Introducing: Hackney Pirates

The Hackney Pirates is an enterprising charity working to develop the literacy, confidence and perseverance of young people in Hackney, so that they achieve both in school and in the world beyond.

They work with young people aged 9-12 whose teachers think they would benefit from some extra support. The Young Pirates go to their Ship of Adventures after school – it is a weird and wonderful out-of-school learning environment complete with secret passageways, an underwater cave and a ship’s cat. Here, they receive some help on their reading through targeted reading support programmes.

The Clothes Club first worked with Hackney Pirates in 2013 when we raised some funds for them at a Clothes Swap event.

Catriona Mackey – Founder of Hackney Pirates

Catriona Maclay trained as a ‘Teach First’ teacher in Edmonton. As subject leader for Citizenship she developed and implemented a school-wide active Citizenship curriculum to give young people the knowledge and practical experience they need to be informed, critical and engaged citizens. Catriona has also worked at Ashoka, the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, where she led the Venture programme to select and support leading social entrepreneurs in the UK. Catriona is the Captain of The Hackney Pirates, which she set up with friends and collaborators in 2010 to support young people in developing their literacy, confidence and perseverance.

On working with The Clothes Club…

When The Clothes Club contacted us it seemed like a great idea – a nice social way of bringing in some extra funds for our charity. The event had a lovely atmosphere and was run by really friendly and motivated people.

The Clothes Club raised £850 from two events for Hackney Pirates! This is a fantastic amount, and helped support our learning programme with young people. It was a really significant contribution to our work, and was also such a great example of volunteer initiative and creativity. Thanks for thinking of it in the first place, and for making it such a success! The money helped us print a guidebook the children created, the printing cost was about £5 per book and it was sold for £10.

Catriaona’s favourite piece of 2nd hand clothing

A second hand flamenco dress! (It doesn’t get used too often…)

For more information on Hackney Pirates and what they do visit

Introducing: The Basket Room

We have been very fortunate over the past 3 years to work with some amazing companies who share our ethos about the power of ‘business for good’. So, we thought we would introduce some of them to you, so that you can see the people behind the brand name and join us in our admiration.

The Basket Room

The Basket Room is an ethical lifestyle brand founded by Holly Dutton and Camilla Sutton. They specialise in handwoven baskets and accessories made in Africa, working directly with weaving cooperatives in rural Kenya, Ghana & Tanzania to create stunning collections.


Holly Dutton & Camilla Sutton

What made you start The Basket Room?

Holly: The Basket Room was born organically…Camilla and I and met up in London a few years after graduating to attend a talk on sustainability and corporate social responsibility. It was there that we realised our mutual interests for ethical sourcing, handicrafts and Africa! I was at the time working for an African charity and Camilla had just quit her fast-paced Fashion job in London to follow her dreams of sourcing handmade accessories from East Africa. Our paths crossed at the right time in our lives, some would say it was meant to be, or fate!

How did your individual skills both help as co-founders? What strengths do you each bring?

Holly: We both worked freelance prior to forming our partnership, and have acknowledged how amazing it is to have someone to bounce ideas off, reach difficult decisions and share the work load. Setting up your own business is hard, so having two of you with complimentary skill sets has made the journey a little bit easier! Camilla’s strengths lie in production, design and sourcing, whilst mine are retail, sales and marketing. We share tasks across all areas of the business as it keeps ideas fresh and innovative.

What’s your favourite second hand item?

Holly: Mine is this Country Casuals short sleeved wool top, made here in Great Britain! Is it a jumper, a tank top?! Am not entirely sure, but I love it for the clashy colours and stripes. Easy to wear with jeans on a warm but not so hot Spring day! I picked it up at my local charity shop just a couple of weeks ago. I love to scour for individual pieces that I know I will get a lot of wear out of, as I rarely buy brand new clothes anymore and if I do then I do my best to buy ethically and responsibly.

Basket Room QA pic2


Camilla:  Mine is this awesome tie dye dress I found at the second hand market, or ‘Gikomba’ in Nairobi. I only buy clothes from the Gikomba markets these days, because you can find incredible garments, retro and designer pieces at really cheap prices. Most of the clothes are shipped over from the West in huge containers and many people make their living here by sorting and specialising in specific garment types, which they sell on to locals. It is sad to see such vast amounts of un-loved, hardly worn clothes in one place, and still it is tough for the East African fashion scene to compete with this Gikomba industry… hopefully one day, people will buy less, and less disposably.

 Basket Room QA pic 1

Could you tell us a bit about the communities you work with, how did that come about?

