By Oona de Carvalho
In March 2023, the LSESU Charity Shop opened its doors on 31 Portugal Street, transforming an empty and hidden space into a vibrant and colourful second-hand clothing shop. Brimming with one-of-a-kind fashion pieces, quirky decorations, and ambient music, the shop has quickly become an integral part of the LSE campus.
The Charity Shop is completely student-led, from the initial concept to its daily operations. I sat down with Ash Purohit, a third-year BSc Management student and Head of RAG Volunteers, to learn about how this project came to fruition and discuss future plans for the shop.
The LSESU Charity Shop was born from a collaboration between RAG and the Sustainable Futures Society, as both groups were inspired to reduce fast fashion and promote more ethical consumption. Ash reflects on the impacts of fast fashion, sharing that “only one percent of all produced clothing gets recycled or reused, which is ridiculous. I mean, it’s crazy. Also, the amount of clothes we currently have on the planet could last for six generations. We don’t need to keep buying clothes”. Opening a second-hand shop on the LSE campus was a way to promote sustainable fashion whilst also supporting RAG’s charity partners, who receive all of the profits. As Ash notes, the Charity Shop “managed to do those two things together, which has just been the dream really”.
The Charity Shop itself is divided into two main sections. The right-hand side of the store is dedicated to vintage pieces, which have been curated by a vintage wholesaler based in Italy. Meanwhile, the clothes donated by students and faculty can be found on the left. The shop receives a substantial amount of donations every week, with students regularly coming in with large bags of clothes to donate. “It’s great that people feel like they can just come into the shop and just leave their clothes there,” Ash says.“We have a wedding dress in the shop right now. I’m just waiting for someone to buy that. We have so many cool things in there.”
The Charity Shop team also curates their clothing selection to cater for student events. From purple-coloured pieces to support the Hands-Off x Sway collaboration, to sparkly dresses and heels for RAG’s Casino Night, the Charity Shop’s themed racks make shopping for university events accessible, sustainable, and fun.
Sheila Mutua, a third-year BSc Politics and Economics student and avid thrifter, shares that she was excited to check out the shop after seeing their social media promotion videos. “They had a good range of stuff. I found this one black baby-tee that I liked that was really my vibe… I pop in every now and again,” she says.
Ash also discusses how it has been great seeing students want to get involved with the shop. There are currently 20 active volunteers, who manage the store from 12-4 pm. I spoke with Mahliqa Ali, a second-year BSc Social Anthropology student, who has recently started volunteering for the Charity Shop. It was her love for thrifting, says Mahliqa, that got her initially involved: “I really like charity shopping and I’m obsessed with Depop and vintage. Having that on campus and also raising money for RAG is a really cool thing”. Volunteering has also allowed her to interact with new people and make friends –one of her favourite things about the work shifts. “There’s definitely a sense of community [here]”.
Building and fostering community, Ash elaborates, is one of their main goals for the Charity Shop. “We’re having socials, we’re having events, we’re doing collaborations. We’re planning on hosting an open mic night at the shop which will be great fun. Things like that will make it more than just a shop. It’ll make it part of LSE and a part of the community.”
The LSESU Charity Shop captures how local projects can be drivers for change. The shop has not only been successful in promoting sustainable fashion choices amongst the student body, but it is also creating a new community space on campus, where students can socialise and find a greater sense of belonging and purpose.
As Ash concludes, “it’s one of the greatest projects to be a part of during my time at LSE. And I feel like I really made an impact…I just hope that [it] carries on in the future.”
Photgraph by Ben Chen