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

 

4 home fashions to note now for the cosy season

Whether you’re into antiques or not, Tallboy Interiors takes a new approach to old interiors that can inspire us all for the cosy season ahead.

On his 18th birthday, Matt Dixon of Tallboy Interiors was given £1000 from his parents to spend as he wanted.  Instead of blowing it, he decided to invest the money in various antique pieces and thus his addiction and business was born.

 Red or dead 

No, I am not referring to the controversial Brit shoe brand, but a desire for darker interiors, a new take on tapestry and rich reds.  Once upon a time wearing different tones of red, mismatching scarlet with crimson, gave the impression you got dressed in the dark.  Matt describes his style  as “mismatched but works.  I like to try different pieces, patterns, colours, ages.  Nothing needs to match for it to work necessarily.”  Now is the time to embrace mismatched.  Enjoy ebonised antique wood, dark interiors,  and dress yourself and your home in red.

 Lady boho 

This tapestry and velvet covered table sits on the edge between elegant and artsy.  Pom Poms are trending big time, but antique pom pom tassels will retain crafty charm.

 Inside out

An awareness for more thoughtful purchasing has produced an abundance of green living trends, from eco friendly antiques and natural materials to literally green coloured interiors.  Merging our environments by bringing the outside in and inside out is increasingly popular.  These Mid-20th-Century Willy Guhl planters are statement greenery that can work inside and out.

   Earthy velvet

Relaxed rose, terracotta, cinnamon, rust.  All great shades and even better in velvet, both grand, intimate and above all, cosy.

Shop Tallboy Interiors

©Photographs courtesy of Tallboy Interiors

Conscious Consumer

Jumpsuits aren’t always the smartest move when it comes to travelling, but I always seem to choose one because the chic/comfort balance outweighs the likely woman v jumpsuit wrestling in the loo. This People Tree collaboration with the V&A is wonderful.  The Tulip print is based on a fabric from the 1930s, originally by the Calico Printers’ Association in Manchester, now held in the V&A archive.

In Safe Hands hand cream Laidbare

V&A collaboration jumpsuit People Tree

Classic Small Drawstring bag Baia

EcoTools sustainable sleep mask from Boots

Sandals Brother Vellies

Anna Skodbo on building her ethical London brand phannatiq

Part-time harpist, educator, occasional snowboarder, and driving force behind  phannatiq, Anna Skodbo takes a “clothes for people” attitude to designing.  Attracting people from the likes of musicians Kate Nash, Harper and the pavement population with her city inspired textiles.  Unique prints include fly tipping inspired by waste around Walthamstow, where the phannatiq design studio is based.

Committed to responsible employment, sustainable manufacture and dressing in a way that transcends the call for a seasonal wardrobe cull.  Phannatiq questions fashion’s status quo.

I am inspired by her respect for social and stylistic individualism, and now armed with her local guide to a good day in Walthamstow to share with you. Here is my interview with phannatiq Anna.

Anna Skodbo

It’s a shame that it’s even a talking point, but given the rarity with which they appear in fashion campaigns, I have to ask about your decision to cast women over the age of 40 and women of different race and size to model your collection? 

Because we make clothes for people and people come in all ages, shapes, ethnic origins and sizes, not to mention having different clothing needs. There’s no point trying to sell to them using only one example over and over again. We still only use about 6 models so it’s still not ideal, but hopefully it helps a bit towards people being able to see themselves in the clothes.

On our online shop, we try to have as many examples of different shapes in our clothes as possible along the bottom of the garment page so people can see for themselves too.

Oeko-Tex 100 certified bamboo silk dress in London print

organic cotton & bamboo mix dress in London print

Did you always produce clothes in sizes 6 to 20?  Why do you think more designers don’t make clothes in sizes above a 16?

I really can’t speak for other brands as I have no idea what they are going through. We have evolved over time. In the beginning we thought we had to conform to fit in and then a few seasons in I was like, “fuck this shit!” and started putting my fingers up at the whole thing bit by bit. Starting with banning photo retouching of any of our photographs- what you see is what you get- and then becoming more diverse with our model choices. This inspired our sizings.

What is it about London that inspires you?

Everything really, its vibrancy, its diversity, its unashamedness and of course the shit bits 😜

fly tipping print inspired by waste around Walthamstow

Where would you send someone looking for a day in Walthamstow?

Oooo there are so many awesome things in Walthamstow! If you like drinking there is Ravenswood Estate up by Shernhall street. In what is essentially an industrial estate you’ll find Wild Card Brewery who brew the most excellent beers, and often have some really great musical acts and DJs; opposite them is Gods Own Junkyard, a museum of neon light and bar, Mother’s Ruin, a gin palace, not to mention a host of street food. You practically don’t need to leave for the weekend.

Otherwise I love walking around Lloyd Park and visiting the William Morris Gallery, The Marshes are beautiful, as is Hollow Pond if you want to pretend you’re not in a city.

How did your Steiner school education and growing up with adults with learning disabilities influence your approach?

I think in some ways growing up with adults with learning disabilities, I’m more aware of how unique everyone is and that it’s ok. I feel very privileged to have spent such a large part of my childhood with people who make you see the world in a different way, who may have struggles with some things we take for granted but equally bring so much to the world in other ways we won’t have considered. It’s humbling. It has in some cases even made me question the status quo. As in who are we to decide what is the correct way to experience something/react to something/achieve something?

Oeko-Tex 100 certified bamboo silk top with fly tipping print skirt

How would you advise people looking to make more sustainable wardrobe choices? 

Buy mindfully. Ask yourself, do you really need this? The biggest eco friendly thing you can do is reduce everything you consume. This makes a much bigger difference than anything else. I realise this goes against capitalism and having a business, so oops.

Which is your favourite phrase of your 3D printed necklaces?  

That really depends on my mood, however I have actually been called a Leftoid Sanctimonious Cunt on Twitter, so probably that one.

What do you have coming up for fashion weeks and beyond? 

We are working on a really exciting project for fashion week so definitely keep an eye out! As for beyond, who knows….

Shop Phannatiq

©Photographs courtesy of Phannatiq

My shoe wardrobe for a sink

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.

Armitage Shanks sink, reclaimed worktop Source Antiques  and taps from Catchpole & Rye

Check out these links for salvaged sinks

English Salvage 

Mongers Architectural Salvage

SalvoWEB Directory

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

Defining sustainable fashion with Stella McCartney’s Dessert Island Discs

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.”

Listen to Stella McCartney’s Dessert Island Discs 

Shop Stella McCartney

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman and courtesy of Stella McCartney & Laura Ironside