Oxfam shops

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Drop and Shop style tips: How to edit your wardrobe

I’ve worked with Oxfam Ireland many times over the years and was thrilled when they asked me to support the new Drop and Shop campaign – which is also a great scheme for you to get involved with.

I’ve always found Oxfam to be a great organisation to work with on shows and shoots – the staff and volunteers really know their stuff about fashion, both current and vintage, and have a great eye for merchandising. These events are the most fun for me to style because you never know what you might find when trawling through the stock.

Working with Oxfam on fashion shows, such as Belfast Fashion Week’s Charity Shop Challenge, always causes quite a stir. Over the years there have been near-riots backstage on more than a few occasions when models spy one-off desirable pieces that they wanted to buy – while at the same time members of the audience mobbed the Oxfam shop manager to buy the pieces straight off the catwalk.

DROP

I recently realised how many clothes I have (a lot), yet I tend to wear so few of them. You know how it is – you throw on whatever is handy, you rely on a certain style formula, a colour palette, a silhouette, a trademark. And there is nothing wrong with that, it’s important to have a personal style that suits you and your lifestyle. Honestly though, it’s easy to go from personal style straight into a style rut. I verge on this sometimes and I’m a stylist! I live and breathe this stuff.

A wardrobe fit to bursting sounds like the ideal scenario for any fashion-conscious person (or in my case, a room overflowing to another room, overflowing to the floor…) but the reality is that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. This means the majority of our clothes are sitting there, doing nothing. Getting in our way, occasionally sneaking into the laundry. It makes getting ready in the morning more taxing, as you wade through rails of ex-favourites to find the one thing you are looking for.

But these clothes could be doing something. A big something. Did you know that a high quality/one-off piece like a designer dress or a piece of furniture can raise vital funds and make a big impact on Oxfam’s work worldwide? For example, a jumper sold for £6/€8 at your local Oxfam Ireland shop could help purify around 2,000 litres of water, making it safe to drink for families living in makeshift camps in Nepal.

Take a few hours to go through your wardrobe. I bet you have loads of things you’ve only worn once or twice, or maybe never worn? Try them on. Why did you buy them in the first place? What do they work well with? Do you still like these pieces? Decide what to keep and what to ditch. Get rid of anything you haven’t worn for over 18 months (except occasion clothing and items with sentimental value), anything that no longer fits and anything with the labels still attached.

Bag these items up and drop then to your local Oxfam shop. I now do this regularly and it feels great. The relief of having a nice organised, clear wardrobe is fab. The feel-good factor, knowing that you are doing your bit to help Oxfam fight poverty and save lives in emergencies, is priceless.

There’s an extra pressure in these days of social media and the ever-present camera. With every event and night out charted on our Facebook and Instagram, people are feeling the pressure previously reserved for celebrities – being photographed in the same outfit over and over. It sounds silly but I bet it’s gone through your mind before. What better reason to bag up those old favourites and donate so that someone else has the chance to have a night out in that gorgeous dress and hopefully you can pick up something just as stunning when you #dropandshop – you get 15% discount on the day you drop. Share your experience on social media to be in with the chance of winning a refurbished iPad 2.

SHOP

I’ve been a trawler of charity shops since I was a little kid – first of all spending my pocket money on old Enid Blyton books and Judy annuals, then on slip dresses and grandad cardigans during the grunge years of the ’90s. Here are my top tips.

- Don’t take vintage/second-hand items at face value – body shapes have changed over the last century, so clothing may need alterations. Long skirts can be cut short, necklines altered, garments restyled. You should find a good dressmaker or learn how to use a sewing machine.

- Imagine a piece out of context. On a crowded shelf of scary figurines, or a rail of sad-looking frocks, you must try to see each item as an individual. Pick up every piece and imagine it out of context: in Urban Outfitters or Topshop, say or a cool boutique. Things which look tatty and unloved sometimes just need a bit of styling. Stand back, squint, and imagine how it would look somewhere really chic.

Charity shopping does take a certain amount of commitment. You can’t just waltz in twice a year and hope to strike gold. Little and often is the best way, dash around your locals on your lunch break at least once a week. Get to know the volunteers so you can ask about stock that hasn’t been put on the floor yet.

Find out what day your local charity shops receive their deliveries, so you can get first dibs on the good stuff.

Check for any stains or damages to the garment and be sure it can be repaired.

With proper vintage clothing, do try things on, and don’t trust the labels – ‘standard’ sizing has varied greatly since it was introduced in the 1950s – so a modern size 10 may find that a size 14 vintage garment is a perfect fit. On that note, different decades’ styles flatter different body shapes – the fit and flare silhouette and strong shoulders of the 1940s flatters pear shapes. The full skirts and cinched waists of the 1950s were designed for the hourglass figures, while apple shapes suit the empire line and shorter hemlines of the sixties. Slender figures can carry off the bias-cut of the 1930s and the long, lean looks of the ’70s.

- Wearing top-to-toe vintage can create a theatrical, fancy dress look – mix vintage with high-street and designer to create your own style and keep hair and make-up clean and simple.

Don’t forget men’s clothing – the androgynous ‘boy meets girl’ look great. Look for oversized jackets and shirts to wear with slim cropped trousers. Shoulder pads can be removed and shoulders nipped in.

It is more environmentally sound to buy second-hand – it is the most stylish form of recycling.

The ’70s is a big trend this season and next, with suede coats and jackets being one of the key pieces so keep an eye out for those. Leather pieces are also great investments with the bonus of already been worn in. Try something a bit different, charity shopping is a great time to take a risk and nab a bargain.

When you take your new finds home, see where they fit with your newly edited wardrobe. Mix and match to create new outfits and create a new personal and ethical style.

 

Top fashion stylist and designer Sara O’Neill is supporting the Oxfam Ireland Drop and Shop campaign.

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In with the old and make it new

Oxfam Ireland recently teamed up with Studio Souk and Voluntary Arts Ireland to highlight some of the imaginative and waste-reducing ways in which people can take something unwanted and make it something beautiful.

Visitors and passers-by to our Oxfam Home shop in Belfast could be forgiven for wondering what exactly was going on the shop window recently, as three ladies were to be observed on their knees, in paint-splattered aprons, taking spray cans, sandpaper, staplers, stencils and screwdrivers to some of the furniture that was for sale in the shop.

But no, they weren’t vandalising Oxfam’s stock, just the opposite. The answer? It was a live hands-on demonstration by Oxfam partners Studio Souk – a Belfast-based collective of creative businesses – to mark the #LovetoUPCYCLE campaign. The aim is to highlight how imaginative and creative upcycling can reduce waste by turning old and otherwise unwanted items into fabulous and desirable new pieces.

As Linzi Rooney, Studio Souk Director, explains, “Upcycling helps sustain the environment around us and most importantly to reduce landfill, which at this time is at a critical condition. Upcycling gives an individual the ability to express themselves and their personality through an item, whether it be an unused wardrobe or an old cup and saucer, and to create something unique.”

The day before the demo I had met with Linzi to select a few items from the Oxfam shop floor that would best be suit the makeover demonstration. We finally selected a nest of walnut tables, a set of drawers and an open-top pine chest with a cushioned seat.

 

Before upcycling… All the items were sourced from the Oxfam Home store. Photos by Phillip Graham/Oxfam

The next morning, the creatives – Linzi, Madeleine, Paula, with assistance from Bobby – set to work. They quickly earned my admiration for how they could see beyond the temporary faults of the tired furniture and only visualise how its potential could be unleashed with a bit of crafty TLC and upcycling.

I wasn’t the only one admiring their skills. While the ladies were busy with their heads down, hard at work, I could witness how their creative efforts were drawing appreciative glances from the shop’s customers.

Indeed more than one shopper was so curious and eager about the items craftily being upcycled that they ignored the BBC and Northern Visions TV crews who were filming us, so as to get up close and personal with the furniture – almost knocking over the pots of paint on the floor in the process. Talk about an interactive workshop!

 

During… creatives at work in the Dublin Road Oxfam Home store, Belfast. Clockwise, from top left: Linzi Rooney, Studio Souk Director; Madeleine Beattie; Bobby Kleinmeuman and Paula McVeigh. Photos by Phillip Graham/Oxfam

All the items of furniture were given a new lease of life with vibrant Spring colours using chalk paints.

