Today’s Stylish Thoughts interview comes from Wellington, New Zealand-based blogger Emma of This Kind Choice.
How would you describe your personal style?
My style has become a lot more refined over the past year and a half thanks to becoming more interested in the ethical and environmental impacts of my clothing choices. I began asking myself who was making these pieces I scooped off the sale rack for $9.99, what conditions they had to work in, and what all of this meant for the environment. Reading Lucy Siegles ‘To Die For’ really opened my eyes to the reality behind our clothes. I began buying less, and the pieces I did buy were either from eco/ethical companies, second hand or made myself.
Eco/ethical fashion can seem like limiting yourself or compromising on style, but I discovered the increased attention I paid to my clothes actually did the exact opposite – I stopped buying haphazardly and without a plan, I considered the rest of my wardrobe before committing to something and developed a better sense of cohesion, I bumped quality up on my list of clothing criteria and I made sure to really, really love something before I bought it! My wardrobe has never looked better.
I play with masculine and feminine elements and love nothing more than showing off a slightly more unexpected part of the body, such as my back or shoulders. I usually turn away from overtly feminine styles, and often mix in menswear (either clothes actually intended for men, or inspired by their tailoring) with my more feminine pieces. I love deep colours, especially purple, bronze and blue, with pops of orange and a base of black and off-white. I find myself steering towards more graphic prints lately, and am dreaming of jewel toned digital prints on a backdrop of black.
What is the secret to great style?
I love contrast, and find it is the element that ties all my favourite looks together. The interplay between masculine and feminine, draped and structured, casual and dressy. The shiny smoothness of satin against a beautifully soft mohair cardigan, an open denim shirt over a sequinned top, a ball dress with a messy up-do.
It’s that tension between different elements of style that excites me, that captures my attention and makes me look twice.
What is the one thing you would spend a lot of money on?
Versatility and ethics are the two defining factors that justify a higher price tag for me. If I’m going to spend a lot of money, I firstly want to know that the piece will be worn often, with many different things I already own and in many different situations. Secondly, I need to know where this higher price comes from – how is this company protecting it’s workers and the environment in a way that explains the price? How is paying this amount of money a vote for a world that I want to be part of?
As an example, I recently bought a jumpsuit from Reformation. They manufacture their clothing in L.A using closed-loop systems (which results in no harmful byproducts and uses minimal water) or using re-purposed “dead stock” fabric (over-ordered and archived fabric from larger fashion houses). The jumpsuit is an incredibly versatile part of my wardrobe now, and I’ve worn it to job interviews, concerts, out at night and to classes during the day – and I’ve only had it for a few weeks. Five of the photos included here are of the jumpsuit, and yet most of them look quite different!
What is the one thing you wouldn’t spend a lot of money on?
Poor quality. It sounds obvious, but to illustrate – I recently asked a girl where her fabulous dress was from. It was a beautiful dusky pink, with different fabrics for the back and front. When she told me the shop she had bought it from, I knew it would have cost her at least $300. Yet when I asked to see the tag (Yes, I probe into the fibre content of what strangers wear. Yes, it gets me strange looks), it was 100% polyester. Prone to pilling and likely to have you sweating as soon as the weather gets warmer – and all that for hundreds of dollars.
Unfortunately nowadays it’s all too possible to pay a hefty amount of money for something that hasn’t had much thought put into the construction or fabric. Brand name and first impressions can be the sole focus. It’s so important for us as consumers to ask more questions about our clothing, to learn about quality and check out the construction and fibre content of any potential purchases before we part with our hard earned cash.
What’s the secret to looking polished?
Looking after our clothes and paying attention to details. It’s very easy to channel all the time, planning and money we allocate our wardrobe into getting new pieces. But looking after what we already have is actually far more effective in creating that polished look we all love. Investing in proper clothes hangers, buying a lint roller, dry-cleaning or hand washing the pieces that need it, repairing or altering items if necessary, storing out-of-season clothing properly – these are the things that lift your look to a whole new level.
The one piece of advice most women need but don’t get?
The current fashion system won’t make you happy. Most people think that the people making our clothes are the only ones suffering – we, the consumers, are having a great time, right? We get so much choice, such low prices, so many new styles every week! Yet how do the vast majority of us feel about our wardrobes? Confused, overwhelmed, dissatisfied, disgusted? Like there’s absolutely no cohesion between our pieces and so we’re left with a jumbled mess, rather than a wardrobe that actually works? Like quality has fallen by the wayside? Like we have no idea what our own style actually IS, because we’ve been following trends mindlessly rather than curating carefully?
To truly feel fulfilled with the way we dress, we need to rethink the buy-new-throw-away cycle. Ethical shopping is not just better for the people making the clothes and the planet – it’s better for us, too. Creating a strong sense of personal style, looking after what we already have, defining what we truly need before hitting the shops, considering quality, choosing brands that we’re proud to support – these are far more likely to leave us looking and feeling amazing than any sale rack ever could.
What are your favourite websites?
Info Based Blogs:
Into Mind – I love Anuschka’s practical approach to wardrobe curation. ( http://into-mind.com/ )
Lost In A Spotless Mind – Maria covers personal style, hair and garment quality in a way that always leaves me feeling like I’ve just had a chat with her over a cup of coffee. ( http://lostinaspotlessmind.com/ )
This I Wear – With thoughtful insights on sustainable style, Rebecca has created a great place to learn more.
Recovering Shopaholic – Always authentic, I love following Debbie’s journey in finding satisfaction with less shopping, and I pick up lots of tips along the way. ( http://recoveringshopaholic.com/ )
Empty Emptor – A psychological take on consumption, Jess’ posts never fail to fascinate.
( http://emptyemptor.com/ )
Photography Based Blogs:
Advanced Style – Inspiration to look great at every age, and proof that personal style trumps passing fads any day. ( http://advancedstyle.blogspot.co.nz/ )
Freetown Fash Pack – An unlikely street style blog based in Sierra Leone. No high streets or chain stores, but a lot of fun had with fashion.