unhygienic things’. If you have something to donate to charity that is brilliant, but please either mark it in a bag for recycling or make sure it is clean and pressed and ready for sale. I know most people wash second hand clothes themselves prior to use but still it makes it a much pleasanter shopping experience knowing that you don’t actually have too.

Now for the prices, I was reassured that there were no wrong decisions, I just choose which price I felt appropriate, every item type was given a set price I simply had to decide on the condition and tag it up. Whilst Oxfam do not refuse any specific brands they do have a list of the very cheap retailers such as Primark or Grocery store labels so that the sorters will have an idea of quality. Again this is something I expect to find really easy, I pretty much thought I would know all the brands I should encounter. Turns out I was wrong again, there were some I had never heard of. Ok so you think you don’t need the brand name to be able to determine quality? Somethings yes it is obviously well made or not but for others, it is really, really hard to tell. It also showed me that we rely so much on brand dames to indicate quality, the brand names are so ingrained into our subconscious I am sure we don’t stop to consider it as much as we should. Having a pile of dresses from all over the High Street gave me an eye opener to the quality of some brands and just how similar they are. I am English and have grown up with theses brands but got flummoxed quite easily when met with one I had never heard of. One of the volunteers with me was from Kenya, I asked him how he found it. He said yes it was the same for him, some brands he had heard of back home, others he was getting used to living here in the UK. Interestingly he found learning about all the brands help him get an idea of the UK culture. Just think about when you go on holiday abroad, seeing all the brands you have no preconceived conceptions about them. It is fairly liberating in a way, but also a bit unnerving having to take the trouble to examine the quality rather than have the brand reputation dictate it for you.

This also answered on of my original questions, why had I seen Primark top’s on sale for more than their RRP? Well if all charity shops operate a similar system to Oxfam, which I am sure they do, it is easy to understand. Many of the volunteers many not know the difference between Primark and Monsoon. In the price guide a vest top in new condition goes for the same price no matter what the brand. Ok if it happens across an experience sorter a distinction may be made to downgrade the cheaper brand item, however if the sorter does not recognise the brand it would just be classes as a new top, simple as that. I asked Jacky about my theory of having lower quality brands on sale cheaper but she explained that due to the small size of the shop priority had to be given to items which would make the most money, also Oxfam do use all donations either to sell or recycle. So nothing is unappreciated or not used.

Listening and watching Jacky doing her job opened my eyes to another question I had, why are some people paid for their jobs in charity shops? Of course I still have no idea the exact wage the chief executives are on but the regular shop managers are certainly not bathing in champagne and eating caviar every night. Managing a charity shop is similar to managing another other retail outlet, however it comes with it’s own added problems. With the majority of the staff voluntary some do not take it with the same commitment and priority as a paid job. They turn up late or not at all without warning. Obviously most staff are hard working and committed, please do not misunderstand me, but here I wish to focus on the problems which can arise. All the volunteers are from different backgrounds and have different skills. There is no job application process to find the perfect candidate for each roll. Volunteers need training, all which takes time and experience. The shop itself still has overheads it must cover things such as rent and amenities, a pressure to simply keep the shop open let alone finding extra funds to refurbish the shop or extend it. It is a very rewarding job yes, but also a stressful one and I am sure it would be one hundred times harder to not only find someone with the time but also the dedication to do such a job full time solely as a volunteer. Managers need to be paid because they are vital to the shop working. For most people in order to be in the position to dedicate themselves full time, they need to be paid. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were all millionaires with no need for wages!

The sorting table where items are examined and priced

So no charity shops are not there for you to pick up cheap clothes, they are their to raise money for the various charities they represent. You getting cheap clothes is simply a bonus of this. Yes I still feel there are many people out there who would really benefit from receiving clothing for free or very little money, but I sure don’t have the solution to this. If you do then how about you put it into action rather than sit and preach about it. I challenge anyone who want to criticise charity shops to go and volunteer yourself first before casting aspersions. It really opened my eyes and saw me donate to various places in the last few weeks. Charity shops do much more than raise money though they are a hub of the community, offering experience and friendship. I am proud to say I support that.

Tips on donatng to chairty shops:

1. Only donate something for sale that you yourself would be eger to buy. Make sure it is clean and pressed, ready to go right on sale.

2. If you have un-saleable clothes to donate bundlge them in a bag and mark it for recycling

3. Check with each individual shop what type of donations they need, some may not have the recycling facilities. Some may not be part of a chain like Oxfam, many are stand alone shops. Some don’t even have store rooms so do ask first rather than dumping bags on their door step. For example one of my local shops only had room for my books not clothes so I gave them what they needed and too the rest to another shop.

4. Just because it’s designer doesn’t make it valuable. A pair of designer jeans may have cost ┬ú200 originally but if they are covered in paint and ripped they are un-saleable and worth nothing, merely fit for recycling.