Charity shop treasures

CHARITY SHOP FINDS: Tokyo Pop bodysuit designed for David Bowie and my dyed snakeskin boots.
CHARITY SHOP FINDS: Tokyo Pop bodysuit designed for David Bowie and my dyed snakeskin boots.

EVER hear of Kansai Yamamoto? No? Well neither had I until I spotted a frightful garment languishing on a charity shop rail. It was so grotesque that I thought it had been created by someone who’d been licking too many psychedelic toads.

Apart from the raised bands of fabric along its sleeves and shoulders that made it look it like the carapace of a Stegosaurus, the shiny black blouson had attached to the front a large metal plate that bore the letter K, which I assumed had now’t to do with Kellogg’s.

Nevertheless, I slipped it on. One glance in a mirror told me that, were I to wear it in public, the Fashion Police would be on my case immediately and have me hauled off for psychiatric evaluation.


I replaced it and walked out. Then some sixth sense drew me back, and, on examining the label closely, saw the name Kansai Yamamoto. I asked an assistant if the name meant anything to her.

‘Motorcycle, innit?,’ she wise-cracked, snapping her chewing gum loudly. I asked her to set it aside for me while I did some research. ‘Sure,’ she replied. ‘Thing’s been hanging there for months, and we only keep it for a laugh.’

An hour later, all excited and out of breath, I charged back into the store, threw £5.00 across the counter and rushed back home to put the thing on eBay.

Yamamoto, I discovered, was a Japanese designer who launched a company in 1971 that specialised in wacky designs. It quickly became renowned for its many avant-garde collections – and among his clients was David Bowie (the picture on this page shows the Tokyo Pop bodysuit he created for the singer).

Within an hour bids for this ghastly garment reached £300. In the end there was a bidding war between two boutiques: one in New York and the other in Paris. The French store won the jacket for a tad over £350.00!

I returned immediately to the shop in the fervent hope of finding other Yamamoto creations, but to no avail. What I DID find was a stunning, brand new pair of genuine snakeskin boots in my size, made by an Italian company called Jo Ghost.

They were perfect in every respect bar one. They were a repulsive bright green! But I coughed up £15 for the boots, which normally retailed around £350, dyed them black and am still wearing them today, roughly 15 years since I first acquired them.

What brought back memories of my forays into charity shops was the discovery this week that someone has created a Facebook page for people who find bargains in ‘chazza’ shops.

It’s called ‘Charity Shop Not So Sh*t Finds’ but nothing on it came anywhere close to the Yamamoto blouson, the Jo Ghost boots – or a 1950s black sheepskin flying jacket I found for a tenner in Age Concern. I was offered 200 quid for that jacket but refused to part with it, and brought it with me to Spain.

But sadly, in almost 10 years on the Costa Blanca, I’ve not encountered a single day cold enough to wear it.


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