Sustainability and all that stuff

Clothes where they don’t belong: dumped in the sea © The Or Foundation
@theorispresent Instagram

It’s complicated – I do not have the answers, but my hope in writing my column as we close secondhand September is at least to explore some solutions and lay out some of the current debates about sustainability, particularly in fashion. 

Responsibility

It can be exhausting to research every purchase you make. So sometimes, to see the word sustainable – which can cover a mix of positive actions toward the environment and climate change, biodiversity, and the welfare of animals and people – is reassuring enough. 

But the sustainability spectrum is broad. Just this month, we heard the founder and owner of Patagonia announce that his family was transferring 98% of the company’s stock to a newly created not-for-profit organisation dedicated to combatting climate change. We also saw Kourtney Kardashian partner with the fast fashion brand Boohoo on a sustainable collection. When writing about the range of 46 limited-edition pieces of clothing, The Guardian reminds us that Boohoo uploads over 700 items on its website every week. 

Compelled to keep clicking, I navigated to Boohoo’s website to look at where the collection was made and evidence of their press release promise to ‘inform our customers and empower them to make more informed choices.’ Unfortunately, personifying details like ‘I am made in Pakistan’ and a duvet coat for as little as £25 doesn’t instil trust that the collection is friendlier to the people making the clothes. A factory supplying Boohoo in Pakistan was among the most recent investigations that workers in poor conditions were receiving well below the legal minimum wage. 

Rather than taking responsibility for its clothes’ end of life, Boohoo’s advice for customers to make informed choices is to ‘Think re-wear, re-sell, share, swap and donate.’ Re-wearing something doesn’t strike me as a revolutionary step towards sustainability unless Boohoo insists it’s producing one-wear wonders. Unsurprisingly they are not offering a take-back scheme when the materials in the range include polyurethane which Boohoo admits ‘can’t be recycled.’

So, what is the Government doing to enforce fashion brands to take responsibility?

The short answer is not enough. It rejected all 18 recommendations made in The Environmental Audit Committee’s Fixing Fashion report in 2019. However, a little hope can be found in the Green Claims Code published by the Competition and Markets Authority, with greenwashing investigations that target the fashion industry first instigated this year. Brands including Boohoo and ASOS are being scrutinised for making vague claims and suggesting clothes are more environmentally sustainable than they actually are. 

Redistribute

Still from a video of clothing waste in the sea © The Or Foundation
@theorispresent Instagram

Secondhand September has been awash with sustainability stories, and an investigation by The Daily Telegraph reinvigorated concern about the UK’s unwanted clothes cast away to Africa. Yet this latest expose found that rejected Oxfam (and other charities) donations ended up in the ocean as rubbish in Ghana. The newspaper reported that an estimated 40% of secondhand clothing exported to Ghana goes in streams, in dump sites or on beaches as stall holders in local markets struggle to sell poor quality or damaged clothing and the waste management systems struggle to cope with the quantities.

I have grown frustrated with the unfulfilled promise of fashion resale platforms and press that suggests you can recoup your “investment” to give us permission to shop, sell and shop some more. Even Pretty Little Thing – owned by the Boohoo Group – just launched a resale marketplace, but providing these platforms doesn’t tackle the waste or make their strategy more circular. Clothes made of petrochemicals will be a problem for ecosystems for far longer than they’re likely to stay in a few people’s wardrobes. 

From a series by The Or Foundation with illustrations by fashion consultant Ronaé Fagon

The Telegraph article gave me more fashion for thought by introducing the work of The Or Foundation, a charity working in Ghana, which is the largest importer of secondhand clothes. 15 million garments come into the country every week, and most initially go to Kantamanto, the market in the capital, Accra. The Or Foundation works for justice, and their Secondhand Solidarity Fund builds solutions from the frontline of fashion’s waste crisis. The charity states that for decades Kantamanto retailers and Kayayei, a Ghanaian term for female porters (who carry giant bales of clothes), ‘have laboured in the service of sustainability, recirculating far more clothes than any resale platform in the Global North, and yet they have received essentially no investment.’ 

Kantamanto stories are shocking. Unsold charity donations and items put into “recycling” bins sold to for-profit companies are sorted and bales are exported to sell to market stall holders, who buy them without knowing what is inside. Even if a bale is full of garments in an unsellable condition, there is no return policy here. However, Kantamanto is also a sign of hope as a resale and upcycling economy, with 30,000 individual entrepreneurs working together to recirculate over 25 million garments a month.

