Seasonal vegging & voguing

This edit sums up my mood for the month ahead. It’s that time of year when your pinkie ring should give you super powers and you can cloak your face and your body in pillows [when not showing off that you’re capable of dancing in white whilst eating cranberry canapés].

Repurposed men’s cuff link Super Hero ring Pushkie 

Hero high-waisted trousers & Aegis drape top  Laura Ironside
[also available at The Maiyet Collective Concept Store in London. See Maiyet Collective for their next event]

Cushions & quilts Mother of Pearl 

Eye Pillow by Blasta Henriet from The Keep Boutique

Vintage floral jacket from Lime Green Bow

Eko collection BomBom bag made from decommissioned seatbelts From Belo

Dancing Queen socks Birdsong London

Monica trousers 31 Chapel Lane

©Photographs courtesy of the brands featured

 

 

The Great Indoors

 

Long gone are uninviting dark Dickensian cluttered shops. Antiques have entered a new (eco) friendly state where they have never been more desirable. 

If you are excited to step back inside now that the number of hot days have outweighed ideas for al fresco experiences, then October is the month for you. Save the dates 19-21 October 2018 – the weekend of Bruton Decorative Antiques Fair is a good time to be in Somerset.  

Nothing says let’s get cosy (with over fifty of the finest dealers in decorative antiques and Mid-century design to dress our homes for winter) like a bucolic weekend in the South West.

After a working summer in Suffolk interspersed with inspiration trips to Italy and France, Chris Randle of The Antique Partnership is handpicking stock ready to make a debut at Bruton this year. Taking the traditional with the trendy, Chris shares his secrets for fashioning friendly environments…

Twenty-five years of dealing and restoring antiques has earned Chris what’s referred to by insiders as the knowledge, an increasingly rare quality in today’s new market changed by the Internet and social media selling. 

Chris uses the Internet to his advantage – not having a shop helps him keep prices keen. But hashtag searches only get you so far and his clients are not one-click wonders. He has built a genuine reputation by splitting his time between antique dealing, interior decorating, and through real face time with buyers at high calibre events.

So how does one attain the knowledge? Chris is modest.

“Take on challenges and overcome the mistakes made… never be afraid to ask those who know more than you,” he says. Chris happily returns the favour by sharing his knowledge with those who ask.

The new season is about touchy feely interiors. “Attractive, difficult to find talking pieces often with a rustic country touch…nothing over perfect but with a warm feel,” says Chris.  

An appreciation for old things comfortably coexists with fashion.  Buying antiques can be your fastest route to trends with quality iterations that add individuality which never dates. Chris says fashion is getting louder with “brighter colours than of late” and no room – no matter how small – is devoid of a talking point or two.  

Try bold geometric designs in primary colours and Victorian pub signs like this scoreboard (probably made for indoor excitements such as a game of skittles).

Bruton is brought to us by Sue Ede, the woman behind the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair, which is celebrating its 30th next year.  This October is only the 3rd edition of Bruton, but it has already created a buzz. Stands are artfully curated and highly personal, filled with objects that exhibitors truly love. From immediate wows to settings that show the potential of even the humblest pieces, beauty is everywhere to be found for all manner of tastes.      

I dressed this corner of my home with pieces collected from regular exhibitors at Bath and Bruton.

Step inside The Antique Partnership’s stand at Bruton this year and you will get a taste for rustic 19th Century French and English pieces. Your eyes will meet the glass eyes of a polychrome rocking horse and rest on pairs of upholstered French armchairs. The modern home is not museum-like, beautifully upholstered chairs are actually bought to sit in. 

Chris is a fan of the “practical but strikingly nice to look at.” A flight of painted Georgian drawers, a lime waxed pine dresser base, and a rare walnut topped centre table fit the bill for Bruton.     

