Image for The charity shop fashion tastemaker on preloved’s stylish power

The charity shop fashion tastemaker on preloved’s stylish power

‘Charity shopping influencer’ Jen Graham talks style, supporting good causes and how buying secondhand opens the door to sartorial experimentation

‘Charity shopping influencer’ Jen Graham talks style, supporting good causes and how buying secondhand opens the door to sartorial experimentation

Preloved fashion is booming amid a cost of living squeeze and a rise in eco thinking. Once niche, the secondhand market is now on course to take 10% of global sales, while eBay has just axed fees for sellers of preloved garms.

In our Second Nature series, we unzip this growing trend and meet the preloved pioneers who are helping to send it mainstream. A million miles from its moth-eaten, austere reputation of yesteryear, they see preloved as stylish, expressive and fun. 

Jen Graham is a secondhand fashion stylist who wants to inspire people to get more of their gear from charity shops. With impressive followings on Instagram and TikTok, she shares tips and tricks for curating the wardrobe of your dreams with pre-loved pieces. Based in Cheshire, she is passionate about how the relative affordability of charity shop purchasing allows people to be more adventurous with their style.

Jen Graham

“I charity shop for two reasons: one, because I love the rummage and two, because I know how much that money helps these charities, which are not government funded but are there when we need them,” says Jen Graham AKA Charity Shop Girl.

“People think that supporting charities is about climbing mountains or running marathons, but charity retail is a huge part of their fundraising.” Just £5 spent in the shop of the Air Ambulance Service, for whom Graham is an ambassador, can put cannulas on board one of its helicopters, for instance. And when you have an eye for a bargain like Graham does, £5 can go a long way, netting you – say – a great pair of jeans to wear with a vintage Jaeger blazer (pictured). “It has shoulder pads, it’s very ‘me’, very Princess Diana,” she says.

With their rails of brightly coloured, mix-match offerings, you’d be forgiven for thinking that being a charity shopper requires you to be a colour-clashing maximalist, but Graham debunks that. She describes her style as ‘off-duty 90s supermodel’, rounded off to a tee with a casual pair of Converse sneakers she found on Facebook Marketplace. “My whole thing isn’t to show people how to dress or what to wear, it’s to encourage people to embrace their own style, and charity shopping is a great way to find it,” she says. “Growing up, I felt like I couldn’t find stuff in high street shops but once I discovered charity shops and the treasure in there, that was it.”

In sharing her gems with her rapidly growing social media audience, Graham gently nudges first-timers past the initial overwhelm of charity shops towards what’s on offer if you’re willing to get digging. Starting with some of the more curated charity boutiques helps, she suggests, as does going armed with a list and a mental note of your likes and dislikes. “If you know what you look great in and know what you already have, it’s less overwhelming because you can just skip past the stuff that’s not for you.”

Charity shop donations come in all varieties, which means charity shoppers do too. Graham inspires an audience that ranges from teenagers to a woman aged in her 80s who shares stories of the now-vintage looks she wore when they were brand new. “It’s such a huge compliment. People tell me they’ve never set foot in a charity shop, and I’ve inspired them to do it. For people just to make those small changes is massive,” she says.

The facts:
  • 65 %

    of people in the UK wear secondhand clothes, and 80% of all secondhand purchases are made in charity shops, according to Traid
  • 73 %

    Brits are no longer embarrassed to buy from charity shops as they try to save money, according to research from SQLI Digital Experience. 73% of UK adults say they are now comfortable being seen heading into a charity shop due to the cost-of-living crisis

Main image: Will Sanders

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This is part of our ‘Second Nature’ series: