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Sanjida O'Connell

Dr Sanjida O'Connell is a writer and a TV presenter. Sanjida writes about science and green issues. Her latest novel, The Naked Name of Love, was published by John Murray in March. Her latest TV series was on BBC 2: Nature's Top 40, and was a guide to our top British wildlife spectacles. Find more details about Sanjida's work at her website, sanjida.co.uk

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Eco Chic: Are dress agencies guilt-free shopping?

Posted by Sanjida O'Connell
  • Monday, 24 August 2009 at 08:55 am

There is something alluring about it: it has boho chic, a touch of glamour, a glimmer of retro and almost zero guilt. Rag Trade is Bristol’s only dress agency, selling second-hand clothes on behalf of customers. Somewhere between vintage store, charity shop and ebay, dress agencies are a way of being an ethical shopper but one that takes the leg work out of bidding, selling, sifting through rails of rubbish and appeals to the average woman who doesn’t want to wear another era’s clothes.


“The worst thing I’ve been given was Primark – dirty Primark too,” says Cree Jones, owner of Rag Trade. What Cree specialises in are mid to high end high street and designer. The practicalities are that the profits are split 50:50 with the customer. Each garment spends four weeks at the agreed price, is then reduced by a third for two weeks, before retailing for £5-10 and finally ends up in a charity shop if still unsold. “People bring in their clothes to make money,” says Cree bluntly, “the market on ebay has changed and it’s hard to sell, particularly designer clothes, because there are a lot of fakes. People also often say, ‘I would take this to charity but it’s too nice.’” Customers can, of course, receive cash but 600 have chosen to set up an account and use their earnings to buy something new. “They don’t feel as if they’re spending and also it’s a bargain so people don’t feel as guilty,” says Cree, adding, “It’s about making decent clothes more affordable and accessible.”



Naturally anyone can shop in a dress agency even if you don’t want to part with your own clothes. There are some gorgeous garments at Rag Trade: a brand new Blank-UK dip dye tunic with gems like river-washed pebbles caught in a mesh net, a champagne-coloured Prada top made out of a silk parachute with on-trend corset detailing, a Missoni floor-length knit in trade-mark caramel and aquamarine zigzags, a Noa Noa vintage jacket with leaf-green woollen cuffs softly poking out of the sleeves. “Just because it’s second-hand doesn’t mean it’s not fashionable,” says Cree, who likes to look for colours and styles that are in season now. To illustrate her point she shows me a pair of leopard print court shoes and some classic Bally boots.


It’s been brave of Cree and her boyfriend, Stephen Jones, to have opened a shop in the middle of the recession but she says she’s doing really well, so much so that she’s starting a franchise in Brighton in October. “People are spending less money on clothes,” she admits, “but there’s a difference between spending three grand on a dress in Harvey Nics and buying one from me that originally cost a grand.” Cree, who worked in TV before packing it in to go back-packing whilst she thought about what she wanted to do, believes there is an environmental message behind dress agencies. “Women wear less than ten per cent of their wardrobe 80 per cent of the time. This way we prevent clothes from going to landfill and people see it as a way of refreshing their wardrobe.” Given that she offers a bespoke service, contacting customers if what you are looking for comes in, I might just give her my list.

Photo courtesy of Rag Trade



Designer Dress Agency
lucy3426 wrote:
Monday, 24 August 2009 at 02:33 pm (UTC)
Great article. I have been using various dress agencies for a number of years to sell my unwanted designer items and also to source some unusual pieces. I have recently been delighted by a new find which is an internet only dress agency that list and sell your clothes, shoes, etc., for you and take just 40% commission in return on the final sale price. I've also bought some great pieces from them - they guarantee everything to be 100% genuine. Worth a look at www.designerdesires.com - thanks! Lucy x
samm_on wrote:
Friday, 11 June 2010 at 08:52 pm (UTC)
It's a very interesting idea for the recession, I'll give you that and I think it's great this kind of agencies are available to the wide public providing more affordable items. I would gladly use my ez saver in one of these shops.
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