Tony Foster – Community Shop Manager at Morningside, Edinburgh and a lifelong lover of musty curios
Regardless of its monetary worth to Shelter Scotland, I have to say I absolutely love old stuff. I have done since I was a teenager. I loved old music, clothes, furniture and curios and was a regular frequenter of second-hand shops from a very early age. So, alongside the enjoyment of raising money for a charity I’m passionate about and being able to spend my working days with our amazing volunteers and supporters, the fact that every day we receive bags choc-full of old stuff, often teasingly wrapped in newspaper… it’s like Christmas Day every day!
Now, understandably most people’s preference is to buy new. It’s what we’re used to, bombarded by images and adverts selling us the latest ‘must haves’, but I’ve always been more attracted to (okay, new tech is very desirable!) the old and hard to find. I have a small collection of three things: vinyl records, hand-winding watches and vintage trunks & cases. I prefer my vinyl to be mint, my watches with some signs of wear, but the trunks, like many older items become more desirable by the ageing process, the signs of use and the journey they have undertaken. Old stuff can have a history which you can sense by its look and feel, and it’s that history which is the biggest attraction.
Clothes. Vintage clobber.
Vintage clothes were my life in my teens and twenties. I loved vintage tweed, sharp ‘60s suits, old brogues and DMs, Fred Perry shirts, British harringtons and parkas, American suede and leather jackets. The film Quadrophenia was an inspiration and for that truly authentic vintage look, charity shops were a perfect place to start. Knowing these clothes may have been worn in their heyday on the back of a vintage Lambretta or BSA was all I needed to know.
Now, there are some amazing modern designers making incredible clothing using quality fabrics, but with the majority of the population living on a very limited budget, at what price? Centre stage in our shop are our premium rails, selling many items that retail new for over £100. In a charity shop you can buy at least five such items, all in near perfect condition for under £100. Often these items will be rare or discontinued lines, making your look and style unique. In our shop you can buy a beautiful Hobbs, Boden or French Connection dress for under £20. What will that buy you in your large High Street retailer?
Bric. Curios. Ornaments. Stuff.
Outwith clothes, bric-a-brac is the lifeblood of charity shops. Unearthing a vintage typewriter, sewing machine or camera are highlights but again, for me it’s all about the item’s back story and the lives it has affected. With the old stuff it’s also an appreciation of the design and craftmanship – the fact it has survived the test of a very long time – the fragrance, wear and patina that add desirability. Globes, binoculars, lamps, musical instruments, paintings, pottery, crockery and items of unknown origin fill our shelves, radiating charm and character into our shop.
Books, records and other nuggets.
We get bags full of vintage books every week, many over a century old and simply knowing they’ve survived that long is incredible, but the enjoyment they’ve given, the learning and changes they’ve made to the lives of their owners, seeps through their pages. It’s like the book is telling you a story even before you’ve started reading it, and it’s all of this on top of the aged fragrance which makes old and collectable books so desirable.
Vinyl records are a passion of mine, and if there’s one donation that brings the biggest smile to my face, it’s a box of vinyl albums. More your Dylan or Hendrix than Wunderlich or Doonican, but hey, it’s all a matter of taste and we’ll take whatever comes! Some vintage jewellery can be stunning and the learning process of understanding gems and hallmarks is enjoyable and ongoing. Plus, there’s always our regular customers and collectors with their own specialities who are often keen to impart their knowledge.
Protect the earth and your pocket
In today’s throwaway culture there is perhaps one issue above all relating to the many benefits of old stuff in charity shops. Unbelievably, the UK fashion industry is a bigger source of carbon emissions than aviation and shipping. Recent reports estimate textile production creates 1.2bn tonnes of CO2 each year and 20% to 35% of all primary source microplastics in the ocean. As a society it is everyone’s responsibility, from individuals to multi-national organisations, to reduce our carbon footprint. Please, donate your old stuff to charity shops for the good of the planet and choose your next outfit from us for the good of Shelter Scotland, and your purse.
Find your local Shelter Scotland shop at www.shelterscotland.org/shops