Sunday, 29 April 2012

Oliberté is selling PRIDE, not pity.


'Why or how could anyone want to make shoes in a place full of so much poverty and corruption?’

Asked Tal Dehtiar, founder of Oliberté Footwear – the very first company to make premium shoes in Africa using African materials. What began as a Toronto-based company back in 2009, now has projected sales of between 20-25,000 this year.

This is finally a find for all the fellas’ out there – great timeless shoes and bags, of the upmost quality – the perfect gift for the style savvy man who is conscious of his consumer choices. 

When you think of Oliberté, be sure to think quality. They’re certainly not striving to mass-produce shoes as cheap as chips. ‘When it comes to footwear,’ Dehtiar says, ‘we don’t want people to think of Africa as the next China. We want them to think of it as the next Italy.’

‘They’re attractive. The shoes demand attention.’ says Justin Davis, manager of Mint Footwear in San Diego. He noticed the materials and craftsmanship were better than ‘regular production stuff.’ And once he heard the story about how and where the shoes are produced, Davis simply had to have them. ‘People crave products that have a little more purpose than just consumption,’ he says, which I believe is very true amongst our new generation of consumers today, who like the idea of being able have a positive social impact when they make a material purchase; rather than just buying another meaningless object.  

‘At Oliberté, we believe Africa can compete on a global scale,’ he says, ‘but it needs a chance. It doesn’t need handouts or a hand up. It needs people to start shaking hands and companies to start making deals to work in these countries.’ In Africa, the middle class is increasing in size, and one of Oliberté's goals is to support that growing middle class by building a world class footwear brand that can create thousands of jobs and encourages manufacturers from other industries to work in Africa. The continent has the necessary means to grow and support its people, and that’s exactly what Dehtiar is trying to establish.

Oliberté shoes are all stitched and assembled in Ethiopia, while the leather is sourced from local free-range cows, sheep, and goats. And none of the livestock have been injected with hormones to speed their growth, which is found to be a scarily common practice in other parts of the world. I personally choose not to buy any form of leather goods, because I believe that as a fellow vegetarian it would be hypocritical of me; but if real leather is something that you’re a fan of, then make it this free-range sort. And they also greenly offer something known as three-way shipping, which means that once you have enjoyed your Olibertés, if you can't donate or reuse them, they promise to take back the shoes and recycle them (this is of course, only if your Olibertés no longer function because you’ve just worn them too damn much due to the sheer pleasure they provide you with).

The crepe rubber soles of the shoes are then made from natural rubber which is processed over in Liberia, and are lined with soft, breathable goat leather. Woven labels and other branding materials are produced in the African island nation of Mauritius. And recently, the company expanded its line and now offers leather bags and accessories to boot, some of which are sourced in Kenya and made in Zambia. So Oliberté are really building up their company supply chain all over the continent in an effort to create a strong and thriving network. 







In addition, the company only employs workers from selected factories which pay (relatively) high wages and provide good employee benefits; and there are further expansion plans to open its own factory in Addis Ababa, while maintaining existing production at the other plants.
 
I don’t think I have actually gotten around to blogging about TOMS shoes as yet – and I think most people have heard of them – but in case not, the humanitarian Californian-based footwear brand gives one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair that it sells. They have donated more than one million pairs to children through ‘shoe drops’ where they travel the globe to hand out the shoes. These don’t just help to prevent horrific soil-borne diseases, but the donations help children to attend schools for the first time, because many forbid bare feet. 

However, upon closer investigation, I have found that the TOMS business model is quite controversial to some people who appear to be speaking from a more informed perspective. ‘With TOMS,’ Dehtiar says, ‘the best thing is the awareness they’ve created.’ But he’s sceptical of the company's one-for-one model because he believes the donations can pressure local shoemakers and vendors, in addition to reinforcing stereotypes about the developing world.

‘TOMS is a good marketing tool, but it’s not good aid.’ Agrees Saundra Schimmelpfennig (an international aid expert who blogs at Good Intentions Are Not Enough). Giving free gifts is not a good form of aid, nor is it any form of long term solution for the people on the receiving end. What can have a much greater impact is creating jobs that pay a fair wage, allowing people to live their lives with a sense of normality, and not making them consistently feel like a bunch of helpless charity cases. No one wants to be dependent on handouts. What they need is a hand UP.  Dehtiar says he doesn’t want people to be encouraged to buy his products because they ‘feel bad about Africa’.

