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Dublin’s NCBI Capel Street store shows charity shops are more chic than shabby

Boasting incredible designer bargains and vintage brand name finds, nationwide charity store NCBI shows how second-hand style is going from shabby to chic among fashionistas, writes Mary McCarthy

Ilona and Chelsea in more casual looks

Kate McLoughlin and Paulo Almeida arrange an eye-catching window display at the Capel Street store

Derek in a smart outfit

Derek Kavanagh and Lily D’Brito looking retro cool

Ilona Shmykova and Chelsea Fay strike charity shop gold

Lily D’Brito is elegant in an orange bargain

Mary McCarthySunday World

With demand for second-hand clothes soaring, many charity shops are improving presentation and shedding their ramshackle image.

And none more so than the National Council for the Blind (NCBI).

With 128 shops in Ireland, including three in Northern Ireland, the NCBI team has been working hard to redefine what a charity shop looks like.

Their well-curated window displays, in-store visuals such as vinyl on the walls and an industrial chic fit-out, saw them scoop two accolades at the UK Charity Retail Association Awards in January.

When I walk into NCBI’s Capel Street shop, I can see why it won Best Shop Interior — it’s more hipster vintage boutique than rusty charity shop.

Ilona Shmykova and Chelsea Fay strike charity shop gold

The Dublin 1 outlet is one of 18 NCBI stores specialising in vintage, and to capture Generation Insta, it has also just started selling on fashion resale app Depop.

Other NCBI stores stock homeware or children’s clothes but this one is mostly aimed at customers aged 18-24, explains NCBI project manager Kate McLoughlin.

Kate, like many others on the new management team in NCBI, has a background in retail, having worked for Topshop for 12 years, including managing the Jervis Street store, and her outlook on planet-friendly shopping has totally changed.

“When I started at NCBI in 2020 I never bought clothes in charity shops and now I get 90pc of my clothes from them. Any stigma has gone — there is no reason why we can’t look like a high street store,” she says.

Kate reveals that unlike traditional retail, sales and turnover in the charity’s shops are increasing, with perceptions catching up with the UK, where charity stores have been cool for years.

She adds there are four types of customer, and the biggest change is that those who give donations often shop in the stores too: “The first type of customer shops here because they have to; one is looking for uniqueness; the third type is into upcycling — they may buy a top for the buttons; and the fourth is into sustainability.”

Dublin area manager Paulo Almeida also worked in Topshop with Kate before going on to Arnotts and Reiss, and he says they are now using the visual training they got at Arcadia, which owns Topshop.

“With how we arrange the clothes — we do colour and capsule blocking. With the window, we want to entice people in, though if someone wants to buy something from the mannequin, they get it,” he says.

For a taste of what’s on offer, Magazine+ asked four NCBI team members to pick out their favourite outfits at the Capel Street store — the exception is the Chanel jacket , which will be auctioned on eBay.

Derek Kavanagh and Lily D’Brito looking retro cool

Derek Kavanagh (46), manager of the Capel Street shop, picked green Asics joggers (€25), a denim shearling jacket (€35) and white T-shirt (€12) with red and white Vans (€30) as he was seeking “a different look than my usual” (pictured top left).

He also picked a smart outfit (far right) made up of a check blazer (€20), brown cords (€10) and white shirt (€16), again, because he wanted to experiment with what he usually wears.

Derek in a smart outfit

Ilona Shmykova (34) moved to Ireland from Ukraine seven years ago and is the manager of the NCBI shop in Bray, Co Wicklow. She clearly has a brilliant eye as it won Best Shop Window at the UK’s Charity Retail Association Awards.

Ever since she had her daughter five years ago, she has become “an addict for sustainable fashion — the only things I buy new for my daughter are shoes,” she tells.

For her casual outfit, she picked a Nike handbag (€15) because it was a handy size and a pair of Cappopera jeans (€20) because of the fit and look (page 27).

Her second outfit is special. Every so often, NCBI will get an incredible donation like the vintage chocolate Chanel velvet suit jacket set to go live on an eBay auction, with a starting bid of £700 (page 26). According to Paulo, these pieces are sold online to reach as many as possible.

Kate McLoughlin and Paulo Almeida arrange an eye-catching window display at the Capel Street store

Ilona says she is “mad about velour” and loves “the classic style”. The suit jacket is from the Autumn 1993 collection and readers of a certain vintage may remember Claudia Schiffer rocking one in red on the catwalk.

Ilona paired it with a vintage brown and gold dress (€25) because “it was feminine” and nude heels (€12) because she wanted to let the jacket do the talking.

Chelsea Fay (28) is from southern California, and loves buying vintage clothes online.

She picked a skirt (€13) for its “funky bright colours”, white t-shirt (€15) and denim jacket (€28) as “it was casual and cool — the kind of outfit you see everyone wearing, but they probably got it somewhere like Urban Outfitters” (page 27).

She also selected a velvet puff dress (€30) because: “I love vintage dresses — I feel like the cool girl at a 1980s prom in it”. The pink bag (€10) she added for a splash of colour (page 26).

Lily D’Brito (31) says Ireland is miles ahead with its charity shops, compared to her home country of Brazil.

She went for a pair of Lee jeans (€25) because they fit well, pink tie crop blouse (€15) for the vibrant colour, yellow Converse sneakers (€25) because they looked good and were good value, and purple windbreaker (€20) because it had a 1980s look she liked.

Lily D’Brito is elegant in an orange bargain

For her second outfit , Lily opted for a vintage button-down terracotta dress (€15), because she felt it was “classy and a one-off”.

She accessorised with a faux fur stole because it had an old-fashioned look, and was good value (€7.50), and finished off the look with an elegant black hat (€12).

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