The months when the great indoors beckons is a natural time for living green to resonate. The choices we make for our own homes effect that place we all call home, planet earth.  Chris believes the green angle will translate over time, but it has not hit the right spot yet. “A huge effort needs to be made to bring this concept back into the publics mind,” he says.

Choosing antiques over new is surely one of the most pleasurable ways to sustain our planet.  But who needs preaching when the beauty found at Bruton Decorative Antiques Fair can inspire change without words.

Bruton Decorative Antiques Fair

19 – 21 October 2018
Haynes International Motor Museum
Sparkford, Somerset, BA22 7LH

Entry is £5 or get your Free Ticket here

The Antique Partnership

©Photographs courtesy of Reclaimed Woman & The Antique Partnership 

Conscious Christmas Gifts

Fashion Revolution fanzine #001:Money Fashion Power  pages of poetry, illustration, photography, graphic design and editorials that explore the hidden stories behind our clothes

green rose earrings by Gung Ho from Ethical Collection

nothing more, nothing less t-shirt by Prabal Gurung from YOOXYGEN

lip crayon in shade Keen by Axiology from Content Beauty

sample vial of Edition Perfume She Came to Stay inspired by the novel written by Simone de Beauvoir in 1943.  A unique stocking filler or just an excuse to top-up the shopping basket and enjoy the holiday discounts on Content Beauty when you spend £30+ (ends 29th Nov 2017)

candy skull leggings by Yoga Democracy from Rêve En Vert

antique jewellery box LASSCO

face care kit Natural Spa Supplies featuring British Hemp Oil Soft Soap,  Rhassoul Clay, fragrant Organic Rose water and Virgin Cold Pressed Organic Argan Oil

 

Sustainable designer Laura Ironside on season-less dressing

Sometimes less is more.   This is the approach of  designer Laura Ironside, who set-up her label with the aim of creating seasonless garments, thoughtfully, through sensitive and sustainable manufacturing.

For some, sustainable fashion is a contradiction in terms, and seasonless has only become part of the fashion vocab with the faster cycle encouraged by new shopping habits like see-now, buy-now.

Collections drop quicker than seasons transition.  Laura’s approach is more like season-less. With the first collection, Edit-01 under her belt, she is not in any rush to produce Edit-02, adamant to slow down the fashion cycle and let the first collection live.  If like me, you quickly fall for her edgy, womanly 1930s silhouettes, rest assured, when Edit-02 comes around it will fit just so, and Edit-01 won’t be pushed to the back of the wardrobe because it’s so identifiably last season.

Another move towards a time when the words sustainable and fashion can comfortably coexist is through garment leasing.  Laura is trialling this model to open her luxury pieces to more women.  I leased this copper crepe-backed satin silk dress for the price I could have paid for an occasion dress on the high street.   The difference is, once the occasion is over, it won’t sit in my wardrobe, but sooner get a lease of life from the next woman that wears it.

Here is my first leasing experience and interview with Laura Ironside.

Laura on the beginning of her label and consciously bringing products into the world. I had worked for some years in London for a number of fashion labels, but had always wanted to return to Scotland to set up my own label. When I first returned I was working with leather and found it very hard to get high-end leather pieces made in the UK. I spent a long time in product development, I met craftsmen and women from all over the UK and it was during this time that I developed a deeper understanding and respect for the craft that goes into making a single product. It also made me appreciate that if you’re deciding to bring new products into the world you need to be conscious of the impact these products are having. It made me re-evaluate my whole approach to designing and starting a brand.  Although I was unsuccessful in continuing the leather work, which was very difficult at the time, after I took some time out I slowly began developing the Edit-01 collection and the ethos of the brand was built through that seemingly unsuccessful experience.

Giving Edit-01 time to breathe. I think it’s easy in the industry to feel pressure to quickly create something new, I definitely feel that, especially as I love to create new work too. I have to remind myself to slow down! Obviously the whole ethos of the brand is slowing down and encouraging women to invest in long-lasting pieces so it’s important that I encourage this with how I approach the collections too. At the moment I want to keep focused on this collection and getting out there. It’s great to see the pieces on different body types and see women styling it in different ways. I’m also learning what works and what isn’t and taking that forward into the new collection. It’s important to me to get feedback from our existing audience and learn and grow from that, while also hopefully balancing it with exciting new and fresh ideas.

Those 1930s silhouettes.  I love the elegance of the 1930s. I love the idea of women’s clothes being sexy, but without showing off a lot of skin. I wanted the collection to celebrate femininity and the woman’s body, yet still be demure and elegant. I was aiming to give the 1930s silhouettes some edge, bringing them up-to-date whilst still maintaining their elegance.

It can be very challenging for consumers to track the journey of a garment and find out what it is made of, where, by who and under what conditions.  As a designer, Laura faces similar challenges seeking transparency from suppliers. It is so difficult. I can give you an example actually – when I was looking for fabrics for the collection I asked 6 different fabric suppliers for details about their manufacturing, ie. their compliance with EU regulations in respect of ecological and ethical procedures. 4/6 either didn’t know, didn’t respond or wouldn’t disclose. It’s a constant challenge, but I think the more we ask questions as designers, as retailers, as consumers, as anyone who wears clothes (!) the more likely it is for transparency to become the norm in supply chains.

How Laura defines seasonless fashion.  For me it is about good quality investment pieces, it’s something that’s made well that makes you feel good. I think you can be playful with how you style-up pieces no matter the season and no matter the cut/style or fabric of a garment. Seasonless fashion does not have to be dull either.

I am from Scotland, where the seasons all seem to merge together and you need to be dressed for all eventualities, so perhaps that’s really where my affinity for seasonless fashion comes from.

Why she chose an atelier in London to sample and produce her collection.  It was important to me that the collection was produced in the UK. After location, I was then guided by quality of finish and workmanship. I had tried a number of different places but already had a rapport with this particular atelier. I went to visit them in Greenwich and they were just so open and easy to work with. We began sampling with them from then on and now work with them on small batch production.

How Laura’s sustainable business ambitions extend to other personal areas of her life.  I am a real fan of second-hand/antique furniture and homeware like vases, kitchen crockery and tins. When I can it always feels better to use fresh produce for cooking and also to buy locally and buy natural products. I’ve enjoyed making some of my own cosmetics recently too. But as ever, it can be so difficult to remain diligent throughout all areas, at every moment, for one reason or another. I think everyone can do the best they can at the period of life they’re at and make positive changes, but I don’t give myself a hard time about it. In the past year or so I’ve got better at just owning less and really thinking about whether or not I need something, in all areas of my life.

Laura’s mission for garment leasing, is this the future for sustainable fashion?  I think one of the main things is accessibility, I know that higher price tags for sustainable products makes things so difficult for people who really do want to engage in a more ethical approach to their wardrobe, but don’t feel that they can afford it. Leasing clothes at a lower price opens this up to a wider audience, if garments are shared it reduces the risk of them hanging in a dark corner of someone’s wardrobe unused, or worse, in landfill. Higher price tags can make people feel like they have no alternative but to shop on the high street for their special occasion, even though they would prefer something different, something unique. It also allows people to try something before they potentially invest in a piece.

At the moment we are very much in the trialling stages, we want to listen to our early lease customers and learn, so we can make this service the best it can be. It would be amazing to think of more brands doing something similar in the future, absolutely.

I highly recommend leasing from Laura Ironside.  Luxuriously delivered to and collected from your door, it is a dream for those a custom to small space urban living.  Why should our experiences be confined by the extent of our storage space?  I didn’t need to buy the Laura Ironside Knight dress to own it that day.

Laura Ironside

Lease from Laura Ironside 

 

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

Reclaimed Kitchen Before and (almost) After

Transforming my kitchen into a walk-in wardrobe might sound crazy, but as you can see above, my windowless eighties kitchen was destined for new life.   I reused bits from the old kitchen and moved it to the back of the living room to make the most of the biggest room in my flat.

