In the back warehouse of the Red Cross Shop on Manchester Street, Thomas, Lloyd and Samuel – three enthusiastic design students from Ara Institute of Canterbury – have worked alongside our shop volunteers to sort donated goods. The students learnt about what happens after an item is donated, how things are prepared to be sold on the shop floor, and more importantly, what can’t be sold. 

“Our Red Cross Shops receive heaps of wonderful donated items from generous donors across the country, but we must admit that not all donated items make their way to our racks or shelves, because some are not in a sellable condition,” says New Zealand Red Cross National Retail Manager, Talei Kitchingman.

A tear, a broken zipper, a splash of house paint or any other sort of damage to a piece of clothing can make an otherwise good item unsellable. Customers don’t buy everything, which not everyone realises when gifting clothing to our Red Cross Shops.

“Through the Retooled project, we save these unsellable items from being cut up into rags, or even worse, going to landfill. With the help of these inspiring students, some of these items are given a second chance in life through these young people’s impressive recycling and upcycling skills,” adds Talei.

Retooled, a collaboration between New Zealand Red Cross and Ara Institute of Canterbury, is an op shop expo that celebrates the unlimited potential of shopping second-hand. Along with rescuing items from going into landfill, the event also features upcycling workshops, a classic clothes swap and a pop-up shop of gems that have been found in our Red Cross Shops.

Design students create rescued fashion brand ‘Paisley Street’

Thomas, Lloyd and Samuel have found plenty of things to salvage for their creative ideas and the original design brand they created, Paisley Street. They’ve transformed old jeans and shirts into something that looks more high fashion than thrift store. 

“We took what we love – fashion – and what we are good at – design,  and we thought, ‘What good could we do with those ingredients?’,” explains Lloyd.

A range of Paisley Street original pieces will be on sale at Retooled, and all proceeds are going to Red Cross. Refreshing both clothing and footwear, Paisley Street will also be running workshops at the event, where people can get involved by upcycling old clothes with a screen-printed design and adding tattoo-style art to shoes.

“There’s a lot of revivalism in the fashion space especially among creatives. Thrifting became a go-to for us. People love original. We don’t like dressing exactly the same as each other, it’s great for the environment and the clothes are good quality: no compromises," says Lloyd.

New Zealand Red Cross’ event organisers, Heather Locke and Jasmine Edwards, have been amazed by the response from students: “When we approached Ara Institute of Canterbury with the idea for the Retooled event, we initially thought students might be interested in upcycling art from yesteryear and creating wearable art pieces. We didn’t realise that this would strike a chord with so many young people,” says Heather. 

From trash to treasure: a selection of the upcycled op shop art to be auctioned at Retooled.

“Students came to us with all these incredible pitches for the event. It was clear that sustainable shopping is really important to them, and they had huge ideas about what an op shopping event with a creative edge would look like,” adds Jasmine. 

‘Dot by Dot’ brings thrifted gems to Retooled

Op shop enthusiasts and design team, Bella, Ruby and Lucy, have a vision for Retooled’s pop-up op shop, which they’ve named ‘Dot by Dot’ to represent the journey of preloved clothes from one owner to another. Believing that second-hand clothes are items to treasure, the team has curated a collection from Red Cross Shops in Canterbury to show people that stylish and quality pieces aren’t hard to find.

“We believe small changes really do have the power to create big ripples,” explains Lucy.

“That’s why we’ve been searching high and low for op shop treasures that make you feel something, ones with personality and a story to be continued. We want to honour the history of each garment we’ve discovered by giving it a new and loving home. We think we’ve unearthed some gems and want you to add your piece to their story; dot by dot.” 

Ara design students, Bella, Ruby and Lucy are running the pop-up op shop at Retooled on 4 September 

Student-led design team, Sylvie, Ari and Micki, created marketing material for Retooled (below)

The event has become an organic collaboration and labour of love between Red Cross and the students. Even the marketing concept has been designed by students with Red Cross’ support. Red Cross organisers wanted to capture as much of the students’ passion about sustainability, op shopping and design as possible. In an event with so many great elements and student involvement at the forefront, it was a great chance for design team, Ari, Sylvie and Mickey, to use their skills. They understood the vision from the outset and managed to tie it all together beautifully.

You too can feel the thrill of the thrift and embrace the upcycle at Retooled on Friday 4 September. The event will go ahead under COVID-19 Alert Level 2 restrictions with physical distancing and contact tracing in place. Buy your tickets here – tickets are limited.

About Red Cross Shops

There are more than 50 Red Cross Shops nationwide. As well as providing affordable homewares and clothing to the community, proceeds from the shops help support our work helping people who need it most, here and overseas.

Find out how you can get involved: