“I’ve always had an interest in fashion and I love charity shops - my mother, Linda, has taken me to them since the year dot. Mum worked as a seamstress for Marks and Spencer and she also made wedding dresses and bridesmaids’ dresses for the local community. Her dresses were amazing – always on-trend, but eclectic. Basically, my mum is me, but 40 years older!
“Both of us share the view that we don’t see any point in spending a fortune, especially on stuff that isn’t going to last. In both of our opinions, clothes that were made 40 to 50 years ago look better, have aged better, and were made to last.
“I work full time, based in an office, and while I love my job, a couple of years ago I started to feel like there were other aspects of my personality that weren’t being used.
“So it was around that time my friend told me about volunteering opportunities at Tŷ Hafan. I wanted something flexible, which it is, plus fashion is a creative outlet for me. I just love it – I have a passion for it.
“Anthea is the manager there and she had this idea to adapt a backroom at the shop and make it into a bridal boutique. The room had previously been used as an office, but two years ago it was unused and really a wasted space. I suggested to Anthea that we might be able to generate more money for the charity if we turned it into a room where we could offer personal styling consultations.
“I’m particularly interested in styling women who are going through big events, like getting married , changing job, becoming pregnant and so on.
“Just because a shop is a charity shop, in my view the level of service you get should be no less professional. The shop assistants should be no less attentive.
“At the end of the day it’s all about giving back to the charity. Just selling that one wedding dress for £100, for example. That means four children with a life-limiting condition can have a complementary therapy treatment each.
“Anthea is the greatest support to me, in fact she is the best person I have ever worked for, and she loved the idea.
“So I went in and cleaned it all out, scrubbed the floors, put filler in the holes in the walls and painted it from top to bottom. My boyfriend donated paint and filler and extras. Then I put up some pictures, fashion quotes and motivational quotes.
“The response to the bridal boutique and styling room has been immense. We’ve had so many positive comments in our comments book in the shop. Everybody loves it! And they all said I am fabulous, which, of course, I love too!
“We cater for brides, grooms, bridesmaids, mother of the bride and wedding guests. We also do a range of accessories – shoes, hats, bags, jewellery and fascinators.
“And it isn’t just about the bridal boutique. In our new personal styling room we do consultations not just for weddings, but for all sorts of women at any stage in their life. We are all real normal women. I say to the women that come in ‘You dress to make yourself feel good, have some fun and don’t do what you think society wants you to do.’ It’s so empowering.
“I’ve even started turning my friends onto pre-loved fashion, for example, Flamingos Vintage in Cardiff.
“At the end of the day it’s all about making a difference. People don’t realise this is a charity shop.
“Anthea and the whole team here make sure the shop looks immaculate. We clean and change window displays regularly. We all dress nicely. Because we look like a shop – people come in and say, is this a charity shop?
“The amount of clothing that goes into landfill – it’s horrific. Unfortunately we live in a fast-fashion, throwaway culture.
“When my mother used to buy a new item – she would pay a bit for it every week and get a dress of fantastic quality. She’s still got some pieces now from the 50s, 60s and 70s. There needs to be a change towards buying for quality not quantity.
“I just can’t imagine my nephews being in the situation faced by those children with life-limiting conditions who come to Tŷ Hafan. I am a volunteer but I class what I do for Tŷ Hafan as a job. If everybody gave an hour of their time even once a month – everything makes a massive difference. If everybody does a little bit you can really make a difference.”