Sourcing inspiration and materials took me from my mum’s shed to New York where the sketching started.  This is my photo diary.

Sketching my kitchen at The Butcher’s Daughter a.k.a the vegetable slaughter house of New York City.

Running around Manhattan, I might as well have been wearing nothing but a fig leaf in the lack of layers I packed for a New York winter.  I finally made it to reclaimed renovation heaven The Demolition Depot. Doors, windows, shutters, sanitaryware, stone, irreplaceable artefacts and cats, lots of cats.

I didn’t go as ornate as this radiator, but my drop-in at Demolition Depot confirmed my preference for black.  Fun rad fact: matt black is one of the best choices for radiant heat (the kind that heats bodies). Can you tell I’m now obsessed with any tricks to keep myself warm…

Remember when I found a Belfast sink sitting in my mum’s back garden?  Well, this time I almost took this wooden sink surround.  I should add, my mum is also in the middle of a renovation, she doesn’t normally store salvage in her shed.  However, I decided my worktop needed to be one long strip of something to avoid overcrowding the small kitchen with too many materials.  That one stays with you ma.

SalvoWEB had me seeing salvage from London’s Kings Cross station and I chose the glazed 1940s staff noticeboard above to fashion as my overhead kitchen cabinets.  I had been eyeing-up vintage English Rose kitchens, but this design decision put me on a different train towards Historische Bauelemente where I found these gymnasium floorboards (circa 1910) salvaged from a school near Berlin.   These will be the doors for my old kitchen carcasses.

Organ pipes from The Architectural Forum salvaged from a church in East London were transformed into a decorative extractor fan pipe for the Arts and Crafts fireplace from Haes that I styled as my cooker hood and splashback.  And breathe.  My most ambitious use of salvage so far…

I will be back with the big (small) reclaimed kitchen reveal soon.

Take Two Bruton

Artist Chloë Holt and dealer in rare antiques, Chris Holmes have cultivated the kind of careers many dream of, doing what they love.  There is an air of anticipation as I interview the two, both buzzing, ready to stand at Bruton Decorative Antiques Fair this October.  It might sound early, but excitement has been building since Bruton launched onto the interiors calendar last year at the luxury laden Haynes International Motor Museum.

Amore dei Fiori Chloë Holt RCA FRSA

Whether buying or selling, unexpected things can be found at fairs.  Love – Chloë and Chris confide, is one of them.  They met at a fair five years ago.  “I was getting inspiration and Chris was selling the most amazing things,” Chloë recalled, including his grandmother’s Italian mirror, which she persuaded him not to sell.  Most men don’t present a  sixteenth century Italian altarpiece painting depicting deep blue skies that match their “sparkly blue eyes.”  It’s a good thing Chris’ father had the sense to sack him from the family shipping and haulage business, telling him to go and do something he enjoyed with his life instead.

Intuition, an exhibition by antique dealer and interior designer, Axel Vervoordt with Daniela Ferretti inspired their recent trip to Venice, but it turned out Chris had more than the Biennale in mind, and he proposed.  Chloë didn’t say no…

Think but not too much.  There are two ways of understanding intuition – the scientific take says it comes from a subconscious store of knowledge and experience, the kind that underlies a dealer’s seasoned eye for style and authenticity.  The other mystical and fateful face of intuition defies reason and explains the saying when you know, you know.   As Chris and Chloë show us, both senses of the word can come into play at an antiques fair.

“A real time of change and experiment” came for Chloë when she sold her first painting at her degree show.  A first foray into her now signature, textural mixed media work, the painting depicted rusty red brackets in a snowy vision of the Horseshoe Pass in North Wales on New Year’s Day.  That year would later see Chloë win the Royal Society of Arts Student Design Awards and become a Fellow of the RSA.

