Lorraine Keane: I buy preloved clothes for my daughters at Christmas

Shopping second hand gives you access to designer labels, it’s sustainable and it helps charities, says the Fashion Relief founder

When one of the country’s foremost fashionistas is boasting about her preloved purchases, you know second-hand shopping has hit the mainstream. But Lorraine Keane was doing it long before it was trendy.

“I love nice things and always say, I can’t afford myself,” she laughs. “But you can afford it when it is preloved and it gets you access to lots of nice designer things. And because they are such good quality they are in perfect condition. I was wearing a jumpsuit yesterday by Amanda Wakeley that I bought in a second-hand shop in Notting Hill 20 years ago.”

Keane says her two daughters, Emelia (20) and Romy (17), are well acquainted with vintage and preloved fashion. “At Christmas, at least 50 per cent of what I have under the tree for them is preloved. I know their style and I know what they like so I go hunting for nice pieces for them,” she says.

Even in an era where fashion is becoming ever more disposable there is a growing thirst for second-hand or preloved clothing, with sites and apps such as Depop and Vinted doing a roaring trade. But Keane’s endeavours with her Fashion Relief fundraiser are rooted in more than a desire to help people find a designer bargain.


Keane spent years volunteering with NGOs including World Vision Ireland, Trócaire, and then Oxfam, travelling to areas of extreme poverty in countries including Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Haiti, and organising an accompanying publicity flurry to encourage donations.

One of those trips brought her to Bangladesh in the aftermath of the Gana Plaza factory collapse, the deadliest disaster in the garment industry’s history when more than 1,100 people died and more than 2,000 were injured. She met some of the survivors, visiting the slums where they are forced to live because they are denied a living wage.

“These were always very difficult trips, not trips I looked forward to. But on that trip I saw the factories and saw the conditions, I saw the labels on the clothes when I was there – the high street labels we all know,” she recalls. “When I came back I said to my husband, I need to do more.”

Her husband, musician and producer Peter Devlin, told her to make sure it was something she would enjoy, “because he knew I would give it my all”.

That “more” was Fashion Relief and it ultimately stemmed from Keane taking a good hard look at her own wardrobe.

“Lots of people like me have too many clothes,” she admits. “Because of the business I work in I would get a lot of clothes and accessories gifted to me or I would be able to buy from Irish designers at a discount.”

The sentimental value of special items didn’t even come into it, says Keane. “If I can sell a dress worth €500 for €100 and give that money to charity, it is far better than keeping it for my daughters who might not ever wear it. I knew that €100 would have fed one of the families I spoke to in Bangladesh for a month.”

The first Fashion Relief event took place in the RDS in 2018. Keane took out her little black book of contacts and everyone donated their time and expertise for free, from the models to the staff on the tills. This meant that every cent raised went to Oxfam, an impressive €80,000.

“Paul Costello donated his entire runway catalogue from his most recent London Fashion Week show,” Keane says. “These were unique pieces worth thousands that we were able to sell for €200 each.”

Fashion Relief is now partnered with Breast Cancer Ireland and has a permanent home in the Frascati Centre in Blackrock. In its first four weeks of trading earlier this year the shop took in more than €28,000. Keane says stock is a mixture of high street labels and designer – “from Zara to Prada and everything in between”.

Her fashionable friends continue to donate – the shop’s Instagram page recently showed a rail of donations from Pippa O’Connor and another “fabulous woman” just did a drop-off of a number of covetable Simone Rocha items.

When you have been to the factories and spoken to the women and seen the conditions they work and live in, you just can’t bring yourself to do it

—  Lorraine Keane

As an ambassador for Breast Cancer Ireland for over 10 years, Keane sees it as the perfect partnership.

“I wanted to partner with a women’s health charity and the research labs that they fund are so crucial,” she says. “If we can take in €28,000 in one month imagine the potential.”

The sustainability angle is driving people to shop preloved as much as the charity aspect, Keane says. “You are saving people and planet at the same time so it’s guilt-free shopping – that’s what I always tell our customers.”

The preference for preloved fashion will continue to grow, believes Keane, who cringes when she recalls how she would say she never wore the same thing twice during her decade on TV3 as an entertainment correspondent and as host of Xposé.

“You would never admit to that now. My daughters’ generation are amazing, they are way ahead of us when it comes to buying preloved and being sustainable. They don’t buy from the very cheap, fast-fashion websites. I can see the temptation myself because the prices are so good but when you have actually been to the factories like I have and you have spoken to the women and seen the conditions they work and live in, then you just can’t bring yourself to do it.”

All clothes from Lorraine Keane’s Fashion Relief preloved boutique for Breast Cancer Ireland in the Frascati Centre in Dublin, donated to the boutique from women’s wardrobes, celebrity’s wardrobes, designer’s samples, boutiques and wholesalers. More information on @lorrainekeaneofficial @fashionreliefbci

Danielle Barron

Danielle Barron is a contributor to The Irish Times