Fashioning A Better World

When you combine a love of fashion with a passion for educating communities in need, what do you get? Vintage With Love, a brilliant pop-up shop for fashionistas and an extraordinary fundraiser for literacy.

Fashioning A Better World Photo Gallery

I came up with the idea for Vintage With Love five years ago,’ says Leigh Ord, who launched the pop-up shop in Johannesburg with co-founder and magazine editor Jacquie Myburgh Chemaly. ‘I was clearing out my wardrobe when I realised that there was nothing wrong with my clothing; I just wasn’t wearing it any longer. I thought, “I could support and educate a whole lot of children if I got all my friends together and sold clothing.” Then I spoke to Jacquie, who also loves vintage clothes. At first the sale was just going to be in her garage, but before we knew it she’d spoken to various magazines and they’d written about our cause – and we had a huge sale. That first year we raised about R760 000!’ ‘When Leigh spoke about this event, it triggered something in me,’ says Debbie Smuts, owner of The Grosvenor Guest House in Simon’s Town, Cape Town.

‘I offered to take it on in Cape Town.’ ‘Leigh and Debbie are both former teachers, and I come from the fashion media world,’ says Jacquie. ‘So it made sense for us to collect gently worn fashion from the many stylish women we knew and sell it to raise money for literacy projects doing amazing work. ‘Vintage shopping has always been popular among the fashionable set, but a tricky economy and an increasing awareness of consumption have made it grow. Everything from Country Road jeans to Gucci loafers finds its way to our sale. Many of our shoppers could never dream of going into a designer store to buy a pair of R10 000 shoes, but they can find them at Vintage With Love for R500.’ Jacquie explains how the charity achieves so much at every level: ‘We help the spring-cleaner clear her wardrobe, we help students buy new clothes on a meagre allowance, we find those great one-off pieces that give the fashionistas their vintage fix, and we share all the jumble that doesn’t work for Vintage With Love with other charities.’ The best thing about Vintage with Love – other than the wonderful clothes – is the fact that all profits go towards the selected charities.

‘We give every cent we make to reputable literacy charities doing the most important work of all: helping underprivileged children learn to read and hopefully change their lives forever,’ says Jacquie. And it’s also great for the planet, because ultimately it’s all about recycling and repurposing. ‘We often see a garment we sold previously make its way back onto the rails!’ says Debbie. ‘To see the difference we’re making is so worth it,’ adds Leigh. ‘If you shop at Vintage With Love it’s a win­win… it’s not just about digging into your purse and handing out money. The joy, the love, the good you’re doing is immeasurable – that money is going towards educating young children or teachers.

And if you donate clothing, you benefit by having a clearer wardrobe and by knowing that, in turn, the children benefit. And it’s easy – all you need to do is call somebody to collect the clothes you want to donate.’ Leigh, Debbie and Jacquie are all mothers, and have experienced first­hand the joy of reading to their children and watching how reading helps them discover the world. ‘But many children don’t have the privilege of their mom or dad reading to them at night,’ says Jacquie. ‘Through the organisations that Vintage With Love helps fund, those children will also get to enjoy the pleasures of reading. It’s those organisations that really deserve the credit – they do incredible work.’

This year’s Cape Town sale benefited Partners for Possibility, Chic Mamas Do Care, Shine Literacy, Kidz2Kidz and Uphawu Community Development. The idea is not just to support the education of children and teachers, but also to nurture school principals. Partners for Possibility supports and empowers principals, teaching them how to run a school like a business, among other things. But it cuts both ways – the principals can certainly teach the corporates a thing or two about running a business on next to nothing! ‘I realised an interesting thing,’ says Debbie. ‘Every single one of the charities we support was started by women – they’re all women making a difference. They’re filling a gap where the grinding wheels of government can’t. And it’s proving really successful. The fact is, if you’re not literate, you can’t break the cycle of poverty.’

Since 2014, Vintage With Love has alternated between Johannesburg and Cape Town; this allows time for donors to replenish their wardrobes and make space for more garments. The model for Vintage With Love is exactly the same in the two cities. ‘You have to have continuity of the brand throughout the country,’ says Debbie. ‘The main thing is that the clothing must be in perfect condition – no holes. It doesn’t have to be a label.’ ‘Every year, as Vintage With Love becomes better known, people are more inclined to help and donate,’ says Jacquie. ‘Social media is the greatest gift for an event like this; we spread the word about collecting clothes, and then about the sale itself, through Facebook and Instagram.’ When their social media assistant told Binnelanders actress and Strictly Come Dancing Season 7 runner-up Leandie du Randt Bosch about the event, she organised an evening in a coffee shop within a couple of weeks. ‘She has a line of vintage clothing and she sent us 43 boxes of clothes,’ says Debbie.

‘And actress Ashleigh van der Hoven did a lot of modelling for us. People hear about us and offer to help. It’s incredible how they just want to come on board!’ The organisation has also been fortunate with sponsorship: in Cape Town, African Pride 15 on Orange provides a venue, and, in Joburg, events planner Glynis Hyslop gives them The Forum. Dimension Data provides storage facilities, and Hyde Park Corner and the V&A Waterfront have given them space for marketing. Businesses in Cape Town such as Blend Properties, Café Caprice, Blok Developments and Mullers Optometrists have also held small events, inviting groups of women to bring clothing along. Vintage With Love has drop-off points at various shopping centres, and courier company Aramex collects clothing from anyone who wishes to contribute. ‘Desray stores were the first to come on board.

You can drop off your clothes at their stores countrywide,’ says Debbie. This year’s sale was also well supported with donations by a variety of businesses, everything from Waterford wine to handbags by Thalia Strates and jewellery by Elegance Jewellers. ‘We also received a designer outfit from Leandie, who is one of our ambassadors in Pretoria, and ran a silent auction for T-shirts by Mevrou & Co.,’ says Leigh. ‘Everyone pulls together. It’s a labour-intensive production, but there’s a great community that gives of their time.’ They hope to take Vintage to new heights. ‘One of our dreams is to put Vintage With Love online. It’d be fantastic if we could partner with an established online platform.

The policy would be that if you return an item of clothing, you pay 15% of the cost. So you could actually wear the skirt, and as long as it is returned in perfect condition, it would be sold again. Or they could operate on a rental system.’ ‘When we see how so many young children don’t have the opportunity to be educated the way we know they need to be educated, it makes us want to make a difference,’ Leigh says. ‘The charities we support are hands-on. The principals can’t believe the improvement in the children’s results when they’re read to once a week, one on one. And that’s what warms our hearts. Parents often just don’t have the time to do it themselves. They have to work to feed their children – that’s their priority. We also feed children in Joburg through The Lunchbox Fund. A child cannot learn if they’re hungry, so we feed them at school.’ ‘Sadly, we’re just touching a small percentage,’ adds Leigh. ‘Hopefully we can inspire other people to do the same thing. Not necessarily with vintage clothes, but with other things, like household items. How many things do you have in your house that you don’t even touch?

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