Behind the scenes at Brixton’s Traid

Some good news in tough times – Brixton’s Traid on Acre Lane is still open. Simone Richardson looked in to see how it is getting on …

man and woman in Covid masks
Brixton Traid’s Maria Diaz Franco and manager Tom Davies

Too many places in Brixton are closed, so it is good to see that Traid has stayed open, despite the closure of its next door neighbour Joy – a company that launched in Brixton nearly 30 years ago.

Manager Tom Davies has worked for Traid for five years and in the Brixton branch since lockdown.

Traid is a charity working to stop clothes from being thrown away.

It turns waste clothes into resources to reduce the environmental and social impacts of the clothing industry.

It also funds international projects to improve conditions and working practices in the textile industry, and educates people about the impact of textiles on the environment and their lives and how to make more sustainable choices.

Laura Casas, who was the Brixton shop manager when we visited a year ago, has just had a baby, so is obviously too busy looking for her baby’s clothes rather than working in Traid looking after the clothes there!

man outside shop
Brixton Traid manager Tom Davies

Tom was born in Cardiff and “raised his whole life” in the nearby seaside town of Penarth on the Severn estuary.

“I turned 18 when I came to London to university to study product design,” he says.

“I realised I was attracted to clothes at a young age, maybe about four, when I started to dress up as Mary Poppins and forced the whole family to partake in the act!

“This made me realise that just with a simple change of outfit you can change not only others’ perceptions of you but also your perception of the world.’’

Tom started tailoring a few years after his degree, continuing his interest in clothes and, in particular, secondhand/vintage – “not only because I’m anti ‘fast fashion’ but also because of the story these items have or you can make up about them”.

A lot of work goes on behind the scenes in Traid, which most people don’t realise is taking place, Tom says.

Tasks in the shop change regularly. Before Covid, a typical week would include travel to Traid’s main warehouse and sorting through thousands of donations to make a selection for the shop.

Processing the selection takes a team of people – from handling, steaming the clothes, pricing, categorising, and organising by season, until, finally, they reach the shop floor, “where,” says Tom, “we in Brixton provide excellent customer service and engage with our local community”.

“It’s an unpopular opinion, but I very much enjoyed the lockdown,” he reveals.

“I live in a warehouse community, so I didn’t get lonely and I had time to focus on some of my passion projects, deigning and making clothes and accessories.

“Traid was closed for five months in total and it was a struggle.’’

Only some of its shops could get a rent break or reduction, “As you can imagine, costs in London are very high – especially for a non-profit charity,” Tom says.

The regulars and volunteers he works with include Maria Diaz Franco from Seville in Spain, where her family still lives. She has lived in London for three years and been working for Traid for a year and in Brixton for one month.

“My job title is sales assistant, however, the role includes an inexhaustible range of tasks, she says. “My favourite being working and selecting the never ending donations, finding the hidden gems to display in store.’’

Despite living more than 13 miles away in Barking, Maria loves working in Brixton – “a fantastic, unique and vibrant community”.

woman in Covid mask
Brixton Traid volunteer Tianna Patterson

Originally from Texas, Tianna Patterson is a volunteer who has helped out at Traid for six months.

“I love getting out of the house and being amongst people, and obviously love fashion, so – people and fashion – what else is there to love!’’

Tom also has a long commute from his home in Clapton, East London. “I endure the cycle and enjoy coming to Brixton for the diversity, the vibe, the mix of cultures and to enter the nightlife – when we are able to join it!’’

All the stylish window dressing is done by Italian Francesco Colucci, a Brixton resident.

man in shop
Brixton Traid window designer Francesco Colucci

His work is now done at night, so he does not have to worry about a mask while working alone. He still does a great job and attracts customers.

Tom has hopes for Traid. “It’s not my place to say, but I can only hope Traid continues to grow and support more and more people in different areas of the textile industry in developing countries; as well as to influence people away from the fast fashion industry and to shop second hand!’’

Track to Traid

2 Acre Lane, Brixton SW2 5SG

Opening Times
Monday to Saturday – 10am to 6pm
Sundays and public holidays – 11am to 5pm