Six Items Challenge : Two weeks in

Two weeks into six weeks wearing the same six items of clothes, I am tongue twisting and definitely compensating with shoes.

On a side note, these 1940s pigeon holes make perfect shoe storage   (complete with drawn-on letters, this piece was reclaimed from the post room at Kings Cross Station).

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman


A Model Feminist – Interview with Paulina Porizkova

Straight talking feminist, and star in the #MeToo incarnation of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, model, actress and author, Paulina Porizkova will return to London for the first time in 35 years to walk at London Fashion Week for emerging ethical designer Jiri Kalfar. 

Czech-born Swedish supermodel, Porizkova found status in the 1980s from swimsuit front covers of Sports Illustrated to fronting campaigns for Estée Lauder.  Wearing designs by fellow Czech Jiri Kalfar in The National Arts Club in New York City – one of Porizkova’s favourite haunts, she says it wasn’t until moving to America that she found the need to assert her status as a feminist.  A status she strongly defends to any who say you can’t be both super feminist and supermodel.

“I would give them a very polite middle finger. Those people are the ones who apparently believe that a woman has no right to make choices with her body (but of course, men do and always have), and that if she uses her looks, she incites desire in men, and thus she is responsible for whatever happens to her.”

Porizkova started modelling at fifteen.  At the time she felt protected by what she calls “Swedish Woman Armor.” In Sweden, she learnt her body belonged to her and her choices were her own.

“With this attitude, I came into a business of rampant sexual abuse and just figured all those people were assholes. I never felt like a victim, because I was certain my choices were my own.  And I was very lucky never to have met Harvey Weinstein.”

Porizkova described her transition through cultural notions and attitudes to women as she moved from Czechoslovakia in the sixties and seventies to Sweden, France and finally America in her opinion piece “America Made Me a Feminist” published by The New York Times last year.  In it, she also described her former gynaecologist in the US, examining her as though she were a Victorian maiden “who’d rather not know” where all her bits were.  Little did she know that her reply to Jiri Kalfar’s direct message on Instagram would fashion her a Victorian again, although this time more Victorian queen than maiden in the designer’s upcoming Autumn Winter 2018 collection inspired by Queen Victoria.

It was during the reign of George V, Queen Victoria’s grandson when (some) British women won the right to vote.  This February marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, where women over the age of 30, who either owned property themselves or through marriage were given the right to vote.   This was a big step forward for the suffragette movement,  despite only benefiting land-owning women considered middle-aged for the time, and that the same act dropped the voting age for men from 30 to 21.  One could argue that suffragettes do not sit comfortably in an interview with a supermodel that just posed nude for Sports Illustrated, but the fact that a magazine designed for the male gaze is attempting to question attitudes to women is telling of the #TimesUp trending times.  Porizkova voices her part in the 2018 Swimsuit Issue released this week, which features In Her Own Words  – a black and white shoot of models wearing nothing but words.

“I’d like to mention that in our society nudity is like a great big stop sign. It’s shocking to see a naked woman. If it’s not a flat-out coy, sexy, Penthouse or Playboy type thing then nudity is considered shocking. I wanted to use that shock to speak: to say the words I thought were important. My nudity forces you to stop for a moment, and that moment is long enough to read what I consider important.”

A fan of Great Britain’s ruling queens, Porizkova believes that in some ways the UK is ahead of the US when it comes to women’s empowerment.

“In the US, the hypocrisy of “you can do anything” that turns into “except this” is still rampant, and needs all the help anyone with a voice can give.”

Porizkova recently caught the headlines for saying sexual harassment was such an ingrained part of the business when she started, it was viewed as a “compliment.” Hindsight is a wonderful thing, although Queen Victoria was the Head of State, she held traditional views and opposed giving women the right to vote, but no doubt she would be pleased with what women have accomplished. One could say that like Queen Victoria, the stage was already set for Porizkova.

“It never dawned on me then that I was somehow complicit. It was obvious the stage had been set long ago to make little men feel big. In modelling, as in entertainment and athletics, careers start young and end young. When you are taught the rules as a child, you rarely question them. And the rules have always been:  Pretty women are more valuable women.”

100 years from now, how would Porizkova like to be remembered?

