Sustainable fashion tips from the Conscious Stylist
Irina from the Conscious Stylist is very different to most stylists you will meet. She helps her clients mix and match their existing clothes and fashion accessories first to create new looks. An advocate for sustainable fashion, Irina believes preloved clothes are an excellent alternative to new clothes when you are needing something ‘new’ to complement your existing wardrobe.Discover how to build a sustainable wardrobe in this interview with Irina, The Conscious Stylist.
1. Tell us about yourself and what your business offers?
My name is Irina, and I'm a personal stylist based in Sydney. My focus as a stylist is on sustainability. Our wardrobes have a much more significant impact on the environment and the people who make our clothes than we think. I offer different styling packages to help my clients mix and match their existing clothes to create various looks and give them the tools and knowledge to build a sustainable wardrobe. Clients are often surprised by how much their wardrobe has to offer. There are many outfit combinations they don’t know about. It’s so fun to discover new looks and show these to my clients.
2. What is your favourite preloved fashion item/s in your wardrobe? And why?
I have two!
My very first second-hand fashion purchase was a Burberry trench coat. I bought it from an online shop about five years ago and was so happy to get a designer piece for a reasonable price. I always wanted to have a designer trench coat in my wardrobe, as I believe a great trench coat is essential in every wardrobe. It makes me feel great when I wear it because of its timeless and elegant cut, and I love that I didn't pay full price for it.
My second favourite item is a hand-me-down piece from my mum. It's a summer linen suit she bought in Italy. It has beautiful embroidery on the sleeves and at the side of the pants. She gave it to me just this autumn, and I still have to alter it, but I am looking forward to finally wearing it in the summer. It will be a piece with a story.
3. Why are you an advocate for preloved fashion?
As mentioned before, my focus as a stylist is sustainable fashion. One of the things we can do to have a more sustainable wardrobe is to buy fewer new clothes. Preloved clothing is an excellent alternative to new clothes. It makes me feel good to give a garment a second home and increase its wearability, contributing to the sustainability approach.
4. What are the benefits of buying preloved clothing?
The personal benefit of buying preloved clothing is that it's less expensive than buying new clothes! You can get basics in excellent condition from second-hand shops. As mentioned above, I would have never wanted to pay the retail price for my Burberry trench coat. Getting it second-hand was just perfect.
On a much larger scale, buying preloved clothing is excellent for the environment as it extends the garment’s life cycle and prevents it from going to landfills. I encourage people to donate or resell the clothes they no longer wear to allow them to be loved by someone else.
5. How do you determine a client's style?
During a style consultation, I ask my client questions to help deduce what they want to achieve, how they want to look and how they want to feel in their clothes. Everyone has a different understanding, emotion or connection to different styles. For example, "classic" to one person may be boring, whereas "classic" to someone else might be elegant and beautiful. I have a tool for finding your style called the "Style Categories", which helps clients name their style. So, it's not about me determining a client's style, but more so the client can find theirs.
6. What are your tips when it comes to reviewing your wardrobe?
Start with decluttering your closet. To make it less overwhelming, I suggest focusing on one season (summer or winter). First, pull them out of your wardrobe, then go through all the clothes you have and put the clothes you love and feel great in back into your closet.
For clothes that you are unsure about, put them in a separate pile and then start going through this piece by piece. I recommend you try these clothes on and see how you connect to the garment. If it still fits and is in good condition, ask yourself how you could still wear it, look for inspiration online (Pinterest is an excellent platform for this). Play around with new colour combinations and add different accessories and shoes from what you usually wear with these pieces.
If the item doesn’t fit anymore and you easily say 'no' to it, you can put them away into a bag, but wait until you give them away. You might want to come back to some of these pieces after a couple of weeks. If you haven't missed any of these, it's time to sell, donate, or recycle them responsibly.
One more tip is to organise your wardrobe in work clothes, leisure clothes and special occasion clothes. That will give you a clear overview and understanding of what you already have.
7. What fashion items are essential in every wardrobe?
It probably depends on the person's style, but I think a neutral-coloured pair of pants or skirt is a good start, to be able to wear it with many different tops you might have.
Another essential is a structured blazer. A blazer takes a look to the next level and adds a layer, making an outfit look dressier.
A blouse or button-up shirt is a practical basic to have; it's great for job interviews or simply looking a bit more dressed up than in a t-shirt.
A timeless silk scarf is a lovely accessory to add to a look.
I think a nice pair of flats (black or cream), white sneakers, and comfortable boots should be in every wardrobe. The different shoes change a look quickly by using the shoes to dress up or down a garment. Imagine a lovely floral dress combined with leather shoes. That outfit would look more formal. Swap the leather shoes for white sneakers, and there you have a casual look.
The last one is a timeless trench coat to elevate any outfit, casual or business, instantly.
8. Who is your favourite fashion designer or brand, and why?
I don't really have one! I moved to Australia from Germany five years ago and I am still trying to find a favourite brand or designer here. When I buy new clothes, I shop from different brands. I look at the pieces I like and research the brand itself. For me, the quality and longevity of new garments are critical. If they are made locally in Australia, that's always a huge bonus. Recently I came across a Sydney based designer called macgraw, and I love their collections. Back in Germany, my favourite brand was Hallhuber. I like them for their elegant and timeless clothes. Whenever I go visit Germany, I buy something from them.