Fashion passion! Hidden gems to be found in charity shops

Gill Dibben says there are hidden fashion gems to be found in charity shops.

Gill Dibben says there are hidden fashion gems to be found in charity shops. Gill is the area retail manager for Emmaus Suffolk. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

If you're looking for quality fashion at an affordable price, then charity shops could be the answer, says the retail manager for Emmaus Suffolk, Gill Dibben. 

Sales are thriving at the charity’s newest shop - and cafe - in the former Royal Oak pub in Felixstowe Road in Ipswich, which opened in December last year. Emmaus supports those at risk of homelessness. 

Gill says she has high standards for the quality of stock she allows on shop floors, as she believes that charity shops can provide a real alternative to fast-fashion. 

Gill says she is very selective about the quality of items she allows on the shop floor.

Gill says she is very selective about the quality of items she allows on the shop floor. - Credit: Gill Dibben

“Lovely millennials have made it not only acceptable but desirable to wear pre-loved clothes,” explains Gill, who says she takes inspiration from retail guru Mary Portas. 

“[This is] thanks also to fashionable re-selling apps such as Depop, which have highlighted the prestige of owning unique pre-loved and vintage clothing. 

“Quite often, I find designer items among our donations.” These may be sold via a traditional auction house, or through the Depop app. 

Gill continues: “In our Sailmakers shop just before Christmas, we received a donation of box-fresh Christian Louboutin ladies’ shoes (the ones often worn on the red carpet, known for their scarlet leather soles).  

“Unsurprisingly, those sold quickly at a fraction of the original £550+ retail price, earning fast income for the charity and offering terrific value for the buyer.   

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“We have much more freedom than mainstream retailers to price things how we believe is right for our local demographic, which means our customers often find surprisingly affordable luxury items.” 

Gill also believes that charity shops can also breathe new life into the high street. 

Gill makes sure the shop floor is full to bursting with quirky items.

Gill makes sure the shop floor is full to bursting with quirky items. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

“It used to be said of charity retail outlets that we were ‘lowering the standards’ of the high street,” she says. 

“That attitude has all changed now, because it’s evident we offer so many different benefits, experiences, and opportunities. 

“We offer such personal, one-to-one connection, a chance to chat while browsing in an almost social setting, interaction with friendly human beings.  

“Our shops help to knit the community together and attract people to the high street who want a safe space to volunteer, shop and socialise.” 

The latest Emmaus shop to open in Felixstowe Road in Ipswich includes a café open Wednesday to Saturday.

The latest Emmaus shop to open in Felixstowe Road in Ipswich includes a café open Wednesday to Saturday. - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND