Retold was founded by Clare Lewis in 2018 with the mission of curating beautiful vintage pieces for lovers of modern and contemporary fashion. Based in east London, Clare handpicks each item – her edited finds are listed on retoldvintage.com every week! Clare hopes Retold encourages more women to consider vintage and secondhand shopping as an alternative to buying new which in turn will contribute to a more circular and sustainable fashion model.
We discuss vintage (and much more) in this week’s podcast episode, but here, Clare shares her tips for incorporating vintage into a wardrobe of new.
“Avoid the head to toe vintage look! Unless thats your vibe, which is totally cool, but if you are new to vintage then start off small. It may simply be an accessory such as a vintage belt or bag or a beautiful silk blouse that you can wear with your favourite jeans.”
“For me, adding a pair of modern shoes to a vintage dress or skirt instantly makes the outfit still feel current yet unique and individual.”
“Make a tape measure your new best friend! Avoid referring to labels on vintage clothes; sizing has changed so dramatically over the years and also depends on the country you are in, so ditch the habit and shop with a tape measure instead. YouTube has some great videos on how to measure yourself so make a note of all your details and refer to this when shopping for vintage. You may be pleasantly surprised!”
“Be you! The joy of vintage is there is something out there for everyone’s style and taste. Just because you start shopping vintage, you have to change your whole aesthetic. Like you have your favourite high street brands, get to know vintage traders and what they specialise in. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, they are the experts and can advise on fit, style and after care. “
“I love their style. They have amazing jumpsuits that are all block printed by hand in Jaipur, India. I think that humanitarian elements really speaks to me because that is my background. They produce really awesome, fun clothing. What’s really special about Humphries & Begg is their a young company. Seeing them improve their supply chains while we’ve worked together is so inspiring. They’re now phasing out any conventional cotton and are moving into organic. When we spoke about a year ago, they told us that was their goal. It’s been really amazing to see them actually execute that. It’s all about doing the best you can and continuing to make changes.”
“Elvis & Kresse are so impressive. Kresse Wesling who runs the company is an OBE. They are really interesting because they work ‘problem first, product second’. She found the problem of firehouse waste, then designed her accessories to take it away. The whole design process is completely flipped backwards for them. They now take 100 percent of all firehose waste from the UK, and 50 percent of their profits go back into firefighting charities.”
“Rakha is a really beautiful brand. You’d look at them in a magazine and all you’d think would be, it’s gorgeous. Then you delve deep into the story. The founder, Gözde, is currently getting her Masters from the University of Cambridge in how to better recycle textiles and make a more circular economy. In think it’s a really inspiring brand because it’s all about active learning. It’s not about running with the status quo. They’re always think about how to get better and how to inspire others.”
Straight after recording this week’s podcast episode, Jennifer Ewah shared what she’s learnt from balancing her job as a lawyer, with her ethical jewellery brand Eden Diodati.
“Definitely focus on time management. It’s not fun, but it is important to prioritise the things that you need to do over the things that you want to do, when you have two different jobs.
“That means getting up early and prioritising the paperwork you have to do over the content creation that you want to do. Or doing the stuff that is a little bit more procedural, but needs to be done as a matter of priority.
“I’m awful at that. So much of the brand is such a pleasure for me – being artistic, creating, designing – but I can’t spend all of my time creating and crafting, or bonding and philosophising. Sometimes you need to do really boring stuff. But if it has to be done because it’s essential, get that done first. It’s like delayed gratification.
“Equally important – believe in your own vision. Even if other people don’t. Fashion is often about trends, and that means you’re asked to believe in what other people will find desirable. You need to find what your voice is. If your voice is unique, offer it. And make sure it’s visible. Then you don’t need the trends. You are a trend.
“Often, you need to refuse to take no for an answer. And a refuse to believe that certain things can’t be done. One thing is certain through every up and down: you’ll never regret doing this, because you and your business are about making the world a better place.
Eden Diodati is launching a product based crowdfunding campaign in Autumn 2019. To register your interest for exclusive campaign benefits, visit www.edendiodati.com.
“The International Rebellion starts on 15th April. The idea is to block streets and major junctions, bringing cities to a halt.
In the UK, everyone is making their way to London – there is currently a 70 year old walking from Cornwall. We’ll stay on the streets until the government negotiates. And we’ll have a party!
“If you think about social movements in the past which have achieved political change, it is through masses of people coming out on the streets… and staying there.
“A huge amount of research goes into the methods we’re using to create these changes. A really important aspect of Extinction Rebellion is that we’re non-violent. Once you have violence, you stop holding the moral high ground.
“We train people in non-violent direct action. The number one piece of advice we give is, if someone’s angry, let them vent their anger – don’t try and fight back. Nod your head and be compassionate. Only once they’ve calmed down should you start saying your point of view.
“Sometimes it gets to the point where we’re sitting in the middle of the road, and the police want to drag us away, so we do practice runs. It’s important to think about what you would do in those situations.
“But you definitely don’t need to be prepared to be arrested to be part of Extinction Rebellion! We need masses of people to do a myriad of other roles – just being there is a great start.
“If you want to help the Rebellion, be there on 15th. Book time off work and help us take action.”
On the Clothes & The Rest podcast this week, I chat to Creative Consultant Emma Slade Edmondson. We talk charity shops, freelance life and the accessibility of sustainability – please check out the full episode if you haven’t already!
Here, Emma casts her mind back to her Back of the Wardrobe styling days to share some advice on how to re-discover what we already have in our wardrobes:
“Something I always used to say to my Back of the Wardrobe clients is that you should have a night in with your wardrobe. Treat it like you’re on a date with your wardrobe and you need to get to know it again. Put your favourite pyjamas on, play some good tunes, and pour a glass of wine (or whatever your vice is!). Take the time to get to grips with what is actually in there.
