Lulled into a false sense of ceramic security by the fact my mum had a Belfast sink in her back garden (don’t most mums?!), I was expecting a kitchen sink to be one of the easiest things to source. I would have taken my mum’s, but she is saving it for her own renovation and I decided to go for something much smaller. Sure, I could have bought new, but having come this far, I was adamant it had to be old and kept searching. I finally found a bargain Armitage Shanks (Butler) sink by calling local salvage yards on the SalvoWEB Directory. If like me, you are interested in a reclaimed sink and don’t know your Belfast from your Butler, here is a quick lesson I could have done with earlier…
Traditionally used by butlers, the name ‘Belfast’ distinguishes Butler sinks originally made and used in Belfast as they have a built-in overflow due to the fact that fresh water was readily available in Belfast in the late 18th Century. Whereas in London, ‘Butler’ sinks were designed without an overflow so as not to waste any of the fresh water, which had to be gathered from deep wells. So now you know.
Check out these links for salvaged sinks
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman
Aside from the fact I love a bit of Radio 4’s Dessert Island Discs (where presenter Kirsty Young asks famous guests to pick eight records to take if they were to be stranded on a dessert island), Stella McCartney’s Dessert Island Discs seemed a good excuse to define sustainable fashion in eight dresses.
The local dress
It’s not always the case that made on your doorstep is more ethical, but shopping in local boutiques makes it easier to enquire about the designers and makers.
Stella McCartney – “I’ve also thought it takes a lot to buy something made well, that is mindful in design and manufacture. You have to make those decisions based on who you are and have them bring something else to your life, make your life better, but not make your life not your life.”
The ethical dress
Eco-friendly designers and eco-collections support fair wages and working conditions, use eco-friendly fabrics and are mindful of animal rights, energy, water use and toxic pesticides. Look for certifications like Fairtrade and GOTS aka Global Organic Textile Standard and self-enforced codes, which you will find on the brand’s website. They will be easy to find if they advocate transparency.
Stella’s Winter 2017 campaign explores waste & overconsumption
The charity shop dress
A great way to shop guilt free. I’ve been shopping in charity shops since I was a teenager when my mum did a stint volunteering at an alzheimer’s charity shop, so it comes naturally to me. They are often the most local option for clothes and occupy what could otherwise be empty shops on your high street. Most of us are guilty of buying something we never get around to wearing. What’s one woman’s afterthought is another’s treasure, and these untouched gems regularly end up in charity shops. Dresses with the tags still on, designer and homemade dresses, I’ve discovered them all in charity shops.
The vintage dress
The antithesis of fast fashion, true vintage appreciates value with time. Vintage is an overused term, too often used to describe pre-worn clothing from any era, but real vintage is at least 10, more likely 20 years old. My personal favourite form of sustainable fashion, vintage shopping comes with an appreciation for an item’s unique journey.
Kirsty Young – “If you go out and about and see somebody wearing a jacket or a pair of trousers that you designed 10 years ago, do you think that’s a triumph then if she is still wearing them 10 years later?”
Stella McCartney – “Yes, Definitely…and actually it was funny, there was was somebody I saw in the street, only yesterday that had a bag of mine that was about 10 years old and she looked at me and I looked at her and I thought, this is awkward and I was really chuffed. For me it’s a real achievement.”
The make do mended dress
We live in a disposable era. Cheap fashion discourages the need to develop basic mending skills. I’ve read many articles telling people to save the planet by learning to make their own clothes. If you have that skill, creative urge, and time, amazing. If not, get to know a good tailor who cannot only extend the life of the clothes in your wardrobe by mending and altering them, but also help when you find one-of-a-kind wonders in charity shops or vintage shops that need tailoring to your size.
Stella McCartney – “I’m not interested in landfill, I’m interested in reuse and continuous design, I think staying power in every sense of the word is really important.”
