The phrase ‘charity shop’ used to conger up images not too dissimilar to car boot sales. I’d imagine dusty brightly coloured plastic boxes stood, filled to the brim along hedge rows with children bustling around, pulling on their parents sleeves begging for a 50p tractor with one wheel.
It was the musty smell and the feel of worn fabric that made me question how much money these shops did indeed make for charity. In the past couple of years, however, charity shops, at least the ones I’ve visited, have much improved. They no longer stand out from high street shops, but fit in with their modern decor and intriguing content.
Could this increased interest in charity shops be due to the fashion media’s new obsessionwith their ‘vintage’ labelling? Among the many definitions of ‘vintage’, most of them connected with wines, two stand out in particular; ‘representative of the best and most typical’ and ‘old fashion; dated.’ It appears to be more fashionable in both fashion and decor to own the real thing rather than a take on a classical design. After all, so many designs are influenced by past trends. John Walsh of The Independent calls the world of vintage a ‘style revolution that’s been sweeping the nation for a few years’.
There are many events celebrating everything vintage such as ‘Vintage at Goodwood’, the annual music and fashion led celebration of creative British cool from the 1940s to 80s, featuring the leading DJs, bands, collectors, purveyors of vintage clothing and vintage vinyl from each decade. It must be partly because you know the money is going to a good cause and partly because it’s very hard to resist something that is ‘vintage’, even if it is more expensive than a replica in IKEA or Primark.
It is now fashionable to say that you own a ‘vintage’ item, be it a pair of shoes or a teapot. “The British have always been brilliant at recycling,” says the designer Wayne Hemingway when asked how it’s extraordinary to think how many British girls have been inspired by Oxfam shops.
Oxfam has recently gone online (check it out at http://www.oxfam.org.uk), which in itself illustrates just how popular second hand goods are becoming. So while the crowds head in to the yellow and blue giant at the weekends, browse around your nearest charity shop; sift through records, model that bag or pick up a couple of miscellaneous plates, because remember, it’s vintage.