Chris Holmes Antiques at Bath Decorative Antiques Fair

I was introduced to the couple in February at the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair, the longstanding fair by Cooper Events, the same organisers behind Bruton.  Now exhibiting together, they describe their tastes as eclectic, yet identical and only disagree about the amount of stuff they can squeeze into their home.  Forget museum-like living, Chris makes Italian Renaissance pieces, antiquities and early art feel ripe for real living, alongside Chloë’s paintings with their celebration of imperfection that puts one at ease in their presence.

 Ashes Chloë Holt RCA FRSA

carved wooden figure from Gotland c.1350. Chris Holmes Antiques

Signs of provenance, past stories and the green-minded make beauty of reused objects.  Chris has “always felt there is no more eco-friendly way of living than valuing an object for not only its beauty and quality, but also for the fact it can and is reused over hundreds of years.”   I bought a French grape pickers’ hod (similar to the below, flagged for Bruton) from Chris this summer at Salvo.  The crest represents the Pope’s vineyard, and almost a hundred years later, the hod is holding my house plant.

French antique grape hod. Chris Holmes Antiques

Bruton promises a trove with the best decorative antique dealers from the UK and Europe. “Just make sure you are an early bird and ready to make quick decisions as competition to buy from these dealers’ collections is fierce. Don’t miss out by hesitating – there is nothing worse,” Chris shares from his personal experience!

He strongly believes the best way of learning about antiques is to handle them, see them and experience them and learn from the specialist dealers who are selling at fairs.  Chris never stops learning, “there is always something new and exciting to discover.”

Should you discover a giant clam, a Sycamore Dairy Bowl or an early onion bottle, Chloë could be close, collecting inspirational objects for her studio…

stone Minoan capital with octopus motif Chris Holmes Antiques 

Be sure not to miss the rare early stone Minoan capital with a carved octopus motif and Chloë’s sought after paintings on the Chris Holmes Antiques stand, which promises plenty to excite both the eyes and the mind.

Bruton Decorative Antiques Fair

13-15 October 2017

Haynes International, Sparkford, Somerset, BA22 7LH

Entry is £5 or get your Free Ticket here

Chris Holmes Antiques

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman & courtesy of Chloë Holt & Chris Holmes

Ethical Collection x Reclaimed Woman

Part free spirit, part dedicated fan of fashion, 10 years in the industry has ingrained particular months (before fashion weeks) when I feel the clothes in my wardrobe aren’t cutting it.  Coupled with 10 consecutive grey London days and counting, I know I am not alone with wardrobe woes in this transitional weather.

A lack of inspiration can lead to impulse buys for fast fashion pick-me-ups.  The disappointment is that they rarely satisfy our need for long, as research by McKinsey proved with the stat “nearly three-fifths of all clothing produced ends up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being made.”

A woman “ain’t what she wears but, what she knows.” Do you know that know that India Arie lyric? Well, this woman has been educating herself.  I just took a free online course by Future Learn with Fashion Revolution and Exeter University called Who Made My Clothes? Fashion Revolution is a global movement for transparency catalysed by the fatal Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh.  The course lifted the lid on issues facing the global fashion industry and made me even more conscious about materials and the things I consume.

To solve transitional weather dressing with sustainable choices, I collaborated with neighbouring business, Ethical Collection, an eco-luxury boutique.  Ethical Collection is a force for positive change, founded to enrich the lives of the women that shop with them as well as the lives of the people that make their products.

I fashioned a Mara Hoffman summer slip dress with this grey trench by Kowtow and they felt amazing.  Arms free, slips are so comfy and perfect for layering as the season changes, whilst the relaxed-fit trench felt like soft denim, which can be both cool and cosy.  I wore them with the knowledge that the dress was made of Birla Viscose – made from the pulp of sustainably harvested trees, and the trench was made with Fair Trade organic cotton, so you could say my test-wear was biased. Once you know, you can’t un-know and what is fashion, if not for making us feel good?

Shop Ethical Collection

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman