People In Fashion: Designer booty you can trust

Tracey Sajno tells Hester Lacey the secrets behind the success of the Notting Hill Housing Trust

Tracey Sajno sorts carefully through a rack of elegant clothes: Versace jackets, a brace of Vivienne Westwood bustiers, some Ralph Lauren cashmere and some Joseph Tricot knitwear, a sweeping, backless Nicole Farhi dress, a silk Valentino evening shift. They are all about to be sent out for sale, but Tracey doesn't work in a boutique or department store - she works for the Notting Hill Housing Trust.

With their smart red and gold facades and neat interiors, the Notting Hill Housing Trust shops are something of a cut above the downmarket image of the charity store. And some are several cuts above; they are the places to pick up a second-hand designer-label garment or a this-season's brand- new bargain at a fraction of the cost. Tracey is the trust's "donated goods sourcer": a job title she hates (true, it looks quite reasonable written down but does sound a bit odd when said out loud). "I prefer `charitable appeals co-ordinator'," she says firmly. And, she says, rather than a charity shop, the Notting Hill Housing Trust shops like to think of themselves as "a bargain boutique".

The trust's goods are stored in a warehouse in Shepherds Bush, south- west London. By no stretch of the imagination could it be called a glamorous setting. But some of the clothes that end up there certainly are. Take the Valentino shift: pure creamy silk, with a cape that can tie at the neck or the waist, a daring slit at the back and a four-button detail at the shoulder. It will go for around pounds 85. Or the Vivienne Westwood bustiers, one in black velvet, the other in red with a dog print: around pounds 35 each.

"Sometimes donations are simply sold in the shop they are handed in to," explains Tracey. "But from a lot of shops, the drivers pick up the bags, bring them back here, and they are sorted here. This is the main hub where everything gets ready to go." Some pieces do not make it back to the shops, like the Zandra Rhodes quilted jacket, a riot of purples and lilacs, which is going off to Christie's to be valued.

Because the trust's shops tend to be in prestigious locations like Knightsbridge, Kensington Church Street, Brompton Road and, of course, Notting Hill, donations tend also to be rather posh. "Last week, we had a brand new Armani suit, still in its bag with the label still on it," recalls Tracey. "We spent some time wondering what the story behind that one could be; our latest theory is a called-off wedding."

Tracey redistributes the warehoused goods to the most appropriate shop. Kensington Church Street and Fulham Road specialise in classic designer labels; in Knightsbridge, because of the numbers of tourists, she adds a proportion of high-street fashion to the mix. The Camden branch is known for retro-wear; from the current warehouse batch, the printed, ruched Fifties skirted bathing suit and green Sixties dress with beaded details at the waist will end up there. Each shop also carries a moderately priced selection of less high-falutin' high-street labels; prices start at a couple of pounds.

Sorting the second-hand clothes is only part of Tracey's job. She is also charged with chasing donations from all kinds of sources. "My role is contact with fashion designers, fashion retailers, fashion magazines. I ask questions like: What happens to clothes that have been used for photo shoots? Can we have them? What happens to sample clothes? Can we have them? I've been to every dry cleaners in London to ask what they do with their unclaimed garments - can they give them to us? I go out there and bite their ankles."

Ankle biting notwithstanding, she has built up such a good relationship with some stores and designers that now she doesn't need to call them: they call her. "One major menswear designer sent me enough to feed all our shops: fantastic quality, brand new," she says proudly. At the moment, the shops are doing a brisk trade in stretch denim pedal-pushers at pounds 10 a go. "I have to keep ahead of fashion trends," says Tracey. "It's imperative for me to know that pedal pushers are in at the moment."

She is constantly on the lookout for potential givers. "People who work in the City don't have charity shops nearby so we ask if we can put a clothes donation box in their offices and collect whatever ends up in it," she says. She is also currently chasing a local film company. "What happens to their costumes when shooting is over?"

Sometimes things can go slightly wrong; for example, once she ended up with a pile of gloves, all left-handed, with mysterious metal palms. But Tracey believes that her role is one of the factors that gives the Notting Hill Housing Trust an advantage. It is a relatively new initiative; originally it was a temporary role, but when Tracey took over a year ago, the job was made permanent. "Not all charities have this: they don't invest in their staff. All our shop managers are trained to recognise what they are getting, pick out good clothes and price them appropriately. It comes down to quality: even if you buy something for pounds 2, it will be clean, with all its buttons."

Formerly a hairdresser, Tracey, 31, learned about second-hand clothes by buying them ("I was a junior on a low wage, but I was working in a well-known salon and I had to look the part"); she has also worked as a trust shop manageress. She says a little regretfully that these days she is not allowed to fill up her own wardrobe at work. It is frowned upon, as donated goods are strictly there to be sold. Her top tip for bargain-hunters: nearly new ski-wear (people kit themselves out, break a leg on the slopes, and never go back, apparently).

Tracey says she gets out of her job what she puts in. As well as resettling the homeless into permanent accommodation, the Trust provides bedding, furniture and support for pensioners and the vulnerable, co-ordinates volunteer workers of many kinds and supports training programmes. "There is an amazing feel-good factor," says Tracey. "At the end of the day you can go home feeling absolutely exhausted but know everything you've done has been worthwhile."

Notting Hill Housing Trust: Donated goods, 0181 357 4833 - clothes and bric-a-brac welcome; volunteer co-ordinator 0181 357 4866; fundraising department/credit card donations 0181 357 5181

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Life and Style
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

    £45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

    Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

    Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

    £50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

    Java Developer - 1 year contract

    £350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone