Discovering thrifting, was like finding love at first sight. Rails of shirts, dresses, and skirts gleamed enticingly under the glare of the shop lights, imploring me to come closer. Despite the musty smell that emanated, I fell hard. A young teen on a budget, who had just started her first job, taught to be precacious with money. It was like Christmas had come early, aisles full of treasure that sparkled oh so gloriously. 7o’s flouncy maxi skirts, and 60’s mini’s, 50’s petticoats, and 90’s chokers, a crash course into fashion history. There were vintage fashion accessories too; faux pearl layered necklaces, and chunky belts. Those [at the time] trendy UGG boots, that you waved around like it was your very own trophy. That was 12 years ago, the day I discovered thrifted fashion in all its gloriousness. Though I was no-longer that wide eyed teen, my love for thrifting never dimmed over the years. In fact, it got stronger. It wasn’t just that I could find amazing clothes, and kit out my wardrobe for cheaper. But it was the fact that shops like Newlife Stores engineered positive social, economical, environmental, and personal change.
Admittedly, my number one reason for supporting charity/ not for profit stores, was because I wanted to raise money for a good cause. I would regularly donate my own clothes to charity shops, and buy clothes in return. I would support organizations who raised money for animals, mental health, and young disadvantaged children, because these were causes that were close to my heart. Why? I was a passionate vegetarian, who was cruelty-free, had dealt with anxiety, and depression for most of my life, and grew up in foster care. I wanted to make a positive impact, which started with the way that I was shopping. It was important to slow down, and be more mindful of who I was as a consumer.
For others, thrifting allows them to become more ‘thoughtful’, and buy into a ‘slow fashion movement’ that aims to be sustainable. It teaches them to put together an ethical wardrobe that champions a circular economy. After all, a circular economy for fashion regenerates the environment, and creates better products for customers. After all, whether you are buying a dress, a new pair of shoes, or a lovely jumpsuit, the product’s life cycle should positively contribute to the wellbeing of ecosystems, animals, and humans. When you choose to support a movement that priortizes the rights of everyone who is involved, you create fairer fashion for all.
Growing up with little money taught me to appreciate every single thing that I owned. I was never someone who threw clothes away. Instead, I still had clothes in my wardrobe from over 10 years ago, that I loved and adored. Although I did buy clothes from fast fashion outlets, I was never someone who shopped ‘without thought’. While I felt guilty about shopping from fast fashion stores, I would counteract that with other positve changes. I stopped using and wearing animal materials about 5 years ago, and haven’t looked back since. I would regularly donate clothing to charity stores, and began educating myself on sustainable fashion. I would buy ethical and sustainable jewellery that was conflict free, and ditched products that tested on animals. Overall, I was a better shopper than I was 10 years ago.
As a child, I was taught to appreciate, and be grateful for what I had. So it made sense that I still loved shopping from non-profit stores, even when I was no longer a ‘broke girl’. Because to me thrifting was never about the money. Even though it was better for my purse, I thrifted because it helped others. I shopped at stores that raised money for stray animals, and even adopted three beautiful cats myself. As someone who grew up with mental health issues, I also championed stores that raised profits for better ‘mental health’. I knew first hand what it was like to still struggle with mental health, and not have the resources needed to heal, and change. Finally, my third charitable passion was young children. As someone who was raised in foster care from the age of 10, I grew up around other disadvantaged kids.
In particular, my foster sister L had Williams Syndrome, caused by a missing chromosone. It was a genetic condition that was characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning challenges. Although she was 13 years old, she was at the developmental age of a 6 year old. However, she was a happy go-lucky young teenager with a radiant smile that lit up any room she was in. She was kind, thoughtful, and despite her speech difficulties, loved expressing herself through music, singing, and dance. She was a ray of sunshine, and inspired me to partner with Newlife the Charity. They were the largest charitable provider of specialist equipment for disabled children, and supported their families too.
In the UK alone, there is over one million disabled or terminally ill children. Newlife Stores is The Charity For Disabled Children who donates 100% of their procceds. While they aren’t a charity shop, they are a not for profit organisation, that sells discounted high-quality clothing to raise money for must-need resources. It’s the first time that I have come across a not for profit clothing store, whose funds go directly in the pockets of children, and their families. Given that I have a personal connection with thrifting, it makes me even prouder to know that I am contributing to a good cause. Why? Because I am passionate about being part of a fashion movement that positively impacts others. Admittedly, I know that I could be more of an eco-conscious shopper. However thrifting at stores like Newlife helps me make socially liberated choices that empowers others.
