bristol stylist

Films that changed the way I shopped

When I started work as a personal stylist, I admit that concern for the environment was nowhere on my agenda. Absolutely nowhere.

I honestly put no thought as to how my clothes were made, the conditions in which they were made, the materials they were made from or what happened to them when I was finished with them. It was off my radar in a big way.

But over the years I’ve been on a journey and the things I’ve learnt along the way have meant big changes not only in terms of how I shop personally, but also how I run my whole business.

Part of that journey (and it’s an ongoing one) is to share that knowledge with you. I strongly feel that the more I share, the more informed we all become and therefore the better choices we can make.

So in I’m going to share films and short videos that have fundamentally changed the way I work with clothes. I wish I could say these films were fun, but they’re not. They are all heavy, hard hitting and leave you feeling pretty crap. But it’s a place I had to go to in order to unearth the truth about the fashion industry - the industry in which I work.

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1/ First up is actually the most recent production on the list. It’s a 90 minute film called RiverBlue where conservationist, Mark Angelo, travels the world to show us what the fashion industry is doing to our waterways AND the people who rely on them for drinking water. 

The film highlights the damage caused by harsh chemical manufacturing processes and the irresponsible disposal of toxic chemical waste has had on the rivers.

It’s honestly horrific and it brought me to tears numerous times. I had no idea that 70% of China’s lakes are now highly contaminated, liver cancer rates are through the roof and that chromium has now officially entered their food chain. All because toxic waste is being dumped in the waterways. 

One of the biggest polluters is the humble pair of jeans. In Xintang, 300 million pairs a year are produced - that’s a 1/3rd of the worlds supply. They use dyes which contain mercury, cadmium and lead. Workers are coming into contact with them with no regard for their own health and the waste products are dumped directly into watercourses. Acids are also being used to create lighter patches and designer ‘whiskers’.

We have to put pressure on companies to clean up their act. That’s why I’m such a huge fan of Polly Higgins because if her concept of Ecocide was implemented, the CEOs of these factories would be going straight to jail for the damage they’re causing.

And if you feel it’s already too late, it’s NOT.

Did you know that just 40 years ago there was no sign of life in the Thames? The water was so polluted nothing could survive but major measures were put in place, processes were cleaned up and now 125 species of fish can be found there. So this destruction can be reversed, but not until big businesses change the way they work and YOU can put pressure on them to do something about it.

2/ Next up in my list of influential films is just a 3 minute watch by Jay Shetty, so I urge you to sit through it if you can.

Here you get a snapshot of what it’s like to be a garment worker.

This is exactly why I’m a big supporter of Labour Behind the Label and the reason ALL funds raised from the swaps events I hold go directly towards the work they do.

What this video doesn’t show is what happens when the workers complain about the long hours, or unsafe premises, or working with toxic materials. They are often beaten, and far too many of them are even beaten to death for speaking out.

It is completely unacceptable and we have to put pressure on companies to ensure these practices are a thing of the past.

The woman speaking in this short clip is actually a success story. She escaped the sweatshops and set up www.locwom.org to improve the lives of women and children ❤️ but much more still has to be done to end modern day slavery.

3/ Next up in the list of things that influenced me is a Ted talk that I connected with in a BIG way. I can’t tell you exactly how many times I’ve watched this talk, but it’s a lot! 

It’s a 16 minute video by Christina Dean called ‘You are what you wear’

Although she makes reference to the nasty side of fashion, this talk is upbeat and really made me believe I could do something positive about it.

She’s gone on to be one of my heroines and by setting up sustainable businesses such as www.redress.com and www.thercollective.com she’s really walking her talk. 

She was one of the reasons I bought only second hand clothes for a year. She was one of the reasons I go and talk passionately to organisations about how we can all have a more sustainable wardrobe and she is one of the reasons I changed what I offer through my business services.

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4/ Moving on to number 4 and it’s another recent one. Hands up if back in October 2018 you watched the BBC documentary called ‘Fashions dirty secrets’?

Stacey Dooley did a brilliant job of highlighting some of the key issues within the fashion industry and bringing the info to the masses.