The leased dress
Online rent-a-dress options have been growing, which is good news for party dresses that get worn once and then left for landfill. Imagine – one dress provides multiple women with happiness! That’s now a sustainable business plan for sites like Chic by Choice, Dream Wardrobe and Girl Meets Dress. I have yet to try it, but I suspect it will become increasingly popular as emerging brands like Laura Ironside (above) slow down the fashion cycle and lease their collections.
The swapped dress
You’ve heard of the phrase, go shopping in your wardrobe? Well, how about shopping in your friend’s wardrobe? Obviously ask first.
The Stella McCartney dress
Saving up for an expensive dress, even if it’s the dress of the season like this Spring 2011 Stella dress, is slow fashion because I’m still enjoying it today. When you genuinely invest in clothes, you reduce the amount of clothes you need to shop for.
Stella McCartney – “I definitely understand the idea of being yourself and not trying too hard through what you’re wearing.”
Kirsty Young – “That seems like a contradiction to say not trying too hard from what you are wearing because surely buying expensive clothes is about trying hard.”
Stella – “No, I think you have to wear the clothes, not let the clothes wear you. It’s really important for you to take control of your wardrobe.”
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman and courtesy of Stella McCartney & Laura Ironside
Carla Colour Lind recycled sunglasses from Ethical Collection
Amour jute tote The Jacksons
Reclaimed linen top Thoreau
Vintage gold Ferragamo leather jeans from 1st dibs
Sculptures by Suki Chan from Edward Haes
Trainers LA Sportiva
Ever practical, I chose a glazed 1940s staff noticeboard reclaimed from London’s Kings Cross station from SalvoWEB to style as my kitchen cabinet. Not that I was intending to consume as many tubes of tortilla chip Pringles as the decorators, but soon only pretty foods fitting my colour scheme will be allowed in my kitchen cabinet. Ha. Don’t you just love the unrealistic goals one sets oneself in the middle of a renovation.
When I started designing my kitchen, I envisaged a glamorous throwback, a bit of Disco Deco and pretty brass accents. I bought glass Art Deco lampshades from The Architectural Forum and had my eye on these Jazz Moderne glass panels salvaged from a French apothecary to finish the sides of my noticeboard cabinet. I lost them to another bidder, but in hindsight it was a good thing as it forced me into more practical open shelves that show off the reclaimed wood from Pine Supplies and my ’40s noticeboard in full glory.
Art Deco lampshades in The Architectural Forum
Jazz Moderne glass panels
my kitchen (before)
It breaks my heart to see kitchens ripped out with no regard for materials that could have been saved, so I challenged myself to reuse as much of my original kitchen as possible – starting with the white appliances.
Sadly mine didn’t come as cool as the above, but this could be considered another tick in the practical box compared with stainless steel, which is hard to keep finger smudge free. But white appliances are fashioning an impressive come-back. When designing a kitchen, you rarely go wrong with classic white. It is clean and cleverly works with both modern and period interiors and can look more retro according to the style of appliances you choose. White also tends to change with the light from other colours around it. I am aiming for warm white, surrounded by reclaimed wood cabinetry. But avoiding rustic country vibes with black and primary coloured markings that come with choosing floorboards salvaged from a school gymnasium.
I may have diverted from my disco Art Deco design, but I’m feeling the ’80s school disco I ended up at.
Reclaimed gymnasium floorboards from Historischen Bauelemente designed as doors to refresh my original kitchen carcasses.
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman
Thankfully things have moved on since my first days in fashion PR as an intern aka glorified parcel deliverer, but whether you are looking to get into PR or making steps to PR your own brand, there are things you could learn from your UPS driver.
Map your route to cover more ground with fewer stops
PR is the strategy for your story. Map out the process and plan your interactions. Your moves make the story you want people to tell about you and your brand.
Driving in reverse is discouraged
There will be times you find editorial or an opportunity where you or your brand didn’t make the edit or wasn’t even in the running. Don’t email bomb or call with ideas fitting for a feature that has already been published. Acknowledge it, but don’t dwell on it because that editor or influencer has moved onto their next piece and so should you.
