May 20th, 2005


Fashion for victims

Humana is a charity thrift shop which pays for third world development projects. Not only do I buy all my clothes and furniture at the big four-floor Friedrichshain Humana in Berlin, I also give my clothes and furniture back to it free when I no longer need them, allowing Humana to sell them again. I suppose you could call Humana a lending library for material things, a recycling plant for culture, or a perpetual motion machine. It converts consumerism into global justice. In exchange for giving Nick the illusion of "curating" a look out of funky retro stuff, it takes his money and turns it into a village literacy scheme in Nicaragua.

So I was delighted to find a branch of Humana in a Lisbon suburb (the city also has branches of my other favourite funky junk store, Cash Converters). For the princely sum of €8.50 (which will no doubt be put towards an electric water pump in Mozambique) I was able to renew my look. The results are below (click for big version):

I usually shop for clothes with a theme in mind: it might be stripes, clothes that look like pajamas, tie-dye, Chinese military uniform, German folk costume, or Hassidic Jewish gear. When the prices are low you can go crazy and risk things. And because the clothes have all been pre-worn, you know that your costume references aren't just allusions: they're the actual clothes the actual people you're referring to actually wore.

In the Lisbon Humana, a delightful place with a blue-tiled corridor off which lay room after room of clean, cheap and interesting clothes, I thought at first I'd be concentrating on oddly-shaped white smocks which could be layered over other white garments to make a sort of Russian folk look. But then I discovered the tight, slightly flared plaid pants in the €1 euro section, remembered I'd seen a Burberry-style shirt in the first room, added a clean white T shirt and the red plaid shirt, tried it all on and found that not only did it fit, but it smelt fine. Good scent is important: I tend to buy women's clothes, because they're normally more figure-hugging and colourful, tend to be in better condition, and, well, women just smell fresher.

Voila, I feel decadently consumerist and yet also righteously charitable, fresh even as I reek slightly of some deceased Lisbon chick's perfume.