Long live the charity shop. Once the dusty preserve of pensioners and students, the humble chazzer’s stock is rising as we all become more conscious of the ethical impact of our wardrobes. Sales are up, donations are rolling in and there’s never been a better time to snaffle a bargain.
We’re not just talking Primark vests, dog-eared copies of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and those leather coin belts from 2002, either. You might never beat the legend of that friend of a friend who found a Chanel handbag for 50p in a regional bargain bin, but as one of the world’s most fashionable cities, it stands to reason that London is full of stylish (and meticulously steam-cleaned) cast-offs.
From charity ‘boutiques’ with more cashmere than your average yacht club to old-fashioned junk shops you can lose an afternoon in, here are the very best charity shops in the capital. Just don’t go telling everyone.
London’s best charity shops
There are branches of All Aboard across north London, but this is the mothership. Forget colour-coded rails and curated window displays; it’s an old-fashioned junk shop of the kind you just don’t find anymore. Raising money for a selection of local charities, the stock is bold, bright and sometimes beautifully brash, with a particularly good line in ugly-cool homewares and statement vintage accessories. Set aside a good chunk of time and comb through every rack at your leisure. Twice.
Best for: (Well) buried treasure at blink-worthy prices.
224 West End Lane, London NW6 1UU
Could this be London’s chicest charity shop? With its industrial interior by Hemingway Design, art student fanbase and staff fingers firmly on the fashion pulse, Shelter’s flagship boutique can more than hold its own alongside its trendy neighbours. You’ll find quality vintage, premium labels and ‘how did I miss that the first time round?’ high-street gems, all handpicked with care but priced within reason. Coal Drops Yard might have earned the nickname ‘Cash Drops Hard’, but your wallet’s safe here.
Best for: Statement shoes and understated swagger.
Unit EV8, Coal Drops Yard, Stable St, N1C 4AB
All fashion magpies know that bougie neighbourhoods are the best for second-hand bargains, and Balham is a case in point. The whole High Road is worthy of a charity shop crawl, but if you can only choose one, make a beeline for the bright lights of the British Heart Foundation. Go for the barely-worn Cos, Jigsaw and Whistles, but stay for the vinyl, quirky homewares and that thing you’re definitely probably going to upcycle next time you have a free weekend.
Best for: Serious bargains, minus the musty aromas.
184 Balham High Rd, SW12 9BW
The first rule of vintage shopping: go where the rich pensioners are. Rumour has it this Red Cross shop regularly takes delivery from local house clearances, which makes it the closest most of us will get to haute couture in our time. Prices might be steep by second-hand standards (these staff know their Prada from their Primarni), but they’re still a snip in Chelsea terms. Besides, it’s for charidee dahling.
Best for: Heritage tweed and old-world labels for your next invite to a country house weekend.
69-71 Old Church St, SW3 5BS
In most charity shops a Lanvin dress or a pair of Manolos would be stop-the-press news. Not so on Marylebone High Street, where the glitterati’s cast-offs come as standard. Every W1 chaz is worth a rummage, but the fragrant and colourful Cancer Research is one of the finest, full of fashion samples and end-of-line pieces with the tags still on. Kate Moss and Sienna Miller have both been known to donate here, and thankfully so have plenty of neighbours with more average proportions.
Best for: Cashmere, cocktail frocks and latent Carrie Bradshaw fantasies.
24 Marylebone High St, W1U 4PQ
When babies can grow out of clothes in less time than it takes to wrestle both legs in, buying second-hand just makes sense. Chiswick’s Fara Kids is one of 14 London Fara shops selling nearly-new clothes for tiny people, with proceeds going to help vulnerable children in Romania. You’ll find racks of fancy little outfits, all without a trace of dribble and many for as little as 50p a pop. And when you get tired of cooing ‘I wish this was in MY size’”, one of Fara’s excellent adult branches is just up the road.
Best for: Christening gifts and babysitting emergencies.
40 Turnham Green Terrace, W4 1QP
Raising funds for the London Buddhist Centre, positive vibes abound at this much-loved East End thrift store. The staff and volunteers are cheery, the locals are loyal and the stock is about as groovy and wide-ranging as you’d expect. Prices are always low but there’s a half-price sale twice a year too – the perfect change to put your mindful shopping skills to the test.
Best for: Kitsch crockery your gran would love, and party frocks to match.