Reimagine

Upcycled runway look by MARYPUP at a fashion show hosted by Recyclerie Sociale

Upcycled fashion is one of my favourite responses to the drive for sustainability. Whilst in Brussels recently, I went to a fashion show at Recyclerie Sociale with recrafted pieces by different creative contributors including Emmanuel Cortés, whom Salvo worked with when he was at the cooperative design practice, Rotor. Recrafted fashion is a good nudge for architects to embrace visible reclamation and reuse artistically. 

Entering the upcycled fashion show hosted by Recyclerie Sociale © Reclaimed Woman

Redefine consumers as humans

Let us refer to ourselves as what we are, humans, because reducing us to consumers normalises the current throwaway culture, a way of life which accelerated since the post-war period when cheaper materials and mass production reduced the cost of consuming new things. 

Wastefulness is arguably nurtured rather than part of our nature. Over the last century, many companies have increasingly baked obsolescence into their products to increase consumption. For example, today people are pushed to purchase new phones if their model is left behind by security updates or a new door to comply with regulations that discourage reclamation. Wearing a less fashionable style of jeans does not present the same sense of risk, but we are social animals, and our habits are influenced by one another. David Attenborough educated us about plastic pollution, but before that, mid-century ‘Mad Men’ influenced people by marketing the convenience of throwaway plastic cups. We are human; we are not perfect, but we can own our power and make positive steps towards sustainability.

How can I dress and act more sustainably?

  1. Despite some surprising reading, do not throw unwanted clothes in the rubbish as they are better off being sorted into their appropriate waste streams and hopefully recycled. Find your local textile recycling banks and collections.
  2. Think about what you want to donate, which charity shop your item suits and make sure it is clean because this avoids contaminating other garments and helps save the charity’s resources. 
  3. If you have good quality workwear, you can donate womenswear to Smartworks (locations across the UK or donate by post) or menswear to Suited & Booted (located in London). Both charities provide interview training and interview clothes for people out-of-work. I volunteered as a dresser for Smartworks for many years and saw how the right clothes give people the extra confidence to change their circumstances.
  4. Try renting your fashion. Or try treating things in your wardrobe with care as if they are borrowed because they will last longer. What I like about the few times I have rented my clothes is the extra respect you give them. 
  5. Buy smarter, buy secondhand and buy less. The carbon cost of clothes mainly comes from production so reuse significantly reduces emissions. Look at what you actually need because many people gravitate towards the same items (for me it’s jackets). Enliven forgotten pieces with proper planning about what goes with what so you know if you genuinely feel you need something. 
  6. Look at what things are made of and where they are made. Certifications can be helpful to trust in what you are buying, but not all certifications are made equal. What constitutes “sustainable” cotton is highly debated. And remember, recycled fabric does not mean it is easily recyclable.
  7. Unless you are buying a very expensive accessory from a small number of brands that hold their value, a fashion purchase is not usually an economically good investment. But you can choose to invest in people by supporting designers behind smaller brands and the environment by shopping locally-made clothes or buying from brands that back up their commitment to sustainability measures that matter the most to you. 
  8. Maintain, repair, alter or recraft your clothes. You can try apps like Sojo or seek repair and tailoring services at local dry cleaners. 

One of the most powerful things we can do is write to our MPs and push the Government for regulation to mandate the largest retailers to take responsibility and incentivise reuse. Read ideas like reducing VAT on repair services in The Environmental Audit Committee’s Fixing Fashion report linked here.

Time for change. Recyclerie Sociale © Reclaimed Woman

© Photographs Reclaimed Woman and courtesy of The Or Foundation

Salvo Fest of imperfect beauty

Save the dates 16 – 19 June 2021 because the original architectural salvage fair has found its new home, with the best bits of the virtual and real world to toast Salvo’s 30th Pearl Anniversary.

Seven years ago I hadn’t even stepped foot inside a salvage yard, so my renovation took me on a complete education, and Salvo became my go-to resource to find reclaimed materials for my home. Now I am a fully fledged member of the Salvo team, and our upcoming festival is a celebration of reclamation and reuse, Salvo’s last thirty years, and also a taste of the next flirtiest chapter.

