Elton's sale – everything must go

A slice of Britain: Fans bag the star's sunglasses and shop with the famous for some of the performer's most flamboyant suits and shirts

It is a Saturday afternoon less than two weeks before Christmas in one of London's most popular shopping areas. There must be scenarios closer to the seventh circle of Hell, but not many. So how is it that a bunch of shoppers in one corner of London's Covent Garden are positively enjoying themselves?

As harassed mothers jostle with bewildered tourists outside, shoppers inside a temporary "pop-up" shop are rifling through racks of the pop star Elton John's clothes. The stark white-washed walls and simple metal fittings of the venue – a former theatre – highlight the flamboyance of the clothes. Not that they need much emphasis.

Racks of the musician's brightly coloured, silk Versace shirts hang alongside a green boiler suit and gold leather trousers, all up for grabs as part of a week-long "Out of the Closet" sale to raise money for the Elton John Aids Foundation.

To the strains of the Elton classic "I'm still standing", 27-year-old Martin Ijaha is trying on £299 Armani shirts, in migraine- inducing colours. "I'll buy loads, I've only just arrived and I've already seen some sunglasses that I definitely want," says Mr Ijaha.

Trawling her way through a rack of shirts is an elderly lady with waist-length blue and green dreadlocks, a silver turban and a vast white fur coat; Elton's wardrobe is tame by comparison.

"When we opened, there were lots of people waiting; some of them were collectors looking for key pieces," says Simon Prytherch, the charity's fundraising director. "Quite a few people have bought the silk shirts to display in glass cases."

Fans hoping to take home one of the musician's stage outfits may be disappointed. A row of mannequins displaying Elton's stage costumes towers above the shoppers. From a green 1970s catsuit slashed to the navel, to a heavily embellished gold Versace jacket and matching patent leather trousers, these outfits are being sold in a silent two-week long auction, and are expected to sell for tens of thousands.

The most ambitious customers can place their bids at the till, but will find themselves up against stiff competition: the Victoria and Albert Museum, for one, has expressed interest in some outfits on display.

For those who don't match up to Elton's generous physique, his partner, David Furnish, has also generously provided. "I don't think I'm Elton's size," says Jonathan Beaumont, 40, a television producer from London, as he slips on a navy blue Lanvin jacket. "This must be David's."

Quite a few are not here to shop, they confess, but "to see how the other half live", or in the hope of bumping into one of Elton's famous chums. "I'm just here to have a nosy," says Julie Cooper, 50, from Leeds. "I'll buy things if I like them, not because they are his. But not at £100 for a jumper."

She is not to be disappointed. Leafing through the rails is the broadcaster (and this newspaper's Editor-at-Large) Janet Street-Porter, a patron of the charity. There is a frisson as a rumour circulates that Liz Hurley, the actress/model and close friend of the singer, is expected later. The former Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland is also slated to put in an appearance over the weekend.

Some shoppers have rummaged through Elton's wardrobe before. This is the eighth sale of the musician's clothing: five have been held in London and three in the United States. The last UK sale, in 2002, knocked out 15,000 items and raised £400,000.

"I went to the first of his clothes sales on the Fulham Road, and bought a very nice mac," says Andrew Rose, a doctor from London. "I go every time. I'm very interested in the charity, partly because I'm a doctor and know a lot about HIV. It is a difficult disease and there is a lot of work to be done."

Despite the recession and a general sense that people are spending less freely than at the previous events, the fact that all the proceeds are going to the foundation provides a credible excuse, and many shoppers seem buoyed by the idea that their hard-earned cash is going to a good cause.

And so with – fairly – clear consciences, shoppers mill around a table groaning with shoes ranging from gold winklepickers to Chanel motorbike boots and Louis Vuitton trainers. Vicarious fame and good causes notwithstanding, many are just there to bag a bargain.

Alongside the boiler suits and catsuits and leopard-print shirts are more competitively priced designer accessories, including a brown Burberry holdall for £495, and Versace sunglasses for £99.

"I've bought three pairs of shoes and a jacket – at about £99 each – but it is for a cause quite close to me," says Mr Beaumont. "A lot of high-profile people have been connected with the disease, and that has helped to raise its profile."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future