“I would love to be a part of this movement that I believe has already started, the one that empowers women to believe in their powers, their choices, their value being equal to those of a man.”

Like 100 years ago, middle-aged women are winning and in this case walking on the catwalk. At 52, Porizkova asks and why not people in “their Sixties? Seventies? Eighties? Ageism is something that still needs a lot of attention. Our society tells us we women are no longer all that valuable once our looks change from fresh to mature, although I believe we really come into our powers in our forties.”

I am old
and I am new
I am first
and I am last

reads the collection notes for Jiri Kalfar’s Autumn Winter 2018 collection.  It wasn’t the designer’s ethical approach that caught Paulina’s attention first.

“His designs are such that I would have overlooked his ethics (to a point, of course), but that he is as dedicated to the ethics of his manufacturing and making the world a better place makes me not just want to wear his clothing, it makes me want to be his friend.”

Paulina Porizkova will close the Jiri Kalfar show at London Fashion Week.

©Photographs of Paulina Porizkova in The National Arts Club courtesy of Jiri Kalfar


Recipe for a reclaimed kitchen – my kitchen after

I recently transformed my kitchen into a walk-in wardrobe and my living room into my kitchen, so I thought this was a recipe worth sharing.

My kitchen before

Tiny kitchens are the norm in flats in London and although at one stage I merely used mine to reheat or “cook” salad, this was my chance to make a space I wanted to spend time in.  The original kitchen was a cavelike windowless room, far more suited to clothing than cooking.


cooker hood –  organ pipes salvaged from a church in east London by The Architectural Forum with an Arts & Crafts fireplace from Haes  to house an extractor fan and spotlights

wall cabinet – 1940s staff noticeboard salvaged from Kings Cross station on SalvoWEB with gold knobs saved from a built-in wardrobe that was in my bedroom.  The back of the noticeboard was removed so the glass doors could be mounted in front of shelves made of reclaimed wood from Pine Supplies

lights – Deco lampshades from The Architectural Forum

radiator – old panel radiator, reclaimed, restored and painted black by The Architectural Forum

cooker and dishwasher – reused from the old kitchen with a new gas hob to replace the old electric hot plates

splashback – reclaimed marble scraps from sculptor John Joekes 

cabinets – reused carcasses from the old kitchen with doors made of gymnasium floorboards salvaged from a school near Berlin by Historische Bauelemente

worktop – reclaimed wood lab top salvaged from a school by Source Antiques

sink – Armitage Shanks butler sink salvaged from a local yard with brass bib taps from Catchpole & Rye

vintage glass – Libbey Glass tumblers from Olde Good Things

accessories – church pew umbrella drip trays styled as worktop trays from Church Antiques and old kilner jars from Metroretro

vintage crockery – including green Beryl Ware plates and bowls from Insitu

original oak floor


I spent over seven months sourcing salvage.  Designing a kitchen with reused and reclaimed materials doesn’t require such a long cooking time, but I wanted the chance to get to know the space.  Although the old kitchen was dingy and dated, it was fine for my first months in the flat.

Consulting SalvoWEB throughout the journey, I set about realising the reclaimed dream I sketched on a napkin in New York.  I rarely found what I imagined, but one ingredient led to the next and my taste matured.  I originally envisaged a glamorous kitchen to prove that salvage could look polished, but I fell for honest materials and I wanted to feel their provenance.  I love the fact that girls were playing games back in 1910 on floorboards that now front my kitchen doors.  What could be more glamorous than that?

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

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


Back to school with Midcentury East

Run, don’t walk through the gates of Goldfinger’s Haggerston School when the Midcentury East show returns to the London Borough of Hackney on 15 October 2017 – for pieces like this psychedelic film poster from exhibitor Orson & Welles will be in high demand.

It has been longer than I care to note since this time of year yielded a timetable and new school books, but there is still something about the autumn air that brings a blank page ready for new adventures.

Seasons dominated by an increasing desire for midcentury design can be traced to the tastes of Petra Curtis and Lucy Ryder Richardson, the duo behind Midcentury Modern®.  Modern Shows, including Midcentury East is the expansion of Showhome, a one-off event set in Lucy’s sixties house with a mix of pieces they both loved.  Fifteen years later and the pair have achieved multiple gold stars for their design shows, sourcing for clients like Saatchi & Saatchi and The Modern Marketplace, their directory of the best C20 dealers and C21 designers. “We did it organically and are really proud of the way we tackled every step without getting into any debt and managed to be there to pick up our kids from school” says Lucy, with the brightest gold star feeling for working mums.

The first thing Lucy tells me is that her and Petra still love their jobs.  Perhaps immersing oneself in the post-war period, where people appreciated the little things, a time when designers created within constraints and built things to last is a good way to find fulfilment?  I interviewed Lucy for answers, news about their next show and advice on making a modern business.

Artemide Alistro Morsetto desk lamp from exhibitor Punk the Clock 

Is the eco-friendly side of antiques in that their environmental cost has already been paid an important consideration for antique dealers to attract new customers? 

I don’t think it is as important as turning a deal or they would all be driving electric vans. Our dealers love quality and heritage and are very proud of the pieces they bring to the show. They are all concerned with the authenticity of the piece and longevity of product use with the fact that these pieces from the midcentury were not created to self destruct to encourage more sales like so much modern landfill. The eco side of it is very important to me, Petra and our customers. We keep paper to a minimum and print on both sides of everything. We never over-print show maps. We are more likely to under print as we hate waste.

You have created a strong loyal following for your shows and marketplace. How do you stay front of mind?  

With a huge dollop of passion and by telling stories. Our Inside Modernism blog shows you our inner workings as a business and Destination Modernism shows you the kinds of places we, and a few midmod fans, love going to.  We are on Instagram and Twitter almost daily and Facebook about twice a week and try to make a You Tube video when we can. We really enjoy meeting the families of all the C20th designers whether it is at the shows or through interviewing them – we enjoy feeling immersed in that world as a kind of escape from this one.

 Illum Wikkelso chair from exhibitor Twentieth Century Antiques

Responsibilities follow you even further when you have your own company and it becomes harder to define work time and you time, because the business is you time too.  What advice would you give someone just starting their own business? 

Make time for social media. It is essential to any creative company these days with Instagram Facebook and You Tube being the main ones.  Have people sign a mailing list and build up a following.  Send an email out once a month. Give them something for free. Dont just ask them to give you money.  We give them blog posts about destinations, find archive footage to share on Facebook, that kind of thing and when we can afford it we have the occasional party or launch.

What is the first thing you do when you get a moment for you?

I meditate and spend time with my two children Molly and Bert and  friends and family whenever I can.  I love dancing to soul music when the kids are busy. Modcast and Soul Affair on Facebook are great groups to join if you want to get in with that scene.  Petra has three kids and two are studying in Eindhoven and Berlin so she likes visiting them.  We both still love a good antiques fair and the Barbican and South Bank are always favourite spots for a mooch about in London. You don’t see brutalism much better than that.

If you’re planning to pay a visit to Midcentury East, here are Lucy’s tips. 


 Bring your ping pong bats and balls for you or the kids as there are ping pong tables out the back by the catering vans.


Don’t worry about bringing a car as most dealers deliver at the end of the day and if they are booked-up we have a delivery man on-site.


 Make a day of it by booking somewhere good to eat like Bunbunbun a Vietnamese restaurant on Kingsland Road or Beagle London next to Hoxton overground.


 Visit the Geffrye Museum, Hackney City Farm (if with kids) or head to the market on Columbia Road and haggle for the last flowers and plants at rock bottom prices at 3pm.


  Then head for La Cabina or Happiness Forgets for a cocktail and if you are really splashing out book a room at Ace Hotel…it’s 15 minutes walk away.

Between you and me, hush hush, Lucy and Petra have been asked to produce a show at Hepworth Wakefield gallery next year and Lucy is onto writing her second book after the success of 100 Midcentury Chairs and their stories.  

The result of relentless research, tracking down the families of design greats for the real facts- you can sit comfortably with this chair book to pass the time until October’s Midcentury East.

Midcentury East

15 October 2017

Erno Goldfinger’s Haggerston School, Weymouth Terrace, London, E2 8LS

9am early entry for trade and collectors is £15

10am-4pm is £10 or check out advance ticket deals here

©Photographs courtesy of Modern Shows