Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Skint & Fabulous: A Brief Rumage Through London's Second Hand Treasures

Somebody recently told me that they had never really thought of me as the “elegant and classy” type, but rather as "somebody who basically lives in charity shops waiting for rich or fashionable people to die". Truth be said, I take bargain hunting to a whole new level. I am infatuated with charity shops and finding cheap, amazing clothes in and around London. Recently I realised that I could map out the entire city by shops alone, so I decided to write a guide for other like-minded individuals out there who want to find fun, bargainous clothes in some of London's dingiest granny shops.

Here is a guide that will help you find your way around the city's hot spots.

Camden is famous for its vintage stalls and markets, attracting tonnes of weird-looking foreigners all year round. Once a Mecca for self-styled, arty individuals on the hunt for unusual clothes, the streets are unfortunately now filled with Indie clones and the markets with clothing for Emos and Goths. However, the high street itself has about four or five good charity shops and you can always find designer clothes there. The vintage stalls themselves are quite overpriced, bar one, which has a big banner over the top that says "Everything £2- £10" (can’t miss it). Everything inside is indeed within this price range and you can find some disgustingly good cocktail dresses there if you go down on a week day.

Further a field is Kentish Town’s High Street where there lies a handful of golden charity shops, all clustered around the dole office. These seem to be frequented by old ladies more than the youthful characters that live in the area, however don't let that put you off. The best bargains are always found where there is less competition! (Charity shopping is a dangerous game you know).

North West
Kilburn is where it all began for me. It is the place that marked the discovery of my first designer item. It was a black, pouf-belle Nicole Farhi skirt, bought for £3 in the Cancer Research shop. I'm telling you, if Camden is Ibiza, Kilburn is freaking Barbados. Not only do you have the benefits of an upmarket thrift store called Traid right on your doorstep (, you also have another six great charity shops well within your reach. These shops are always heaving with clothes as the area is well-populated with rich families who donate lots of expensive, good quality clothes.

Traid is basically a posh thrift store; it buys the clothes that the big stores can't shift from their autumn/spring/summer ranges. You can find anything from 1980's Marks and Spencer dresses, to cardigans from Moschino's 'Cheap n' Chic' range. It's reasonably priced too, the average jumper costing you around £8- £15. I found a 'vintage' neon pink clutch bag in there for only £4.99 two months ago. However, once I got it home I realised it was from H+M as the red label inside kind of gave it away. I was left wondering how 'vintage' H+M could possibly be? Surely it’s only about six years old. So look out for the Real McCoy’s and the...non-Real McCoy’s if you like your vintage.

There is one last shop in Kilburn worthy of a mention. It's called Benny Dee's and is a little scary. It has a 'Chinese sweatshop' kind of feel to it, filled with hideous 'men's and Women's' type clothing. But If you have a good rummage though you're bound to find the odd cute vest top/bright piece of underwear that's so garish it might actually pass as fabulous.

If you’re in the mood for second-hand designer heaven the west end is where it’s at. Notting Hill Gate, Westbourne Grove and Portobello Market are all within walking distance of each other - Westbourne Grove and Notting Hill being famous for their designer goods (donated by their rich inhabitants). Look out for the branch of 'The Notting Hill Arts Fund' charity shops that are dotted all around the area, as on occasion they can provide you with some good finds.
Notting hill has a few charity shops, (three excellent ones on the road down towards High St Kensington), however its specialities are the trade and exchange shops where sixties, seventies and eighties memorabilia can be found, along with a huge collection of obscure and rare vinyl (also found in Camden).

Westbourne Grove also has a branch of Traid, which is often better stocked than Kilburn's branch. There are numerous other great charity shops nearby as you head towards Bayswater, and if your feet are in need of a rest, there's a good selection of eateries nearby, such as Planet Organic and Harlem Soul Food.

Hopefully this guide has either given you some new areas to explore or persuaded you to enter the world of cheap-skate living. If any of you would like to contribute to our Charity-shopping guide, feel free to write to Neon Buzz at with your suggestions.

Marina Diamandis