“Do it alone! Would you take your friends along on a date? No. Kick everyone out of the house and spend some one on one time with your wardrobe.
“Try things on and figure out how you feel. It’s really as much about how comfortable and how confident you feel in pieces, as it is about eventually pulling looks together.
“Sometimes, we have items in our wardrobes that we haven’t worn for a long time, and it’s good to discover why we’re not wearing them. Often with my clients, it was down to a fear. They were scared that the reality of what they looked like in a piece wouldn’t live up to their aspiration, but sometimes those negative thoughts were about a body hang up, rather than a reality about how the piece fitted or appeared. Often those sessions were as much therapy as they were styling.
“It’s really helpful to have some knowledge about how to create silhouettes. Often people will let t-shirts hang out because they are concerned about their tummy area, when in reality, having a baggy top is sometimes the thing that will draw attention to an area you may be insecure about. Tucking in instead might actually give you the silhouette you’re looking for. Similarly, nipping in your waist with a belt is sometimes a good idea.
“Ultimately, be confident! All bodies are beautiful bodies and styling is about working with what you’ve got. You’re supposed to have a fun relationship with your clothes, so create one!
On dissent, disruption, and fighting back against the bullshit
Sara Benincasa started Excellent Coats on Irritated Women in December 2018 and since then, she’s gained a healthy following of 26,000 Instagram users. If you’re not already one of Excellent Coats’ fans, it’s definitely time to delve into the account. Spotlighting women who are “all outta fucks in a fabulous coat,” Benincasa’s content is equal parts humour and herstory. This week, I spoke to the woman behind the coats about fashion, politics, and joyful anger.
“I created it because Nancy Pelosi wore this fabulous Max Mara coat for a meeting that she and Chuck Schumer had with Trump. It was really cool to see her claim her throne as someone who’s an effective antidote to the president; both rhetoric-wise and legislation-wise.
“She walked out with that fabulous coat on that everybody loved, and so I tweeted: “This is a great day for excellent coats on irritated women,” and a few people said: “this should be a thing!”
“People say things like: “all politics is personal,” and I think that extends to our purchasing choices, and the way we choose to present ourselves in the world. We live in a capitalist society that runs on commerce, regardless of our feelings about that and how it could, or should, be amended. A lot of people operating in this system are doing really great work to affect change, so I wanted to celebrate them.
“People often think of fashion as being this very superficial thing that only has to do with how you want to represent your status to the world, so I wanted to take these people, who are celebrated (or denigrated) for their beliefs, and look at their fashion; it’s a cool high-low mix. Why don’t we praise them for their presentation and beauty as well? Not to take away from their other accomplishments, but to highlight them in fact. Maybe some people who are most interested in fashion more than anything else will come to the account and learn about some really cool leaders who could help change their lives.
“I’m learning as I go. People send me images of women who I hadn’t heard of or seen before all the time. I don’t always have a credit for the photographers, so people will often research them for me. It’s really important to me to credit the artists I spotlight properly for their work.
Growing up, I loved watching a show on MTV called House of Style. It was hosted by 90s supermodels like Shalom Harlow and Cindy Crawford, they had a rotating list of hosts over the years, and Kevin Aucion, who was a brilliant makeup artist. Watching that show was so much fun because you got to meet the designers and see them in a new light. They were funny and silly and over the top and dramatic. That introduced me to the notion that there were real people who made up the fashion world.
“Obviously, fashion can be, to use an over-used word, toxic. When you only see tiny people in clothes, it can be really limiting, but I think that we’re in a such a fascinating and exciting era for fashion because we are starting to have models of different sizes, shapes and colours of different backgrounds. The internet has empowered them to have their own voice.
“I did, at one time, work as a paralegal for a law firm specialising in immigration for fashion models in New York. They hire extra seasonal help the way retail shops will. I was 26, and just out of graduate school for teaching, and making portfolios where we would have to prove a certain level of excellence or expertise in the field. For the models, we would use recommendations from people like Anna Wintour and Mario Testino. It was like applying to university, but more so. Looking at the way my country treats immigrants of all kinds, I’m really glad I had that experience. It showed me what happens when you get the elite treatment.
“Until recently, I had just been emphasising the women in the clothing, but then I started to think about the clothing that I was showing. I realised that I was inadvertently promoting whatever designer was showing. I want to highlight designers who are using recycled materials, who are trying to be zero-waste, who are local, and who are incorporating designs from their own cultures.
“I can’t control what celebrities or icons of history wear. If it’s Mahalia Jackson singing on the steps of an institution where she was barred from singing because she was a black woman, and she’s wearing fur, I’m not going to put my 2019 values on it, because this is about something much bigger. It’s about this woman’s accomplishments and what she did.
“I want to highlight women who have demonstrated through their actions that they have been irritated. Sometimes there’s a joyful rage that powers activism and powers making a change. They don’t always look angry, but I try to highlight women who have engaged in dissent, disruption and fighting back against the bullshit, and sometimes they look pretty happy.
“I love this quote from Molly Ivins. She’s my role model. She was a brilliant journalist and humorist from Texas, and she wrote amazing columns about politics in the 80s and 90s. She said:
“So keep fighting for freedom and justice beloveds, but don’t forget to have fun doing it. Be outrageous, ridicule the ‘fraid-y cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce, and when you get through kicking ass and celebrating the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”
“It’s guiding principle for myself and a guiding principle for Excellent Coats on Irritated Women too. I will show people who are angry at a protest and who are pissed off, but also people who are joyful in the midst of whatever their struggle, or the struggle of which they’ve chosen to be a part to uplift others. Ultimately, I spotlight dissent, disruption, and fighting back against the bullshit.”
