Stella Tennant, Daisy Lowe, Laura Bailey, Emeli Sandé, Una Healy ... just some of the models and celebs whose outfits come from Batley. Oxfam Wastesaver Batley gives clothes a second chance as it funds vital work around the world. And it has many celebrity fans showcasing its designer finds. Stephanie Smith reports.
When supermodel Stella Tennant and her 14-year-old daughter Iris teamed up for a fashion photo shoot, they took a stand – and made a point of wearing clothes and accessories that had come mainly from Batley.
The mother and daughter chose to showcase designer pieces from the Oxfam Online Shop, part of Oxfam Wastesaver Batley, the charity’s main sorting depot and recycling hub. In outfits selected and put together by pioneering “thrift” stylist Bay Garnett and shot by celebrated fashion photographer Tom Craig, Stella and Iris modelled the finds to demonstrate just how desirable pre-loved clothing can be, while making a heart-felt protest against the damage caused to the planet by fast fashion. It’s all part of Oxfam’s Second Hand September campaign, challenging the nation to buy pre-loved clothes and accessories instead of new ones for 30 days.
“I’ve worked in the fashion industry for 25 years and it’s clear to me that nowadays we all have to think a lot harder about how we consume,” said Stella. “The fast fashion industry is unsustainable, but we can slow it down by buying more second-hand clothes. I love Oxfam because it does two things at once: it gives clothes a new life and it helps the poorest people in the world.”
Like many young people, Iris, who turns 15 this month, has environmental and climate concerns. “My generation often wants the newest, latest things, but that causes problems for people in other countries and the planet,” she said. “What’s good about shopping in charity shops is you know the clothes are not making climate change worse.”
Oxfam’s ground-breaking Wastesaver plant saves more than 12,000 tonnes of clothing from going into landfill every year. Comprising two huge interconnecting warehouses, on Mill Forest Way, it opened in 2013, two years after a fire closed the original operation in Huddersfield, which had launched in 1974.
Staffed by volunteers who work alongside about 70 paid staff, this is where donations from Oxfam charity shops across the country arrive by lorry to be dropped in black plastic bags into a sorting bay. The contents – the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful – are placed on a long table and sifted through by sorters expert at identifying designer and quality brand pieces for Oxfam Online Shop.
“Our most valuable find was a spring/summer ’04 Chanel jacket which sold for £850,” said Oxfam Online Shop manager Holly Bentley. “We sell such a variety of weird and wonderful pieces, from homeware to wedding dresses, and clothing and accessories from 1900s to the present day. However, our staple bestsellers are always Barbour and Burberry coats.”
At London Fashion Week earlier this year, Stella Tennant joined Daisy Lowe, Laura Bailey, Emeli Sandé, Una Healy and Burberry model Neelam Gill on the catwalk, wearing designer clothes that had been donated to Oxfam shops.
The Batley depot receives all items that have not sold at the Oxfam shop they were donated to within two weeks. The sorting team also pulls out clothes and accessories for Oxfam’s pop-up shops at festivals, and for Oxfam shops short on donations. All profits go to fund the charity’s work across the world, to those fighting poverty and disaster, from Yemen to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Only a small percentage of items reach the online and festival shops. New-looking inexpensive, on-trend clothing goes to Hungary to be sold on to retail shops in Eastern Europe, but most of the wearable clothing goes to Africa, to Frip Ethique, an Oxfam-run social enterprise in Senegal. Bras are particularly sought after and Marks & Spencer is collaborating with Oxfam as part of its Schwopping scheme, with Shwop recycling points at its lingerie fitting rooms, where shoppers can donate bras they no longer want.
Nothing is wasted at Batley; whatever cannot be worn goes to help make mattresses. And what’s left is sent to the Energy From Waste plant at Ferrybridge to make electricity.
The Online Shop is where the high quality and designer pieces are photographed in the studios, then uploaded to sell online. Around 100 new items go online each day and there are about 200,000 items on the site, where they can be seen and bought by fashion lovers across the world.
When it comes to sustainability, environmental and workers’ welfare concerns, the fashion sector is increasingly under the spotlight. The textile industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the shipping and aviation industries combined, while throwaway fashion is often made by workers from the world’s poorest communities, paid below the living wage. Each week, 11 million garments end up in landfill in the UK. But the signs are that our desire for pre-loved clothing is increasing. Holly Bentley said: “Our customer base is definitely growing. Purchasing second-hand clothing from the Oxfam Online Shop not only helps the environment but there is the added feelgood factor of knowing your money is helping to fight poverty all over the world.”
For anyone still thinking twice about shopping second-hand fashion, Iris said: “When I’m in a changing room putting on something new, I know plenty of other people have tried it on before me. The main difference is that when you walk into a charity shop there is normally something for everyone. It’s not one person’s look and style.”
To find out more about Oxfam’s Second Hand September campaign go to po.st/SecondHandSeptember. Oxfam’s Online shop is at www.oxfam.org.uk/shop. Twitter and Instagram: @oxfamonlineshop and tag yourself in social media with your new finds using #foundinoxfam.
* SHOOT CREDITS :
All clothing from Oxfam Online Shop at Batley and from Oxfam stores in support of #SecondHandSeptember @oxfamgb campaign.
Styling: Bay Garnett
Photography: Tom Craig
Hair: Neil Moodie
Make-up: Georgina Graham