Author: Victoria Lochhead, Owner of personal styling and dress agency Frankie and Ruby
In 2006 I was due to return to work after maternity leave and I was looking through my wardrobe to see what I could wear. Nothing I owned fitted or suited me anymore, I had no clue what to buy and found no joy in the prospect of shopping for new clothes. I felt completely stuck. A good friend of mine suggested a trip to see an image consultant to help me and that visit completely transformed my confidence, my style and my enjoyment of being creative with clothes. The stylist showed me the colours that complimented my own tones, the shapes of clothes to look for (and those to avoid) and gave me pointers on how I could develop my own style, whilst also keeping things practical for work and for home. It was a revelation!
This experience was so impactful that I decided to train to become a personal stylist myself, which eventually lead to me leaving my job and setting up my business Frankie & Ruby full time. It was around this time that a neighbour told me about a conversation she’d had with a young girl who had thrown her jacket in the bin because a button had fallen off. My neighbour was horrified and asked her why she hadn’t sewn a new button on to which the girl replied, she didn’t know how to and since the jacket had only cost her £4, it was just as easy to go out and buy a new one. Upon hearing this, I decided to research the facts and figures on how much the fashion and textile industry impacts the environment and whether this was a one-off event or perhaps a sign of something more common.
What I found out shocked me. The UK sends enough clothing to landfill each year to fill a hole the size of Wembley Stadium. (Source: www.dailymail.co.uk). On top of this, we donate and recycle enough clothing annually to fill 459 Olympic-sized swimming pools. And, with clothing production being named the second largest planetary polluter after coal and oil production (Source: BBC1 “Fashions Dirty Secrets” 2018), its plain to see that the way our society currently uses and disposes of clothing is simply not sustainable.
As well as the environmental impact of clothes production and manufacture, owning too many clothes can have a detrimental effect in our homes. I’ve seen inside many a rammed wardrobe to know that space is a definite issue and when we have too many clothes, it can often lead to us forgetting what we do have and sticking to a few select favourites. In fact, most people only wear about 20% of their wardrobe on a regular basis.
When I found out more about what owning too many clothes actually meant, I realised I was in a great position to help do something about it. In 2014 I started a campaign called ‘Say No to New’ and committed to not buying new clothes for a year (apart from the basic and personal) and instead, to either use what I already had, or buy from second hand sources. The campaign attracted nearly 500 others committed to doing the same and I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by Anne Diamond on BBC Radio Berkshire and featured in Good Housekeeping Magazine.
My year of saying no to new came with some surprising benefits and some great learning. I realised that in my position as a stylist, I could help my clients to have fun, learn about their individual style and create a unique wardrobe, while at the same time reducing the environmental impact of their clothes choices. In 2016 I published a book called “In the Jumble”, all about the joys of finding, buying and wearing second hand clothes. The book shares many of my stories in the world of second hand shopping, as well as tips and suggestions about how to do it. I talk about how to develop your own unique sense of style and how to bring all your treasures together in a wardrobe that makes sense and is well coordinated.
As well as not buying new clothes myself, I wanted to make it easier for my clients to do the same. I started offering Eco-Shopping trips, taking clients to some of my favourite treasure hunting spots. I also added a Dress Agency to my business to give my clients a way to sell their unwanted clothes and to pick up some pre-loved bargains in a relaxed environment. This year, I also started running an online course. Sustainable Style Studio is a 12 week programme designed to help participants commit to not buying new clothes for 3 months. Instead, I encourage them to understand their own style, experiment with making outfits out of what they already have in their wardrobes and to explore the delights of second hand shopping.
I firmly believe that once you know what suits you in terms of colours, shapes and styles, you can shop anywhere. And if you can shop anywhere, then the ultimate in guilt-free, fun shopping, lies in exploring the treasures available second hand. Having a wardrobe you love, you enjoy and that is practical, really needn’t cost the earth – and I mean that in both the financial and environmental sense.
I’m really looking forward to speaking at GreenFest in Hampstead Norreys on September 7th and sharing some of my tips on how to create a sustainable wardrobe that is fun, practical and really reflects your own unique style.
Victoria will also be running a Teen Styling Workshop at GreenFest so don't miss your chance to pick the brains of this talented personal stylist. All talks and workshops are free.