While Macklemore & Ryan Lewis made thrift shopping cool again all the way back in 2012 (I really cannot believe it was that long ago), it is a trend that has managed to last into the next decade with people becoming more consumer-conscious and eco-friendly. While vintage has always been desirable, fast fashion is becoming decidedly less so and many people are opting to browse through pre-owned clothing that are still in good condition and some are sold for a fraction of the price.
Anyone in search of a good bargain will know the kinds of steals available at these stores: I just hope that you found as good a deal when you booked your hotel accommodation. Fortunately, all of the Park Grand Hotels in London fall under the helpful categories of hotels that allow you to Book Now and Pay Later to make sure that your finances are all in order by the time that you stay.
It is also worth noting that very many of the more current second-hand clothing is sold at a discount through stores with charity affiliations, meaning that the profits go towards funding deserving causes while also lessening the environmental impact of clothing waste and excessive clothing production. A win on all accounts, in my books. I will admit that it does sometimes take some persistence and a willingness to rummage – but finding an outfit that none of your friends will have with all the benefits I mentioned above really does pay off. Especially if you know where to go.
This article is split between Charity Thrift Shops and Vintage Thrift Shops. In the context of this article, all are pre-owned, and both often have “vintage” items to sell (even if the Charity Thrift Shops typically have fewer). Some of the Vintage Thrift Shops do have a few more “current” items, but they are usually very high-end pieces to justify their place in these stores and will cost a pretty penny. The main difference – obviously – is that all or part of the profits from Charity Thrift Shops are donated to specific causes, whereas the Vintage Thrift Shops I list below are private businesses. The important thing is that both are contributing to the cause of recycling fashion instead of increasing clothing production.
Charity Thrift Shops
If you’ve walked any streets in London, you will be familiar with the Charity Thrift Shops of the well-known charities: British Red Cross, Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, Oxfam, All Aboard Charity Shops and many, many more. They all sell well-kept donations for a fraction of the price, but – because their stores are typically very small – they can only display a limited amount of their donations – so it can be hit and miss at times. Fortunately, there are so many sprinkled all over the place and they have a reasonably quick turn-around time, so you always have new stock to search through. An expert tip is to aim yourself towards the “fancier” high-rent areas of London, which get some very cool pieces. Check out their websites because some list their more valuable finds online.
Lama’s Pyjamas in Bethnal Green uses the funds from its shop to support the London Buddhist Centre and the many services it performs for the community.
FARA has 42 charity shops all over London: many of which are specialised to specific donations such as FARA Homeware, FARA Fine Art, FARA Online and many more. FARA Kids is a particularly brilliant idea given how quickly the little ones can grow out of something they’ve worn once or that you bought for the next season without realising that they wouldn’t fit into it then. All proceeds go to supporting vulnerable children and young adults in Romania.
Mary’s Living & Giving is the perfect excuse to buy yourself high-end designer wear while also helping Save the Children. These boutique shops are skilfully curated by fashion expert Mary Portas and attract the most upmarket donations – Victoria Beckham herself is rumoured to donate to the Primrose Hill shop. The pieces are not cheap, but that just means more money for the children, right?
Vintage Thrift Shops
Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney is so much more than a thrift shop. While it stocks just about everything you can think of from 1900 – 1980 and there is a lot to sift through, they also host some awesome events and even have their own bar. Anyone who has drunkenly done some online shopping knows how dangerous it is to combine alcohol and retail in this way, but it definitely makes for a fun time. They also offer alterations in their shop – which is very useful in thrift stores that only have one of each item.
Another excellent store is Reign Vintage in Soho, which has a nice mix of affordable pre-owned clothes as well as designer items. The best part is that they catalogue their stock on their website and regularly update it so that you can thrift shop online from the comfort of your home.
But for the really exquisite vintage pieces – the collector’s items and potential heirlooms – then there are two places that should be on the top of your radar…when you can afford them. Annie’s Vintage Clothes in The Angel is said to have been the source of some of the costumes in both the 1974 and 2013 versions of The Great Gatsby films. Pennie’s Vintage in Islington is not too far away and proudly supplied Downton Abbey with one of Rose’s most coveted gowns. Both of these shops have photographs of the kind of stock that they sell on their websites, but Pennie’s Vintage’s archives are much more comprehensive and up to date.
The only risk with all these amazing options for sustainable shopping is that you may run out of time for the other activities you had planned around London before you leave! Fortunately, you can still enjoy the decadent experience of a Park Grand Restaurant Afternoon Tea at the very conveniently-located Park Grand Heathrow. So, that’s another thing that you can push off until you have to be closer to the airport and go back to combing through one more rack of exciting vintage finds.