On the Clothes & The Rest podcast this week, I chatted to Jemma Finch, co-founder of Stories Behind Things. In the episode, we talk about the beginnings of Stories Behind Things, how fast fashion impacts mental health, and why Instagram is both a blessing and a curse. To listen to the full episode, please click here. In this post, however, Jemma shares some advice for how we can all find deeper connection with the clothes we wear…
“Go to your wardrobe, look at what you already have, pick an item that you haven’t worn in a while and ‘mend into’ it. Up-cycling is one of the best ways to rediscover things. Buy some thread, or a sew-on badge; both really good ways to inject some love back into items that need it. You’ll be surprised that they can feel totally new.
“Up-cycling does take time, but I think that’s a really nice thing. You’re putting energy into it, so I think you’ll value it more.
“Having a clear out is a really good idea, and can be really powerful… it’s just about whether you can bring yourself to get rid of things! It’s good for your mind to make space for new things.
“When I’m shopping, I don’t have the best willpower. With shopping second hand, if you see something you love, you have to get it because it might be gone the next day! I’m lucky that I have friends I can pass things on to if I don’t wear it as much as I thought I would; I always share with my friends.
Our swapping events are just a scaled up version of swapping with friends. You get the same dopamine hit of buying something new when you buy something second hand. It’s an important message to relay to yourself; it’s the same thing. You don’t have to got to a shopping centre, you can go to a clothes swap or a charity shop instead. And second hand clothes definitely have better stories!
For more from Stories Behind Things, please follow them on Instagram.
This week, on the Clothes & The Rest podcast, I chatted to Patrick McDowell about up-cycling, sustainability, and creative education. Just one year after graduating, his creations have been worn by singers like Rita Ora, and have been featured on the cover of Elle’s sustainability issue, so here, he shares what’s he has learnt from his first year as an independent designer…
“Take time to experience things. You don’t have to rush through everything. It’s something we learn in education that I don’t think is true; you don’t have to rush just to get to the end. You can take time off to do something other than work.
“Enriching your environment by doing different things will make your brain better. If you’re only sitting at your desk working all the time, you’re going to do bad work. It’s a fact. So get out and do stuff! Don’t be a martyr to your work; people don’t like that anymore. Go out and see things.
“New experiences are always enriching, so when you do go out, don’t go the place you went last time, and order the thing on the menu that you’ve never tried before. If you don’t like it, you eat three meals a day so it’s fine, you can have another one tomorrow morning!
“Sometimes it can feel like money is the biggest obstacle, but it will only make you stronger if you have financial struggles and produce great work. All you’re doing is working harder. If you’ve got less money and you’re still doing good work, you’re already miles ahead of other people.
“In my experience, it pushed me to be more creative. It builds everything, actually. If I had bought everything from a shop, I would never have spoken to anyone, or made the contacts I now have. I wouldn’t have applied to a scholarship with the British Fashion Council if I didn’t need the money, but it completely made me as a designer.”
On the Clothes & The Rest podcast this week, multidisciplinary artist Khandiz Joni talks about her journey to clean beauty. Here, however, she explains the terms and brands we need to know about to get started with conscious beauty…
“Absolution does skincare and cosmetics. In my opinion, they do some of the best lipsticks on the market. We’re very used to certain colours and textures, and Absolution have nailed lovely consistencies and bright, fashionable colours.
“Kjaer Weis is a luxury brand that I also really like, both the packaging and products are incredible.
“Avril is a French brand and it’s very affordable, so it’s a great entry level point. They do really lovely foundations. I also love Zao because their products are mid-priced, but they have something for everybody; it’s a full range of products.
“When it comes to skincare, for me, it’s about finding things that were made locally. If you’re trying to limit your impact on the environment, shipping stuff across the world just because it’s lovely doesn’t make sense.
“The terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ can sometimes get confused. ‘Natural’ is contentious because it means different things to different people, but for me, it means that the ingredients were sourced from nature; grown from the earth. ‘Organic’ is anything grown by organic farming practices. This means that water cannot be deemed ‘organic’, nor can minerals because they aren’t actually grown. They can however be ‘natural’.
“Something I talk about a lot is vegan beauty. Personally, I don’t subscribe to vegan beauty because it isn’t the most environmentally sound. It means avoiding ingredients like beeswax, lanolin and carmine. I definitely think that there are animal-derived ingredients that shouldn’t be in beauty products, but I don’t think a beauty product full of synthetic ingredients that have been extracted from crude oil is better than one containing sustainably sourced beeswax, for example.
“You often have to go to specialist shops to find clean beauty. Content Beauty and Wellbeing in London has a great selection of products, Wholefoods has some entry level products and there are lots of great online stores which stock fantastic products.”
Nelly Rose is passionate about preserving traditional craft. She’s lived and worked with artisans in Nepal, Indonesia and Japan, learning to create beautiful fabric art and incorporating these skills her own designs. If you want to hear more about Nelly’s work, please listen to her episode of the Clothes & The Rest podcast. Here, however, she talks about some of the most fascinating textile techniques she’s picked up along the way…
“Batik is one of my favourites. It’s amazing. It can be used for tiny intricate details that you would never believe were done with such a tiny tool.
“There are so many different types of weaving. Backstrap weaving is absolutely amazing, and it’s such a female craft. There are a few male weavers, but it’s a very maternal action. It uses hip power and it’s really sacred. It’s connected to so many spiritual and natural forms of power.
“In Indonesia, I worked with Songket weaving, which uses a special type of loom; creating the most intricate, amazing pattern. It’s a form of jacquard weaving. I loved working with Ikat weaving too, but I see it as a digital print everywhere and it’s heartbreaking. Actually, it’s done with two sticks, and strings which are stretched across a loom at floor level. It’s so laborious. I tried it and was absolutely awful; it’s so hard to do!
