ethical shopping in London – charity shops & oxford street

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I’ve been promising myself a trip to London since I wrote my Happy New Year post and invited culture to my 2016 party. An article featuring the ten best charity shops in London and the need for a haircut (my hairdresser recently moved from Oxford to London) was the incentive I needed. Why has it taken me until March? Honestly, it’s become a bit of a thing after the Paris attacks, I’ve been nervous about visiting London. I’ve been off yoga for a few weeks because of a back problem but I went to a lovely twilight session on Friday. As well as the hilarious frequent use of the word “buttock”, my lovely teacher ended with a fab relaxation and we were asked to chose a mantra to chant in our heads. I chose “I’m living, I’m safe!”, it relaxed my worries and I was on the trainmetro-821812_1920.


So my plan for the day, following a haircut with the lovely Charles at Electric in Marylebone, I chose 3 stores from the article located around that area. Given the size and population of London on a Saturday, I thought 3 might be enough and I also wanted to check out Livia Firth’s spring collection for M&S, Made With Integrity and have a drool over some new trainers at Niketown to kick off my brand research. So, what to wear? I can be a bit braver with my outfit for the city than I would at home and of course, second hand rules!





got away







Next, I decided to throw myself to the other end of the commercial shopping spectrum. I’m after a new pair of trainers. Shoes are one item of my wardrobe I’m not so keen on buying second hand so I tend to take the approach that I buy new but I don’t buy very many, I keep them forever providing they fit and are street-worthy. The trainers I have are my old running shoes that I now wear for fashion, they are a bit wrecked and are not waterproof. I’d like a pair of Nike but where is the brand on ethics?  So, I thought this would be a good place to start my brand research. I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by this part of my research and couldn’t figure out how to tackle it, it’s a big industry and I currently use a number of brands, where do I start? On the train, I had read a report downloaded from the Free2Work website (Apparel Industry Trends 2015, The Truth Behind the Barcode). The report looks at companies policies towards workers throughout their supply chain and grades them on various aspects of employment. It’s produced by Baptist World Aid Australia so looks at the Australian market but it does feature Nike and contains good information on what aspects to look for and what brands should be doing. I considered it a positive that Nike were willing to be part of the research and they gained an overall grade B. I didn’t buy the trainers, I have more research to do but I had a wander through the store and picked out my favourite styles. It wouldn’t be like me to buy on the first visit anyway, I’m not an impulsive shopper but I do like to touch and feel the product before I buy so it was a worthwhile visit if I end up ordering online. I’ll share further research soon and hopefully make a decision before my existing pair fall to bits!

oxford st

I stood watching these crowds for ages. I’ve seen them before lots of times, I lived here for 10years and one of the things I love about London is the chaos and craziness. But as I look more deeply into ethical fashion, I’m seeing them through different eyes. It’s Oxford Street, it’s shopping, heads down searching out the bargains, loaded with bags, spend, spend, spend. It’s mostly new clothes, the charity shops were not so busy! All I could think was “I’m looking at the next pile of landfill” when everyone gets their new purchases home and discards the old ones. Austerity doesn’t seem to be driving people to buy less, it’s just driving them to pay less. And manufacturers will keep producing, squeezing the supply chain as we keep our heads down, oblivious of what is really happening.

I made it through the crowds to M&S at Marble Arch to check out the new spring range Made With Integrity by Livia Firth. At first I couldn’t find it, then I asked a shop assistant and she couldn’t find it …. eventually we found it rather pushed into a corner, behind a large pillar. On Saturday, I was rather disappointed that the range wasn’t given a higher profile in store but after some research and further reflection, at least M&S are making a commitment to ethical fashion. I thought, I’ll hold fire on my criticism until I’ve researched further, the subject of a future post. The range? Great quality, good colours for smart workwear … beautiful leather bags but sadly out of my price range at £150 …. buy quality and have a bag for life though? Where does that feature on price per wear? I do have a bag I bought about 15years ago for £100 and I’ve probably used it 1000 times, price per wear 10p!

I coBarnardo's_Logouldn’t find this one, as I trudged up and down George Street in Marylebone. By this time, it was pouring with rain, my paper bag got wet and broke, spilling my clothes over the pavement and I was still trying to find the shop at 5.55pm … such is the dedication of a second hand shopper. You need a kind of tenacious spirit for second hand because it can be hit and miss, some days you find nothing and some days you find real treasure .. but that’s what makes it so special. The belief that the next shop is at the foot of the rainbow and has gold just for you.


So my day was at and end and so was my energy, and those boots? Were NOT made for walking but I love these city streets and it was magic to be back. London Charity shops to a second hand junky are like Bond Street to brand seekers. I’d let a few items go that I might regret but I’ve wetted my appetite for more trips to London. Didn’t make it to Vogue 100 this time, but will plan a trip for April. I hobbled back to Paddington to find I had missed my train!


New Years Resolution number 4, Culture … thank you for coming to my party, I’m afraid I’m going home with the party bag!

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