One strong force Dehtiar cites for founding Oliberté is that while carrying out aid work shortly after graduating, African friends kept telling him they were tired of charity and that what the continent needed was jobs. ‘On a given day,’ says Dehtiar, ‘One to two hundred people are working on our shoes. Because we don’t hire foreigners, we have local buy-in.’ So if we waltz in to people’s home-towns and start handing out hundreds of pairs of free shoes, then people who have made a livelihood for themselves by making and selling shoes locally are going to be forced out of business. By giving hand-outs, we’re not helping the situation in the long-run, we’re only making it worse.
 
Take a look at the 'A day without dignity’ campaign video:


It would seem that good intentions are simply not enough. And many companies and organisations, including Oliberté are working to create new perceptions of Africa and to show that unbeknown to many, it is brimming with more than capable people with the potential to support themselves and their families, just like you and me.

I also happened to stumble upon another, rather different, charity campaign video by Mama Hope, whose motto is to ‘Build a Future. Not a Stereotype.’ Aiming to re-humanise Africa, and make us realise that we’re actually more similar than we are different. When the pity is gone, the following take its place: DIGNITY. OPPORTUNITY. SUPPORT. CONNECTION. CAPACITY. CREATIVITY. PERSEVERANCE. COMMUNITY. MEANING. CONTRIBUTION. JOY. POTENTIAL. TRIUMPH. LOVE. BELIEF. COLLABORATION. PARTNERSHIP. EMPATHY. CHANGE.
HOPE.


It’s a pleasantly refreshing approach isn’t it? Made me smile for sure.

However, Ms. Rodgers (founding director of Mama Hope) has faced criticism for showing only relatively wealthy, happy African people in the charity’s videos. But Bernard, a man featured in the “Hollywood Stereotypes” video, was an orphan originally sponsored by Ms. Rodgers’s late mother, who actually inspired the founding of Mama Hope. His story shows the power of what people can ultimately do when they get access to an education, Ms. Rodgers says. And I agree with her one hundred percent. They don’t need free gifts, they need access to the skills that they will keep and use for a lifetime.

Back to Oliberté - Dehtiar is hoping to pave a path that larger manufacturers can follow in time. ‘Our goal is to be the reason that 1 million people are employed in manufacturing in Africa,’ he says. ‘We want to show that these models work and we want to encourage others, like the Nikes and Levi’s of the world, to do the same.’


Oliberté is selling pride, not pity.


Friday, 27 April 2012

‘No more Shopping, you have too many clothes!’ But Mum, I’m going Shwopping! IT’S GOOD FOR THE WORLD.


Did you know that one in every four items of clothing purchased by us in the UK ends up in the bin? Non? Neither did I. I knew fast fashion was a problem, but hearing statistics like this really put this issue firmly into perspective. I mean, what is the point of going out and spending your hard earned dough on new clobber, only to have it end it’s very short life on the top of an environmentally un-friendly landfill heap? WHAT IS THE POINT??

DING DING, we have a winner. That’s right, you there, in the sunshine-yellow dress. There is no point at all. 

And while we can't fix this fast fashion craze overnight; rather than do nothing, we should at the very least try and do something. What's the worst that can happen? We don't succeed, we learn, and we try again. No love lost. 


So here’s to M&S making a try of it:


1.      They are placing recycling bins by the tills of all of their 342 stores in the country
2.      When we go shopping, we’re encouraged to take any unwanted garments in store and pop them in these bins
3.      The aim of the game being to kick-start the ‘buy one, give one’ culture
4.      These unwanted items will then be resold, reused or recycled by M&S’s charity partner Oxfam, thus raising a tonne of money to ultimately change a lot of lives.

This phenomenon, in a nutshell, is a revolutionary trend about to take off called ‘SHWOPPING’. That’s right ladies, you heard it here first. Pretty soon we’ll all be getting in on this fashionably charitable act of turning our rags into riches. Retail therapy and giving back all in one swift transaction? Yes please, don’t mind if I do...