“I’ve learnt some amazing forms of dying. Dian Pelangi used an amazing method called disperse dying. It’s all about how you knot the fabric. I’d love to learn more about shibori dying and indigo dying in Japan.
“It would be so ignorant to go in and think I could just pick anything up. The people teaching me have been learning their craft for years. Batik was interesting, because I went there and started implementing it with a paint brush instead. We were still using wax, but slightly differently.
“One day I want to write a book, and showcase as many different traditional crafts as possible. There is such an array of techniques and I think they are all fascinating.”
Laura Von Behr has loved vintage forever. “I think my love for clothes probably started in my granny’s dressing up box. I found a 1920s kimono in there which is one of my favourite things ever.”
After working as a stylist for TV, she turned her hand to a career in vintage. She sold at fairs and online, before establishing a unique in-person shopping experience. “It was my friend Dolly Alderton who inspired me to invite women over after we spent an evening together trying on my stock. We found her a dress and since her posting about it, I have spent the last 6 months dressing lots of women.”
Laura’s collection is beautiful; she handpicks everything she sells, and is always on the look out for a new gem. If you want to hear more about Laura, and her experiences dressing women in vintage, please have a listen to the latest episode of the Clothes & The Rest podcast. Here, Laura shares some of her vintage shopping expertise…
“The first thing I would say is don’t rush. You’ve got to go into a shop with the expectation of spending a few hours. Take your time, and try on as much as possible.
“Definitely take a tape measure. It’s devastating thinking you’re going to fit in a certain pair of jeans when actually, they’re about five sizes too small. It’s really hard to tell on the rail if something is going to fit, and it’s so heart braking, especially with vintage, if something doesn’t, because you can’t just get another. Measuring is a really good way of avoiding that problem.
“If you’re nervous of vintage, a nice place to start is with a jacket or a coat. A vintage coat is amazing; it will often be made of wool and cashmere and be so much better quality than you could find on the highstreet.
“Always make friends with your local dry cleaner and seamstress. It’s amazing how much you can change something just by shortening a maxi into a midi, or other small alterations. Often a tiny nip in of a dart will completely transform the shape of a garment, so it worth doing.”
If you want to find out more about Laura, or book an appointment with her, please visit her website for details.
The beginning of a new year seems like the perfect time to start making changes. But sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start. I think most people would like to live, and dress, with minimal negative impact on the environment, but aside from the basics we learn about in school, it’s hard to know how to take it a step further. Even harder to put those changes into action.
My guest on the podcast this week is Vin, of eponymous label Vin + Omi. Vin was a director of public art before becoming a fashion designer (with no previous sewing experience). Since the brand’s conception in 2004, Vin + Omi have focused on sustainable processes, thinking up new, unique ways to produce ethical textiles.
Vin + Omi’s Stop F***ing the Planet recycled plastic collection and campaign encourages consumers to consider the environment when updating their style. Confronted by January sales, it may seem difficult to resist a thoughtless purchase, but for Vin, it’s important to pay more attention to our wardrobes: what we put in, what we take out, and how we take care of what we have.
It’s scary but it’s true. Microfibres are tiny (smaller that 5mm) plastic threads, often thinner than a human hair, which escape into our waterways, and ultimately our seas, when we wash our clothes. They often form part of a sludge collected at water treatment plants which is then sprayed onto soils as fertiliser. To combat this, Vin suggests we wash our clothes in a microfibre catcher bag, and instead of throwing away the fibres, use them to stuff a cushion. For more information about microfibres, I recommend visiting Friends of the Earth.
Plastic Waste is a hot topic at the moment. Blue Planet demonstrated just how much plastic ends up in our oceans and the show’s popularity means its now on lots of people’s radar. According to Vin, when it comes to plastic, it’s all about being conscious. “Question everything you buy wrapped in plastic or made of plastic,” he says. “Do you really need it?” For a deep dive into plastic waste, I recommend reading Lucy Siegle’s Turning the Tide on Plastic.
Say No To Fur
A simple way to immediately make a positive change is to boycott fur. Vin recommends looking for sustainable alternatives to achieve the same look. Back in October, I was fascinated to read Bel Jacobs’ Is the the end for real fur? on the BBC, which highlighted just how problematic faux fur can be. Sometimes, it seems as though we have to choose between animals, and the environment. Of course, it’s ideal to ‘do right’ by both concerns, but in my opinion, when it comes to fur, animals take my priority. I’ll try to find sustainable faux fur, but until I do, it’s easy for me to simply pick a different coat.
Made In England
Finally, Vin advises buying Made in England, and from small, independent brands where possible. Again, this comes alongside shopping more mindfully – examining the provenance of what we buy can help us make more informed decisions. Buying Made in England, means supporting the remaining local garment industry which has not yet been outsourced abroad in search of cheaper labour. If we don’t support local independent business, we may not have any left.
For Vin, it’s important to evaluate our potential purchases. At this time of year, it’s easy to fall into the trap of a mindless evening browse, turning into a mindless evening spree. But before we click “checkout” it’s useful to think about when, and how, we might actually wear what we’re about to buy. Eco Age has a fantastic 30 Wears campaign, which is worth taking note of if you find yourself with a wardrobe full of nothing to wear.
This week on the Clothes & The Rest podcast, I talk to Antibad’s Agatha Lintott about luxury fashion, vintage and making sustainability ‘cool’. She’s definitely helped to transform the image of sustainable clothes, so here, she talks about how to dress ethically, without losing your personal style…
“I don’t feel like I’ve lost my personal style since doing this, but I think you have to look a little bit harder. It might take a little bit longer to find the perfect piece but I quite like that challenge now. If you find a pair of trainers that you love, research and look into the ethical option. It might not be exactly the same but you could find a vintage pair, or swap with someone. You have to think a little bit outside the box and not just buy straight away. Think about it a little bit more and make it into a game or a challenge.
