Josie Long finds charity shop orgy in Camden (part 2)

Wednesday, July 06 2011

Josie bloomin' Long returns to Camden High Street with a pocket full of change and a critical eye, to investigate the charity shops therein. So what happened? What DIDN'T happen more like.

• Click here to read part 1 of Josie's Camden charity reviews.

Josie Long charity shop

1. YMCA (71 Camden High Street, NW1 7JL)

At first this shop seems much less exciting than its neighbours. It feels thin on the ground, stock-wise, and a bit of a non-event. The most interesting object seemed to be a Barbie sewing machine and even that was full-sized. It’s going to be very difficult for her tiny hands to use.

But that was before I noticed what appears to be an unassuming book collection. On closer inspection they were all super highbrow texts in European languages. As well as this there was gorgeous illustrated old edition of a book titled “A Bird Is Born” that they sadly seemed to know the value of.

A lot of the books were in German – perhaps a local university library has been horribly vandalised, or an old intellectual has sadly passed away. Whoever’s loss is YMCA’s massive gain. If only I spoke a word of German I’d be able to decode this fiendish nonsense: Dostojewski “der idiot”, says one. How could I ever unpick that?

There are Italian books too and it feels strangely exciting to see them all here alongside a collection of National Geographics dating back to the 1960s. This is the charity shop to come to see naked boobs and bits with full impunity.

Price – 2 (too pricey)
Range – 3
Granny treasure – 2, or 5 if a German, or nudey tribespeople scholar
Hipster steal – 4


2. Cancer Research (81 Camden High Street, NW1 7JL)

Josie Long charity shop

This shop smelled pleasantly of hot stew or of beef soup.

The uninitiated might think this was a horrible smell for a clothes and household goods shop. But there’s a reason why the uninitiated are uninitiated and it’s because they’re squares and nobody likes them. The more a charity shop resembles private property, the better.

This Cancer Research has a well stocked rack of vintage-y clothes, including a brown slip dress that would have delighted my 14-year-old self. I like it a lot when charity shops have a rail marked “vintage”. They are inevitably a mix of finds and things that nobody would ever consider finds. It’s the exact level of self-consciousness that I like. They understand that there’s a reason why youngsters are coming in, they just don’t completely get it.

I noticed that early 90s smash “(You’ve Got) That Vibe” was being played on the stereo when we came in. And all the time that we were there. We counted four straight repeats. The man behind the counter must have been a big fan of minor-botherer R Kelly. Why not, I suppose? Just because you want to fight cancer doesn’t mean that you have to associate an artist with their work.

The shop had quite a sparse collection of stock on the shelves. They had out-of-date moleskine diaries for cheap though, which are great for scribbling on and a good bargain. The amount of them makes me think they are onto a special deal with a stationers.

The CG collection is wonderfully specific and consists of one-hit bands from the 1990s: a Zwan single, Spacehog, Robert Miles, New Radicals. Someone has just got divorced. Or married. Or more recent and lasting tastes.

Price – 3
Range – 2
Granny treasure – 1
Hipster steal – 4


3. Oxfam (89 Camden High Street, NW1 7JL)

Josie Long charity shop

This is a beautiful shop, even by Oxfam standards. It’s bright and wonderfully presented. It feels as if it’s been given a makeover. Old Welsh dressers display the stock and the walls have a collaged feel to them.

Even the price is ok considering that it’s Oxfam. The homewares aren’t too bad either, there’s quite a pretty collection. The shop has some polyester vintage stuff but this is a little too expensive for me.

I would visit this shop again, although it’s almost like a Kath Kidston store.

Price – 2
Range – 4
Granny treasure – 2
Hipster steal – 4


4. Mind (20 Camden Road, NW1 9DP)

Josie Long charity shop

Back to a shop that has a nice boot sale/church table top sale vibe to it.

But although that’s the look, the clothes are super pricey. £12 for a dress? Is the dress haunted? Was the dress worn by Doris Day? No? Then I am afraid that the dress is too expensive.

The crockery is cheaper, although I’ve now been made suspicious. Intriguingly there’s a large pile of plates from “The Fashion Café”. Was that Naomi Campbell’s failed venture? If so, then these are collector’s items for anyone who has a passing interest in failed side projects (see Zwan CD earlier). Maybe the dress is a distraction to fool people away from the shop’s real gold.

They seem to know their clientele well. While I was looking around, the man behind the counter had long happy chats with several regulars. The shop is run with a lot of love.

The star buy? The sell lots of wrapping paper designs, and one featuring saints on it, and they had several swimming floats for 99p.

Price – 2.5
Range – 4
Granny treasure – 4 (it feels like it has some of the proper magic to it)
Hipster steal – 4


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