The scheme is part of M&S's ‘Plan A’ programme and an expansion of a partnership with Oxfam which began back in January 2008, and has since seen more than 10 million items donated, worth an estimated £8m

According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK consumers throw away 2m tonnes of clothing a year, with half going straight to landfill. So maybe, just maybe, these recycling bins by the till points will be a constant reminder urging customers to recycle their unwanted clothes rather than binning them. Remember: Green equals GOOD

However, this move by M&S has been slightly controversial amongst smaller charity shops, who fear that this initiative may result in them missing out on vital donations which they depend upon. What I would say is – please don’t get so uncontrollably excited about shwapping and forget the little guys. My advice is: if you’re planning on going shopping for the day, then bring a couple of things to ‘exchange’ in M&S; but if you’re having a ruthless clear out of your cupboards, then bag it all up and drop it off to your local charity shop

Cath Lee, chief executive of the Small Charities Coalition, said: "It's great to encourage recycling in this way, but it would be a great shame if an unintended consequence is that the shops of smaller, less well known charities receive fewer donations as a result. There is huge diversity amongst charities, and the smaller ones have an essential role to play in addressing local and specialist causes. They contribute an enormous amount to our communities. The smaller charities that have shops will be heavily reliant on the income from the donated goods sold, so it's important that people continue to give their unwanted clothes to their local shops in their high street."

Listen to Cath people. She’s a smart cookie. She knows what’s what. She’s down with all charity related shenanigans. 

You may already be aware of the fact that even the larger charity shops such as Oxfam are currently struggling to get enough donations through the door that are in a re-sellable condition – which I believe is down to the explosion of being able to sell unwanted clothes online through sites like eBay, ASOS marketplace etc. and make money in the process. But come on people, what happened to the act of just simply giving, and feeling good about that?

But shwopping is not all M&S are doing - they have also teamed up with London College of Fashion’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion on a project aiming to bring together a host of industry experts (including designers and stylists) who will be carefully exploring and debating the future of a more sustainable fashion industry, which I very much look forward to.

The one-off project gives M&S customers a behind-the-scenes look into the world of 21st Century fashion, and offers the opportunity to witness the stars of environmentally friendly fashion hard at work. Visitors, whether already eco-conscious in their shopping habits or not, will even be able to have a go at designing and creating their own items through master classes at the hands of the experts. So if you believe that fashion school has always been your true calling, but for one reason or another you never quite ended up there, then this is one for you.

There is only one requirement: in order to attend this exciting event you must bring along an unwanted item of clothing. Each item will then be assessed for potential use and will either be reused and transformed in the lab or handed over to Oxfam to resell or recycle. Whether you’re ready to embrace it or not, this right here is the Future of Fashion as we know it.

The M&S Shwop Lab at the Old Truman Brewery, London, is open between 10am – 5pm every day (except Mondays) from 26 April – 9 May 2012.

Sustainable Centre for Fashion: work of designers Michelle Lowe-Holder and Noel Stewart
It’s really encouraging to see a commercial retailer as established as M&S making a concerted effort to be greener and address the huge wastage problem we are currently facing in our culture today. And the fact that this is in turn benefitting a great cause like Oxfam makes it a blooming great initiative in my eyes. Here’s to hoping it blossoms.

What do you reckon?




Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Make a Wish-Balloon



Do you remember when you were younger, ever making a wish, and tying it to the ribbon of a balloon, and letting it float away to somewhere else; hoping upon all hope that it would end up in the hands of a magic wand bearer, and that your wish would someday come true?

It might’ve been a new bicycle, a baby brother or sister, or even (in my case) ice cream for breakfast every day (some things never change). Somehow the image of that balloon slowly flying away to an unknown destination, soaring higher and higher, made it seem like it was fuelled by magic inside of there, rather than squeaky helium. 

Well, that is where my inspiration for the name of my fashionably charitable campaign originated. ‘The White Balloon’ is a symbol of hope. It’s about wishing for change, and believing that change can be realised - the way that every child innocently believes that wishes do come true. Wasn't everything much easier in those lunchbox days? When you believed in everything; and everyone believed in you... I think that we tend to lose this feeling as we grow up... the world gets a little darker and a little scarier; we grow more afraid, and start to think that maybe we can no longer be anything we want to be, or do anything that we want to do. Maybe we can’t change things? But in reality, we couldn’t be further from the truth. Now is the time to make a wish, and believe in it whole-heartedly. Now is the time to pave our own paths, stand up, and change things. Now is our time. Now is your time. So make it count.

I decided to take this moment to share with you my very own wish balloon (above). This is my wish for my own life, as well as all of yours... Go ahead and take a little time to make your own. What’s truly important to you? What are you hoping for? What really matters?
 
'Make a wish, and place it in your heart.
Anything you want. Everything you want.
Do you have it?
Good.
Now believe it can come true.
You never know where the next miracle is going to come from, the next smile, the next wish come true.
But if you believe that it is right around the corner, and you open your heart and mind to the possibility of it, to the certainty of it; you might just get the thing you’re wishing for.
The world is full of magic. You just have to believe in it.
So make your wish.

Now believe in it, with all your heart.'


Monday, 23 April 2012

Kinabuti gets Down & Dirty in Bundu


Hellooo again guys and dolls, it’s the girl with the white balloon here, armed and ready to throw more beacons of fashionable hope your way. 

So... if you’ve been with me and listening from the very beginning, you may remember a post I did pretty early on about a fashion label with a conscience called ‘Kinabuti’, inspiringly thought up by a lady named Caterina Bortolussi. You can give it another read here if you have a little time and fancy learning about Kinabuti’s mission more in depth. 

In a nutshell, Kinabuti is all about using fashion as a vehicle to help people who could do with a hand up. And it’s not about giving money or aid, but rather providing communities with lifelong skills that they can transfer to their own lives, and create a sustainable living for themselves and their families; no longer needing to depend on others. 


Just a few weeks ago, the Kinabuti Fashion Initiative (KFI) - like the absolute troopers they are - got Down & Dirty in Bundu, Port Harcourt, at the crack of dawn to clean out gutters, alleys, and take out lots and lots of garbage; alongside the old and young, male and female, youths and community leaders: all in a bid to shape up the living conditions within the waterfront communities


Not only did the KFI leave Bundu spic & span and with a renewed feeling of a blossoming communal spirit; but they also finally put Bundu on the map for a weekly rubbish collection and so permanent bins will now be placed in the area – something that hasn’t managed to be achieved thus far, until the KFI stepped in and saved the day. Needless to say, this day was a moment in history for the local community. I don’t know about all of you guys out there, but here in the UK, the shit really hits the fan when the bin men don’t turn up for one week, never mind not turning up at all. I can’t even imagine it. There’d be anarchy enough to make last summer’s riots look like a peachy picnic.   
  
And this wasn’t where they stopped. Oh no. Kinabuti also organised a silk-screen training workshop which was targeted at training single mothers in this skilled area of art & design (it’s a lot of fun, let me tell you. Major flash-back to A Level textiles... Oh those were the days. If you haven’t ever done it, find someone to give you a quick beginners sesh NOW). All participants are taught how to print in silk-screen on many different surfaces using the local and easily accessible materials of their natural environment. The aim of this project is to develop these women in a vocational skill to earn a living and support and care for their loved ones in a sustainable manner. 


Great work you KFIers – positive proof that fashion is changing our world, in more ways than many people can imagine. 

All images can be found here.


Do you see it? 

Because I can. 


Saturday, 21 April 2012

Levi's WaterLess Jeans are saving lives


Levi’s has recently partnered up with Water.org on an epic mission aiming to help over 1 billion people in the world who lack access to clean water. 



Levi’s new Water<Less products reduce the use of water in the finishing process by up to a staggering 96%. They’ve already made more than 13 million Water<Less™ products and saved over 172 million litres of water, and they promise that this is just the beginning. ‘Use less and give more’ is the brands new mantra. So far, Levi’s & Water.org have given 3641 people clean water FOR LIFE.

This is something that I, probably along with many of you, take for granted in my life. ‘I thought it just comes with the house....?’ No, no, it certainly doesn’t. Being able to turn on the tap whenever I want and for as long as I want, and have fresh ready-to-drink h2o come flooding out, is actually a daily blessing that gets overlooked by the majority of us. Imagine going a day without being able to do that easily? No brushing your teeth, no shower, nothing to drink. It would be hard, wouldn’t it? Now do one more thing for me - imagine living your entire life like this.