“I love the research now but before, I wasn’t really interested. I didn’t think about where my clothes came from but I have completely switched around. I look into things a lot more.
“Look at the labels of your clothes to see where they were made and what they are made out of is so important. Learn how to look after and wash your clothes. I shrank so many things before I became interested in sustainability. I had such a throwaway attitude back then but now, I’d be devastated if I shrunk anything in wardrobe. It would be much more of a big deal.
“I get a lot more pleasure from my wardrobe now. Now I take more care over what I buy, its so much easier to dress. Also, I wear the same thing two days in a row, and I don’t mind so much. It’s just about changing that mindset and seeing your wardrobe as much more of a long-term thing.”
“I know people often say that their Granny is their biggest inspiration, but mine was incredible. She was really prolific. She wrote a lot of books, and ran a hotel and restaurant, but she made everything in the hotel. As she went on, she got quite involved in the church, and she would organise big projects which everyone in the community would join in with. She had so much energy. She had no money, but she was thrifty. There was no waste. I really believe people now need to learn not to waste things, not just clothes, but food, water, everything. My Granny would keep the washing up water to water her garden with and she engineered a whole system so that her bath water would go down onto the plants in the garden to water things. She was an artist; locally understood and celebrated, and she was really inspirational.”
“Sam heads up the Fawcett Society, who doing incredible work. Sam is an inspiration because she just keeps going. Until we have equality, she will keep going. I think she, and her work, are amazing.”
Caroline Criado Perez
“I think Caroline is phenomenal. Campaigning is hard and she is doing such incredible work. No one pays for it; no one pays you to campaign, so she’s had to keep working. She got a woman onto the five pound note, she got a female statue into Parliament, and now she’s running around with The People’s Vote. She’s incredible.”
“Harriet’s pretty inspiring as well. We’re very different, but very similar; we’re complementary opposites. She can just make anything happen and whatever she makes is perfect.”
My guest on the Clothes & The Rest podcast this week is Tansy Hoskins, journalist and author of Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion. In the episode Tansy shares her knowledge of the fashion industry and chats about workers rights and big business, as well as how her passion for exploring the industry was sparked. Here though, I asked for her tips and advice on how we can get involved with an alternative fashion revolution…
“Firstly, I think fashion students in particular should commit to becoming experts in labour rights and sustainability, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because I think, or at least I hope, it’s the future of the fashion industry. The industry is in such a mess that I think we really need the next generation of fashion practitioners to commit to doing things differently and not simply accepting ‘business as usual’.
“Something we can all do is get involved with groups that are already making positive changes, like Labour Behind the Label, War on Want, and Greenpeace. It’s not about re-inventing the wheel, but just taking the first step, joining a group and finding like minded people. Get on the mailing list, follow them on Twitter and Facebook, find out what they’re doing and join in!
“Use social media to hold brands to account. The one thing they hate more than anything is bad publicity, and people questioning them. Connect with other people and discuss your thoughts, because nobody wants to wear clothes that were made in sweatshops. Instead, hold swap shops and free shops; ways to start think about different ways of using what we already have.
“Sign and share petition. There are loads going around at the moment; trying to keep the Bangladesh Accord, supporting the Ali Enterprises workers, about the environment. As well as that, write to your MP. Find out who your councillors are and start making a racket.”
As Tansy says, it’s all about making noise; voting with your words and your actions.
This week on the Clothes & The Rest podcast, I talk to Gung Ho‘s Sophie Dunster about environmentalism, design and subtlety. We touched a little bit on how she lives her low-carbon life, but in this blog post, she gives her tips for how we can all start reducing our carbon footprints…
“One of the biggest things is energy usage and energy consumption, so switch to suppliers who deal with turbines and more sustainable solutions. If you demand other options, you demonstrate to the oil industry that things are going in a different direction. It’s important to support renewable energy. It’s incredible – it’s free energy!”
“One thing that I’ve been quite hot on recently is looking into where your food is from and buying things that are in season. It’s actually quite weird if you sit and think about it; half of my dinner is from Kenya, the other half is from the Netherlands. It’s crazy, but we’re so used to it.”
“One of the biggest impacts that you can have is travel. We have great public transport, so take it. Don’t drive, and bike when you can – it’s good for you!”
One small step…
“Doing all these little things might seem weird, but on a scale, it will all add up. Be conscious of everything, and question everything, but don’t be too hard on yourself. I think that every single small thing is amazing and people should be really proud.”
In this week’s episode of the podcast, I talked to model and writer Rebecca Pearson about shopping fair-trade, the highs and lows of modelling and social media, so here she shares her advice on how we live a healthier life online…
“Firstly, and this is advice that I need to take myself, if you’re the sort of person who, in a quiet moment, finds their hand going into their pocket, try to control it. Allot times, or be really strict with yourself; don’t go on your phone after 9pm.
“It’s so easy to say, but don’t compare yourself. Even as a not-very-successful influencer, I get things sent to me. I get things for free and I get to go on press trips that look really exciting, but then I come home and I’m not living a very glamorous life. The people we see on social media are often getting things for free, or they’re editing their photos. Don’t compare their life to yours; that’s where the unhealthiness comes in I think.
“I look at other models who are more successful than me and feel like I’m not good enough, but you just don’t know what’s going on in anyone’s life. Essena O’Neill showed that you can have the most glossy life, the most toned stomach, the coolest looking clothes and it’s all a facade.
“As Pandora Sykes recently said, I think there’s now a pressure to not be glossy. Do you remember the days when you used to get photographs printed? You didn’t put all of them in an album. You took out the ones where you were leaning over and had six stomach rolls, and the blurry ones.
