Press Release

“It’s taught me to be who I am now. It keeps me grounded and humble.” Ex-Big Issue vendor who now owns a multi-million pound company fighting fast fashion calls for support for organisation

Waltham took his business skills from selling the magazine and put them into buying and selling second-hand clothes, and after two years as a Big Issue vendor he opened a market stall in Camden.

Big Issue vendor Philip Waltham

Philip Waltham still has kept his Big Issue vendor card for 25 years to keep grounded on his journey to the top. Image: Philip Waltham

Today (Monday, 10th January) former Big Issue vendor, Philip Waltham, who now runs his own multi-million pound sustainable fashion firm, has spoken out about how his time selling the magazine helped him start his multi-million pound business, Bulk Vintage Wholesale.

Philip Waltham sold the magazine for three years in Clerkenwell and Hampstead, London, after running away from his home in Hull as a teenager, to escape his drug addiction. The 44-year-old now credits his time spent selling The Big Issue with helping him develop the business acumen he needed to start his own sustainable fashion business, which currently turns over £9 million a year.

On first arriving in London, Philip found himself sleeping rough and ended up selling the magazine to keep up with his £30 a day drug habit – until he was offered help by Big Issue distributors at the time to battle his addiction.

Waltham opened up: “The Big Issue helped me put money in my back pocket and feed myself. They really did help me so much. They taught me how to respect myself, they taught me how to budget my money and how important a roof was. I had to have money to buy Big Issues so I could sell Big Issues and that taught me how to budget.”

He continued: “The thing that has saved my life is selling second-hand clothes and I wouldn’t be here right if it wasn’t for The Big Issue and my discovery of second-hand clothes.”

Waltham took his business skills from selling the magazine and put them into buying and selling second-hand clothes, and after two years as a Big Issue vendor he opened a market stall in Camden.

Philip Waltham has worked in sustainable fashion almost ever since and now runs Bulk Vintage Wholesale, one of the country’s biggest sustainable fashion businesses, with his partner. He also runs two high-street stores in Newcastle and York, under the name The Vintage Store, and is set to open two more in Liverpool and Manchester.

Bulk Vintage Wholesale is all about sustainability and moving away from the dangers of fast fashion, Waltham explained: “We fight fast fashion. We save clothing from landfills, we go to these big factories and take clothing and fill up a container every week and ship it back to the UK.”

He added: “Last year we saved around 600 tonnes of clothing and then repurposed them to sell on Depop and our own stores.”

The Big Issue is still very present in Waltham’s life, as he has his very own vintage item he takes everywhere, his old Big Issue bag. He explained: “That Big Issue bag goes with me everywhere and it has done for all those years since 1997. My girlfriend buys me different bags and different holdalls, but I’ve never used them because I have my Big Issue bag. It’s taught me to be who I am now. It keeps me grounded and humble.”

He added: “For what The Big Issue’s done for me, I’d love to see that somebody reads my story and if it helps to give one person a positive vibe that they can do something to get to where they want to be in life. I’d love that.”

Waltham concluded: “I know first-hand just how tough it is to be a vendor this time of year. Please do go out and support vendors through this winter by going out and buying a magazine or giving to The Big Issue’s Winter Appeal. The Big Issue has helped me, so please consider helping them to help other people like me.”

Lord John Bird, Founder of The Big Issue, said: “Our vendors sell The Big Issue to earn a legitimate income which not only provides them with money to get back on their feet, but also helps them develop the key life and business skills they need to thrive. They are then supported by our frontline teams, who are always on hand to help, with anything from accessing key services such as healthcare, to simply being there to give advice when needed.

“Philip’s story is brilliantly inspiring and a great example of the transformative effect The Big Issue can have on people’s lives.”

With restrictions still in place, Big Issue vendors can’t work from home and with severe weather warnings on the cards, they face a very tough and uncertain Winter ahead. Please buy from your local vendor and if you can’t, please buy a subscription or donate today, your money will go to supporting our work with vendors.

To donate to The Big Issue’s Winter Appeal, or subscribe, visit www.bigissue.com/support

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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