With the launch of its newest location in High Wycombe, Newlife revolutionizes the way that we see ‘thrifting’, and ‘shopping for charity’. Despite the grey clouds that were looming overhead, it proved to be a roaring success. Prosecco was flowing in tinkling flutes, and the store was alive with a throng of press, creators, and board members who had come to support Newlife in their latest venture. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. I kept saying ‘this dosen’t look like a charity shop’, because it wasn’t one. It was a second hand shop, with clothing donated from their high-street partners including River Island, and Mint Velvet. The high street retailers would donate end of the line clothing, and allow it to be sold at a discounted rate for charity. From womenswear, to menswear, and even a new covetable marketplace, there really was something for everyone.
Immediately, I was struck by the vidid fuschia and magenta pinks that dominated the store. Cotton maxi dresses in a flamingo pink, and an oversized candy pink blazer went into my basket with gusto, while a purplish-pink pair of platforms seemed too good to be true. It was awash in a rainbow of colours, apple green, and pumpkin orange, lilac purples, and a hint of yellow too. For a colour enthusiast like myself, Newlife Stores had fantastic sustainable fashion choices that helped save lives. Located in the infamous Eden Shopping centre, the new store’s celebration of colour was riotous. Even the menswear was vibrant, with tie dye t-shirts, khaki green jackets, and rainbow swimming shorts. It was clear that colour was the order of the day at Newlife, which made sense given it was summer.
Yet, there were autumn, and winter classics too. A chanel esque tweed cream embellished jacket. A parakeet green tailored long-line blazer, and baby blue slacks. The colours might have been bright and vibrant, but these thrifted clothes, and accessories were just at home in winter too. Although I was working with Newlife, there was no obligation to buy any of their products. However, I wanted to. It was helping me make more ethically sound shopping choices, while protecting the environment, animals, and disabled children. After all, Newlife were campaigning to create a circular fashion economy, that was fair, and inclusive. From a socio-economic point of view, Newlife had groundbreaking campaigns that helped great a better future for disabled children. Until March 9 2015, disabled children and adults were not allowed by law to use wheelchairs over 150kgs in weight as they were classed as cars! With the success of their campaigning, a potential 70,000 additional children and young people could now qualify for a hi-tech wheelchair.
With that in mind, myself, and my partner were determined to shop consciously, and develop a summer/autumn wardrobe that ‘would do good’. It was about supporting a slower fashion movement, where they recycled goods from major brands. In return, the brands would improve their environmental social responsibility policies and help protect the planet. Granted, I will say that I am not the most eco-conscious consumer, but I am taking steps to change that. I always loved thrifting, and as an adult that interest has grown. When we recycle or upcycle, we save thousands of tonnes of waste from being sent to landfill every year.
However, despite being new on my sustainability journey, I am aware of greenwashing. Many clothing brands try to capitalize off the growing sustainability movement, without being environmentally friendly. For example, a fast-fashion brand might have one eco-friendly line, but produces thousands of new styles of clothing each week. It is problematic, because it encourages the idea of ‘disposable fashion’, while encouraging people to ‘wear something once’. It could be that they claim their clothing is made from recyled materials, which will make consumers more likely to buy their products. For me personally, if I see the words ‘vegan, cruelty-free, organic, and sustainable’, it gives more incentive to buy things. At Newlife stores however, they aim to eradicate greenwashing, and are transparent about their processes.
Newlife’s partnerships with retailers in the UK and Europe means they can help them understand their surplus waste product, and work to reduce this. After all, a lot of surplus stock from retailers and manufacturers is created as products fail to reach a customer audience or fail their internal quality control standards. However, because of the energy used to ‘produce those items’, they have to find ways to get the product reused. With the opening of Newlife in High Wycombe, customers visiting the Eden Shopping centre, can save these clothes from going to landfill. With proceeds going to the Charity for Disabled children, thrifty fashion has never been so socially conscious.
Sure, it is not the cheapest not for profit store going but that is besides the point. What matters is that you can feel confident knowing that anything you buy A. supports disabled children and their families B. protects the planet, and C. educates you on shopping mindfully. It’s a win, win! I walked away learning that Newlife stores would always try and reduce waste products, re-use when possible, and recycle when there was no other alternative. From a human point of view, they also helped upskill disabled adults. After all, many people with disabilities were not given as many opportunities in the workplace. Working with the Newlife Opportunity Centre, and Newlife People Team, they helped support young disabled adults with work experience. They would offer basic skills training through handling products, give references for external posts, while working in an integrated way. Moreover, the young adults would get to develop their social skills, alongside Newlife’s staff and volunteers.
