- Whistles founder, 69, on starting a second career
- The high-end high street brands to luxe up your wardrobe
- Kitri shopping edit
- Floral Print Shirt Dress
- Midi Shirt Dress
- Hush shopping edit
- Wide-Leg Cotton Joggers
- Knitted Co-ord
- Printed Midi Skirt
- #3 Whistles
- Linen Jumpsuit
- Floral Silk Dress
- Button Front Cardigan
- #4. Anthropologie
- Textured Peasant Top
- Mixed-Print Cover-Up
- Maxi Dress
- #5. Finery
- Printed Long Sleeve Dress
- Mohair-Blend Jumper
- Puff Sleeve Printed Top
- #6. & Other Stories
- Cupro Blend Shirt & Trousers
- Puff Sleeve Midi Dress
- Boxy Short-Sleeved Cardigan
- 40 high street buys for March, as chosen by the Stylist fashion team
- WIN a Weekend Getaway to Amsterdam (plus a Brand-New Holiday Wardrobe)
- About Whistles
- About Pulitzer Amsterdam
- About Preferred Hotels & Resorts
- Terms and Conditions
- Win a Free Trip to New York and a Whistles Shopping Spree
- Could I go a year without buying any new clothes?
- Go slow with fast fashion
Whistles founder, 69, on starting a second career
Published: 22:26 BST, 30 July 2017 | Updated: 10:38 BST, 3 August 2017
When Lucille Lewin applied for a Masters degree, her first thought was: ‘Can I really do this?’
‘I hadn’t actually done a BA before,’ she says. ‘And the elephant in the room was my age.’
A 67-year-old mother of two grown-up sons (‘one’s a doctor, one’s a lawyer’), she’d be some 40 years older than many of the students.
It’s rare to relish starting a new career just as your contemporaries are winding down. And going to art college in your mid-60s is clearly a challenge — from coping with the super-confident, young millennials, to completing mountains of coursework — but the change is particularly shocking if, Lucille, you once ran a legendary fashion empire.
Lucille, now a tiny, vibrant 69-year-old, says she remains endlessly curious and in fact everything in her life has happened organically
With her husband Richard, Lucille founded Whistles in 1976 and turned it into one of the High Street’s biggest success stories.
Her own designs for the brand were sized for real women, and many of us are still wearing her jewelled knits, embroidered jackets and tailored suits 20 years on.
By the time the couple sold the business in 2002, to business partner Richard Caring, it had 40 stores across the country.
The funny thing is, she admits, none of her twentysomething fellow students knew about her history. ‘All the brownie points I got in fashion were worth absolutely nothing. It was a new world completely.’
Though, she adds, they did Google her half way through the course.
Lucille’s decision to completely reinvent herself eight years ago happened by chance.
‘I walked into an evening class in Hackney, East London, by mistake. A good friend was going, and I wanted to talk to her, so I said: “I’ll drop you off.”
‘I wandered into this little basement studio, where there were a few potters potting, and the smell of the clay hit me. I connected with it at once . . . it’s a very earthy smell.’
She signed up for part-time evening classes, then decided to study ceramics full-time.
Anyone thinking of retraining mid-life, after a career, might take inspiration from Lucille. Now a tiny, vibrant 69-year-old, she remains endlessly curious. In fact, she says everything in her life has happened organically.
She married Richard on her 21st birthday and went to America after he got a place at Harvard Business School.
In 1972, they moved to the UK. Richard had a job with menswear company Burtons and, to her amazement, she landed a job as an assistant to the merchandiser at Harvey Nichols.
‘I only had ripped jeans to wear, so I went out and bought this fabulous suit and a pair of stacked heels for the interview.’ She was later promoted to buyer, but was eventually fired for being too outspoken.
So, in 1976, she decided to open her own shop on George Street in Marylebone. ‘I wanted to occupy the space between designer and High Street.’
She filled the tiny, 250 sq ft shop with black and white clothes — and it sold out.
She believes the sale of Whistles may have been a trigger for one of the most traumatic episodes in her life. In 2009, she was diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumour known as an acoustic neuroma.
‘The takeover was a very difficult time for me,’ she admits. ‘The company was very much my baby.
‘It was a time of unbelievable, unrelenting shock and stress. I felt powerless, and that was one of the hardest things.’
It’s art, yes, but also a business. You don’t make ceramics just to sit looking pretty in your garage — you do it to exhibit and sell the work – Lucille Lewin
The tumour was removed during a 12-and-a-half hour operation at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. Afterwards, she felt very weak for three months. She says: ‘I could not shop, cook or care for myself. I was so grateful I had my family around me.’
At first, smiling was impossible and eating was a challenge.
‘Many people retreat because they can’t cope with what’s happened to their faces.
‘You lose the ability to react, you lose your smile.’
Following an intensive rehabilitation programme, her condition is barely visible — except in photographs. Having recovered, she was determined to have more pleasure in her life.
She took a two-year part-time diploma in fine art and ceramics at London’s City Lit college (2012–14), after which tutors urged her to apply for a two-year postgraduate degree at the prestigious Royal College of Art.
To her delight, she won a place. As a fashion guru, she had lectured at the Royal College. Now she was a mere student. ‘I’m quite a relaxed person, so I didn’t worry about status, thank goodness,’ she laughs.
Though she says wryly that young people master technology so much better, she made friends for life on the course.
At a time when the number of part-time and mature students has dropped significantly, because people are worried about running up debt, she’s keen to stress it’s not an indulgence.
It’s exciting. I’ve got so many things I still want to say. And I think it’s just the start of this adventure – Lucille Lewin
The course cost £9,000 a year, but by selling her work, she can recoup the cost.
‘It’s art, yes, but also a business. You don’t make ceramics just to sit looking pretty in your garage — you do it to exhibit and sell the work.’
In fact, Lewin has more than held her own alongside her classmates. In June, she won the £1,500 Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramics Prize, after completing her MA in ceramics and glass.
The irony of being declared a ‘young master’ at the age of 69 isn’t lost on her. Since she won the prize, pretty much all of her exquisite white porcelain sculptures have sold. Now she’s preparing for an exhibition in November. Husband Richard grumbles good-naturedly that they can’t go on holiday.
‘I don’t blame him, I should be calming down a little bit,’ smiles Lucille. ‘But it’s exciting. I’ve got so many things I still want to say. And I think it’s just the start of this adventure.’
Lucille’s work is on show at The Cynthia Corbett Gallery / Young Masters Art Prize at the Royal Overseas League until September 8, young-masters.co.uk, lucillelewin.com
The high-end high street brands to luxe up your wardrobe
We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
Here's the lowdown on our favourite high-end high street brands, whether you're after hero pieces for your spring/summer wardrobe or something a little bit special, these luxe brands will be sure to spruce up your wardrobe.
As much as we love a good bargain, sometimes it’s nice to splash out on a proper investment piece and for this, we turn to the high-end high street brands to get our designer-for-less fix. We’ve rounded up all the best luxe brands and our favourite new-in pieces from each one.
Kitri shopping edit
Kitri is our go to place to add something a little bit special to our wardrobes. The London based brand was born a frustration of not being able to find well-made, distinctive designs that don’t cost a fortune. Their bold and colourful designs will be sure to add a touch of luxury to your wardrobe.
Floral Print Shirt Dress
SHOP NOW: Floral Print Shirt Dress, £145, sizes 6-16, Kitri
Midi Shirt Dress
SHOP NOW: Midi Shirt Dress, £145, sizes 6-16, Kitri
Hush shopping edit
Hush is about relaxed dressing at its best and has been slowly amassing a loyal following for a couple of years now. Their laidback designs are the perfect solution to our current isolation fashion dilemma.
The brand was founded in 2003 by Mandy Watkins, an Aussie who after moving to the UK decided to start her own label when she couldn’t find clothes she wanted to buy. Hush’s signature style is cosy stay-at-home pieces to escape from the British weather.
Having begun it’s journey with loungewear, what better brand to help dress us thourgh coronavirus than Hush?
Wide-Leg Cotton Joggers
Relax in style with these cotton jersey blend wide-leg joggers.
SHOP NOW: Wide-Leg Cotton Joggers, £49, sizes 6-16, Hush
Add something a bit fancy to your loungewear collection with a metallic knitted co-ord. We’ll definitely be wearing this stylish combo out and about when we can.
SHOP NOW: Metallic Knit Vest, £55, sizes xs-xl and Metallic Knit Skirt, £69, sizes xs-xl, both Hush
Printed Midi Skirt
This printed skirt is both cheery and comfortable.
SHOP NOW: Printed Midi Skirt, £65, sizes 6-16, Hush
One of the most premium brands on the high street, Whistles’ collections always feature right at the top of our wish-lists. Although you can pay up to £700 for a dress from their bridal collection, some of their pieces are reasonably priced and will last you for years.
We love this khaki linen jumpsuit. Lightweight and easy-to-wear, it is comfy enough for around the house and will be perfect to wear this summer.
SHOP NOW: Nora Linen Jumpsuit, £149, sizes 4-18, Whistles
Floral Silk Dress
Just because we aren’t dressing up or going out at the moment, doesn’t mean we can’t dream of floral print midi dresses. Whistles do the most gorgeous occassionwear. We love this flattering wrap style number, that would also look great day-to-day paired with trainers.