Paula took what was a rather ordinary chest of white drawers, sanded them back, before applying a beautifully bright pink coat of chalk paint. On the top, Paula used a stencil to paint a sky of clouds and balloons in a blue sky to revitalise a piece of furniture that is now both fun and practical, perfect for a young girl’s bedroom. Linzi also suggested that with more time the handles, could be changed, using domestic cutlery for a quirky touch.

Meanwhile, Madeleine was working on the pine chest, which she dismantled and stripped back, before treating it to some lemon yellow chalk paint. The chest top was removed at the hinges and the seat’s tired tweedy cushion covering was made over with the aid of some blue linen material which had also been found in the shop. The visually-striking chest was then re-assembled and reborn, ready to find a new loving home.

Linzi was giving a makeover to a dark walnut nest of tables, the top one of which was missing a glass insert. Linzi set about painting all three in a vibrant green (the Oxfam green, appropriate for the environmentally-friendly initiative!), and after 2 coats of paint sanded it back to better reveal the detailing.

Bobby, an Australian by birth and a sewer by craft, also assisted the Studio Souk Creatives throughout. Bobby also endeared herself to the Oxfam Home staff when she bought a dresser and other items from the shop – no doubt they too will be lovingly made over in due course.

 

… and after. All items of furniture were given a new lease of life with vibrant Spring colours using chalk paints. Photos by Phillip Graham/Oxfam

If, like Bobby, you buy materials, furniture, clothing or anything you like from one of Oxfam’s stores and show us (via our Facebook and Twitter pages) how you like to upcycle them, you will be invited to a free upcycling workshop, teaching you even more ways to get creative with your lesser-loved possessions.

So why not get in touch with your creative side and get upcycling with the help of items to be found at your local Oxfam shop? You will also be raising vital funds for our work overseas, such as our current emergency response to Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu where families desperately need food, water and sanitation.

In the meantime, for more practical tips and advice on upcycling furniture, fashion and homewares, be sure to check out the blog at www.studiosouk.com.

All items and accessories for upcycling were sourced from the Oxfam Home store, 52-54 Dublin Road, Belfast.

Top tips

  • To give old, unwanted items a new lease of life may mean a bit of basic TLC, with just a bit of chalk paint; or re-upholstering a fabric cover; or perhaps even a bit of lateral thinking to imagine a completely different use for the item altogether.
  • While the makeovers shown here were items of furniture, you could just as easily apply the upcycling lessons to clothing (such as stenciling a new design on an old T-shirt) or homewares (curtains, or reusing them to cover cushions).
  • Express yourself and be an artist in your own right. It’s for you to decide how you want something to be, rather than what the high street dedicates to you. Be inventive, be different – for example, use unused cutlery as drawer handles. Thinking outside of the box not only helps the environment but is loads of fun too!
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Christmas at Oxfam

There is something for everyone at Oxfam Ireland this Christmas with the Christmas at Oxfam gift range. From refurbished iPads and retro games to the gift of clean water or Fairtrade chocolates, there’s the perfect present for that big box under the tree as well as a host of novelty stocking-fillers and festive essentials.

We’ve also got the ideal gift for the person who has everything with the Unwrapped range, which supports our life-changing work worldwide and helps those who have lost everything by providing cooking stoves that keep families safe and warm in emergencies as well as helping poor farmers to thrive and lots more besides. 

oxfam unwrapped

By purchasing an Unwrapped gift, you’ll be helping people like Yang Pal who lives in UN House in Juba, a camp for internally displaced people. Yang Pal is one of 1.5 million people forced to flee their homes after fighting broke out in South Sudan last December. 

Above: Yang Pal at an Oxfam cooking stove distribution, UN House, South Sudan Photo: Mackenzie Knowles Coursin / Oxfam

A fuel-efficient cooking stove (€9/£8) means that Yang Pal can cook more economically and efficiently as well as keep warm. It also helps keep her safe by reducing the need for women like her to venture out in search of firewood into areas where they are at risk of attack. 

Yang says: “[The cooking stove] saves time, as you don’t have to keep adding charcoal and it saves money because you don’t have to keep buying charcoal after the vouchers [also distributed by Oxfam] have been used.”

 
Above: Melissa Cameron, Oxfam Unwrapped supporter and shop volunteer: "I've always supported Unwrapped. My parents have been supporting Oxfam Canada and buying Unwrapped gifts at Christmas time for as long as I can remember, since I was a kid, so when I moved to Ireland it was just a natural thing to do. You could say it’s a family tradition.
 
I’ve already bought all my Unwrapped gifts for this year - my sister-in-law is getting Care for a Baby because she just had a baby. My brother is getting School Books and my grandmother is getting Educate a Girl - they both used to be school teachers. I'm vegetarian and I'm making my husband be vegetarian with me so that's why he’s getting A Clutch of Chicks this year. And I’m getting A Goat for my parents as they love animals and a Cooking Stove for my in-laws.
 
They're great gifts for people who are really hard to buy for or who already have everything. They always love reading about how the gifts help and where the money is going.”  Photo: Brian Malone / Oxfam
 

Whatever Unwrapped gift you decide to buy, Oxfam will ensure that your money has the best possible impact on the communities who need it most. To find out more click here, call 1850 30 40 55 (ROI) or 0800 0 30 40 55 (NI) or visit your local Oxfam shop.

 

our new gift range

This Christmas, we’ve also added the iPad 2 to our Born Again range of refurbished computers. Priced at just €299/£235, the iPads have been fully restored, tested and given a new lease of life and are the ideal gift for kids, teenagers, students and silver surfers. Born Again iPads and computers (laptops from €189/£149 and desktops from €125/£99) are available online here or at selected Oxfam shops across Ireland.  

The rest of the Christmas at Oxfam range is on sale now at Oxfam Ireland’s fifty shops nationwide, with stocking fillers that include ladies and men’s festive socks (€2.49/£1.99), retro games like Jacks, Noughts and Crosses and Tiddlywinks (from €5.99/£4.99) and Fairtrade stationery such as sparkly pens (€1.99/£1.49) and notebooks (€3.49/£2.49), among other gifts.

And for the foodies, there’s a delicious range of festive treats, including Fairtrade Divine Ginger Thins (€4.99/£3.99) and Fairtrade Divine Dark/Milk Chocolate Coins (€2.49/£1.99) as well as Mulled Wine Spices (€3.49/£2.99) – the perfect addition to any Christmas hamper!

There are also Christmas cards (from €1/£0.99 - €5/£3.99), advent calendars (from €3.99/£3.49) and crackers (from €4.99/£3.99) on sale as well as a selection of decorative bells in red and white (€4.99/£3.99). 

The Christmas at Oxfam range offers high-quality gifts that give back. The profits from the sale of each Christmas gift will support our work worldwide, helping to give hope this season to families and communities living in extreme poverty or affected by emergency situations like South Sudan or Syria.

The Christmas at Oxfam gift range is available at Oxfam shops nationwide. Find your nearest Oxfam shop.

 

 

Full range of Christmas gifts from Oxfam Ireland:

Festive socks – Ladies and men’s novelty socks: €2.49/£1.99
Retro games – Jacks: €5.99/£4.99
Retro games – Noughts and Crosses: €6.99/£5.99
Retro games – Tiddilywinks: €6.99/£5.99
Sparkly pens: €1.99/£1.49
Sparkly pen pot: €4.99/£3.99
Felt brooch (assorted colours): €3.49/£2.99
Set of three gold coloured elephants: €6.99/£5.99
Sparkly Compact Mirror: €2.99/£2.49
Paper covered notebook: €3.49/£2.99
Angels in a Bottle: €3.49/£2.99
Worry Dolls: €3.49/£2.99
Bell Curved Red/White: €4.99/£3.99
Bell Straight White/Grey: €4.99/£3.99
Advent Calendar Fairground Pop-up XM14: €3.99/£3.49
Chocolate advent calendar: €4.99/£3.99
Cracker MYO Kraft: €4.99/£3.99
Cracker Mini: €4.99/£3.99
Milk Chocolate Coins: €2.49/£1.99
Dark Chocolate Coins: €2.49/£1.99
Ginger Thins: €4.99/£3.99
Mulled Wine Spices: €3.49/£2.99

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Six Simple Steps For Successful Decluttering

We recently teamed up with Declutter Therapist Breda Stack to help you to organise your closet, stop unnecessary hoarding and to declutter your life.