83 Roman Rd, E2 0QN
Breathing new life into the world of second-hand shopping, Mary Portas virtually invented the modern breed of upmarket charity boutique with her Living & Giving Shops. Diehard bargain-hunters might not thank her for the price hikes, but Save the Children do. They’re all carefully curated, but the Primrose Hill branch is one of the best for niche brands and fashion kudos. Enjoy a Narnia-style wardrobe changing room, and cross your fingers that Victoria Beckham might drop by with a bulging bin bag (yes, she donates).
Best for: Designer jeans, lesser-seen labels and rubbernecking at celebrities.
109 Regent’s Park Rd, NW1 8UR
Sometimes size does matter, and this Oxfam emporium is so big that the odds of finding treasure are ever in your favour. As you’d expect from its hipster postcode the stock is more ‘fancy dress’ than fancy dresses, but it’s never dull – staff sometimes have to turn away donations because they receive too many to sift through. Go with an open mind, open arms and enough time for a fitting room fashion show.
Best for: Halloween, Pride, Glastonbury and every other event on your Instagram calendar.
514-518 Kingsland Rd, E8 4AR
A charity shop disguised as a high-end vintage store, this Pimlico destination is brimming with Hermes scarves, YSL tailoring, psychedelic blouses and 1950s silk ball gowns, like a trunk of heirlooms from the dowager countess grandmother you never had. Everything is fairly priced, if not exactly cheap as chips – but with all proceeds going to help vulnerable children in Romania, where better to splurge on a piece of fashion history?
Best for: Swellegant occasionwear, for all your ‘High Society’ meets ‘Abigail’s Party’ urges.
6 Upper Tachbrook St, SW1V 1SH
It’s rich pickings for charity hunters in SW16 these days, and the Royal Trinity Hospice shop is the crème de la crème. Since a refurb in 2018, this stylish branch is consistently decked with pristine high street cast-offs, unusual pieces from premium brands and more than a few unworn donations. With soft lighting and helpful staff, the vibe is more like rummaging through a friend’s wardrobe than a hardcore thrifting session. Make yourself at home.
Best for: Forgetting you’re even in a charity shop.
124 Streatham High Rd, SW16 1BW
As the nearest charity shop to Vogue House, this bright and airy shop just off Regent Street has been the recipient of more than a few fashion editor spring cleans in its time. Prices aren’t cheap, even for last year’s Zara, but it’s a welcome refuge from the consumer mayhem of Oxford Circus. Look out for Savile Row tailoring, sunglasses Anna Wintour would approve of and handbags that have never seen the floor of a night bus.
Best for: A truly guilt-free spending spree.
9 Princes St, W1B 2LQ
In the days before Archway’s shiny pedestrian makeover, this temple of bric-a-brac was worth navigating your way across the road like Frogger to reach. Behind the lavish window displays, vintage and high street clothes nestle up against crockery, sheet music, records, books, old magazines, collectibles, curios and whozits and whatsits galore. Run by Archway Methodist Church, the shop’s profits are split between an equally eclectic list of charities.
Best for: You want thingimabobs? They’ve got twenty!
7-9 St John’s Way, N19 3QS
So much more than just a charity shop, this vast space just before the Wells Terrace bus station on Stroud Green Road is also a coffee shop and community arts hub. But the clothes are enough of a draw on their own. Luxe labels hang alongside quality high street and vintage bargains, with a bountiful shoe section and equally trendy menswear. Stock moves fast – the regulars come daily – and staff can usually be found shooing punters out of the door at 7pm. Don’t leave without checking out the cabinet of designer accessories, the handmade furniture and the superlative vegan brownie in the café.
Best for: Last season’s Topshop and last century’s ceramics.
19 Stroud Green Rd, N4 3FB
With retro threads to compete with the best of the market’s offerings, this friendly Parkway shop is a blessed escape from the chaos of Camden High Street. Stock caters for the neighbourhood, with vintage pieces better preserved than many of the rock ’n’ roll clientele – but there are lots of squeaky clean high-street buys too. Open until 7pm Monday-Saturday, it’s provided many a post-work-pre-gig outfit change.
Best for: Coats and jackets. There’s almost always a fabulous faux fur on the rail.
46-50 Parkway, NW1 7AH
A charity shop so comprehensive you can virtually rock up with a shopping list, Traid’s whole focus is on ditching trends for conscious, sustainable second-hand clothing (the name stands for ‘Textile Reuse and International Development’). But that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge your fashion whims; they have style from across the decades, regular seasonal restocks and amazing end-of-season sales. Enthusiastic staff are always on hand to validate your outfit choice.
Best for: ’90s denim, ’80s dresses, ’70s jackets and millennial attitude.
2 Acre Lane, SW2 5SG