With an estimated £140million of used clothing being sent to landfill each year in the UK*, one of the city’s best-loved charities has joined forces with talented students to show that buying outfits second hand not only boosts our wardrobes and wallets but benefits the world at large, too.

When first-year commercial photography students from Plymouth College of Art sought St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth’s help for a ‘high end’ fashion shoot with a difference, the charity – which has over 30 shops across Plymouth and surrounding areas where it cares for patients at end of life – was keen to help, giving them free rein to raid the rails of its city centre Drake store in Cornwall Street to find suitably stylish secondhand items.

With the students having mixed expectations about the quality and range of items they might find there, the experience proved a real eye-opener for the budding photographers – Ben Given, Bethan Madeley, Catherine Hyde, Mi Kelly, Paris Netherton and Rosie Hartshorn – as well as producer, student Alice Conway, models Laura McGowen and Abi Baldwin, plus the hair and make-up team of City College Plymouth students involved.

Not only were they blown away by the bargain prices of the impressive range of high-quality pre-loved dresses, coats, shoes and accessories, they pooled their talents to make the outfits look a million dollars in the images they captured against the suitably elegant backdrop of Mount Edgecumbe House in Cornwall.

Student photographer Mi Kelly said: “Initially, we were a bit sceptical and weren’t sure we’d find enough high-quality items in a charity shop, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. Our trawl netted really well-made clothing and great accessories that with a bit of savvy styling looked fantastic in our photographs. It has changed my perception of charity shops – you can find treasure there!”

Also impressed was the students’ tutor, Lecturer Carri Angel. She said: “The majority of our students have grown up with ‘fast fashion’, where many brands promote cheap items designed to be disposed of after minimal wear. These students are the influential image-makers of the future so it’s important that we challenge them to be part of the solution to the problem. They’ve proved that secondhand in no way means second rate.”

So pleased is St Luke’s with the fashion shoot photographs it is planning to display them in the Drake charity shop windows shortly.

Shop Manager Julie Bickford said: “It’s great that while the images are high end, the outfits sourced from our shop are absolute bargains – a whole outfit perfect for a new year ball for just £35! Just shows you can be stylish in a sustainable way, all while supporting a fantastic local cause.”

*Figure from Wrap UK

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