Having spent the last eighteen months establishing Green Heart Collective, founder Helen Redfern is reflecting on what really matters in life for her...and maybe her reflections may inspire you too to explore life with gratitude and curiosity.
I've just had the pleasure of spending the afternoon at an upcycled fashion show at a local Primary School. Green Heart Collective donated plain T shirts for the Year 5 and 6 pupils to upcycle. What amazed me was how different each T shirt was, how it reflected the personality of the wearer and how each child took such pride in wearing their own creation. This experience backs up everything I'm about to say. I really hope these kids keep hold of that sense of individuality and never fall into slavishly following trends.
Clothes matter. They matter to all of us. We all have to wear them. Having appropriate clothes for the season is one of our basic needs in life. However, by clothes, I mean more than that. I mean fashion/style/self expression. I mean colour and texture and style and pattern.
That's where I may have lost some of you already. After all, for some of you, clothes are entirely functional. You do not like clothes really. You wear them because you have to. You get no pleasure out of choosing the right outfit for the right occasion. You would happily wear the same thing everyday if you could get away with it. And that's fine.
But for me, one of my greatest pleasures in life used to be lying in bed in the morning choosing what to wear that day. I discovered a passion for clothes in my 40s - probably unleashed a dormant passion that had been repressed earlier in life as being too indulgent (I had that kind of upbringing that embraced convention over freedom of expression). I discovered that the feel of the fabrics was as important to me as the colour and style. Fashion became a sensory experience. I developed my own sense of style rather than following trends.
Sadly, as I've become more busy and more tired, my headspace for self expression through clothes has diminished. Ironically, working with clothes day in day out robbed me of my passion. And that's what I'm trying to claw back. I know that what I wear affects my mood. It's not quite as simple as this, but if I wear grey, I feel grey. So last week, I went online in search of a bright yellow jacket and set myself a challenge: I would wear this yellow jacket every day in July with a different outfit and post a photo on the Green Heart Collective story on Instagram. What better way to refresh my relationship with my wardrobe!
I've lost my way a bit in terms of my style. I don't know what I like any more. I've lost confidence in knowing what suits me. What suits me now in my late fifties will be different to what suited me as a younger person. I'm OK with that. But I'm not sure what that is. And there is a fine line between wearing what you love and wearing what suits you (what the world considers suits you, is that what that means?). On a train journey a couple of weeks ago, I gave myself some time to consider this and it turns out I probably do still know what I like.
So it's a plain top with a patterned skirt or trousers or patterned top with plain skirt or trousers. Never double pattern - although I admire it in others.
Similarly, it's a wide oversized top with fitted skirt or trousers or fitted top with flared skirt or wide leg trousers.
Never a high neck or round neck - always scoop or V neck. Nothing sleeveless. Never above the knee.
Cropped oversized jumpers, layers, cropped mom jeans, wide leg paper bag trousers, chunky shoes.
Nothing clingy, nothing hippie, never scarves.
Having said all that, I do browse and sometimes I fall in love with something that breaks all the rules! Then I adhere to the golden rule and follow my heart.
It's been 3 years since I bought a new item of clothing from a High Street store. Do I miss it? I don't think so. I can't imagine being comfortable doing that ever again. Buying preloved has its drawbacks. But it also has its joys. And it's a lifestyle choice that makes me feel better about my life and my impact on the planet. There's not much we can do as individuals to make a real difference but never buying new clothes is one significant thing.
I don't have the time now to visit vintage and charity shops as much as I would like. That's always going to be my preferred way of shopping. Because how can you be sure of the feel and colour, fit and drape, quality and condition when you buy online? That's the risk I have to take these days.
The 80s yellow jacket is just the start. Some of you will get it, I know, when I say that expressing myself through what I wear consolidates my sense of identity. When I lose my love of clothes, I start to lose track of who I am. Choosing to buy only preloved does not preclude me from that privilege of being able to enjoy clothes: on the contrary, it opens up a whole new world of possibility.
So how about you? What is your style? What kind of clothes do you love to wear? Is there anything holding you back from wearing the clothes you love? How can you reignite your passion for fashion (without buying new!)?