 

Decluttering your closet and organising your life can have lots of great benefits

Above: Breda Stack, The Declutter Therapist.

Breda defines clutter as “anything physical, mental or emotional that doesn’t serve us or make us feel good. By letting go of anything that doesn’t enhance our life, decluttering helps us to make room for better things.

“It reduces stress and makes us feel happier and in control – I hear the words ‘freedom’ and ‘relief’ a lot. Giving to charity is also a feel-good exercise and a great way to extend the life of our unwanted possessions.”

Breda has made it her mission to raise awareness about the holistic benefits of decluttering and organising your home, not just in terms of physical space but also mental and emotional wellbeing.

Clutter may not enhance your life but at our Oxfam shops we can use it to transform lives. For example, the sale of a dress for €8 could help purify around 2,000 litres of water, making it safe to drink for South Sudanese families living in makeshift camps.

To help you with your decluttering and to show how to organise your life, Breda shared her Six Simple Steps for successful decluttering:

  1. Become aware of what doesn’t make you feel good. Your clutter threshold depends on your physical space, lifestyle and tastes
  2. Plan in advance. To prevent getting quickly disillusioned, work to a simple, step-by-step system that’s realistic for you
  3. Be patient. Decluttering is a process that requires time, energy and a reprioritisation of what’s important in your life
  4. Believe you can do it. Although becoming clutter-free and organised may not come naturally, trust that you can learn these skills
  5. Be honest with yourself. Let go of any guilt and follow your gut when making decisions – if in doubt, it needs to go
  6. Stay focused. Keep in mind the physical transformation as well as the many holistic benefits you’ll enjoy after you’ve decluttered

By Breda Stack, The Declutter Therapist

Why not give it a go today and let go, feel good and change lives?

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Upcycling before and after: find your project at Oxfam Home

Fancy a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture? Rather than shelling out on a designer piece, check out the selection of good quality and great value furniture in your nearest Oxfam Home shop, roll up your sleeves and get upcycling!

Whether it’s simply dipping the legs of a wooden stool in bright paint or embarking a full-scale re-upholstery of a mid-century style armchair, there’s never been a better time to embark on a DIY meets design project.

Interiors blogger Alex Carberry (aka Hydrangea Girl) recently worked her magic on a set of bedside tables from Oxfam Home – you can see the beautiful results here.

Above: QuirkiStuff upcyclers Sue and Les Corbett at an upcycling event held in Dublin last year by Crown Paints and House and Home magazine in association with Oxfam. Photo: Paul Sherwood

Another person who knows a thing or two about giving furniture a new lease of life – Les Corbett of upcyclers QuirkiStuff and an Oxfam Home regular – share his top tips for upcycling:

Above: Oxfam Home regulars and serial upcyclers Les and Sue Corbett of QuirkiStuff have given these pieces of furniture the ultimate makeover. Photos: QuirkiStuff

It’s all in prep work

“Fastidious preparation is critical! For example, if you think that the piece you are working on may have been waxed or polished be sure to clean it thoroughly before sanding or painting. Otherwise your sandpaper will become clogged quickly and, more importantly, the paint will not adhere evenly.”

Take it apart first

“Disassemble furniture that is to be painted or varnished… remove hinges, catches, glass, removable moulding. This will enable you to check for damage, clean the hardware and prepare the surfaces as thoroughly as possible. Don’t forget to take numerous photographs and label everything.”

Screw in place

“If you are upcycling an old item, consider replacing the less visible screws with Phillips Head screws (of suitable gauge and length). This will fix the hinges and other hardware more securely.”

Above: More beautiful handiwork from upcyclers Les and Sue Corbett of QuirkiStuff has given these pieces of furniture the ultimate makeover. Photos: QuirkiStuff

Inspired by the before and after results? You can find your very own upcycling project at any of our three Oxfam Home stores, located on Belfast’s Dublin Road and on Francis Street in Dublin 8 and in Dublin’s north inner city just off Parnell Street at King’s Inns Street.

Not only will you have a unique centre-piece for your home, by purchasing your furniture in Oxfam Home you’ll be raising vital funds for our work overseas, such as our current emergency response in South Sudan where families desperately need food, water and sanitation.

Call in, we’d love to see you!

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