“It isn’t good to be too glossy and too fake, but equally, you don’t have to show everybody everything in your life. It’s your choice. Social media is often just a curation of people’s best moments and favourite pictures, and that’s okay, but it’s really important to be mindful of that.”
For some, Black Friday means raiding the high street in search of a cut-price bargain, or 20, but not for Rebecca Morter. Founder of Lone Design Club, her anti-Black Friday pop-up shop in Covent Garden demonstrates exactly why it’s all the more satisfying to shop small, and buy from independent designers.
In her episode of Clothes & The Rest, Rebecca talks about the struggles that come with being a small designer, creating incredible retail spaces and why it’s important to support women-led businesses.
For this follow-up post, I asked Rebecca what we can do on Black Friday if we want to avoid the sales, and she had some amazing suggestions…
Visit LDC’s Anti-Black Friday Pop-Up. “Obviously, I would love people to come down to the store. Not necessarily buy, but just understand more about the products, and where they’re from. It’s great to chat with the designers, who are all small and more independent.”
Have a clear-out. “Look at your wardrobe and the pieces that you have. Could you pass anything on to someone who might need it more?” Rebecca is passionate in her belief that clothes should never end up in landfill.
DIY. “Could you make something or mend something? There’s a great initiative at the moment called Make Smthng which is great to get involved in.”
Purchase consciously.If you do feel the urge to buy in sale season, Rebecca suggests we evaluate whether what’s on our wishlist will work with what we already have. “Can you think of 30 ways you could wear it? If you can, then you should buy it, and if you can’t, don’t. It really makes you think about where you’re actually going to use something and how you’re going to style it.”
LDC’s Anti-Black Friday Pop-Up Store is open from 10am – 7pm until 25th November at 64-68 Charing Cross Road.
This week, I chatted to Bel Jacobs on the Clothes & The Rest podcast. Please give that a listen if you want to hear my conversation with Bel about sustainability, campaigning and education. Here, though, she talks through her reading list, which can certainly help us all engage more with sustainability…
“I recently re-visited Stitched Up by Tansy E. Hoskins. She wrote this book quite a long time ago but it’s never been so relevant. I think partly it’s quite shocking that so little has changed but it feels completely relevant now. It’s the ‘Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion’ so we’re always going back to the system.
“Another fashion-related book is by Safia Minney, Slave To Fashion where she looks at human rights within the fashion industry. I absolutely love Safia, I think she’s incredible. She knows so much and works at so many levels of the industry, and her books bring the human side to it, so you’re not just talking about facts and figures. You’re talking about real people, who are at the front line selling our t-shirts, making our jeans, getting their hands in the dyes and the chemicals.
“Ethical Consumer has been going for years and when I was early into environmentalism, I would read this avidly, but then it sort of fell away. But now, again, just like Tansy’s book, it feels so relevant. Even though I sometimes think about it as a ’90s issue’, it’s really important now.
“I also really like to look at animal welfare books. I have Animal Liberation by Peter Singer to remind me what needs to be done; how to create a vegan world and how to communicate vegan beliefs without making everyone feel a bit sick.
“I love all of those, but sometimes I just go, “oh my God, I just want to read a comic!” It’s about keeping a balance between positive and negative.”
This week’s guest on the Clothes & The Rest podcast is Kate Richards, owner of The Keep Boutique in Brixton Village. If you want to hear more about how Kate established The Keep, please check out the episode, but in this post, Kate shares her favourite sustainable brands.
“Gung Ho’s founder Sophie Dunster was brought up on a zero-carbon lifestyle, because her Dad is a zero-carbon architect. She designs collections that all have a social, environmental or political message; her last collection was around plastic pollution. She’s an artist so she designed these beautiful illustrations of sea turtles and coral reefs. If you look closer, it’s a sea turtle surrounded by plastic, so it’s highlighting plastic pollution within our oceans but with something that is still beautiful to look at and aspirational to wear.”
“Thinking Mu is based in Barcelona; they use organic cotton, they produce in the EU and working with graphic designers in Barcelona. They use a very subtle humour, but it makes you stop and think – quite a lot of their collections have a political message. They promote resistance but in a very fashionable, fun way.”
“I love Quazi Design because it’s a women’s empowerment project, but also zero-waste; the collection is all jewellery made from recycled magazine paper. It’s a nod towards traditional craftsmanship in Swaziland because they design the collections with these craftspeople. It’s about working with traditional craft but bringing it into a global economy and trying to train them up to be self-sustainable.”
This week on the Clothes & The Rest podcast I chatted to Lulu O’Connor, founder of Clothes Doctor. As a fountain of knowledge on clothes maintenance, I asked Lulu to share some of her expertise. She tells us what we can do ourselves, and what’s better left to the professionals, as well as her favourite quick fixes to save an outfit.
“If you have a needle and thread at home, absolutely, you should be able to sew on your own buttons. I feel as though, since seeing my seamstresses at work, my mind has been opened to what you can do yourself, just with a little bit of creativity. I see lots of things come into our workshop with tassels or belt loops hanging off. I probably would have done exactly the same thing two years ago and taken it to be repaired, but now I think I might actually be able to do it myself!
“Although most people’s mums might have a go at darning, our head seamstress is the most the phenomenal darner, and when I see her at work, I realise that’s something better left to the professionals. It’s a different league. There’s a real skill to matching colours and getting the tension just right. On cashmere and wool, if its quite a thick weave, she can make a hole completely disappear.
“One tip is to use a tape called hemming web, which you can just iron on if a hem is coming down and you really need to wear an item. It will last a few washes, but then it will need sewing up. If you have a needle and thread, you can do it yourself, but it’s harder to get the tiny stitches you need to pull a hem up and make it almost disappear on the other side. I think doing a hem properly is better left to the professionals, but you can use the iron on sticky strips to save an outfit in an emergency.
