Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Posted by Bethan Holt, Fashion Junior at Large

A rare Mary Quant
For those among you who have the uncanny talent of being able to stroll into a charity shop in deepest middle England and happen upon a Chanel 2.55 and pay £5 for it, this is not for you. Oxfam have  sensed that there are a fair few of us who would very happily get our fashion from charity shops, if only we didn't have to be so damn savvy, tireless and happy to spend hours sifting. Enter the man Vogue has proclaimed "The Vintage King", William Blanks-Blaney who has spent the past 6 months poring through 40 Oxfam shops as well as the charity's Huddersfield warehouse to pick out the very best pieces for his Oxfam Edit project- a year long collaboration which will involve fresh monthly online selections as well as styling videos from the celebrity and editor's go-to man for a  knock-out gown.

An Officer's jcket from 1895

A William favourite, the pumpkin cape
It's as if William has swept all the gems you might come across once in every ten charity shop trawls and gathered them all together in a great edit which can be shopped online now as part of Vogue's Online Fashion Week. It's part of William's wider mission to integrate charity shops into our shopping routines, "I want women to check out what's at Zara, go to Browns and then go to Oxfam, it can do the same job" he told me at the launch event last week. During his search, William came across some fashion stars amongst Oxfam's stocks including an original Mary Quant dress and a Suffragette's coat. It's hard to imagine the thrill one must feel when you discover a piece of history hidden away at the back of shop or in the corner of a giant warehouse. It's a feeling which William is used to in his work for WilliamVintage, the Marylebone boutique where he kits women out in everything from almost priceless 50s couture to £150 finds. "My clients aren't necessarily vintage devotees, they just want a great dress" William explains. It's that very same philosophy which has informed the Oxfam tie-up where I saw everything from Next and River Island to Gina and YSL.  William sums it up as "bringing Oxfam into a fashion context", where it's not necessarily about the label but how we wear it.

The theme of William's first styling masterclass is separates as party wear, a subject beautifully summed up in a modestly priced but sumptuous velvet jacket from Oasis which ties with a ribbon at the waist and happened to be one of William's favourite finds. Proof that the Oxfam project is not going to be about wildly overpriced designer donations but real clothes which will work in a super-fashion way with a little help and advice from WilliamVintage.

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