As well as architectural salvage, antiques and reclaimed building materials, we are introducing vintage and recrafted fashion for Salvo’s Pearl Anniversary. Slowly, but surely, we are growing Salvo as the destination for reuse to help you not only build, but dress your home and yourself for the world you want.

Our vision represents my belief that the choices we make for ourselves and our homes are so interconnected, as that was my experience and the guiding light behind Reclaimed Woman. Renovating my home with reclaimed, eco-friendly materials gave me daily inspiration to make bigger changes in all areas of my life. With so much in the world already, I am embracing reuse as a lifestyle. For me, some of the most exciting eco fashion out there is either reimagined vintage or upcycled, so I am thrilled to share the designers, makers and collectors that rock this area of the sustainable fashion scene.

We-ResonateSalvo Fest fashion exhibitor

Imperfect beauty is our festival theme, as an ode to Salvo’s Pearl Anniversary.  The concept of perfection is inspiring much debate and the diversification of what the world considers beautiful can only be good – encouraging more reuse.  Our special Pearl Anniversary edit will feature one of a kind garden, fashion and interiors from 60s Dior earrings to Rococo fireplaces to mismatched harlequin flooring. 

Register here for the 24 hour Trade Day preview or the first look at the festival line-up of digital events, plus a handful of real world pop-ups.

60s Dior koi fish earrings from ethazonSalvo Fest Pearl Anniversary edit

Salvofair.com

Aware, thoughtful and deliberate with Wolf & Gypsy, ethical jewellery by Tori Shay

Comfortable clothes continue to rule, and it’s hard to imagine what could come along to convince us otherwise, but that doesn’t come at the sacrifice of decoration. 

Speaking to friends, jewellery has been the mood lifter, and yes an opportunity to shine on conference calls, but particularly if you have gone a while without wearing it, the deliberate act of adding jewellery can positively impact your day. Tori Shay, the founder of Wolf & Gypsy reflects on her journey and creating a brand that gives back to the environment rather than taking away.

I love the expression ‘life can turn on a sixpence’ and often share one of my life’s turning points as an example of how quickly life can change. In short, on the first night of a six day trip to San Francisco, at a restaurant reservation that me and my friend almost cancelled, I met the man that three months and three dates later became my fiancé.  Wolf & Gypsy’s Sixpence pendant pictured below was designed using an original sixpence coin, dated 1914.

One of Tori’s sixpence turns came when she started her brand…

“It was so very important that Wolf & Gypsy was a responsible brand.  When finding a manufacturer, I travelled to India to see the workshops so that I could make sure that they had the same values” 

Anyone can speak of sustainability, and at the moment it feels like anyone is! But Wolf & Gypsy’s commitment as a member of 1% For The Planet not only talks, it walks the walk with a minimum of 1% of annual sales to support environmental non-profit organisations. Wolf & Gypsy jewellery is realised in recycled silver and gold with ethically sourced conflict-free gemstones.

“I think it’s really important in this day and age to be very aware of the choices you make and how that impacts our world… Be aware, thoughtful and deliberate.  I try to stay positive and upbeat in every situation, which has been especially important this year”

Whilst raising her young family, Tori retrained under a talented goldsmith, whose designs were snapped-up by Liberty and Harvey Nichols in the seventies. Swapping a career in event design, she began to create jewellery and practise the art of ear curation, adding professional ear piercing to her new skills before launching Wolf & Gypsy in 2018.

Tori’s journey into jewellery gives the Wolf & Gypsy collection artful earrings designed for different piercings. Rediscovered vintage pieces come re-furbished ‘as-new’ and compliment the rest of the range, which is also designed to last. Necklaces, rings, bracelets and bangles are made for experimenting, layering, mixing and matching. It feels like she’s sharing her personal treasure trove of pieces collected over time.

I ask Tori the impossible, to name her favourite piece. Failing a single favourite, today she is wearing the Pear Rainbow Moonstone ring with diamond halo, the Snake bangle and a personalised necklace with her name on it.

Tori’s high jewellery Pear Rainbow Moonstone ring is available by pre-order

For many, this moment and stagnant lockdown life feels ripe for a sixpence turn and a change of luck. The brand’s name was inspired by her young son Rafe, whose name means ‘wolf,’ and ‘gypsy’ is derived from Tori’s love of travel and adventure. So how does she soothe her adventurous spirit in these unique circumstances? 

“I’m finding happiness from the little things in life and enjoying the beautiful countryside that we have to offer in this country with my children.”