“We replace zips all the time, but sometimes a zip isn’t actually broken, it’s just stiff. If you take a pencil, and rub the lead up and down a zip, that can really loosen it up. Even if it feels as if its not moving at all, it may not need replacing.”
Clothes Doctor’s services are available across the UK, so if you’re interested in their services, please take a look at their website.
Lauren Bravo’s new book What Would The Spice Girls Do? is all about nostalgia. So what better follow up to her podcast episode than to find out about the most treasured items in her wardrobe? Not the ones that cost the most money, or that were bought from the coolest places, but the ones which have stories. They are the best of all…
“I get very invested in the emotions of clothes. There are things that I am never going to throw away, even though I’m not going to wear them for, maybe, another 10 years. I think if you hold onto things for long enough, they will come back round again.
“My late Nan had an amazing coat. It’s a faux Persian lamb swing coat; brown with a big blonde leonine collar. It’s very Aslan. I inherited it after she died. We cleared out her house and I took a few bits, but classic me, it’s complete sacrilege, I chopped the bottom off to make it short! Back then, in about 2008, I only ever wore short stuff and couldn’t imagine wearing a long coat. Bloody fashion! But I love it, it’s still very wearable. I’ve never hemmed it, still, but I wear it winter after winter and it gets me loads of compliments.
“I also have a lot of dresses that I bought in my first year of uni that were very much my ‘moving to London dresses’. At one point I had 100 vintage dresses in my wardrobe. I’ve got this amazing polka dot 60’s shift dress with a striped collar and a pussy bow. It just absolutely fitted me perfectly and I wore it to all the best nights out. For me, that’s really synonymous in my head with being in London for the first time, being 18 and going out. It’s got massive holes in the arms now because the fabric literally just wore away, but I don’t think I could ever get rid of it.
“So many dresses. Actually, the dress I wore to my Nan’s funeral. It was a bright pink fuchsia wiggle dress which was so inappropriate for a funeral but I just knew that’s what she would have loved me in.
“I’ve got an amazing ring which was my other Grandmother’s 21st birthday present which was made out of the amethyst from her father’s tie pin. She gave me it a few years ago and I wear it a lot. Family things are the ones I will keep forever.”
Sophie Slater founded ethical clothing brand Birdsong, along with co-founder Sarah Beckett, just over three years ago, after identifying a way to help the women’s organisations she saw struggling for funding. To hear the full story of how Birdsong was realised, please listen to the Clothes & The Rest podcast here.
However, long before starting her own brand, Sophie developed her expertise in sustainable and ethical dressing. As a teenager, she became a charity shop aficionado, and now, she is a self-confessed “nerd” when it comes to researching sustainable brands!
Following on from Sophie’s podcast episode, I asked Sophie for her advice on how we can bring the contents of our wardrobe more inline with our ethics:
“It totally depends on how much time and mental energy you have to spend, so if you have none, I would recommend going shopping on Birdsong of course!
“Even if you haven’t got a lot of time to research, fundamentally, it’s all about your mindset. If you’re itching to buy something, ask yourself three questions… Do I need it? Will it suit what I have already? Can I wear it 30 times? If the answer is yes to all of those, sleep on it.
“I think saving up for something that is a bit more expensive, but is going to last longer makes you value your clothes so much more. Fast fashion is manufactured to fall apart in the wash after a couple of wears.
“If I’ve got a real craving for something from the catwalk, or on trend, I’ll try my best to look in charity shops and replicate it that way.
“It’s really important to repair what you have. We’re just about to partner with a fantastic initiative called Clothes Doctor. You send your clothes off, they fix it for you, and you get it back! We’ll be offering that as part of our service on our website, and hopefully in time for our Christmas shop.”
If you want to browse the Birdsong collection, please go over to their website.
Sitting directly above a North London branch of TRAID’s successful chain of charity shops, Maria Chenoweth’s office is homely – in a once abandoned residential flat brought back to life by the creative team behind the charity. The TRAID working space is unusual in many ways. It’s not just Maria’s attitude towards her role as CEO that makes the TRAID office different (when I arrived, she was in the middle of a tea run for her staff), just like elsewhere in her life, everything in Maria’s office is sourced entirely second hand.
After first falling in love with second hand shopping at jumble sales as a frustrated suburban teenager, shopping pre-loved quickly became a lifestyle choice for Maria. If you want to hear Maria’s journey into the charity shop world, click here to listen Maria’s episode of the Clothes & The Rest podcast. However, for this follow-up blogpost, I asked Maria for her advice on how we can best use charity shops to our advantage (and the environment’s)…
Firstly, location, location, location. “I only go to certain shops for my crockery and all my homeware. I know what shop offers the best goods because of the demographic of the area. If you know the demographic of the location, you can certainly guess what the donations are in the shops.”
Her top tip for hunting out the best clothes is to measure the waist line via your neck. “If a garment goes round your neck, it will go round your waist. If a garment doesn’t go round your neck, don’t take it to the changing room.” If you’re having trouble visualising this, don’t worry – check out this video to see how its done.
When it comes to donating to charity shops, Maria is clear that as long as it’s wearable, it’s worth donating. “If you feel somebody would buy it for £1, donate it to TRAID.” Excellent advice, and with TRAID’s collection scheme (which allows you to book a van to collect donations straight from your doorstep), there’s no excuse not to rise to the challenge of their 23% campaign and donate those unworn clothes lurking at the back of your wardrobe. Who says you have to wait ’til spring for a clear out?
If you liked Maria’s tips, and want to hear more of her story, click here to listen to her episode of the Clothes & The Rest Podcast.