I’m finding it difficult to comprehend what the lives of people who don’t have this luxury must be like. Access to clean water is a fundamentally basic human need, and to know that there are more than one billion people living alongside us in this world without that is unacceptable and makes me feel sick to the very core. Life is hard enough with the hands it chooses to deal us, without an unnecessary daily struggle just to keep yourself alive. That’s not living. No one should have to exist like that. And what makes it even worse is knowing that there is more than enough water to go around for everybody, and there’s also enough wealth for no one to be living in poverty. It’s simply not ok... 
As I’m sitting here writing this, I’m struggling to stop my eyes from welling up, because... well, it’s not right. We have a duty as people here on this earth to help our fellow men, women & children when they need us; just like we would hope they would do the same for us if the roles were reversed. It makes you think... I mean, you could be successful, find wealth, realise all of your dreams... but all of that is simply meaningless. Have you really lived a good life? Have you left this world a better place because of your existence in it? Did you use your life and your power to truly make a difference? Because I promise you one thing – all there really is in the end, is two things: Love and Kindness. That’s all there is. And know, that these two things change everything.

You too can be a part of this life-changing campaign to bring clean water supplies to people all around the world, help the cause, and win yourself a pair of Water<Less jeans by clicking here. You can also shop for Levi’s Water<Less jeans right now. Get some hot new denim in your life, and change someone else’s in the process


Levi’s are also asking us to think about our own water consumption once a pair of their jeans are in our hands. By using water more wisely – say, washing your jeans in cold water and only when necessary – we can continue to make huge positive changes. Apparently, if we all washed our Water<Less jeans once a week instead of twice, we could collectively save a whopping 858,400,400 litres of water
That’s incredible. 

Fashion is not only changing, but saving lives


Friday, 20 April 2012

Do you know WHO MADE YOUR PANTS?

CHANGE is just an OUTFIT away…

London Fashion Week saw the addition of a brand spanking new, and green, event on its schedule this year, in the shape of THE GOOD FASHION SHOW – dedicated to showcasing some of the best sustainable & ethical designers of the moment. As I’m sure you don’t need me to remind you, the past few decades has seen the fashion cycle accelerate with price tags plummeting, and us shoppers adapting accordingly. We’ve slowly fallen into bad (junk food-like) habits where we buy more, and love these purchases less. Our wardrobes are all full of clothes that we don’t wear/don’t like anymore/didn’t even really like in the shops but thought we’d have it anyway as it was only £5… But, I believe that many of us have had more than enough of this throwaway culture, and are ready to begin buying smarter once more. And what better way to do this than by ensuring our purchases also have a positive impact on other people as well as our planet?

Within this jam-packed with goodness, eco-ethical fashion emporium, there were a few names that stood out for me personally, including Fashion ComPassion – who work with ethical brands from Asia, Africa & The Middle East in providing jobs and sustainable livings for local people, and had some rather lovely purses on offer (my little eyes are mesmerised by the beautiful sunshine yellow clutch embroidered with a tree of life); Nina Bloom, for her unique upcycled handbags made from… old billboards (you read that right); and not forgetting the Southampton based lingerie company ‘Who Made Your Pants’ – who firmly stand for two things: amazing pants (made from end of season fabric rolls that would otherwise end up on the scrap heap), along with amazing women (who get to work in rather pleasant working conditions, NO sweatshops allowed). I really do believe them when they tell me that pants can change the world. Who knew smalls could be so BIG?

I NEED THIS CLUTCH IN MY LIFE! it's sooooo pretty
(all my favourite picks seem to be bags/purses of some kind?! TOO MANY BAGS, TOO MANY MANY BAGS...)
Uber stylish bags made from old billboards
Pants + Chocolate Gift set. What more could a girl possibly ask for?


The concept of this off-schedule event challenged the corporate machine that is London Fashion Week, proving that everyone can be stylish while keeping their heart firmly intact, and spreading a bit of joy into the world and lives of the people who need it most.

So the moral of the story here ladies? Buy less. And LOVE a whole lot more. 