Holly: We work directly with weaving cooperatives in Kenya and Ghana and are expanding into other African countries. Camilla visited Kenya a few years ago and was introduced to a weaving community that needed access to market. The groups are often off the tourist trail and do not have the means to market themselves to a wider audience.

Most of the weavers that we work with in Africa are women, because in the traditional African setting, women were in charge of furnishing their homesteads with items like sleeping mats, baskets for harvesting as well as for storing food and such. This weaving skill was then passed down from Grandmother to Granddaughter.

In Ghana however, the weavers that we work with are also male. Most of these weavers rely on small scale subsistence farming, but due to uncertain rainfall, they have come to look towards weaving as a way of an alternative income. Some of the cooperatives make monthly savings and have been able to purchase land with the view of developing to benefit the group.

Weaving is mostly done around chores or while walking to the market or Church, so it is an effortless art that not only keeps these weavers occupied, but also enables them to make some money from a skill that’s been passed down from generation to generation.

And how does your model work to help support the weavers?

Holly: Once we identify a weaving cooperative that we would like to work with, we meet with them in person to discuss their skills and products. Quite often the whole group will attend, as it is a very important meeting for them. The chairlady, secretary and treasurer will always be present and discussions are made between the members about designs, quantities and prices. As we do not manage the weavers or employ them directly, they make collaborative decisions as a group, this benefits them greatly as they have control over the project and can not be exploited.

We also provide the groups with materials like scissors, tape measures and rulers and train them to make consistent basket sizes. If required, we will also provide dyes and mixing drums to allow larger orders to be placed.

Once an order is confirmed based on the production ability of the group, a deposit is paid upfront. This allows the weavers to buy materials needed to start production. Communications and regular visits are kept throughout the production period to ensure no errors are being made. Once the deadline is reached, the balance is paid on the order. Each weaver is then paid per piece by the chairlady, so it is in her best interests to weave well and regularly.

The higher demand we have for our baskets, the larger orders we can place with the groups and they can invite new members to join the cooperative, meaning more women are gaining a consistent income.

To view the full range and purchase from The Basket Room visit

Clothes Swapping – what’s it all about?

Clothes ready to swap

Clothes swapping (or swishing) has become increasingly popular and we truly believe it’s the future of fashion. So for those of you who are new to this concept, read on to get the lowdown.

So basically we all love clothes right? We buy, we wear, we put in the wardrobe until we lose a couple of pounds / the right occasion comes along, we hoard, we buy some more. And so the cycle continues. But what is the impact of this? Most of us have never even thought about it, and that’s ok. But let’s just take a quick moment to consider it.

The Stats*

  • the average UK household owns around £4,000 worth of clothes
  • around 30% of clothing in wardrobes has not been worn for at least a year;
  • the cost of this unused clothing is around £30 billion;
  • an estimated £100 million worth (based on 2015 prices) or around 350,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year

You may be thinking ‘Wow, that’s a lot of clothes but where do I come in?’ Well here’s the thing:

  • Extending the average life of clothes by nine months would save £5 billion in resources used to supply, launder and dispose of clothing
  • extending the average life of clothes by just three months of active use would lead to a 5-10% reduction in each of the carbon, water and waste footprints

Make a difference without making a sacrifice

Clothes swapping is designed to cut this waste and provides all the fun of retail therapy but without the consequences to the environment. It’s fun, rewarding and there is no guilt attached when you go home with 2 bags full of new clothes (so you won’t need to hide them at the back of the wardrobe in case your other half asks how much you’ve spent!).

So now you know what it’s all about, why not give it a try?  There are lots of clothes swaps happening all over the UK, many for brilliant causes and many just for fun. So go on, give it a go – we guarantee you’ll love it!

Useful clothes swapping resources

* Stats from ‘Valuing our clothes’, a summary of the key findings of a major technical report published by WRAP.

Dalston roofpark clothes swap fundraiser – for Childhope and Art Against Knives


We’re excited to be doing our 2nd Clothes Club fundraising event on Dalston roof park, on Thursday 21st May during their opening launch month.We’re supporting two great projects:

A youth project run by Arts Against Knives. Through their creative workshops and projects they have been successful in supporting young individuals with a past in crime who need experience and opportunity to access education employment and training.

We’re also supporting Childhope via TRAID, to provide birth certificates for children of garment workers. In Bangladesh many garment workers are extremely poor women who are single mothers. They have usually migrated from rural areas looking for work and opportunities for themselves and their children. With high demand for cheap labour in the garment industry, many of these women work sewing clothes in factories. Birth certificates are crucial so their children can get access to education and medical care.

Early bird tickets are available for £8, hope to see some of you there. And thanks for your support.

Let’s put some conscience into our closets!