There was a time when I was a semi-serious shopaholic, I’ve never really had money so I didn’t have a designer habit or anything that serious, but I definitely spent my meagre disposable income on clothes and shoes from the high street, in south-east asian and greek markets on holiday and Greenwich market as often as possible – still wearing the Irish velvet wrap coat bought at Greenwich in 1997.  Then I had children, and we were down to one salary, I discovered charity shops, my beautiful babies worn designer cast-offs bought for 50p a time, me?  I made do with what I already had, with the  odd sale item and whispers, Primark cheapies.  Then we went off to Africa, still no money, but Mtumba!  On pretty much any roadside in Tanzania you find Tree Boutiques – secondhand gorgeous, classy clothes from Europe and the States, collected by charities and sold at African ports in bundles.  There’s fierce debate about this practise, the high price of cotton world wide (due to drought) means that the traditional African fabrics are scarcer and because the typical african wants to look ‘western’ they buy mtumba to look ‘right’.  Which in turn means less traditional materials are bought and that market starts to stumble.  A sad fact of so-called progress.  However, rightly or wrongly we bought from the tree boutiques.

Now I’m back in the UK, the girls and I are regulars in the local charity shops, I buy on Ebay, at Boot fairs and only very, very occasionally at regular shops, school shoes – actually most shoes as I can’t get my head around second hand shoes, underwear and hosiery – ditto.  Eldest daughter is a pro – she has an amazing wardrobe for a not quite 14 year old, better than mine in my 20’s embarrassingly.

Tree Boutique - Haile Selassie Road, Dar es Salaam


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