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How to make a success out of upcycling

PUBLISHED: 20:25 14 March 2015 | UPDATED: 20:25 14 March 2015

Madame Popoff

Madame Popoff

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

We live in a disposable society and while many products are irredeemable, others are worth saving. All across Kent there are people doing just this, turning the unwanted and the disposed into something of use again

VINTAGE CLOTHING

Deborah Ellis

Madam Popoff Vintage, Margate

www.madampopoff.com

Back in 1998, Deborah Elllis was a young, single mum with a serious fashion habit. “I didn’t have much money, but still wanted to look good. So I began to go to jumble sales in the hope of finding something good to wear.”

After a few years, Deborah realised that she’d managed to accumulate a huge collection of vintage clothing.

“A friend of mine suggested that I sell some of it on ebay, which I did. I think there was a pair of vintage Levis that I’d bought for 30p that eventually went for £50.

“I was so successful that I decided to go into business doing this and Madam Popoff Vintage was born.”

Although initially just an online venture, this changed back in 2010. “After seven years of online trading I had moved to the Kent coast. One day I came across a lovely shop in the Old Town area of Margate where I met someone who needed to sublet it. The idea appealed to me, I gave it some thought and decided to give it a go.”

Deborah has subsequently moved to a larger shop and today Madam Popoff houses two floors of the finest vintage clothing in the heart of Margate, just a stone’s throw away from Turner Contemporary.

“The top floor is our vintage boutique with beautiful on-trend and stunning items, and then downstairs we have our funky ‘Guys and Popettes’ department where everything is under £10!”

According to Deborah, aside from the ethical and environmental benefits of recycling clothing there is also a quality issue.

“The vintage clothing that I sell is exceptionally well made, often much better than something produced in recent years. I also think that this clothing is more distinctive. It’s not mass produced, so you won’t see everyone else wearing it.”

Since she first started out in this business, Deborah has found and rescued thousands of items of clothing that would have once ended up in landfill. It’s something that she remains very proud of:

“There are loads of beautiful items on sale here that might have disappeared completely, which would have been very sad. Once they are gone, they are gone for good. It’s really satisfying to see them getting a new lease of life and for a whole new generation of people to get some use out of them.”

RECLAMATION

kentreclamation.com

Dave Channing

Kent Reclamation

A time existed not that long ago when things like old wooden doors, old radiators and old fireplaces would have found their way to a landfill, never again to see the light of day.

But that is no longer the case. A growing desire for period features and an expanding market for traditional materials has led to a boom in demand for reclamation.

“And it’s great that this has happened because a lot of what we sell is of fantastic quality and it would be a shame if it was lost forever,” says Dave Channing, who runs Kent Reclamation.

Dave has been involved in reclamation since he was 15, when he would occasionally help out with his uncle’s demolition business in Canterbury.

“I started there as a broom boy and gradually learned the business. Although a lot of it was simple demolition, reclamation was part of the trade, a growing part too.

“I enjoyed it from the start, the idea of rescuing these materials and using them again. And some of them, like the Victorian fireplaces, were beautiful, far too good to be simply thrown away.”

Eventually, Dave took over his uncle’s business and Kent Reclamation was born. Today they sell a huge variety of goods, from large items such as fireplaces, oak beams and pine doors to smaller items, including period lighting, pictures and paintings and door furniture.

“Basically, if it catches my eye and I think I can sell it then we’ll give it a go,” says Dave.

According to Dave, there are many benefits of choosing to go down the reclamation path:

“The most obvious benefit for a lot of people is the fact that you are getting something full of character and which is often unique. Then to add to that, you are getting a product that is better for the environment.

“Some people like the fact that what we sell hasn’t gone through a huge industrial process and been shipped half way around the world.”

Always on the lookout for a find, over the years Dave has come across his fair share of gems. But what’s been his greatest find to date?

“I remember buying a fireplace for 99p and then selling it the next day for £1,500. That was pretty good. But probably my favourite find is a picture that is signed by Kind Edward. It hangs in our shop and I don’t think I’d ever be willing to sell that.”

Recycling

Rob Marsh

West Kent YMCA Furniture Warehouse

www.westkentymca.org.uk/projects/furniture-warehouse

“Fifteen years ago, in a tiny workspace in Tonbridge, we started a project in which young people who have been 
either excluded from education or who are having problems could come in and learn some basic carpentry skills, patching up and repairing old furniture.

“And it’s from this that the West Kent Furniture Warehouse (WKFW) was born,” says Rob Marsh, Chief Executive of the Kent YMCA.

Today, WKFW provides a comprehensive service for those wishing to buy second-hand goods. It sells pre-loved, retro and antique furniture for the home, as well as tested second-hand electrical items (white goods, HiFis, TVs, PCs, toasters, kettles) and quality vintage clothes.

Aside from the environmental benefits, according to Rob the WKFW is a service that also has manifold advantages to the local community:

“We help local people and our clients stay on the property ladder by helping furnish a house, flat or room in a home at low cost. In our shop we offer local people life-changing volunteering, work experience, training and employment.

“And lastly, we also offer local people very cost-effective removals and house-clearance services.”

Although principally a seller of second-hand goods, over the years the WKFW has expanded to include bespoke items too.

“Under the Horizon Project, each year around 60 young people aged between 13 and 19 with issues surrounding learning are invited to come to us to improve their skills,” explains Rob.

“Working at their own speed, they develop carpentry skills and start producing bespoke furniture, such as beds, benches and tables.

“The kids that come here to do this find it enormously beneficial, often returning to full-time education afterwards with a revolutionised approach to learning.”

The WKFW has taken recycling to a different level. Not only is it rescuing and repairing items that would have 
once gone to landfill, it is also helping the local community and empowering vulnerable elements within that community to turn around their lives. n

Recycling

Rob Marsh

West Kent YMCA Furniture Warehouse

www.westkentymca.org.uk/projects/furniture-warehouse

“Fifteen years ago, in a tiny workspace 
in Tonbridge, we started a project in 
which young people who have been 
either excluded from education or who 
are having problems could come in and learn some basic carpentry skills, patching up and repairing old furniture.

“And it’s from this that the West Kent Furniture Warehouse (WKFW) was born,” says Rob Marsh, Chief Executive of the Kent YMCA.

Today, WKFW provides a comprehensive service for those wishing to buy second-hand goods. It sells pre-loved, retro and antique furniture for the home, as well as tested second-hand electrical items (white goods, HiFis, TVs, PCs, toasters, kettles) and quality vintage clothes.

Aside from the environmental benefits, according to Rob the WKFW is a service that also has manifold advantages to 
the local community:

“We help local people and our clients stay on the property ladder by helping furnish a house, flat or room in a home 
at low cost. In our shop we offer local people life-changing volunteering, work experience, training and employment.

“And lastly, we also offer local people very cost-effective removals and house-clearance services.”

Although principally a seller of second-hand goods, over the years the WKFW has expanded to include bespoke items too.

“Under the Horizon Project, each year around 60 young people aged between 
13 and 19 with issues surrounding learning are invited to come to us to improve their skills,” explains Rob.

“Working at their own speed, they develop carpentry skills and start producing bespoke furniture, such as 
beds, benches and tables.

“The kids that come here to do this find it enormously beneficial, often returning 
to full-time education afterwards with a revolutionised approach to learning.”

The WKFW has taken recycling to a different level. Not only is it rescuing 
and repairing items that would have 
once gone to landfill, it is also helping 
the local community and empowering vulnerable elements within that community to turn around their lives. n

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