Can you find the latest trends in a local charity shop? That was the challenge set for me by the team at the local office of Barnardo's. They were inspired by their colleagues across the water who ran an initiative called 'Charity Fashion Live' during London Fashion Week last week, which sourced actual catwalk looks in real time from the contents of the Brixton Barnardo's Shop. This is one of the looks - all of them are on this link.
All of their amazing looks set the bar fairly high for me though in fairness to the local team here, it wasn't catwalk looks they wanted but instead some more wearable interpretations of SS17 trends. Surely possible? I was happy to give it a go.
For local readers, the three stores I visited were Kings Square, Torgrange Holywood (the big garage on the dual carriageway heading into Belfast) and Cregagh Road. Because I've SO many photos to share, I've decided to split the challenge into two posts, this one documenting my visits to the three shops and the next one showcasing all the outfits.
Kings Square first and this shop is massive - so much fab stock. It's got tons of parking outside so is a great one for donating to as you can park right at the door and empty your boot. The team were great and very patient with me as I tried on a hundred things and took photos of even more...including this great wee cream top (sadly too big)
I know it's coming into spring and summer but navy boots are hard to come by...these are from M&S (size 5)
I noticed this shop had a good selection of formal dresses including this lovely embellished one:
Stacy the manager told me there are always a few formal dresses in the store room so if you're looking, just ask the staff if you can't find any on the shop floor. Here's what was in Kings Square as of last week.
Although I wasn't looking for coats, I couldn't resist trying on these next two - both lovely bright colours.
Then I stepped away from the coats, gathered up my wee stash of SS17 pieces and hit the road to Holywood Torgrange and again, this one has parking right at the door - perfect for donating.
Aileen, the manager has the place looking so well. It was the tidiest charity shop I've ever been in and it smelt amazing. It's the little things like that which make all the difference.
I was particularly impressed with the footwear here, starting with these M&S leather ankle boots
and these lovely ones from Dune
Velvet going out boots from New Look
For anyone nervous of leopard, how about this print from M&S?
Also in Holywood, I found brand new LK Bennett Trousers (sadly too small)
and unworn Jimmy Choo shoes! Ok they're not exactly on trend but they're Jimmy Choo and brand new for £50...
Oh and the coat trying on thing again..this time a more SS17 appropriate mac. This did come home with me and I'm currently debating keeping it:
My final visit was to Cregagh Road which was definitely the busiest of the three shops with a huge footfall passing outside.
Being on a main route into Belfast and itself a buzzing shopping street, means that stock moves fast here and I had to keep hold of everything I was interested in as it would be lifted otherwise! My phone battery at this stage had given up the goat so I didn't get photos while I was in the shop but I did pick up 10 items for the challenge so you'll see lots from this store on my next post. I had a good chat with Julie, the manager here who again was so patient with me trying on and discarding a ton of stuff.
The common theme across all three shops is that they are constantly looking for volunteers to help and as someone who volunteered for a time in a charity shop and LOVED it, I want to encourage anyone with a few hours to spare to do the same. As well as getting first dibs on all the fab items that are donated (oh and volunteers pay normal prices for all items they buy themselves!), you will meet people and make friends - all while helping an amazing charity.
I read my blogging friend Nikki's post about loneliness the other day and it rang true with me - it's easy to feel quite lonely when family life takes over and there's no time for you. Or if you move to a new town and don't know anyone. Volunteering like this is a great way to get involved in your community and do something just for you, while the kids are at school. There's no obligation to do a certain amount of time or to even commit to a single day/time every week (though it is immensely helpful to the manager if you can).
If you think you are able to help at all, even just for a few hours, go to your local shop and ask. I'd happily work for any of the three managers I met that day...they're all lovely girls with huge enthusiasm for what they're doing and amazing resourcefulness. It's not easy juggling a team of volunteers not knowing for sure if you've someone to help you each day in the shop.
The other appeal I want to make on behalf of the shops is for clothing and homeware donations. The weather is starting to brighten up and spring will soon be properly here so why not earmark this weekend as the one where you make up a bag. Even if you have only a few things - you don't have to fill a massive bin-bag or anything. I try to donate 3 or 4 things every month, rather than accumulating it for a full season. Less guilt that way too :)
So I'm off now to write up the blog post with my 5 looks from Barnardo's and I hope to have it live on the blog on Sunday!