It’s so Tunbridge Wells – charity shops a treasure trove of top designer labels

In one charity shop alone, frugal fashionistas can find Prada handbags, Hugo Boss skirts and dresses by Erdem, as worn by the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle—nearly all of it either brand new or unworn.

“Most of them still have their original tags on and clearly have never been used or worn,” said Alison Homewood, manager of the mental health charity shop, Mind, on Tunbridge Wells High Street.

She continued: “I think people buy these items and never get round to wearing them but realise they could be very valuable to a shop like ours. Perhaps people have brought these items in because they want to support people with mental health problems or maybe they know somebody with a mental health condition.”

It is not just one or two items brought into the store, either, Ms Homewood said there are ‘tens of thousands of pounds worth’ of designer gear in the charity’s clothes rails, but it isn’t sold off at rock bottom prices.

“On one rack alone I have priced it up £12,000 worth of designer skirts and dresses—and their original value must be four times that amount,” she said.

“I can’t just give these items away for £5, it wouldn’t be fair on the donors. So they are priced fairly.”

She added that one dress, which has never been worn and still has its original label attached, is available from Prada stores for an eye-watering £1,400, but is priced at £350 in the charity shop.

Of course, even in affluent Tunbridge Wells, not everybody can afford to spend hundreds of pounds on a designer dress, so Ms Homewood is thinking of selling some of these designer labels online.

“We are currently looking to build a website and hopefully find buyers from farther afield. I want to raise as much money as I can for the charity, and this seems like the best way forward,” she added.

And it is not just Mind where thrifty Tunbridge Wells’ fashion lovers can find a bargain.

At Cancer Research on Mount Pleasant Rd, around a third of the clothing items are by big name designer labels.

“We are so lucky here,” said Manager, Ray King. “The quality of the stuff we get here is amazing. I think partly it is because Tunbridge Wells is such an affluent area.”

He listed DKNY, Ralph Lauren, and Radley among some of the designer labels in the charity shop, and added: “So many of it is unused and some of it is absolutely brand new.”

Like Mind, he said the charity shop now turns to the web to sell many of these high-end products, often listing them on eBay.

“I have to get the most money I can for them for both the charity and for the donors,” he admitted.

Nationally, it is part of a growing trend of fashion conscious people, especially the young, now turning to charity shops.

In a survey published last week, nearly half of consumers said they would buy clothes that were pre-owned, with 80 per cent of young people happy to shop second-hand.

The poll, conducted by waste management agency, found that there is no longer a stigma when it comes to buying second-hand clothing.

Mark Hall, Communications Director of, said: “People are turning to second-hand clothing – not just out of financial necessity, but out of choice.

“Older people are used to buying clothes that were made to last and passing hand-me-downs through families, which explains this age group’s willingness to buy second-hand.

“And, on the other end of the scale, young people are increasingly environmentally conscious, which could certainly influence their shopping decisions and cause them to turn away from fast fashion.”

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