It may seem self centred to think about self-adornment in the middle of a pandemic, but sometimes simply putting on a piece of deliberate design can help you get up in the morning. And jewellery particularly can connect us to people that we may not have the privilege of seeing at the moment. 

One of Tori’s memories of jewellery impacting her day was the first day she went through her Grandmother’s jewellery box: “It was then that I fell in love with jewellery.” 

I think most of us would enjoy reliving childhood moments, where dress up wasn’t about going anywhere, it was simply for the fun of play.

See the complete Wolf & Gypsy collection

© Photographs Reclaimed Woman and most courtesy of Wolf & Gypsy

Reclaimed Woman gifts full of goodness

Reclaimed Eames style leather office chair to make a loved one more comfy wfh. Architectural Forum on Salvo

Organic & Botanic Madagascan coconut rejuvenating night moisturiser Dr Botanicals

Reclaimed vintage silks headband by War & Drobe + We-Resonate. See more styles from the latest collaboration on War & Drobe

House shoes never needed to make us feel chic, so thanks Birdsong for creating these reclaimed leather slippers. [Order before the 26th November to get them in time for Christmas in the UK]

1960s Charles Jourdan mock lizard bag in our latest thrifte edit on ethazon. Follow our private account or message me for details

May you make extra merry this Christmas 🥰

1960s Paris Fashion photos by French Finds under CC by 2.0 license, Old Fashioned Christmas Tree photo by Catherine Clarke under CC by-SA 2.0 license

ethazon

Wearing accessories from my new carbon conscious label ethazon

When Beck and I first came together to create ethazon we desired an eco fashion place for people to dress for the world they want. Fast forward two years and we have seen a flurry of fashion trying to clean up its act, which is great for the movement, but with sustainability suddenly the word of the moment it is even harder to separate the green from the washing, so our founding mission is potentially more apt now than ever.

ethazon is about taste and transparency. We’re building an eco fashion place for people to dress deliberately from carefully selected designers and makers. We’re still working on our website, but we’ve launched a private Instagram so that followers get the first look at our recrafted accessories and thrifte vintage, whilst bigger collaborations with designers in eco fashion and dealers in reclaimed interiors are on the horizon. 

If like us you’re emerging from lockdown conscious of the world in distress and are seeking a new look or a new outlook then join us. Follow @ethazon for our secret carbon conscious collection of things to dress yourself and your home. 

Becky wearing one our recrafted bags made of sixties towelling with reclaimed judo belt handles @ethazon
Me wearing thrifte vintage accessories from our upcoming edit @ethazon

© Photographs ethazon

Buying vintage bins in the time of Coronavirus

I am not sure where “bins” the abbreviation for glasses comes from, but considering my need for increasingly telescopic lenses it seems appropriate to refer to them as my binoculars. 

I enjoy the time when it comes to choose new glasses, well new old glasses as I always opt for vintage when it comes to opticals. If you are more conscious of buying vintage personal items during the pandemic then rest assured that many vintage specs have never been used.

For me, part of the fun usually involves visiting a shop dressed with antique cabinets, drawers and trays presenting styles for a try-on session. I had my eyes on a market, where online vintage eyewear emporium, Retro Spectacle was exhibiting but coronavirus ruled that impossible so I took the plunge and picked from pictures. Their selection of frames spans spectacles, sunglasses, designer names and desirable collectables like NHS styles, which date back to the late ‘40s.

In this day and age you can even shop reclaimed shop display cabinets online to add to the magic when looking at stock irl. These [from a selection on Salvo] soothed my craving.

Brass framed shop display cabinet c1970 from Art Furniture
Gilded Domed Display Cabinet from Edward Haes 

There is something about lockdown that heightens your screen experiences, and exchanges with Retro Spectacle’s owner Charlotte made it for me. She is an optician in practise so advised me well on frames that would work with my prescription, and shared selfies to help me choose between the seven styles I was eyeing; particularly kind as few people felt like taking selfies in lockdown. Apart from the tech between us, it felt like good old fashioned service, the kind that I dream the customers of couturier Christian Lacroix were treated to back in the day. Needless to say I chose vintage cat eye glasses by Christian Lacroix and an unapologetic ’80s pair by Christian Dior. Some people spent on earrings to jazz up video calls, but I’m wearing glasses more, so I got two vintage pairs for less than you would pay for a new pair of designer glasses.  