And make sure you know just who made your pants… 









p.s.  I know this post is a little more than late, but as I didn't get around to covering this event at the time in question, I decided to post about it now, and give you 3 great fashion companies for the price of one today (I know, I'm awesome like that)

Monday, 16 April 2012

New This Week: Hey Bubble & Squeak


Bubble & Squeak is a very exciting event that is coming to Dogma (Nottingham) on Wednesday 9th May, courtesy of NTU’s very own Fashion Marketing & Branding kids, in association with TRAID (I love them already) and American Apparel

The aim of the game is showcase the abundance of creative talent that we have here in Notts, whilst raising money for the great guys at TRAID – a charity whose 3 main objectives are:
  1. To protect the environment by diverting clothes and shoes from landfill;
  2. To reduce world poverty by raising funds for overseas development projects; and
  3. To educate the UK public on environmental and world poverty issues.
I blogged about TRAID last month after finding out that we are getting clothing banks from them on our very own NTU campus, so no more emptying your wardrobes into unfriendly black bins at the end of the year freshers! I am keen to be a GREEN bean.

So back to Bubble & Squeak. Here a little of what’s on offer on the night:
  • Exciting fashion stalls hosted by Mimm, NTU Fashion kids, TRAID, American Apparel, Top Tier Cakes, Girl With the White Balloon (can I get a woot WOOT!) and more TBA
  • Live Fashion Fix: fashion show throughout the night wearing the best of our local designers + TRAID Remade pieces
  •  American Apparel who will be providing 200 goodie bags on the night for guests.
  • Music from Tunnels (Lost Boyz), Rykuvan, Stefan Malinaro
That’s right, you heard it here first guys & dolls: The Girl With The White Balloon will be showcasing (for the first time ever!) at this tip top event! Special limited-edish screen printed canvas bags will be on sale (all profits going to our 3 RAG charities of course) along with a few more surprises...

If you would like to host a stall / contribute to the fashion show, you can get in touch with  beth_blatch@hotmail.com for more details, and she will be happy to help!

What you need to know:
This is all taking place at Dogma, Nottingham – Wednesday 9th May 10pm – 3am

Tickets:
EARLY BIRD £5
ADVANCED £7
ON THE DOOR £10


Available at Fatsoma

OR, you can pick up your tickets from various stalls around Nottingham Trent University.

Monday 7th May – Outside the SU (the mass pile of rubble, you can't miss it, *teary sniffle*)
Tuesday 8th May – Outside Bonnington
Wednesday 9th May – Outside Newton


AND REMEMBER - ALL TICKET PROCEEDS GO TO TRAID!

So make sure you save the date – Miss this and you’ve MISSED OUT, BIG TIME.


Thursday, 12 April 2012

Give Up Clothes for GOOD


Did you know that according to research, around 20 million women are hoarding clothes that they no longer wear or that fit them? Bananas. 

Well here’s how we can try to reduce some of the zero’s on that figure: 

Throughout the month of April, you can bag up all your unwanted clothes that are taking up much needed space in your wardrobe (space = helloo much needed shopping trip) and take them down to your nearest TK Maxx. All of these quality garments & accessories (homeware too) will then be sold in a Cancer Research shop around the country, generating much needed money which will ultimately end up saving lives. When you think of it like that, it seems like a no-brainer really. Bag it & donate it – NOW!


TK Maxx and Cancer Research UK have been running their joint clothing collection campaign ‘Give Up Clothes for Good’ together since waaaaay back in the day (2004) and this incredible partnership has already raised £10 million, £6 million of which has gone specifically into beating kids’ cancer. 


“Clearing out your wardrobe will help you to love and value the person you are today. By donating your clothes you know that you’re giving a child the chance to have a better life as well as giving your clothes a new lease of life.” Dr. Linda Papadopoulos

You can see how the story of nine year old Anna Robinson who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in January 2006 here:


I almost choked on my chocolate Hob Nob when I found out that in the 1960s, only around 1 in 4 children with cancer survived. Today, almost 3 in 4 survive. That’s an incredible turnaround, and all you generous souls out there who have contributed to this great charity are a part of this change. Double air high fives to all of you. You’ve saved the lives of so many kids out there who wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for you. You cannot put a price on that. 

Get donating guys & dolls!


Wednesday, 11 April 2012

[RE]FRESH


[RE]FRESH is a fashion coalition, home to St Louis, whose mission is to use fashion to support the programs of the nearby Foster & Adoptive Care non-profit agency, which strives to create permanency in foster children’s lives.