SHOP NOW: Spring Flower Silk Dress, £289, sizes 4-18, Whistles
Button Front Cardigan
Feel comfortable but look put together with a fancy cardigan. Perfect for keeping cosy at home, but smart enough for a video call, win win! This classic ivory cardigan from Whistles is partially crafted from recycled polyester, and the blend of materials used ensure it will last for seasons to come.
SHOP NOW: Button Front Cardigan, sizes xs-l, £89, Whistles
Anthropologie is the number one creative destination for unique wardrobe finds. The brand’s mantra is to inspire everyone to live and dress beautifully. Right now, we could all do with a bit of colour and inspiration injected into our lives!
Textured Peasant Top
This bo-ho inspired blouse features beautiful embroidery and on-trend puff sleeves. Made from 100% cotton, this breathable and lightweight piece can be paired with everything from denim, to tailored trousers – or in our case comfy drawstring trousers for chic working-from-home attire.
SHOP NOW: Textured Peasant Top, £90, sizes xs-xl, Anthropologie
Comfort and style rolled into one. We love this delicately embroidered one-piece. Pair with a t-shirt underneath or layer with a chunky knit cardigan to keep cosy. This one of a kind jumpsuit will be a much-loved summer staple for years to come.
SHOP NOW: Embroidered Linen Jumpsuit, £120, sizes xs-xl, Anthropologie
We might not be able to jet off on a beach holiday right now, but this abstract print cover-up makes for a beautiful kimono. Throw on for at-home-wear to bring a little colour and glam to your everyday.
SHOP NOW: Mixed-Print Cover Up, £120, sizes s-l, Anthropologie
Purple is one of this season’s must-have colour trends. This beautiful feminine maxi dress features a floral motif and puff sleeves. An effortless and timeless piece that you can wear time and time again.
SHOP NOW: Maxi Dress, £140, sizes 6-16, Anthropologie
London based brand, Finery, create contemporary designs for the modern and sophisticated woman without compromising on quality.
Printed Long Sleeve Dress
This dress provides coverage, style and comfort in equal measure.
SHOP NOW: Printed Long Sleeve Dress, £129, sizes 6-18, Finery
A simple jumper in a neutral colour this one can be worn with almost anything. PJ bottoms during lockdown obviously, but in the future slinky skirts and fancy shoes, tailored trousers and trainers or your go-to jeans.
SHOP NOW: Mohair-Blend Jumper, £79, sizes 6-18, Finery
Puff Sleeve Printed Top
Puff sleeves, balloon sleeves, big sleeves… whatever you want to call them, large sleeves are fashionable at the moment. Puff sleeves are a great trend for 40+ women too. This top is a nice, easy way to try the trend.
SHOP NOW: Puff Sleeve Printed Top, £59, sizes 6-18, Finery
#6. & Other Stories
& Other Stories is as an elegant and modern one-stop styling destination. The Swedish brand draws its inspiration from Paris, Stockholm and Los Angeles to produce stylish staples that feel timeless and cool.
Cupro Blend Shirt & Trousers
Spruce up your working-from-home wardrobe with this chic co-ord. Made from a super soft cupro and viscose blend, look and feel your best without sacrifcing comfort.
SHOP NOW: Cupro Blend Relaxed Fit Shirt, £65 and Cupro Blend Cropped Trousers, £75, both sizes 32-44, & Other Stories
Puff Sleeve Midi Dress
This summer, puff sleeve dresses are a must-have hero piece. Until then, float around your home in style and brighten your day with this beautiful loose fitting midi dress.
SHOP NOW: Puff Sleeve Midi Dress, £95, sizes 32-44, & Other Stories
Boxy Short-Sleeved Cardigan
Knitted polo style cardigans are all the rage this season. Their verstaile style makes them a fab wardrobe investment.
SHOP NOW: Boxy Short-Sleeved Cardigan, £55, sizes xs-xl, & Other Stories
If you’re looking for bargains, then check out the w&h’s edit of & other stories best sales reductions here.
Have fun adding a bit of high-end high street luxe to your wardrobe!
40 high street buys for March, as chosen by the Stylist fashion team
A curated edit of the best pieces to shop on the high street right now – from Zara, Whistles, Asos, & Other Stories, Warehouse, Mango, H&M and Urban Outfitters.
Planning a hallelujah-my-bank-account-is-no-longer-empty spree? Just remember that the first post-payday shop at the start of the month often requires some restraint.
Now is not the time to splurge on impractical items that will have fallen fashion within a couple of weeks. Instead, focus on tracking down affordable pieces that will see you through the rest of the chilly weather, into summer 2020 and beyond.
With than in mind, the Stylist fashion team – aka fashion editor Polly Knight, fashion news editor Billie Bhatia, acting executive fashion director Hannah Moore and fashion assistant Helen Atkin – have scoured the high street to find new-month purchases for March that are genuinely worth adding to your online basket.
Whether you’re looking to update your work wardrobe with a new blazer, find a classic roll-neck top for layering under jumpers and dresses, or finally invest in an easy throw-on-and-go dress, these pieces will give your wardrobe the early-spring boost it needs. Happy shopping.
Urban Outfitters / £129
Chunky Blue Cardigan
A great investment. Wear until the weather heats up, then wheel it out again for a/w20 (when colourful, chunky knits will be everywhere).
Urban Outfitters / £139
Dr Martens Chelsea Boots
Sturdy footwear is essential in temperamental weather, and Dr Martens’ flat ankle boots will go strong for years to come.
Urban Outfitters / £45
High Neck White Blouse
The result of a collaboration between UO and Laura Ashley, this high neck blouse will take you from work to drinks with ease.
Urban Outfitters / £50
Urban Renewal Vintage Jeans
Alexa Chung recommends buying vintage jeans, as the quality tends to be higher (it’s more sustainable, too). Try these on for size.
Urban Outfitters / £85
Quilted Floral Jacket
Another UO x Laura Ashley piece, this statement jacket will add colour and interest to a simple outfit of jeans and a white T-shirt.
Warehouse / £49
Floral Tiered Midi Dress
We’re already counting down the days until we can wear floaty dresses without extra layers. For now, team this with a cardi and boots.
Warehouse / £16
Black Cat Eye Sunglasses
These sharp sunglasses are a touch retro with a contemporary edge. The perfect city shades – you’re welcome.
Warehouse / £38
Leopard Print Bikini
There’s no time the present to shop for swimwear – and leopard print is a neutral in our book. Buy now, wear forever.
Warehouse / £55
Snake Print Ankle Boots
These faux snakeskin cowboy boots will jazz up your jeans and jumper – or try clashing with florals for an instant outfit update.
Warehouse / £36
Oversized Collar Shirt
Supersize collars will be massive this spring – literally – and this cotton shirt is perfect for channelling your inner Little Women.
Whistles / £149
Long Sleeved Denim Jumpsuit
Jumpsuits are still storming the catwalks, and this comes in both pink and navy. Wear over a thick roll-neck to keep spring chills at bay.
Whistles / £199
Classic Khaki Trench Coat
Still not bought a trench? Now’s your chance. This double-breasted version in muted khaki will slot right into your spring wardrobe.
Whistles / £65
Yellow Leather Clutch Bag
This little pouch will add a splash of texture against navy, red, khaki or black. Carry as a clutch or pop into a bigger tote.
Whistles / £139
White and Green Trainers
With a pop of green, this classic trainer will lift any outfit. Wear with jumpsuits, trousers, midi skirts… whatever takes your fancy.
Whistles / £99
Beige Cargo Trousers
Neutral cargo trousers will transition brilliantly into summer. Simply swap your trainers and jumpers for flat sandals and plain T-shirts.
H&M / £24.99
Polka Dot Slip Skirt
Slip skirts continue to be a wardrobe staple for work and weekends, and this patterned version will breathe new life into your office look.
H&M / £39.99
Airy White Cotton Blouse
Sleeves remain a focal point for s/s 2020 and beyond, and this billowy blouse is a nuanced version of the classic white shirt.
H&M / £34.99
Tiered Chiffon Maxi Dress
Our love of a chuck-on dress know no bounds, especially when it’s size-inclusive and comes in a fresh emerald floral print.
H&M / £34.99
Checked Shirt Jacket
We love the simplicity of this trans-seasonal piece. Wear with light-coloured denim, long sleeve T-shirts for the foreseeable future.
H&M / £79.99
Light Blue Nubuck Handbag
Bags are pared-back this season (call it the Bottega Veneta effect), and this relaxed, sumptuous shape will elevate the simplest of looks.
ZARA / £12.99
RIBBED WOOL BLEND BEANIE
The berry and camel tones of this ribbed beanie remind us of tea, scones and jam. Deliciously cosy.
ZARA / £19.99
HIGH NECK SWEATER IN KHAKI
This slimline knit is perfect for layering – wear under the midi dresses languishing at the back of your wardrobe.
Zara / £59.99
Flatform Black Leather Sandals
Nope, it’s not too early to snap up your summer shoes. These padded black sandals are as comfy as they’re cool.
ZARA / £95.99
MULTICOLOURED VELVET TOTE BAG
Big bags are in for SS20, and this velvet-trimmed checked shopper will brighten up gloomy mornings.
Zara / £12.99
BLACK HALTERNECK BODYSUIT
Sporty racerback and halterneck tops will be big this summer. This bodysuit will create the cleanest of lines.
& Other Stories / £95
Silk Button Up Blouse
A classic silk shirt will never go style. Wear this green blouse with jeans now and white linen trousers come summer.
& OTHER STORIES / £65
STRAIGHT MID RISE JEANS
On the lookout for comfy denim? These classic straight-leg mid-wash jeans are perfect for lounging around in.
& Other Stories / £95
Black Leather Loafers
Leather loafers with a high vamp are a chic alternative to boots on wet days. Just make sure you’ve got nice socks on.
& OTHER STORIES / £120
OVERSIZED ALPACA BLEND CARDIGAN
A classic loose-fitting cardigan in a neutral tone can be layered over any outfit for extra warmth.
& OTHER STORIES / £23
DUO LAYERED CHAIN NECKLACE
Love layering jewellery? Wear this double-stranded necklace with shorter chains in mixed metals.
ASOS / £38
LONG SLEEVE MAXI DRESS
Everyone loves the ease of a chuck-on dress. Wear this with chunky black boots and a neat leather jacket.
ASOS / £139
DR MARTENS VEGAN 1460 BOOTS
Classic Dr Martens are back in a big way. Team with a slip skirt and chunky jumper or use to toughen up a midi dress.
ASOS / £35
Curve Midi Dress in Check
Stylist’s fashion news editor Billie has already added this summer-ready midi swing dress to her wardrobe.
ASOS / £52
LINEN DAD BLAZER IN SOFT BLUE
Short suits will be big for SS20. Wear with a crisp T-shirt and leather city shorts to nail the trend.
ASOS / £34
ORGANZA SMOCK TOP WITH BOWS
Inspired by Danish designer Cecilie Bahnsen, flowing smock-style tops and dresses are here to stay for 2020.
MANGO / £59.99
FAUX LEATHER SHIRT JACKET
Well worth the investment, this slick faux leather shacket is a versatile addition to any wardrobe.
MANGO / £69.99
Brown Leather Strappy Sandals
Barely-there brown leather sandals go with everything – and you’ll actually be able to walk in them. Win-win.
Mango / £29.99
EMBROIDERED WHITE SHIRT
With balloon sleeves, a creamy shade and delicate embroidery, this shirt is an elegant twist on a classic.
MANGO / £69.99
LEOPARD PRINT MIDI DRESS
Wear over a warm roll-neck now, then show off that on-trend square neckline come summer.
MANGO / £35.99
FAUX LEATHER STIRRUP BAG
With a classic style that won’t date, this crossbody looks much more expensive than it actually is.
All images courtesy of brands
WIN a Weekend Getaway to Amsterdam (plus a Brand-New Holiday Wardrobe)
THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED.
We’ve teamed up with Whistles to send you on a weekend getaway to Amsterdam with a brand-new holiday wardrobe to boot.
One lucky winner and a friend will spend two nights at the five-star Pulitzer Amsterdam, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Legend Collection, and on top of that receive a £1000 Whistles voucher, as well as one year’s subscription to SUITCASE Magazine.
A burgeoning foodie scene, boundary-pushing art movement and world-class retail spaces means Amsterdam really spoils its visitors – and we to do the same for our readers.
Just enter your email address below to be in with a chance of winning; it really is that simple.
Whistles is a contemporary fashion brand, based in London. A shopping destination for the busy, dynamic woman, we create timeless pieces with an intelligent sense of design. Collections are considered, wearable and yet distinct, with true seven days a week appeal, crafted to fit effortlessly into modern life.
With an increasing presence on the global fashion stage, we have become a destination for fashion editors and industry leaders a, renowned for our of-the-moment collaborations with independent brands and our emphasis on quality and longevity. Understated yet cool, throw on but never throwaway – this is real life fashion.
This is Whistles.
About Pulitzer Amsterdam
Pulitzer Amsterdam is a luxury hotel set within 25 restored 17th- and 18th-century canal houses, in one of Amsterdam’s most vibrant neighbourhoods.
Blending traditional and modern Dutch craftsmanship and service, the hotel offers 225 guest rooms, a tranquil inner garden as well as an authentic restaurant and bar that showcase local tastes.
Overlooking the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht canals, the hotel is located in the heart of Amsterdam’s city centre, the ideal base for exploring the enchanting city.
About Preferred Hotels & Resorts
Preferred Hotels & Resorts is the world’s largest independent hotel brand, representing more than 700 distinctive hotels, resorts, residences, and unique hotel groups across 85 countries.
Through its five global collections, Preferred Hotels & Resorts connects discerning travellers to the singular luxury hospitality experience that meets their life and style preferences for each occasion.
Terms and Conditions
– Redemption dates are valid subject to availability and must be taken from September 2018 to September 2019– Blackout dates include: Easter (1-2nd April), King’s Day (27 April), EULAR (6-7 June), Money20/20 (13-15 June), AIDS Congress (22-26 July), Gay Pride (28 July – 5 August), Amsterdam Dance Event (18-22 October), Bank Holiday weekends, Christmas and New Year’s Eve– Accommodation must be booked at least one month prior to arrival in order to coordinate the prize– The prize is for two adults (winner plus a guest) on a B&B basis– The winner is also entitled to a three-course dinner for two (including one bottle of wine) at Restaurant Jansz in Pulitzer Amsterdam– There is no cash alternative to this prize– The prize is non-transferrable and is to be used by the registered prize winner– The winner must be aged 18 years or over– Travel insurance is strongly recommended
Win a Free Trip to New York and a Whistles Shopping Spree
In partnership with Whistles.
First of all, I have a question for you: DO YOU WANT TO WIN A TRIP TO NEW YORK CITY, COURTESY OF WHISTLES, THAT COMES WITH A SHOPPING SPREE…AT WHISTLES?
Oh my goodness you do? Excellent. Because they’re giving that away to a lucky someone, possibly you.
The winner will receive a two-night stay at the Arlo Soho Hotel on Hudson Street and $2,500 to spend at Whistles’ new Soho store at 150 Spring Street, the UK brand’s first US flagship, which just opened this month.
The store will be home to the complete womenswear collection, including Limited Edition, footwear, and accessories.
In addition to racks of clothes that seem to whisper the question, “What’s your fall/winter persona,” you’ll find large scale paintings designed by British multi-disciplinary artist Rosie Tonkins. (The store itself was dreamed up with a gallery feel in mind.) You’ll also find a particularly comfortable seating situation upon which to rest your laurels and try on Whistles boots.
If that’s not the best news ever then I don’t know what is. Enter to win down below, but also, I’d love if you could join me on a quick shopping journey, first. You know, in preparation…because what if you win!!!
The journey I’d to go on takes us down a little rainbow called, “You know what I’m all about this fall?”
*Cups hands around mouth*
VERY BRIGHT COLORS!
No need for indoor voices here! I want a coat that goes “WOO-HOO!,” the blue one MR’s own Simedar Jackson is modeling in the photo at the top of this story.
I want a green skirt that says “HECK YES!” the moment I kick up my feet.
I want a lavender V-neck sweater (styled here on Simedar backwards) with a matching scarf that I can tie around my waist, or around my neck, or as a shawl, or as a truly beautiful cozy blanket for the airplane. (I know lavender isn’t what you think of when you think of bright, but in comparison to my navy sweater collection, this is practically LOUD, and I love it.)
I want a neon-y orange turtleneck to peek up my neck and out from things “OH HI DIDN’T SEE YOU THERE BUT DO YOU SEE ME?”
I want big candy gem rock earrings that dangle from my lobes and cause a scene.
But let’s not get carried away, of course. I am still me, and the me I know and love still leans hard into the idea of dressing an autumnal tree. For instance, I might pass out if I don’t find myself the owner of this tortoiseshell laptop tote.
That tiger print belt bag Simedar’s wearing? I want it.
I also love this black skirt that buttons down the front and is covered entirely in dandelions, this cashmere funnel neck sweater and, finally, these check wide-leg trousers.
Okay, so now that you know my shopping list, allow me to remind you one more time to enter to win (right down below!). All you have to do is input your email address, first name, last name, and voila! Let fate take over.
Enter to win!
Photos by Edith Young.
Could I go a year without buying any new clothes?
I can’t remember a new year when I haven’t made a resolution. Get more sleep, drink more water, drink less booze, eat more fruit, learn Spanish. But there was only one pledge I’ve ever managed to stick to for longer than a few weeks, and possibly the only one that made me feel better about myself instead of worse – I broke up with fast fashion.
No new clothes (or at least no “new-new” clothes) for a year. No more payday hauls or bad day pick-me-ups. No more casual flirtation with one of the most exploitative and wasteful industries on the planet. Goodbye, my problematic friend.
Before you say it, I know. Swearing off shopping shouldn’t be a hardship. For plenty of people it’s a default state, through lack of funds, lack of choice or just lack of interest.
As a sometime-fashion journalist working in the fickle world of women’s media, with trends that rise and fall on the back of a hot-or-not barometer, I know clothes take up a larger space in my life and brain than they do for the average person.
But I also know so many people who feel shackled by fashion without the professional pressure; so many other women who shop as if it’s a side hustle they’re obliged to keep afloat. And if not buying, then browsing, scrolling, trying on, returning, thinking, thinking, always thinking about shopping.
That said, it’s remarkable how many times this year men have fallen over themselves to tell me, proudly, that they never buy clothes. Never! Hate shopping! As though it’s pure coincidence I picked up the message that as a woman, my clothes matter more than theirs do. there’s no patriarchal whiff to the whole situation. simply opting out might not have occurred to me.
Of course it’s occurred to me. On all those harried shopping missions, every time the Asos scroll threatened to give me carpal tunnel syndrome, the thought would always be there in the back of my mind: why do I even care? Why does anyone?
But what the Jeremys with their homogenous, wife-bought wardrobes fail to recognise is that loving clothes isn’t a character weakness to be stamped out smoking. Clothes can be cultural currency, tribal identity and a precious tool of self-expression.
An outfit can set you apart from one crowd, and win you a place in another. Virginia Woolf got it: “Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm.
They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.”
Over the years, clothes have been my comfort blanket and confidence boost. They’ve been a recreational hobby, a competitive sport and a way to bond with people in pub toilets.
I’ve hunted for those holy grail garments the way a hardcore collector might hunt out rare stamps or action figures (then, to my shame, kept them nearly as boxfresh).
I’ve used clothes to draw attention to myself and I’ve used them as camouflage, buying the illusion of grown-up professionalism in weekly instalments at Zara at a time when my salary barely covered my bus pass. Cher from Clueless, I too have a “most capable-looking outfit”.
‘It’s amazing how often you can medicate trend flu with something that’s already in your wardrobe’: Lauren Bravo. Photograph: Phil Fisk/The Observer
But, of course, once you invest a thing with so much potential to make you feel good, it has equal potential to make you feel bad. Each outfit an exam, to be passed or failed.
At least once a week I would have a wardrobe crisis before leaving the house; standing in my pants and flinging clothes around my bedroom, believing I had nothing to wear even as I was elbow-deep in evidence to the contrary.
On those days, I would plan emergency trips to H&M at lunchtime, the way you might nip into Boots for painkillers to ease a headache. Somewhere along the way, I think I gave clothes too much power.
I know I gave them too much time. And money. Once I stopped shopping, spare cash appeared in my account and periods of free time began to appear in my week. It’s incredible, the things you can get done when you’re not forever standing in a Post Office queue with an armful of Asos returns.
I’m not saying I’ve launched a startup or finally learned Spanish, but I’ve read a lot more books and had precisely zero existential crises in the changing rooms at & Other Stories. I’ve watched myself rise, incrementally, the depths of my overdraft, with each dress and bag I haven’t bought.
To be clear: I haven’t stopped shopping entirely. Charity shops have filled the gap left by the high street, along with the occasional preowned gem from eBay and Depop. But secondhand shopping is a very different beast; it’s the slow-release energy to fast fashion’s sugar rush.
While the high street sells the idea that every shopping trip should end in a purchase, thrift stores manage your expectations. You learn to appreciate the trawl as much as the haul, getting gooey-eyed about the history stitched into each seam. Going home empty-handed feels less defeat.
You’ve saved the money and still had a nice day out.
Of course, it’s important to acknowledge that second- hand shopping isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s harder to find larger clothes in thrift shops, and the sustainable fashion world in general has a long way to go before it caters for all bodies equally. But then, so does the high street.
I always knew I hated changing rooms, but it wasn’t until I quit shopping that I realised just how much self-loathing lurked behind those curtains.
Fast fashion made me feel as though I was failing it, every time the zip didn’t do up, or the buttons gaped, or the outfit that looked chic and insouciant on the mannequin looked strange and lumpen on me.
I blamed myself, my body, when in fact – and I’m furious it took me 31 years to grasp this – it’s the clothes that should be auditioning for you. Not the other way round.
I’d love to say that breaking up with fast fashion has cured the morning meltdowns. They’re certainly less frequent, but the wrong recipe of weather, schedule and hormones can still tip me into sartorial crisis.
And I still get struck down by “trend flu” – that feverish, all-consuming need to buy some viral item you hadn’t even d the week before. This year: giant pearl hairclips, puffer jackets and the Zara dress.
I went to bed and rode them all out.
I also learned new tricks to eke more wear my existing wardrobe: layering – an artform I’d previously believed you could only do if you were Scandinavian or owned your own kiln. Turns out no! You simply take your clothes and… put them on top of other clothes.
Slimfit polonecks under summery slips, shirts under short-sleeved sweaters, jumpers over dresses over jeans. Aside from one mishap with a mustard tank top and a white shirt that can only be described as “Disney woodcutter”, I’ve had a surprisingly good success rate.
Somewhere along the way, I gave clothes too much power
As so many business gurus will tell you, constraints force creativity. And when you limit your shopping options, you find yourself getting inventive with new tools instead. Sometimes superglue, sometimes scissors. My sewing skills have rusted since their GCSE Textiles heyday but since I stopped shopping, I’ve started tinkering more.
I’ll take up a hem, change a neckline. Put press studs between the gaping buttons. When a hankering for new jeans hit last month, I unearthed an ancient pair of mid-rise stretch bootcuts – bootcut! – and chopped them into ankle-length flares. They’re not exactly the jeans of my dreams, but they’re close enough.
And I’m old enough to know by now that the jeans of my dreams don’t exist.
I also know I’m not a “capsule wardrobe” person. Even so, a good wardrobe cull can be cathartic, and there’s a strong argument for stripping back your wardrobe to an edited selection of reliable, high-quality pieces (I can see clearly now the rayon is gone, as Johnny Nash almost sang). But it can also be counterintuitive, especially if you’re not ready to swear off trends entirely. Not yet.
Ignore anyone who tells you to get rid of everything you haven’t worn in a year.
Fashion is cyclical – come on, we know this – and no sooner have you sent a tired old trend off to the charity shop than Vogue will suddenly declare it hot again.
“The most sustainable item is the one you already own,” says Fashion Revolution (the global movement that scrutinises industry practices). It’s amazing how often you can medicate trend flu with something that’s already in your wardrobe.
And if not yours, someone else’s. Peer-to-peer rental platforms such as HURR Collective and My Wardrobe have arrived on the scene to formalise and monetise the process, the latter even hiring former Whistles CEO Jane Shepherdson as chairman.
Meanwhile, groups Swap Rebellion and Swapaholics UK are hosting good old-fashioned clothes swaps on a grand scale. Sharing and borrowing from friends is a secret weapon that most of us don’t take nearly enough advantage of. The wardrobe of the future is open-source; I really believe that.
Especially if your Rixo dress is my size.
Meanwhile, social media has taken on a new role in my life.
I’ve unfollowed every brand and influencer that might have led me into temptation, and let slow fashion advocates Jade Doherty (@notbuyingnew) and Hannah Rochell (@EnBrogue) set a new pace on my feed.
In a galaxy of #gifted single-wear wardrobes, their willingness to show off the same items again and again feels gently subversive.
Following their example, I’ve become a serial outfit repeater – and proud of it. I’ve started to dress a toddler who has to have their favourite jumper wrestled off them for washing.
And since over-washing is another sustainability no-no (all those plastic microfibres leaching into the waterways, not to mention the ageing and fading effect), I’ve shrugged off the shame along with the odd gravy stain. Nobody has said anything.
In fact, one of the more ego-bruising but ultimately liberating parts of the whole process has been realising just how little anybody cares what I’m wearing – be it at a work meeting, a party or, because apparently I am this shallow, a funeral.
Every time I’ve pulled on the same old outfit I’ve braced myself for pointed fingers, covert sniggers or disapproving scowls that haven’t come. Because, and I really can’t stress this enough: people do not care what you wear. Most won’t even remember.
I can't imagine ever going back to the high street
You will, but in a good way. Those much-loved, time-worn outfits become part of the memories; dependable series regulars rather than novelty guest stars. And that, really, is the mindset that carries you through a year without shopping.
Instead of pining over my break-up with fast fashion, I’m trying to focus on my relationship with the clothes I already own. Romancing them, looking after them, taking them out dancing. Reminding myself why I fell for them in the first place.
If received wisdom is to be believed, it takes half the length of a relationship to move on after a break-up. Which means I could have nearly a decade ahead of me before the thrill of a DPD delivery has completely left my system; before each invite and mood swing and season-change triggers a flashing light in my brain that reads “SHOP!”
Unpicking the seams that bind my clothes so tightly to my self-esteem is going to take longer than a year on the wagon, but already I’m at a point where I can’t imagine ever going back to the high street – for all the urgently important reasons, of which there are millions, multiplying with each painful crank of the production line. But for a selfish one, too: I just don’t have the energy. Not any more.
Now, I’m the kind of person who goes around warning others off their toxic ex. Babe, you can do so much better than fast fashion. The planet can. We all can.
Go slow with fast fashion
Try these top tips to kick your habit and take back control
1. Detox your inbox Unsubscribe from every brand email that might lead you into temptation, and unfollow every influencer who gives you click-to-buy urges.
2. Follow the leaders Scroll slow fashion influencers, such as @uncomplicatedspaces and @notbuyingnew, who delight in outfit-repeating and clever styling tricks.
3. Know your triggers Think about the reasons you buy clothes you don’t need and how you could change those behaviours – whether it’s avoiding spendy friends or finding a route home from work that doesn’t take you past your favourite shop.
4. Have a dress-up session Get out everything you own, marvel at how many clothes you already have, and spend an evening trying on new combinations. It’s amazing how old clothes can feel fresh again with a bit of imagination.
5. Become a borrower When the urge to shop strikes, try raiding someone else’s wardrobe instead. Forage from friends, go to a clothes-swapping event, or try rental platforms HURR, NuWardrobe and Onloan.
How to Break Up with Fast Fashion by Lauren Bravo (£12.99, Headline) is published on 9 January. Buy a copy for £11.43 at guardianbookshop.com
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