St Luke’s is selling mystery clothes online for women who want to ‘re-love the pre-loved’

Fashionistas can order a box containing four garments for just £15 – but they’re unsure what they’ll get

One of Plymouth’s favorite charities has come up with a way fashion-conscious women can look chic while helping others and the planet. New business b.kinda has been set up by St Luke’s Hospice to enable women to ‘re-love the pre-loved’ by buying a box containing four mystery garments for just £15.

The UK-wide scheme, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, enables female fashionistas to receive a selection of second-hand, yet high-quality clothing, chosen especially for them and posted to their homes. All they have to do is visit b.kinda’s new website and answer a few simple questions, and a team of fashion experts will pick the duds and ship them, postage-free.

Customers aren’t sure exactly what they’re going to get, but the b.kinda team says that’s half the fun. And the project is also raising funds for the £10million needed each year to provide end-of-life care in Plymouth – and helping the planet by recycling.

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“The backlash against fast fashion is all the rage now,” said Victoria Lammie, e-commerce manager at St Luke’s, which looks after b.kinda. “It leads to sustainability. It’s part of the circular fashion revolution. We encourage people to re-like the pre-liked.

St Luke’s came up with the innovative idea after wrestling with the problem of what to do with the thousands of donated clothes it has no room for in its 24 Plymouth stores. The solution was to sell online.

But it is impossible for the charity to photograph and list the 5,000 pieces of clothing it owns at any given time. So he will sell some of the higher value items on ebay or Amazon, and the rest will go to b.kinda.

“We’re so well given in our charity shops that we can’t sell everything there, so I thought that was a great way to use those items,” Ms Lammie said. Much of St Luke’s huge operation, in the former Toys ‘r’ Us building at Western Approach, has been transformed into a b.kinda base and is filled with thousands of items sorted by size.

Potential customers need only visit the website and answer a few questions. They will be asked for “the age they wear”, which is not necessarily the age they are, and their top, bottom and dress sizes. There’s also a color palette and Ms Lammie said: ‘You write down the colors you don’t like then they choose the colors you like.

Victoria Lammie with some of b.kinda’s clothes

Two e-commerce assistants then sort through the rails and choose four items, skirts, tops, pants or dresses and Ms. Lammie says: “These are all quality items, with no stains, tears, pilling or broken zippers. Some items have never been worn and still have tags. And they’re steamed and given another check before being wrapped in reusable brown paper and packed in a recyclable cardboard box.

“If you want to order more than one box at a time, you can. It’s non-refundable, but we hope people will form a community and share, or if they don’t like an item, they will give it back to charity or pass it on.

Estover-based bamboo clothing company BAM helped set up the online platform and Ms Lammie was tasked with overseeing it. She had a high-flying career as a fashion designer working with high street brands such as M&S for 26 years. She has designed lingerie and sleepwear and has also worked for surf brands.

She said b.kinda could appeal to a younger demographic, women who may not visit charity shops but are tired of the wastefulness of fast fashion. And she said: “We plan to launch other platforms. It’s only women’s clothing at the moment, but we plan to move into men’s and children’s clothing.

In July, b.kinda will start with a winter collection, including sweaters, fleeces and long-sleeved tops, but no coats because they would be too heavy to post. Clothing is the number one seller at St Luke’s, ahead of furniture, and Mike Dukes, Commercial Director of St Luke’s, said: “Women’s clothing is what we get the most from the stores. The stock goes to the stores first, but there is a window of time and if they don’t sell, it comes to us. People want to see new things in stores all the time. We think this will take off because it’s the thrill of the find. It’s a big thing, there’s an excitement to it.

Mr Dukes said the charity’s shops have been busy in 2022 as the cost of living crisis has encouraged people to be more frugal. He said: “People donate to us because we are St Luke’s, but they buy from us because they want a bargain. The economy is so tough and people want to reduce their spending.

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“Sales have taken off this year across the board, with womenswear the strongest growth. We are 20% ahead of budget in the first three months of the fiscal year. This reflects the need for bargains people.

But despite this increase in sales, St Luke still needs to earn a lot of money to pay for the care he provides. Mr Dukes said: “We need around £10million a year to provide care, but the pandemic has made that difficult. So we had to look for innovative ways to maintain those revenues.

“We have received support from people who have helped us through difficult times, but we are still looking for more income. We can’t find anyone else doing this (b.kinda). It’s either genius or madness. We hope this is the first.

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