101 New Year’s Resolutions That Have Nothing To Do With Smoking, Weight Loss, Or Becoming BFFs With Your Mother In Law

Updated: 17:36 EDT, 7 September 2008

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You may have, like me, been wondering how you can look stylish this winter without abusing the environment, oppressing the poor or breaking your increasingly stretched budget.

Well, I have the answer.

Last week, I picked up a complete winter wardrobe - including a cocktail dress, trousers, blouses, jacket, coat, shoes and bag - for the staggering sum of £300.

None of the clothes were from the bargain basement High Street stores, all were classic, in great condition and designer label - or, at least, vintage and unique.

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oxfam

Oxfam finds (left to right): YSL blouse, £45, tweed skirt, £12; coat, £50; silk blouse, £15, and Alberta Ferretti trousers, £30

Yes, my new wardrobe is second-hand, but I prefer to think that I am giving these garments a second life.

Thankfully, I didn't have to rummage through boxes and boxes of mouldy old T-shirts to find my treasures.

Oh dear me, no.

I found them all at the new upmarket Oxfam boutique - not the usual High Street charity shop - at Westbourne Grove in West London.

Two other Oxfam boutiques have opened on Chiswick High Road and Shawfield Street in Chelsea.

   

More from Liz Jones for The Mail on Sunday...

  Second-hand clothes are enjoying a bit of a renaissance.

Not only can most of us not afford designer, we no longer feel comfortable buying anything brand new or eminently disposable.

As a result, sales at charity shops broke through the £100 million mark in the year to March 2008.

Oxfam is, rather cannily, leading the market in its bid to attract new, young, rather chic women - both as donors and shoppers.

The new boutiques are the brainchild of Sarah Farquhar, head of retail operations, who wanted Oxfam to get away from its image of 'hair shirts and Jesus sandals'.

'No young woman, wanting to look fashionable, buys on ethics,' she says.

'She wants to buy something she will look pretty in first, with the complete reassurance that it is ethical coming a very close second.'

With trend-conscious shoppers in mind, Farquhar - who started with Oxfam as a volunteer 14 years ago and worked her way up to the top - and her team - which includes Frances Weeks, the manager of the Westbourne Grove and Chelsea boutiques - edit the best pieces, restore them if necessary, and display them.

The boutiques have not only been nominated for awards, but are heaving with fashionistas keen to snap up a vintage designer piece at a rockbottom price.

The problem is that in order to sell beautiful clothes, the stores need people to donate their unworn gems.

'My philosophy is that whenever you buy something new, you should give a piece away,' says Farquhar.

'We don't really need that many clothes.'

This is where a collaboration with London Fashion Week comes in.

The mania over the past few years for buying ever cheaper clothes has meant that donations to charity stores have also been decreasing in value.

oxfam

Revamp: Six young talents, including Christopher Kane and Giles Deacon, have 'reinvented' donated pieces to Oxfam and these six garments will go on display next week

After all, who wants a secondhand pair of Primark jeans? And so, from this weekend, Oxfam Tuk Tuks (pictured) will be cruising West London, picking up clothes, bags and shoes from the well-heeled women from all over the world who will be thronging to the capital to see the spring/summer 2009 collections.

'This is the first time we've targeted Fashion Week,' says Farquhar.

'But it's great because I think those in the industry are starting to feel a little bit guilty that they are endlessly encouraging women to consume. Everyone is being marvellously supportive.'

Oxfam will be manning a stand in the Exhibition Centre (next to the National History Museum, and open to the public all next week), and leaving 'givvy' bags on the tiny gilt chairs in the front rows of the shows into which fashion editors will be able to pop last season's freebies.

This new approach is reaping dividends: sales have increased by 30 per cent in the three boutiques since they opened in May, helping to make Oxfam the UK's most profitable charity shop, bringing in profits of £21 million, all of which go towards projects in the developing world.

'I get a feeling that people are trying to become more individual, and buying second-hand clothes is a way to do that,' says Jane Shepherdson, former head of design at Topshop, who has devoted huge amounts of time and expertise to getting the Oxfam facelift exactly right.

'There has been exposure of certain High Street retailers who have not been as clean as they should be in their supply base, so if you want cheap clothes and a clean conscience, then a charity shop is an obvious route.'

Farquhar has great plans for the future. As well as repeating the collaboration with Marks & Spencer (500,000 items were donated in exchange for M&S vouchers, which earned Oxfam £1 million), and continuing to sell Fairtrade garments, her eyes mist over when she thinks of all the Versace and Gucci cast-offs that would find their way into an Oxfam boutique in Cheshire, home of the footballer's WAG.

Manager Frances Weeks says that, day in, day out, she is amazed by the fantastic pieces being brought into the stores in West London.

Famous donations have included the purple Vera Wang dress worn by Keira Knightley to the Oscars, a pair of Tod's loafers given by Gwyneth Paltrow to the Chiswick store, and a number of red carpet wonders worn by Helen Mirren. British designers, too, have been super-generous.

Six young talents, including Christopher Kane and Giles Deacon, have 'reinvented' donated pieces and these six garments will go on display next week.

But, enough of all this do-gooding, what should you fashion bunnies be very unethically trampling under your feet to get hold of?

Well, I loved a dusty pink vintage velvet jacket (a key fabric this autumn) for £25 and a Stella McCartney olive chiffon frock (I had a fight with a young lady called Matilda Culme-Seymour over this find. I lost, and she later wore it to the premiere of The Duchess).

Other highlights included a pair of wide yellow sequin evening trousers, £35; a red Seventies YSL blouse with pussycat bow for £45; a graphic silk blouse, £15; a cream wool tailored Seventies coat for £50; a pair of skinny purple Alberta Ferretti trousers for £30; a short tweed skirt for £12; and a very 'now' black Anne Fontaine lace bustier for £20.

The shoes and bags are great, too: I snapped up a pointy pair of black slingbacks by Jimmy Choo, £90; some silver wedges from Bertie, £30; and a 'reinvented' tweed bag, £55.

The boutiques have been criticised for being 'elitist' and for taking away the thrill of the chase and the sweat out of a rummage in an ordinary Oxfam store, but Farquhar thinks this view is outdated.

'Women don't have time to spend hours looking for that special piece. We've just done the rummaging for them,' she says. 'But unless women (and men) continue to bring in these great pieces to us, the idea just won't take off.'

So, if you are tired of looking like a fashion victim, guilty about all those unworn pieces lurking in the back of your wardrobe and wanting something well-made and classy, it's time to donate your designer cast-offs.

Then teeter along to one of the boutiques before all those skinny, high-maintenance Voguettes from Manhattan start arriving on Sunday for London Fashion Week.

Oxfam: 0300 200 199.

Source : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1053317/LIZ-JONES-Why-fashion-pack-heading-Oxfam.html

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