With inflation hitting the wealthiest hard, the middle-class trend for charity shopping has gone high-end, writes Emelia Hamilton-Russell
Harrods isn’t known for its bargain prices. But just days ago, the iconic Knightsbridge emporium launched the first charity outlet in its 184-year history. The new pop-up store - named ‘Fashion Re-told’ - is just round the corner from the mothership in Sloane Street, and has brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Tom Ford as neighbours. Since last Friday when the store opened, bargain hunters and eco conscious luxury shoppers have been piling into the store in search of the perfect - and perfectly affordable – top-up for their summer wardrobes.
And it’s no wonder that the cut-price fashion pop-up has proved to be such a hit. The wealthiest 10 per cent of UK households - currently earning £78,500 or more a year - have seen inflation rise a staggering 64 per cent over the last 20 years, according to a report from Tilney published last year. Those that drop more money on discretionary spending such as holidays, cars and school fees - the last of which have increased in cost four-fold over two decades – are even more likely to feel the sting.
Enter the charity shop for the front row fashion set. Second-hand dresses from brands such as Max Mara start from £200, skirts from the likes of Missoni from £100, mens’ designer shirts from £35 and new handbags from £200. All designer and high-end pieces on sale have been donated by Harrods customers, employees and brands, including Mulberry, Loewe, JW Anderson, Céline, Victoria Beckham and Anya Hindmarch. What’s more, shopping is guilt free. The money raised after costs incurred by Harrods and landlord Cadogan, which donated the shop space, will go to charity.
Harrods managing director Michael Ward, who came up with the idea, told the Evening Standard: ‘No one would ever think of Harrods running a charity shop, it’s a very British thing that foreign brands can’t really do. It’s all about having a bit of fun, making it light-hearted.’ The ‘pre-loved’ clothes have only been worn once or twice, and all have been dry-cleaned, Ward is quick to point out.
The ‘distinctive and playful’ pink interior is fitted out to the same luxury spec as a department in the store. ‘If you walked past you’d think it is a designer fashion shop. If Harrods does it, Harrods does it properly,’ says Ward. It’s staffed by Harrods and NSPCC volunteers, and the money raised will fund key services in the capital like Letting The Future In, which helps young people recover from the trauma of abuse. Cadogan chief executive Hugh Seaborn says: ‘creating great places is not just about bricks and mortar — it’s about contributing to the local community and wider society.’ Even Knightsbridge, it seems, can’t turn its nose up at the humble charity shop. Unless they want to see a drop in customers, the likes of Harvey Nichols, Selfridges’, and Fortnum and Mason’s should follow suit. Everyone likes a virtuous splurge.
The store is open until May 11.