Picture of my mum wearing ’80s glasses, in the ’80s
My ’80s Dior frames from Retro Spectacle

Prices start from £29 at Retro Spectacle. They also do lenses but after all that screen time I had to get my eyes tested. Travelling on the tube again – just me in the carriage, I had time to take-in my new masked reflection and it confirmed that personality eyewear was a good investment right now. 

I personally love vintage glasses for their uniqueness, handmade quality and because it’s a more sustainable option, and I definitely needed to do something right by the planet given the amount of plastic PPE involved in eye examinations now. Plastic-free July fail. However, my first “normal” errand in a while did have its thrills. I left with the knowledge of the tissue trick. Listen up glasses wearers, if you place a tissue over your nose before positioning your face mask then it helps with the condensation. Handy, because I hope to be able to see in my new glasses. 

My Christian Lacroix frames from Retro Spectacle
Mid-Century Industrial Steel Vitrine Glass Display Cabinet from The Architectural Forum 

© Photographs Reclaimed Woman & courtesy of Retro Spectacle and Salvo

Hot Hot Hot! Reclaimed Woman

How will fashion become fashionable again after lockdown? We are waiting to see if the expected shift to more conscious shopping will be accelerated following the reflection time that beings, brands and businesses have had to take in the bigger picture. Categories like locally made, vegan or organic are certainly popping up more frequently on shopping platforms, like the newly launched PARO STORE. But its most compelling component is that you can tell the founders, Ruth and Zoe chose the brands because they personally want to shop from them. The progressive offering ranges from clothes and jewellery to independent magazines that shine fresh light on heavy issues like climate change.

PARO STORE edit, from the top:

Organic ribbed cotton Anai Bodysuit II by Aniela Parys

Hot hot hot! magazine Issue 3

Candy Person shorts and cardi by ULLAC oy

Recycled silver and oyster shell earrings by Mia Larsson

© Photographs courtesy of PARO STORE

wfh aka Wild From Home

Week three wfh and I am ready to be wild from home. The highlight of my weekend was singing Nirvana’s Teen Spirit whilst dancing around the lounge with my husband. “You call that wild? You need to get out more” I hear you say. Yes, I do. And one day I will. We all will. But until then I’m making my own conditioner with organic dried marshmallow root.

Stay safe, stay at home and stay wild.

Organic denim Day or Night unisex jacket Nok Nok

Mid-century Diamanté Fold Up Glasses Retro Spectacle

Organic dried marshmallow root Natural Spa Supplies

Mid-century teak chair with zebra print upholstery The Architectural Forum

Guide to the dear green place Glasgow

Did you know that Glasgow rates highly for green spaces per capita with 90s parks and gardens? The clue is in the city’s nickname “Dear Green Place”, which is derived from the Gaelic word for Glasgow. Other glorious green places are uncovered as you chat to people that live there, such as MILK Cafe, pictured below. MILK is a social enterprise set up to empower and support refugee and migrant women living in Glasgow. As well as a place for folks after an exciting breakfast menu, the space is used to run workshops which are open to all women in the community. I had just over a day to discover the city, so after starting at the oldest park, Glasgow Green, these are my go-to shops to help you scratch the surface of Glasgow’s green scene.

Mr Ben Retro Clothing

Kings Court, 101 King St, Glasgow G1 2RB 

Your first impression might not suggest you’ve arrived at the place for true gems like this ’80s Valentino dress I unearthed. Of course every visit is unique with vintage and the stock is always different, but once you step inside I think you would find it hard not to spot something in Mr Ben that interests you. I met the owner, Mary Ann King’s sister, who helps in the shop sometimes. She told me stories about the ’60s when London’s Carnaby Street was Carnaby Street and the time Mary Ann King borrowed her cardigan, only to see it again in a Vogue shoot. Mr Ben Retro Clothing is evidence that its founder has been collecting since she was 10, with pieces of historical significance from her personal archive dotted around the display. Stock for sale includes iconic Burberry trenches and great buys in menswear, womenswear and accessories.

West Vintage 

10 King Street, Glasgow, G1 5QP and other locations in Glasgow 

Pared back and spacious, West Vintage is a good place to workout your retro sportswear needs. Expect mixed levels aka prices, and brands like Adidas, Nike, Levis and Tommy Hilfiger. Find functional workwear that transcends time, or colour combos that could only have been conceived in the ’90s.

The City Retro Fashion 

41 King St, Glasgow G1 5RA 

This is a small shop with a substantial offering. The City Retro Fashion is a friendly, easy place to shop real vintage with particularly boss womenswear and menswear pieces from the ’50s and ’60s, although the collection spans a good five decades. While in here, be sure to check out pieces from local young sustainable brands like House of Black, also stocked in the store.

Rags to Riches  

455 Victoria Rd, Glasgow G42 8RW

Established with the aim of increasing awareness of reuse and upcycling, whilst also providing training and employment opportunities, Rags to Riches is a social enterprise project run by the Govanhill Baths Community Trust. We need to move to a circular economy to build resilient communities, and the range of workshops and locally made fashion stocked here sing to this movement. The shop is full of upcycled items that really do up the value of the materials they were born from.

The Glasgow Vintage Company

453 Great Western Rd, Glasgow G12 8HH 

Expect a marvellous selection of womenswear, menswear and a little childrenswear accessorised by greenery with good pot plants. The Glasgow Vintage Company is a mash-up of pieces dating back to the ’50s that feel modern, so it’s a welcoming place to ease yourself into vintage if you don’t normally do vintage. The shop is bright with lots of natural daylight and atmospheric lighting, which makes looking for treasure easy. Come here for clearly laid out classics like an authentic vintage Barbour, colourful cashmere, jeans or the retro Harris Tweed you hoped for as a souvenir from Scotland.

Glorious

496 Great Western Rd, Glasgow G12 9BG

This is a destination for reloved pieces with a mix of good pre-loved high street clothes and shoes cuddled up to retro homeware and accessories. Glorious has a low-key splendour to it that leaves you feeling warm inside.

© Photographs Reclaimed Woman

How to allure your eco side in Edinburgh

There is nothing like a good research session to get one in the mood. I like to seek out the eco fashion and decor offering when I visit a new city, but hopefully I can skip you to the main event with my shares from Edinburgh.  Sustainable secondhand usually reigns supreme in terms of physical shops to visit in a city. This is no bad thing as true vintage (at least 20 years old) and a peppering of pre-loved pieces provide that mysterious, storied appeal that make you really want to wear them, and no one likes a souvenir that doesn’t get used.   

Edinburgh is rich in true vintage, but also offers that rare delight when 2 become 1. Rather than Sporty, Scary, Baby, Ginger and Posh’s ‘90s rendition about the bonding of lovers — and the importance of safe sex! I am referring to shops that offer new ethical and eco brands alongside vintage. 

So, here are the places I recommend in the order I visited them over a few days in the capital. Everywhere on my list is reachable by foot or by bus. Just don’t pull my Londoner move and plant yourself randomly ready to pile onto the bus. Edinburgh is a civilised city and there’s a queuing system, and it seems the same goes for pubs should you need refreshment.

Godiva

9 West Port, Edinburgh EH1 2JA 

If you’re not riding a unicorn upon arrival, you’ll feel like you are when you leave Godiva.  Fleur has led her boutique through many incarnations and today, 2 become 1 with the unconventional mix of local ethical and eco brands with eat your heart out eighties and other eras housed in the backroom dedicated to vintage. The chandelier perched in the corner was given to her at a party, which makes Fleur’s the best party favour I’ve heard of.  The jewellery is a highlight, including ethical brand And Mary which makes hand painted porcelain pieces in the Scottish Borders.  Purrrr. 

Holyrood Architectural Salvage

146 Duddingston Rd W, Edinburgh EH16 4AP 

If that’s given you a taste for chandelier spotting then this showroom is worth a visit as it makes shopping for salvage easy.  Holyrood Architectural Salvage is home to Edinburgh’s largest selection of antique fireplaces, but regular reclaimed items include lighting, original cast iron radiators, and a good supply of door furniture and doors – clearly organised by period or by panels.  

Miss Bizio Couture

41 St Stephen St, Edinburgh EH3 5AH 

“Welcome to my wardrobe” says owner, Joanna as you enter (and she means it).  Every visitor to Miss Bizio Couture is treated to Joanna’s personal wardrobe and the extraordinary eye she has been honing since she started collecting when she was fourteen.  A stint in a high powered, high paid job before being discovered as an artist allowed her to acquire remarkable pieces, but not just because she had the money to buy luxury, as she is not impressed by labels, but driven by the key anchors we should all look for before buying: colour, fabric and fit.  “Everything had to be right” she said. There is not much for less than £100, and there is not much room for browsing.  It’s so unapologetic, and why not?  Why visit a shop anymore if you’re not looking for a personal experience.  If you’re after something alluring then Joanna will personally find it for you.  

Elaine’s Vintage Clothing

55 St Stephen St, Edinburgh EH3 5AH

Closed when I visited, but made it into my edit for these beautiful shutters. 

Those Were The Days

26-28 St Stephen St, Edinburgh EH3 5AL 

Nestled next to its sister boutique, which is dedicated to vintage bridal with stock ranging from Edwardian to ’90s wedding dresses, you’ll know where to come after you’ve found love in the form of vintage Yves or Ossie Clark.  A visit to Those Were The Days is a lesson in how to shop vintage and look modern.  Neatly selected vintage high street and accessories suit different budgets, whilst other prices are higher, but fair for luxury labels like Chanel and Courrèges.  The menswear looks like it just stepped off a Gucci catwalk and the handbags are true talking pieces.   

Zero Waste Hub (by SHRUB Coop)

22 Bread St, Edinburgh EH3 9AF

On bread Street you’ll find free bread. No joke, Zero Waste Hub offers the chance to swap your pre-loved things, enjoy some rescued food and learn and share skills to make a practical difference to the world.  It is designed for members, but visitors can still shop the swaps, attend events, enjoy the veggie and vegan cafe and appreciate the reclaimed gymnasium floor.  

Carnivàle Vintage

51 Bread St, Edinburgh EH3 9AH 

Opened by Rachael in 2016, Carnivàle offers trinkets that intrigue, yet a layout that is easy to explore with pieces arranged by category and size.  Despite offering a collection that ranges from antique to ’90s fashion, you get the sense that Rachael’s goal is to pull back the curtain on vintage fashion and encourage anyone and everyone to share a piece of her love for it. This is a good stop for traditional men’s vintage too. 

Herman Brown 

151 West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DP

This isn’t a shop, it’s a mood. You feel like you’re in a stylist’s studio before a photoshoot with really great jewellery and accessories to multiply the outfit potentials from what is a compact, quality edit of womenswear with some menswear.  Yes, I did buy something (the oat coloured coat I am wearing in the photo below), but I also left Herman Brown inspired about getting dressed with what I already own.

Fitted dresses and thick knits were my uniform in Edinburgh. I don’t usually don one, but I’m okay with my Ally Bee wool cleavage.

Armstrong’s Vintage 

Multiple locations with their flagship at 81-83 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2HJ

Okay it was Halloween weekend when I visited, but Armstrong’s struck me as a landmark destination for authentic fancy dress. Established in 1840, W. Armstrong & Son is the biggest emporium so they can keep prices lower.  You may have to shimmy in between art students curating their university wardrobes, but it’s worth it for an affordable Aran knit.  

PI-KU Collective 

39 Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh EH1 2QB

Each secondhand or locally produced piece feels purposefully placed by the shop’s owner, Hannah. Wholesome objects with a small but quality mix of fashion, accessories, and items made in Scotland with surplus yarns are the focus.  Hannah’s dad, John is a sustainable textile designer and creates bespoke tartans and tweeds alongside working in the family business Stag & Bruce, which is the brand behind many of the wool throws and blankets at PI-KU Collective.  See @pi.ku.collective for quirky flat lays.   

Still Life 

54 Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh EH1 2QE

The name Still Life caught my attention as it’s pleasant to slowly ascend the winding road of Candlemaker Row, where you guessed it, candles were made centuries ago.  Enter this Aladdin’s Cave and you will be welcomed with art, antiques and collectables balancing on every surface, but no need to be daunted as the owner, Ewan is super friendly.   

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland

71-73 Raeburn Pl, Edinburgh EH4 1JG 

The city has lots of great charity shops, but I think it’s good to know your shopping supports local communities. The Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland shop caught my eye with its striking window and No Life Half Lived campaign. This particular location is one of the charity’s Boutique Stores so it has a mix of vintage and pre-loved pieces, including luxury names.  Good for womenswear and menswear with a little homeware.  

Sara wuz also here. I hope you enjoy Edinburgh as much as I did.

© Photographs Reclaimed Woman