In London alone there is a huge disability gap. With a disability employment gap of 38.5%, around 370,000 disabled Londoners are out of work. Knowing that Newlife not only donates money to the disabled, but also helps them with work opportunities is amazing. Although my foster sister is not old enough to work, I love that there are organizations out there, that can support her in the future. As someone who aims to be socially responsible, and used to volunteer in the past, I am passionate about creating a better future for all. It comes as no surprise therefore, that Newlife (the charity) is ‘disability confident commited’, registered with ‘fundraising regulator’, and is part of Textiles 2030. I have seen clothing brands who claim to champion positive change, but Newlife Stores 100% puts their words into action.
From a storefront point of view, it is well situated in Eden Shopping Centre, and is beautiful to look at. Pink balloons swollen with helium added to the pretty in pink theme of the store. In my basket a rainbow of colour ensued. The aforementioned pink blazer, dress, and shoes that were oh so gorgeous. The pink pleated skirt that was swishy, and princess like. The pale ceramic pink fluted pink jumper, with mesh whimiscal sleeves. It wasn’t just pink either. The green tailored blazer would pair beautifully with the emerald green cuffed stilettos, while the new romantic flouncy lilac blouse, had a matching quilted bag. A rust bardot three quarter sleeve crop top, happened to be the perfect match for pumpkin orange trousers too. There was a Valentino style pink bikini, that would look glorious on an Italian vacation, while a pair of blue three quarter wide legged trousers also made the cut. My partner was estatic too.
A purple and blue tie dyed oversized t-shirt, and red camo swimming shorts. A ribbed white sports top, and a black top too. Some basics, and luxe items all in his favourite combination of (yep you guessed it) black and white. Still, there was a charcoal grey fitted blazer was quite distinguished, while a denim pair of jeans were swiftly thrown in too. As someone who (and I quote) ‘wasn’t the biggest fan of shopping’, he had a surprisingly fantastic time. When I asked him ‘what changed’, he said it is because it was ‘better organized, had more options available in his size, and everything was all in one place. ‘ He added that ‘the bonus of it raising money for charity, inspired him to buy new clothes for his wardrobe’.
When he asked me the same question, I said that I had always found ‘shopping online’ to be a more peaceful experience, but Newlife seemed different. It was civilized, there was noone fighting over clothes, and it was very chill. It drew me in with colour, and from an aesthetic point of view, there were lots of clothes that matched my personal style. A mix of girly, tailored, feminine, and colourful clothing meant that my wardrobe had just become a lot more colourful, as well as sustainable. With 10 other stores in the UK, here’s hoping a store makes its way to London very soon!
Alongside their physical stores, Newlife also has two online stores. Newlife eBay is where you can find luxury fashion and homeware for less! With items ranging from designer handbags to Kitchen Aids you can find plenty of designer items for less. On the other hand Newlife Online is essentially a newlife store but digital! You can find the same great items in store, now online and get them delivered to your front door. They also have ‘superstore, and discount plus stores, for an extra socially conscious bargain. Newlife Marketplace is a concept store similar to our Newlife Discount Plus Store situated in Cannock Staffordshire. It’s a bargain hunters dream! Offering men’s, women’s, kids and homeware items from designer and high-street brands at even bigger discount prices.
I had always loved thrifted fashion. But Newlife stores helped me see thrifting in a new light. It allowed me to look behind the scenes, and do my research on social environmental policies, terms like greenwashing, and slow fashion. From an eco point of view, I was able to look into the concept of a circular enconomy, and how I might positively contribute to it. Not only to reduce my carbon footprint, but also to be more thoughtful about where my clothes are coming from. It also opened my eyes to the incredible opportunities it was giving their workers, particularly those who were disabled adults. It was clear to me that we needed to close the disability pay/work gap, so more brands needed to follow Newlife’s initiative. As someone who has been brought up with a disabled foster sibling, and has worked with disabled children and adults, its important to me that I support brands like Newlife, who are willing to go the extra mile.
So go on. What are you waiting for? Are you willing to make a change?
Are You A Fan Of Thrifted Fashion?
Please note this is a paid campaign with Newlife Stores but all thoughts are my own, and are not affected by monetary compensation. I am passionate about working with charitable organizations who raise money for a great cause, and this one is close to my heart. My foster sister is a shining example to us all, and despite her disability, she never lets it phase her. L’s positivity is inspiring, and we could all learn a lot from her determination, and strength.