How charity Traid is working to stop clothes from being thrown away
Some good news in tough times – Brixton’s Traid on Acre Lane is still open.
Too many places in Brixton are closed, so it is good to see that Traid has stayed open, despite the closure of its next door neighbour Joy – a company that launched in Brixton nearly 30 years ago.
Manager Tom Davies has worked for Traid for five years and in the Brixton branch since lockdown.
Traid is a charity working to stop clothes from being thrown away.
It turns waste clothes into resources to reduce the environmental and social impacts of the clothing industry.
It also funds international projects to improve conditions and working practices in the textile industry, and educates people about the impact of textiles on the environment and their lives and how to make more sustainable choices.
Laura Casas, who was the Brixton shop manager when we visited a year ago, has just had a baby, so is obviously too busy looking for her baby’s clothes rather than working in Traid looking after the clothes there!
Tom was born in Cardiff and “raised his whole life” in the nearby seaside town of Penarth on the Severn estuary.
“I turned 18 when I came to London to university to study product design,” he says.
“I realised I was attracted to clothes at a young age, maybe about four, when I started to dress up as Mary Poppins and forced the whole family to partake in the act!
“This made me realise that just with a simple change of outfit you can change not only others’ perceptions of you but also your perception of the world.’’
Tom started tailoring a few years after his degree, continuing his interest in clothes and, in particular, secondhand/vintage – “not only because I’m anti ‘fast fashion’ but also because of the story these items have or you can make up about them”.
A lot of work goes on behind the scenes in Traid, which most people don’t realise is taking place, Tom says.
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TRAID’s Behind the Seams Issue 10 Out now! Click link in bio. Huge thanks ? to the brilliant contributors helping us to unpick the socio-environmental impacts of clothes and what we can do about it. Dr Carolyn Mair @psychologyforfashion delves into the psychology of fashion and why defining your sense of self is so vital when it comes to saying no to fast fashion, @tansyhoskins reveals the extent of the devastation manufacturing shoes have on people and planet; Liz Goodwin, Chair of @londonwasteandrecyclingboard on its upcoming Repair Week and repair as a vital strategy to keep clothes in use for longer; the @welovecharityshops advocate for charity and local authority reuse partnerships with TRAID; and TRAID’s partners supporting cotton farmers and garment workers reporting on how Covid is impacting their work including @pesticideactionnetworkuk, @fairtradeuk and @amma_srilanka. Plus TRAID has opened a new sustainably created charity shop in Lewisham! #traid #charityshops #secondhandfirst #secondhand #consumption #garmentworkers #organic #cotton #cottonfarmers
Tasks in the shop change regularly. Before Covid, a typical week would include travel to Traid’s main warehouse and sorting through thousands of donations to make a selection for the shop.
Processing the selection takes a team of people – from handling, steaming the clothes, pricing, categorising, and organising by season, until, finally, they reach the shop floor, “where,” says Tom, “we in Brixton provide excellent customer service and engage with our local community”.
“It’s an unpopular opinion, but I very much enjoyed the lockdown,” he reveals.
“I live in a warehouse community, so I didn’t get lonely and I had time to focus on some of my passion projects, deigning and making clothes and accessories.
“Traid was closed for five months in total and it was a struggle.’’
Only some of its shops could get a rent break or reduction, “As you can imagine, costs in London are very high – especially for a non-profit charity,” Tom says.
The regulars and volunteers he works with include Maria Diaz Franco from Seville in Spain, where her family still lives. She has lived in London for three years and been working for Traid for a year and in Brixton for one month.
“My job title is sales assistant, however, the role includes an inexhaustible range of tasks, she says. “My favourite being working and selecting the never ending donations, finding the hidden gems to display in store.’’
Despite living more than 13 miles away in Barking, Maria loves working in Brixton – “a fantastic, unique and vibrant community”.
Originally from Texas, Tianna Patterson is a volunteer who has helped out at Traid for six months.
“I love getting out of the house and being amongst people, and obviously love fashion, so – people and fashion – what else is there to love!’’
Tom also has a long commute from his home in Clapton, East London. “I endure the cycle and enjoy coming to Brixton for the diversity, the vibe, the mix of cultures and to enter the nightlife – when we are able to join it!’’
All the stylish window dressing is done by Italian Francesco Colucci, a Brixton resident.
His work is now done at night, so he does not have to worry about a mask while working alone. He still does a great job and attracts customers.
Tom has hopes for Traid. “It’s not my place to say, but I can only hope Traid continues to grow and support more and more people in different areas of the textile industry in developing countries; as well as to influence people away from the fast fashion industry and to shop second hand!’’
The above article by Simone Richardson first published on brixtonblog.com in Oct, 2020.