For today’s Your Ethical Style post, Lyndsey Haskell of online shop What You Sow is sharing her tips and inspirations for putting together an ethical wardrobe. Long-term Moral Fibres readers will be familiar with Lyndsey – she’s the crafting genius behind the popular reusable cotton wool pad tutorial that was featured early on in the life of the blog!
Take it away Lyndsey!
Hi Lyndsey, can you share with us three facts about you?
1) I am the owner of What You Sow, an online shop selling gifts for gardeners. We’re based at the ONCA centre for Arts and Ecology in central Brighton.
2) I live at The Garden House, a gardening school and magical place in Brighton where people can come to learn about horticulture. It’s so beautiful and I am the world’s luckiest lodger to be able to stay there. I learn something new about plants every single day and living there really helps with my Instagram feed!
3) As well as running What You Sow I work as a photographer for charities, taking pictures of the fantastic things they do and the people they work with.
Where are your favourite places to shop for ethical clothing?
When I talk about ethical clothing I mostly mean second-hand. In Brighton we have so many charity and vintage shops, there are some fab car boots sales and everyone is into clothes swapping. My top four places to source clothes are:
1) Emmaus Brighton, a homeless charity and second-hand superstore – they curate a very reasonably priced vintage section and regularly do wild sales where, for example, all pairs of shoes are £1, even posh branded ones. I bought my favourite shoulder bag there for 50p two years ago and use it almost every day. You can find branches of Emmaus all over the country.
2) Race Hill car boot – a bustling car boot on top of the hill in Brighton which doesn’t really get started until 10.30 am every Sunday (so perfect if you like a lie-in). You can find all sorts of clothing at proper car boot prices. I’ve picked up so many pretty scarves for 50p over the years and towards the end, people will sell you clothes for 10 or 20p and give you free things as they don’t want to take stuff home! Great for jumpers too. I love jumpers.
3) Jumble Trails – We have had lots of Jumble Trails recently where a whole street or area will sell second-hand goods from outside their houses. Have a look to see if there is a Jumble Trail in your area.
4) Clothes swaps – get a bunch of your girlfriends together, dump all your pre-loved clothes in a pile, and have a rummage. You will all leave with some lovely stuff and it will be fun when you next meet up and you’re all dressed as each other. I did one with a group of girls from work a few months ago and we all turned up the following Monday wearing each other’s clothes, completely unplanned, we just all really loved the new things we had!
What’s the last ethical item that you bought, Lyndsey?
I recently took a trip to Glasgow, a city jam-packed with charity shops and vintage boutiques. I found the most beautiful vintage red dress in the Vintage Guru sale for a fiver which I have been wearing almost non-stop since. It fits perfectly and the colour really suits me. Such a lucky find.
Is there anything second-hand or ethical that you are lusting over at the moment?
I always have a list in my head of things I am keeping an eye out for. Currently on the list is a denim t-shirt dress, smart black dungarees, and a floppy black hat. Also, clogs!
Do you have a top tip for shopping ethically?
Enjoy the process. Take time out to browse charity shops rather than trying to find things in a rush. Take a friend and make an afternoon of it: that’s how you find the gems. At a car boot, those huge piles of clothes you see can often feel daunting but you should always dive right in. You’ll find some beauts.
Is there anything you find difficult about shopping ethically?
I don’t really buy much new ethical clothing as I find it so expensive. This weighs on my conscience a bit. I would really love to support fair trade fashion retailers like my favourite FAIR in Brighton, who often stock amazing stripey things from People Tree. But the clothes are so pricey I rarely buy anything there. I bought some fantastic bamboo Monkee Genes Jeans a year or so ago in a sale. I would love to buy more from them but I’d never be able to afford them normally.
Where do you get your style inspiration from Lyndsey?
I am lucky to have some very stylish besties who inspire the way I dress. Amy of Super + Super is always upcycling and embellishing items. And Claire of She’s Called Claire. Claire is a style and travel blogger, who always looks amazing and often lets me borrow her clothes.
Pinterest is a great way of collecting style ideas. I also lose myself in the Sunday Times Style magazine every weekend. It always gives me ideas of how to wear things.
What is your best second-hand or ethical find ever?
A few years ago, artist Jil Shipley made some drawings for What You Sow in the style of the illustrations she drew for Jackie Magazine in the 70s. The pictures were of girls with flowers in their hair. It was the first time Jil had drawn girls in that style since she finished working on the magazine.
I wanted to have the illustrations printed on t-shirts. However, after searching high and low I couldn’t find an ethical source. In bringing an entirely new object into the world, it was really important to me that this item would not harm the planet or the people producing it in any way. Luckily, through a shared connection with the Moral Fibres blog, I eventually came across an environmentally-friendly t-shirt designer in the form of Anna from Lost Shapes.
Anna prints her fabulous designs onto a range of organic, fairly-traded clothing. Even the inks she uses are non-toxic and suitable for vegans. Anna was happy to work together to create the t-shirts. And Anna provided plenty of guidance and expertise to make sure everything was perfect.
The t-shirts are launching in November (for a sneak peek see the top photo!) and I’m incredibly proud of them. I’m also so glad to have found such an ethical business to produce them. I wear mine all the time and was recently really thrilled to find out that Jil does too!
What would be your ultimate thrifted find?
My ultimate thrifted find is always the next one. I get such a buzz when I find something beautiful in a charity shop – it has a history, you’re saving it from landfill, you’re helping support a charity to do good things. You can’t get that feeling on the high street.
Finally Lyndsey, can you share with us your top three style tricks/DIYs?
1. A fun low-carbon way of accessorising is to pick flowers from the garden and wear them in your hair. It will make you feel happy all day. Choose flowers with woody stems (roses are perfect) and pick bold colours to pep up any outfit.
2. Be a creative mender. A couple of years ago, blogger Helen of trees and what not offered on Twitter to fix items of clothing using the traditional Japanese technique of Sashiko. This is also known as visible mending (see the above photo). I took the opportunity to send her a skirt to fix. She did a wonderful job on it and the stitches she used are so pretty.
Be proud and show off your visible mending, it will open a conversation about the throwaway nature of clothes and it will get people thinking. My favourite summer sandals are held together by bakers twine and they are completely fine to wear. I’m so glad I didn’t have to throw them away. I actually hardly throw anything away and sometimes when I’ll do a slightly shoddy piece of mending Amy will look impressed and say “ooh, visible mending” and suddenly my messy darning will become a feature.
3. If you’ve bought an unusual vintage dress and you’re not sure what to wear it with, try ankle boots.
Do you want to share your ethical style with Moral Fibres readers? Whatever your age, sex, size, style, budget or location I’d love to feature you to show that ethical fashion is for everyone! Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org to take part in Your Ethical Style! There are no barriers to taking part – you don’t have to be a blogger to be featured!