Having grown her idea from concept to company in just over two years, Zoe Partridge, founder of sustainable fashion rental service Wear the Walk, is the perfect person to share her business advice…
“My number one tip is fail, and fail fast. If things aren’t working, it’s fine to see it as a failure, and to try an alternative route.
“Build a great team. Surround yourself with people who are as invested as you are in the company. I you’re in a position to hire then do, and make sure they’re passionate about the future of your business. I appreciate at the beginning it can be quite hard when you’ve got no money, but hire some junior girls, or hire some interns, and really excite them, because it’ll be too exhausting for you to do everything on your own, which I learnt a fair few times. Have people there who can provide a really good working support system. It’s so important not to burn out.
“My last piece of advice is to have fun! I think it’s important to recognise that business isn’t everything – something I learnt very quickly. I almost let my social life and my personal life suffer, because I though business was the be all and end all, and it’s very easy to get lost in that in the beginning when you’re obsessed with it. Now, I’m still obsessed with my business, but I’ve learnt to balance my personal life and social life with work. People talk about the idea that you have three glass balls, and you can only hold onto two, so one will always drop. I think that’s true in some respects, but work out which ones are the most important to you. For the majority of people, business shouldn’t be the most important one.”
This post follows my interview with Zoe Partridge on the Clothes & The Rest podcast – please go over and listen on iTunes or Acast to hear the full story.
Ian and Lisa Quest bought their four storey house in Dalston three years ago. They are currently in the process of renovating the property, but unlike most home developers, they will buy nothing new. In fact, the couple haven’t bought anything new in four years.
“My Mum bought loads of stuff second hand when we were growing up – mostly for economic reasons. We just lived on my Dad’s salary and they had four kids; four hungry kids,” says Ian.
In contrast to his parents, it is clear that Ian and his family do not pursue this lifestyle out of necessity. Lisa works as a banking consultant in the City, and Ian, having sold his shares in a financial consultancy he founded and grew to a workforce of 180 people, now finds it hard to narrow down exactly what his job is. “I was lucky enough to be able to make some choices about what it was I wanted to do, and started a few different things.” Amongst other projects, he works as a business advisor, and ‘helped’ his brother to set up a company restoring classic cars.
If not money, then what does motivate the couple’s drive to consume less? “There are so many clothes made in the world, that you don’t need to buy new things. It feels wrong to buy ‘rack’ stuff, because there are so many second hand options,” says Ian.
The pair also feel strongly about keeping and repairing what they have. Ian explains the story behind his favourite jeans: “When I was travelling through South America in 2008, I ran out of clothes that looked reasonable, and had to buy some more. These jeans were probably the equivalent of seven or eight pounds in Columbia at the time.”
“But now they’ve probably got about £100 of repairs in them!” Lisa jokes. Although intended as a light hearted remark, this comment highlights just where Lisa and Ian’s attitudes differ from the mainstream.
“There’s a hole, why not just get it fixed?” Ian puzzles, pinpointing arguably the biggest shift in mind set needed for contemporary fashion to become sustainable. Ian’s approach may seem obvious, but overflowing landfill sites across the globe say otherwise. “It’s a real throw-away culture. If people don’t embrace the idea of getting things fixed, and maintaining things, I don’t know exactly what we are going to do. We’re going to run out of materials. We should make things that are built to last, but also are built to be repaired.”
Ian and Lisa have a one year old son, Archie, and were surprised by how much money they saved, avoiding buying baby essentials new. “The pram was one-eighth of the price of a new one and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s all perfectly good quality — all their clothes are perfect because babies grow so fast. People go through them like crazy,” says Lisa.
Originally from Canada, she says that attitudes in the UK are particularly backwards when it comes to buying second hand – “it’s way more normal over there,” she says. “No one would buy a pram new there.”
Do the couple’s friends and family in the UK share their ideology? In short: no. Even in their liberal enclave of East London, Ian and Lisa seem unconventional. “Within my friendship group it’s still very weird,” says Lisa.
“My work colleagues would just get new stuff.” Ian despairs at their mentality towards consumption; “Why would you fix it when you could buy it new?”
In their line of work, Ian and Lisa’s lifestyle does seem unusual, however, their take on ‘second hand’ is equally outside of the norm. Lisa buys her ‘pre-loved’ clothes almost exclusively from online designer consignment store Vestiaire Collective, where a pair of second-hand Balenciaga trainers are undoubtedly a luxury at £495.
When she describes her outfit, it quickly becomes clear that her ethical principles haven’t stopped her from enjoying the kind of luxury consumption expected from someone in her position. “I’m wearing Jimmy Choo green shoes – I bought them on Vestiaire, but they are my favourite. I wear heels for the whole day, and they’re the only brand that don’t hurt my feet.” She also points out her black and white Roland Mouret dress.
“I wore this to work. I work with mostly men and I probably dress a bit less conservatively than they would like! I’m typically the only woman in a room of about 40 men, so it just makes me stand out a little more. I don’t mind it; I find it a bit fun because it puts people off centre, so you’re able to have more of an honest conversation.”
In his first corporate job at Rolls Royce, Ian also struggled to fit into the prescriptive image of a business person. “I had a reputation for not following the dress code” he says – referencing the eccentric attitude that he has embraced his current home development.
“I wanted to do it in a slightly quirky style; we’ve got two old doors from Dartmoor prison as the bathroom doors, and the bath uses old fireman’s taps. I like cool old stuff because it’s more interesting, but you have to search and know what you’re looking for.”
Many people would find this research a chore, but not Ian. “I enjoy it,” he says quickly. “You love it,” Lisa replies.
Their enthusiasm for buying ethically and investing in repairs is clear. Would the couple like to see others embrace a similarly alternative lifestyle? “Yes,” responds Ian, “but what’s alternative about it?”