Last Thursday saw the launch of the Oxfam and Marks & Spencer two-day pop up Shwop Shop in the flagship Marble Arch store. As newbie to the Oxfam Fashion team I was very lucky to be there for the two days blogging, twittering and getting stuck in on the shop floor. The shop housed the crème de la crème of clothes Shwopped through the Mark & Spencer’s donation bins plus a collection of items straight from the wardrobes of the stars.
Having steamed, priced and lusted after the stock the day before, it was an early start on Thursday to prep the cage-like structure we would call home for the next two days.Fashion gurus Brix Smith-Start and Grace Woodward also attended the opening bringing their stylist know-how to assemble some sensational Shwop stock ensembles.
Shwopping ambassador, Joanna Lumley, cut the orange ribbon to declare the shop officially open to the eagerly awaiting press and PRs. I grabbed the perfectly poised Ab-Fab star for a chat as she glided round the rails and tried on Gary Barlow’s donated dinner jacket. She admitted to being a seasoned fan of charity shops herself and said: “A lot of charity shops get the really, really good clothes which are then knocked down to a fraction of the price. I have no qualms about wearing other people's clothes, it never troubles me. I don’t have dead man’s shoe syndrome, sweetie, if he’s dead I’ll give him a kiss and take his shoe!”
Entranced by the rails stacked with M&S vintage, high street classics and the odd designer bargain, Grace Woodward said: “this is my heaven! I wouldn’t have ever got into styling if I didn’t love clothes. Garments themselves have a magical quality to them. Everything here is individual and that’s really special.”
She continued: “I really believe that people should dress for who they are rather than round peg square hole dressing to what you must be wearing this season.” She certainly practices what she preaches as she wore a stunning pair of black and silver sequin striped jeans and bright aqua accessories.
Grace is also a charity shop regular, rummaging the rails for individuality. Reminiscing about best buys she said: “I wandered into a charity shop and picked up an Ossie Clarke dress which I bought for £15 and then later that day it was announced he died which was just so weird. I also found an original John Galliano dress from his graduate collection which I still have. That’s going to be a museum piece!”
Obviously the fashion creative turned TV personality has a keen eye for hidden gems and advises, when charity shopping, to “either shop for individuality or literally go for the trends. Think what is hot on the catwalk and you can have a designer looking wardrobe for next to no money. Go with your gut feeling thinking ‘I really love that and I don’t care what anybody thinks.’”
Woodward’s final words of wisdom were: “It’s not just about what you’re wearing on the outside. To be a truly stylish person, that comes from within."Brix voiced the resounding message behind the Shwopping incentive when she said: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and it’s as simple as that. It’s human nature and it’s so positive.”
The fabulously flamboyant style guru, well known for appearing on Gok’s Fashion Fix, was a ball of energy grabbing and combining items left, right and centre! When shopping, she said: “just go with your gut instinct and if you love something, go with it. Sometimes you see things which just resonate with you straight away.”
Brix donated bagfuls of luxurious garments, two of which ended up in my own wardrobe, which she’d worn on various TV appearances and to award ceremonies.
Over the rest of the two days, the Shwop Drop bins were overflowing and the clothes were making their way off the rails and off down Oxford Street with new owners to live out a stylish second life. This reuse, resell, recycle ethos is vital to encouraging a sustainable industry and a sustainable planet.