I’m now two months into my second-hand challenge, where I’m staying away from the mass-produced in exchange for tracking down the weird and wonderful treasures of charity shops and second-hand outlets.
It’s going well. Nothing new so far!
I’m applying this challenge to all but the absolute essentials. Clothes, furniture, electricals – it’s second-hand first. For example, buying a new liquidiser because it’s so whiz-bang-amazing is not allowed. My hand blender does the job well enough. It’s a new mind-set that I have to remind myself of every day; and believe me it’s not easy, I really did want that blender.
You’ll not be surprised to hear I’ve stumbled over more than one hurdle. I began cycling into work every now and again over the summer and as the winter nights drew in, I realised I didn’t have suitable luminosity to be the safety beacon I wanted to be on the roads. And a friend quite wisely said, did I really want someone else’s sweaty old cycling jacket? So neon is officially off the list.
Second hurdle: threads get old. I have a much-loved pair of second-hand charcoal wool trousers that I bought a few years ago, very androgynous and slightly loose around the waist for those sorts of days. After a long day at work I was aghast to find a little hole where the fabric was starting to wear. Buying second-hand is a gamble; I was lucky these beautifully-made trousers have lasted me longer than many other pairs I’ve owned from new. Hopefully a needle, thread and a quick YouTube tutorial will do the trick for that little hole.
The third hurdle has simply been remaining inspired. The beauty of buying new is that you walk into a shopping centre and you’re faced with styles, colours and sizes in abundance. Second-hand shopping is a different ballgame. If it’s not in your size, tough luck. For me, the wondrous moment of discovering a gem in the rails of a charity shop, far outweighs the short-lived thrill of something new (I’ll give you an example, the 100% cashmere pale grey cardigan I found in a charity shop the other day for £30. Yes, £30!). However, this is a challenge for me and I do need to keep myself interested.
Enter: the London pop-up. The British Red Cross has opened a 10-day charity shop in the heart of Covent Garden and I went along for the opening day. It’s tucked in the basement of the Jubilee Market Hall, next to the always-fabulous and often-bonkers singers and musicians. For such a location, my expectations were high, and the stock didn’t disappoint. Laid out beautifully, there were nearly-new shoes, stand-out coats, impossible ball gowns and the odd piece of pretty vintage furniture. Brands ranged from Prada and Ted Baker to M&S and Coast and donations included ones from Sienna Miller and Stella McCartney. Some of the items were often so untouched you’d hardly know they were second-hand. For that reason, there was nothing I saw under £10, so a typical charity shop it isn’t, but if you’re looking for something unique, this is your place. It was all I could do not to walk out of there with a stunning £300 vintage Saint Laurent Rive Gauche dark green tweed cape.
The British Red Cross pop-up shop is open every day from 11am to 7pm until Sunday 16 November at Unit 19a Covent Garden, and I was assured by the manager that stock would be replenished every day.
If you miss this one in Covent Garden, fear not, we hear that Naomi Campbell is opening a pop-up charity shop in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush from 28 November to 14 December, donating some of her designer wardrobe to help raise money in the fight against Ebola.