The Revival of the Charity Shop

Poster for the Charity Vintage Fair.

There are eight different charity shops in Durham and somehow they remain to be tenuously acknowledged by students. Why? It is hardly like Durham is a buzzing location for shopaholics; Jack Wills, River Island, Topshop and New Look are barely the makings of a new ‘Westfield’ or ‘Bluewater’. In fact, the reason Durham remains to stay a busy city has nothing to do with its shops but the fact that it hosts one of the greatest World Heritage sites in the UK. It is practically impossible to go into town without walking past at least one charity shop, so why do they continue to get ignored?

Charity shops are fantastic for many reasons but first and foremost they should be thought of as the ultimate bargain shop. Despite the persistent moans from ex-customers about the increasing prices in charity shops, to what extent do they really rival the prices on the high street? Yes, a jumper from a charity shop may have risen to five pound instead of two pounds, but in comparison to spending forty pounds in Topshop one can hardly complain. Charity shops are also brilliant recyclers and therefore extremely environmentally friendly. Almost all items in a charity shop are second hand and are therefore sold to someone else rather than left to pile up on a mountainous landfill site. Just think about how many items of clothing you buy in a lifetime and how fashion goes in cycles – so why waste your money and resources on buying pricey new clothes when you’re more than likely to find just what you’re looking for in a charity shop? The mutual benefits to charity shop buying are extraordinary. Finally, last and by no means least, charity shops raise millions and millions of pounds every year for medical research, overseas aid, hospice care, homeless shelters, environmental initiatives and animal welfare projects, to name but a few.

However, there are two main problems with charity shops. The first is the belief that items from charity shops are ‘ugly and uncool’, and the second is that it takes too much time to riffle through stock to find the items that are not. The negative connotations associated with charity shops are essentially rooted in the fact that their items are all second hand, unwanted clothes. However what if these items were displayed in a ‘vintage’ shop. What is the difference? A generic definition for vintage clothing is ‘second hand garments originating from a previous era’. In other words, old. Why then are people happy to buy second hand clothes from a vintage shop but not from a charity shop? Perhaps this is because clothes from vintage shops are already deemed cool and trendy just by the label ‘vintage’. Most of their items are found from charity shops in the first place, the only difference is they’ve been put all together in one place, and every now and again a tassel or fringe is stuck on and the price is bumped up.

Despite what people think beautiful clothes ARE found in charity shops, you just have to be willing to look for them. This is where the second problem comes in, the willingness to look. Common complaints such as ‘it takes too long’ and ‘I never have enough time to go through everything’ are no excuses. Think of the countless amounts of times you have sat procrastinating on your laptop. Then imagine the amount of times you have spent scrolling through pages and pages of clothes on Asos with no particular intention of finding anything specific until you suddenly find yourself on page ‘20’ of ‘56’. This is the same as riffling through clothes on a rail. Furthermore, even wondering about Topshop or H&M can be an extremely stressful experience what with crazy consumers scrambling over the latest gear. The online difference between doing it online or in person is that you can actually try things on when you are riffling in person. You may have to look through an alarming amount of dungarees, shoulder-padded jumpers and flared jeans, but isn’t that the fun in it? The satisfaction of finding a beautiful fur coat or a fun wacky jumper for such a cheap price beats finding the same old generic jacket or dress from Topshop. If that wasn’t enough, at least you’ll be safe in the knowledge that you have bought something no one else has. There will be no danger of turning up to a black-tie party wearing a floor length charity number and seeing three other girls wearing the identical dress.

Charity shops are just like any other, sometimes you find something, sometimes you don’t, but if you never go in and have a look for yourself how will you ever know?

This term, three students and eight charity shops get together in one venue to bring you Durham’s finest ‘Charity Vintage Fair’. Bringing you only the very best clothes and essential vintage items, come down to the Kingsgate Bar, Durham Student Union on 22nd February 2013 between 3–6:30pm for a truly unforgettable afternoon. If that isn’t enough there will be music, drinks, cupcakes provided by ‘Be Tempted’ and a pottery painting stall to chill out and get creative. There you have it. No excuses. The prices will be cheap, the cake will be delicious, and all in good the name of charity. Get down early to grab all the best stock!

If you need anymore convincing that charity shopping is cool, take a look at this:

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