Started in 2011, [RE]FRESH is a unique retail environment where locals can browse, donate, volunteer, and have a great shopping experience in a different environment to the run-of-the-mill high street. It prides itself on not simply being a store, but a community gathering place to have fun with friends, where the indulgent act of retail therapy is also contributing to a good cause. It’s firm proof of what I’m always banging on about – helping others can be, and IS, a lot of FUN, and it’s quite fashionable too.

Their ethos is similar to that of a charity shop, but differs with the younger market demographic it’s aiming at (mostly teens and twenties) which is a refreshing change; and is cleverly exposing the younger generation to the idea of charity and looking to make more informed decisions where shopping is concerned. And like Oxfam over here, [RE]FRESH consistently follow the ever-changing trends going on in the industry that teens & tweens like to follow, and offer affordable yet on-trend alternatives to the high street. When you’re that age, it seems important to fit in and be a part of a ‘cool’ group, so paying attention to trends such as 2 strappin’ it are deemed necessary (I don’t like to admit it, but I myself went through this phase of jumping on the band wagon too -  I think we all do at some point). Unfortunately, I’m unable to fly over and check out the store, but I’ve had a nosey on the website and a lot of the clothes that are on sale look great, and are absolute bargains! There are some really pretty dresses, outfits put together according to trend looks, eveningwear, shoes and accessories…


Current donations that are needed include:  Gowns and formal wear for special events like Homecoming (that we here in the UK generally don’t understand what the fuss is all about); gentlemen’s suits, ties, and other formal wear; and shoes and accessories to match those gowns and suits. But [RE]FRESH are always looking for clothes and accessories for the teen/twenties age group to be donated; so if you’ve got lots in your wardrobe you hardly wear/don’t like/can’t even get over your head anymore + you happen to reside in the St Louis area, then stroll on down to the store!


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Flowers, Ice cream, & Kate Moss = Oxfam?


In need of a spring/summer wardrobe update on a budget? Well look no further than Oxfam’s online range.

Trends that are making waves right now include bold floral prints, Gatsby glamour, getting sporty, and, my personal style favourite: ice cream coloured pretty pastels that just ooze summer. Here’s a little bit of inspiration compiling a few of my favourite things to get you into the spirit:



I do seem to find myself talking about Oxfam a lot these days, but it’s only testament to the fact that charity shops are, in my opinion, extremely underrated and still seem to be struggling to shake that feeling of being a retail ‘bin’ where everybody’s cast offs end up; mostly frequented by elderly women with not a lot else to fill their time with.  

Ok, so rummaging for pieces in a charity shop requires a little more effort than popping to your local Topshop does, where trends are conveniently laid out for you in appropriate sections and co-ordinated with matching accessories and footwear, making the purchasing of a new outfit all too easy (and making all of you obedient slaves to fashion in the process). BUT – wouldn’t you rather be rocking an outfit that can’t be copied by another thousand girls up and down the country? And isn’t it so much more satisfying and interesting trawling through rails and shelves of clothes, not knowing what you’ll stumble upon next, and finally setting eyes upon a diamond amongst the rough + contributing your hard earned pennies to a great cause? Hell to the Yeah, it IS

But don’t just take my word for it – trend setter Kate Moss was seen popping into the Highgate Oxfam branch recently; which I must say endears her to me greatly. I haven’t ever really been her biggest fan to be honest, but this? Where’s the ‘Like’ button.  Hopefully many of the girls who dote on her every move might give charity shops another chance after seeing this…


Thoroughly re-invented, charity shops simple aren’t what they once were. Many now boast retro rails, treasure troves of rare items, high-end boutique specialists, complete with brand spanking new visual make overs (without losing that lovely inherent charm that sets them apart from the big names) meaning they now look like… well, actual shops. Imagine that.

In other breaking news, it turns out that while many high street names are struggling to entice you guys to hand over your dough, charity shops are contrastingly doing pretty well and continuing to up their profits. Wendy Mitchell of the Charity Retail Association points out the trend in ethical and environmentally aware shopping could be a factor in this success. "As well as contributing more than £200m to UK charities every year, they are environmentally friendly and provide around 17,000 jobs and 180,000 volunteering opportunities nationwide. So people are finding they can support a good cause and find a bargain at the same time."