They deliver some odd things
But you shouldn’t. When pitching to press – make it easy, make it engaging, try to put yourself in their position. Is your product, launch, collaboration relevant for their style and content? Or is there a unique angle that might work for them if it doesn’t immediately align with what they regularly do? Avoid odd, but don’t shy away from surprising.
©Photograph Reclaimed Woman
Moments of the first half of 2017 brought to mind the Paris motto, Fluctuat nec mergitur, a Latin phrase meaning “Tossed but not sunk.”
At the beginning of the year our boiler broke, whilst having reclaimed wood shelves installed – which turned into a much bigger job as the horrid MDF storage units being replaced turned out to be rather attached. Cutting into the walls, the MDF cupboards finally relented with plenty of plaster to remember us by. On the positive side, at least we had the entire contents of the living room crammed into our bedroom to avoid the dust and keep us cosy…Who needs central heating. It is however good to be reminded of the things we take for granted. *she types whilst swishing her freshly washed hair, thankful for hot water for evermore*
But all that fades to comparison with the fact my grandad also passed this year. There is a fine line between how personal one gets online, particularly as I started blogging to share my flat renovation not my family, but one of my grandad John’s sayings seems pertinent. “It needs a coat of looking at,” he would say. Therefore, a fair mention for problems relating to life and wall.
I will leave you with my love of the year so far, MyBuilder.com. You can post a job and find trusted builders and tradesmen in minutes. Plasterer, gas engineer, I almost had them all in one week.
Me in my happy place, Paris / Brooklyn Flea Market
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman
I couldn’t resist Randy’s Reproductive System Sweater from Rachel Antonoff for World Population Day with a portion of the proceeds being donated to Planned Parenthood (even if it is harder to get your hands on in the UK)
Barocco handcraft pieces like these Wishbone earrings using ancient casting techniques and work with Fair Trade and recycled metals. Shop at Gather & See
ZAO organic eyeshadow in Pearly Old Pink Beautifully Organic
Vegan note pad with 100% recycled nylon lining Matt & Nat
Fair & true orange skirt from Fashion-Conscience.com
Stella McCartney faux-leather loafers MatchesFashion.com
Think you are ready for your renovation project, then prepare to neglect your usual e-com candy for sites like Broken Bog.
My daily scroll of choice was Style.com when I started planning my flat renovation, which has since been discontinued as Condé Nast partner with Farfetch for a firmer future in content plus commerce. At least anyone with a bathroom to restore can rest easy with Broken Bog – the destination for discontinued, vintage or retro British-made bathroom ware.
My renovation started when I was woken one night to the sound of my great grandmother’s Deco vase smashing on my bathroom floor. A few tears, shards of blue glass and the discovery that the vase had also broken my toilet cistern lid spurred me into action. I sourced a replacement from Broken Bog, but chose pink instead of a direct copy of my old white lid.
The team is really helpful, so call or visit their warehouse in Surrey Hills if you have any questions about your bathroom.
I first got the idea of a mix ‘n’ match bathroom in the ladies at the Ace Hotel in East London (as you do), where I also discovered Bemis toilet seats. One of these will be my next purchase from Broken Bog. What do you think, should we go Coral Pink, Sky Blue, Indian Ivory or Black?
Salvo is another great resource with preloved and period pieces from salvage and antique dealers. You can also register free and send a Want notification to their database if you’re after something specific. Here’s some bathroom renovation inspiration with stock on Salvo.
Hot and Cold taps (and an Edwardian roll top bath) from a private seller
Rare Edwardian cast iron sign Warehouse 701
Radiac Edwardian oak framed shop display cabinet Art Furniture
Art Deco Modernist side table The Rub Antique
Royal Venton Ware corner cut loo Abergavenny Reclamation
Pink Art Deco basin The Architectural Forum
Bathtub sofa upholstered with cushions made from vintage Welsh quilts Russell Wood Antiques
All listed on Salvo
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman and courtesy of Broken Bog and Salvo