One of my favourite research methods for finding out about brands is to get people to talk about their memories and relationship with that brand. What part did it play in their life at various stages? What sounds, smells, images do they associate with that brand?
A recent news item (which I'll come on to) got me thinking about the brand Oxfam
, which has long been part of my life. The brand, originally founded as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief
had already been going over a quarter of a century when our family established a ritual of picking out the Christmas cards from the Oxfam
catalogue. I don't know if Oxfam
invented the charity Christmas card, but they were certainly one of the pioneers.
I also associate Oxfam
in my late 60s and early 70s childhood with textiles and design. I am sure we had one of the Belinda Lyon tea towels, pictured above. And we still have a (well-used) Twit Twoo cushion.
As the 70s moved into the 80s, and throughout that decade, the local Oxfam
shop became a rich source of teenage/20s vitals: second-hand clothes from the 50s and 60s (no-one called them vintage then), books and records. The idea of the charity shop did come from Oxfam
- they opened their first back in 1948.
Having dumped armfuls and box-loads of clothes, records and books back in Oxfam
in the 90s, as I moved to Germany, I entered a rather Oxfam
-lean period, although I now see that there are 42 shops in Germany, and the books are mounting up again ...
has 1,200 shops worldwide and is the largest retailer of second-hand books. Another recent discovery for me is the website
, the store part of which is a treasure trove of everything from vintage dresses, to original art, to military memorabilia. An Ebay
with a conscience.
This brings me full circle to the news. Last week's London Fashion Week
kicked off with an Oxfam Vintage Runway Show, titled 'Fashion Fighting Poverty'. Styled by Vogue Fashion Editor Bay Garnett, supermodels strutted their stuff in gorgeous vintage outfits from Oxfam. Pictures and report here
Back in the 80s, fashion and charity shops were worlds apart. It's wonderful to see them come together to put on a show of sustainable fashion.