Charity Fashion

Grace Light showing off the new ‘Shirt Project’ fashion at the Cope Galway charity shop in St Augustine Street. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Charity shop’s fashion upcycling initiative

Fashion is constantly moving forward, with new trends arriving on the scene quicker than we can scrape the money together to invest in them.

But when all the high street stores are selling the same trend at different prices, it can be difficult to stand out – especially if you don’t want to break the bank. That’s where a number of Galway’s local charity shops come in. While trends will come and go in a flash, it’s in the charity shops that you’ll find the kind of fashion that will never die.

“Charity shops have one-off and unusual items, some brand new items, also some vintage if you’re lucky. It’s interesting to see what will come in next,” says Grace Light, Manager of the Cope Galway charity shop located on St Augustine Street.

“You can find quality fabrics such as silk, linen, leather, merino wool and cashmere and designer gear. These things are a fraction of the price you would pay for them new.”

But Cope Galway’s charity shop is sporting more than silk and cashmere at the moment. A recent collaboration with Missy Bonkers clothing designs has seen a number of unique and interesting dresses appear in the shop window.

Missy Bonkers, run by Tina O’Rourke and Alan Fitzpatrick, focuses exclusively on upcycling and redesigning secondhand clothing, creating an awareness of slow fashion that is both individual and unique.
‘The Shirt Project’ is Tina’s most recent design project, which embraces sustainable fashion and innovative pattern design to create unique, one-of-a-kind dresses exclusive to Cope Galway.

“Shirts are one of the main items that are unable to be resold in charity shops after donation, due to general wear and tear. Taking this into consideration, I thought what better way to reuse them than to take them back to their source material and design an entirely new garment?” says Tina.

“Partnering with the Cope shop in Galway allowed the idea to develop into the Shirt Project. Grace, the shop manager, supplied all of the unwanted shirts for the project and will host an exhibition of dresses in the Cope shop window alongside a sewing/up-cycling demo day this Saturday.”

The shop will also host a subtraction pattern shirt dress workshop on Thursday, May 21 from 7.30pm to 9pm. More information can be found at the shop or by calling 091 569715. The unique dresses are currently on display and for sale in the shop.

Not every charity shop has something as unique as the Shirt Project to help them stand out, but many of them have their own way of ensuring their message is heard.

“Over the past few weeks, we had a large number of clothing and accessory donations which were of exceptional quality and great designer labels – all in great, new condition or brand new with tags,” explains Carolyn Herbert, Supervisor with the Galway Simon Community charity shop on Sea Road.

Thanks to these generous donations, the Galway Simon Community was able to completely restock its Sea Road store, giving it a fresh new look for the launch of its ‘Style on a Shoestring’ extravaganza which saw labels such as Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY and Karen Millen on offer for a small price, as well as a number of beautiful vintage items.

“Anyone making a purchase in one of our shops is helping a good cause, as all our profits are ploughed back into the provision of local services,” says Carolyn. The Galway Simon Community currently provides accommodation for over 100 single men and women that, for one reason or another, became homeless.

“At some point over the next few months, we are looking to do some work with upcycling and would be interested to hear from customers who have upcycled any items of clothing or furniture that they have purchased from other outlets,” she adds, proving that the upcycling of clothing is becoming a trend in its own right.

The Galway Simon shops are always in need of good quality items, which can be sold in either the Sea Road or Briarhill shops: “Only with this support can we hope to realise our vision of bringing about a society where everyone has a home appropriate to their needs.”

For more information about the Galway Simon Community, visit

A charity shop generally isn’t the first place you’ll think of when you need to get kitted out for a wedding or special occasion. But Galway’s newest charity shop proves that it’s very easy to find something to suit every occasion if you look in the right places.

“We have just launched a Special Occasion Wear Department which stocks new and pre-loved debs dresses, smart and stylish evening wear, bridesmaid dresses, formal wear for wedding guests, flower girl dresses and beautiful, romantic wedding dresses,” says Gaye Moore, Fundraising Co-ordinator of Gorta – Self Help Africa, a charity which opened a shop on William Street West in November.

Despite being the new kid on the scene, the Gorta shop is really standing out, catering for different sizes and styles.

“A bride can outfit her entire wedding party, including bridesmaids, flower girl dresses and mother of the bride for a very reasonable price,” Gaye explains.

Gorta also provides “a unique service with a large designer dressing room, friendly staff and a colour co-ordinated range of clothes”. And as there is usually only one of each item, each co-ordinated look is unique to the customer.

“The shops provide excellent quality, nearly new, and some new clothes, shoes and accessories, and a wide variety of books at hugely discounted prices. An entire co-ordinated casual outfit including shoes can be purchased for less than €20,” says Gaye.

“The shop provides very good value for those on a limited budget who still wish to look well and dress their family. The shop also provides designer labels at knock-down prices for the fashion-loving bargain hunter.”

For more information on Gorta – Self Help Africa, visit or

Many people see charity shops as a place to put unwanted clothing when you’re making space in your wardrobe for the latest trends and fashion fads.

But thanks to the hard work of staff members, only the best will make it to the shelves, ensuring that you’ll find high-quality clothing to suit even the smallest of budgets, while also helping a deserving charity.

And with so many interesting charity shops to choose from in Galway, there’s bound to be something to suit all tastes.

*Originally published in the Connacht Tribune

Written by Jessica Thompson