In search of a non-profit, second-hand retailer’s perspective we speak to Francesco Colucci, a Visual Merchandiser for TRAID, to hear their thoughts on the vintage and second-hand market and the role it plays on the high street.
The charity shop TRAID (Textile Reuse and International Development) tackles the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry by reducing waste, carbon emissions and consumption. It also funds projects within the textile industry and educates people on fashion to encourage people to shop more consciously.
TRAID has massively shifted consumer thoughts and behaviours towards charity shopping by curating their clothes and dressing up their windows. TRAID stock a range of items, from luxury finds to affordable pieces, primarily donated from locals and appealing to a wide range of consumers. They have mastered a perfect balance which the new high street is seeking. Hosting regular £1 and £2 sales, they are home to affordable clothes and stocking great quality; their curation and sales allow them to mirror high street stores, but without the negative consequences of the linear fashion industry.
Rosie Trethewey (RT): What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in shopping second-hand this year?
Francesco Colucci (FC): To be honest I have not perceived such a big change, in my field at least. I am well aware of the impact that the pandemic had on retail and its consumers on a large scale. In the second-hand environment, I positively noticed how important [it] has been for people to get back to their daily life and habits, [and] enjoying the shopping also as a societal and sensorial experience.
RT: Have you found vintage pieces? Tell us about the most valuable item you’ve ever seen?
RC: Such a difficult question! During all these 12 years of work I found so many amazing pieces, it’s invaluable to say which specific one. Working for TRAID also has changed remarkably my approach in purchasing clothes, toward a more sustainable direction. I personally buy less than before, only a few pieces and only what really catches my eye.
RT: With the rise in resale, have you noticed the types of people that shop here change?
FC: Not really. I still keep seeing the same different, various multitude of customers and regulars which is the most interesting aspect of working in a second-hand shop.
RT: Do you think that second-hand clothing is becoming less affordable? How do you manage that as a charity?
FC: Maybe less affordable as it became trendy and profitable. In the Charity environment affordability is the final aim, but nonetheless an accurate selection and quality control […] may increase the price.
RT: Do you notice anyone mass buying for ulterior motives? How do you feel about this?
FC: From time to time we do have customers willing to buy a larger amount of clothes for disparate reasons. Fashion or Costume designers for research, personal stylists for their own clients, other retailers for their businesses. I don’t really have an opinion about it. For sure has its mutual advantages: more profit for a Charity Association and encourage/support to new projects.
RT: How do you think social media trends are impacting the second-hand clothing market?
FC: Definitely yes, like in any other field, social media have a huge influence nowadays.
In some cases [they] are also redefining the retail system, online selling/buying turned into a proper business: the difference within Vintage, High-street, Luxury became very subtle.
RT: TRAID changed the game by curating second hand clothing. Do you find that the vintage market has its own trends and how does it differ from the trends set in fashion?
FC: From my point of view there are some differences between TRAID and the usual vintage retail. Both are selling clothes of course but they have different philosophies, concepts and aims. TRAID focuses on selecting and offering good quality second handed products, which are usually donations […] but also from fashion suppliers and companies that operate in ethical and sustainable trade. Vintage bases its business depending on the sources available, and the selection criteria are more flexible.
Through talking to Francesco, I was provided with a real insight into the diversity of shoppers within TRAID and how positive change is happening – thanks to charities like this one. By rebranding typical charity shops, TRAID has provided the change that high streets have long anticipated. TRAID is paving a way to a brighter future for the sustainable fashion industry through their method of resale, and the charities that they support. I hope to see many more second-hand sellers following suit.