Can vintage clothing truly make our world a healthier place?

Vintage clothing may make retro lovers around the world happier, but it can also have much wider-ranging mental health benefits, as shown by one particularly remarkable social enterprise on the verge of celebrating its second birthday.

As reported by The Big Issue, there is an Aladdin’s cave of high-quality vintage apparel that isn’t just doing its bit to enhance Britons’ wardrobes, but is also helping to raise awareness of the stigmas attached to depression.

An ‘Off The Scale’ venture

Off The Scale started life as a not-for-profit vintage clothing shop in Birmingham in 2015, staffed by young local volunteers with experience of mental health issues. It was opened by Eddie and Gail O’Callaghan, who took inspiration from their own colourful and cosmopolitan fashion and music backgrounds.

The shop aimed to create a relaxed environment in which its youthful customers – often students – could feel more comfortable to start a discussion about any struggles they were having.

The now 56-year-old Eddie has had mental health problems of his own, having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 35.

He commented: “We decided to start the business after coming back from Croatia, where I had been helping promote music festivals. We had been all over the place before that, and Gail had a background in vintage clothing – we’d had shops in San Francisco and Liverpool.

“We really felt the idea would, given time, have an impact.”

Moving onto a new chapter of success

The actual vintage clothing to be found in the store has certainly turned the heads of many admirers of all things retro, with the team handpicking and purchasing clothes from charity retailers’ unused stock, before remarketing it to customers.

However, when financial difficulties spelt the end of the original physical store, the social investment arm of The Big Issue Group – Big Issue Invest (BII) – got involved. The O’Callaghans decided that the next step would be to take the shop on the road aboard a converted ‘80s vintage bus, visiting university campuses, events and festivals.

Showing how vintage clothing really can serve a greater good

With Off The Scale now thriving in its second life, there has been no doubt about its impact.

Eddie enthused: “The bus is like a magnet for the young kids. These are kids who are under pressure, with nobody to explain or help, tell them where they can go, what they can do.

“What we’re doing is basically encouraging people to volunteer to start a conversation about their own health, referring them to [mental health charities] Student Mind and Time To Change. We’re a conduit to those groups, using the bus as a focus.”

So, there you go – vintage clothing really can, in a manner far transcending its simple style, make our world a better place.

As for Off The Scale, it will be holding its second birthday party at Number 90 Hackney Wick in London on 3rd March, with guests including Norman Jay MBE. Here at RETRuly, we really can’t think of a more well-deserved celebration, and wish everyone involved in the project many more years of success!