Lorna O'Brien learns how buying unloved clothes helps tackle the industry’s problem with fast-fashion
Originally opened as a short-term pop up shop back in 2015, Manchester’s Thrift Shop is still going strong two years later. Although peculiarly located adjacent from Piccadilly Gardens' bus stop, it attracts customers young and old from all walks of life, reflecting the diverse nature of the city’s residents. University students in brightly coloured bomber jackets and older women on the hunt for the perfect vintage handbag are among some of the customers who pass through its doors.
No matter your budget, finding that one of a kind item to complete your look is made easy with the colour coded pricing system. Items with a pink tag are £6 each, or two for £10, those with a blue tag are £10 each and items with plain tags are £4 each or 3-for-£10. It might sound too good to be true, but the majority of items are in excellent condition, with some dating back to the 1920s. For those in need of some extra TLC, there’s the £1 rail which includes everything from jeans to Indian inspired tunics.
According to the charity Traid, 300,000 tonnes of textiles are thrown away every year in the UK, something Thrift Shop manager Annabel Holland is determined to tackle. She buys from charity shops in places like Ireland, where knitwear in particular is donated in good condition. This approach means that “everybody’s happy”, she tells me as we stand surrounded by bags of clothes in the back of the shop. She certainly seems excited at the prospect of unpacking everything and deciding which items will be put out onto the shop floor. As well as charity shops, she also buys from warehouses in America and Japan which deal exclusively with second hand clothing, meaning every delivery is different and you never know what might emerge, be it a Ralph Lauren jumper or a pair of velvet Gucci tracksuit bottoms - just two finds from the latest batch.
Out on the shop floor I notice the leather and denim jackets are flying off the rails; as two of the best selling items it’s hardly surprising. Also popular is the branded American sportswear, Harris tweed jackets – a steal at £15 each – and designer work wear at discount prices. A new delivery of Coach handbags have just arrived and will surely be snapped up by Manchester’s fashion savvy shoppers who want to look boardroom ready on a budget.
With a new store set to open in Bristol this month, it’s clear that the Thrift Shop’s ethical approach is more than just a passing trend, and the perfect way to tackle the industry’s problem with fast fashion.
Find the Thrift Shop on 39 Parker Street, Manchester M1 4PH