One of them was the devastation of the Aral Sea where an area of water the size of Ireland has disappeared in the space of 40 years. Mostly due to irrigating cotton crops.

She also tried to speak to fast fashion heavyweights such as ASOS and Primark at a huge sustainability summit in Copenhagen. Unsurprisingly, when she approached them for comment on what they’re doing to limit the problem, absolutely nobody would talk to her.

She did manage to speak to Levi’s who shared how the company is coming up with solutions to reduce water waste. They are currently working on a solution that takes old garments and turns them into a new fibre that feels, looks and behaves like cotton with zero water impact.

So it’s a thumbs up to Levi’s from me!

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5/ Lastly, is a 50 minute film called ‘The world according to H&M’ from 2014.

H&M is a brilliant example of why choosing sustainable clothes can be a minefield because all is not necessarily as it seems.

On the face on it, I want to love H&M.

This is because they sell organic cotton ranges, they have in-store recycling points, they promote their Conscious Collection and have signed up to lots of sustainability targets.

This film is now 5 years old, but it seems not everything is as it should though.

Only recently it was alleged that H&M had burnt 12 tonnes of unsold but usable clothes. It was also reported that H&M was burning discarded clothing alongside recycled wood and waste at the Västerås power station, as part of its move to becoming a fossil-free facility by 2020.

They have also failed to meet their sustainability targets. One example is promising that all their garment workers would receive the minimum wage. The trouble is, in countries such as Ethiopia, there is no minimum wage (unless you’re a civil servant) and they have some of the lowest wages in the globe.

And there’s also a segment on tax avoidance but that’s a whole other thing....

It’s news like this that makes their sustainability statements hard to truly believe and you can see the complexities of the wider situation. 

H&M were once described to me as the yin and yang of the ethical fashion world and I think that’s an apt way to view them. 

I always come down on the side of some positive action is better than no action but for me H&M need to up their game by actually delivering on their promises.

There are also so many more films, books and courses I could refer you too, but I’ll tackle that another day!

 

 

 

What to wear to Lapland (and other places that are mighty cold!)

We’ve been lucky enough to spend 3 days in Lapland this December where it reached minus 12 degrees. It didn’t get light until around 11am and the light was already fading by 2.30pm. At this time of year the sun doesn’t fully rise above the horizon so it’s chilly!  If you’re heading to a similar climate, here’s my 5 top tips;

1/ Wool is your friend whereas cotton is not.

Why? Well once cotton gets wet perhaps through snow or perspiration it doesn’t dry out. It holds in the moisture, which can cool you down quickly. Also clothes that are damp don’t have the breath-ability of dry clothes, which is key in a cold environment. So do try to avoid cotton where possible. Jeans are equally as useless as cotton so ditch those in favour of fleece lined leggings unless you want frozen pins. Wool on the other hand is amazing and seemed to keep us toasty warm. 

2/ Layers are key

It’s better to have multiple thinner layers than one thick one. This is because the air gets trapped between the layers to keep you warm. You might feel like a Russian doll getting dressed every morning and going to the loo can be seriously challenging but you’ll be thankful once you’re outside. On my hands I wore liners, woollen mittens and then leather outers. On my feet were merino liners, boiled wool inners and heavy duty boots. I also had thermal base layers, a jumper, a fleece, a neck warmer and a hat. It might sound excessive but it was needed and to be honest, after 45 minutes on a snowmobile even this wasn’t enough to keep my extremities as warm as I would have liked. The children also had fleece balaclavas.

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3/ Go for the best quality gear you can afford. 

Most of my winter kit is 15 years old and still going strong. Merino is king if you really want to get the best so keep your eyes peeled for bargains in the sales as well as charity shops and stock up for future use. Cashmere is also great for warmth as is fleece. I also really recommend that if you’re planning on taking photos using your smartphone then buy a pair of base layer gloves with little patches on the thumb and index finger that let you use the touchscreen. Thick gloves (especially mittens) make it impossible to work any controls on your camera, and you don’t want to be continuously exposing your bare hands to the cold air to get your camera to work! If you’re investing in snowboots, I recommend you buy them a size larger than your normal shoes. This way, you can wear thick woolly socks and still have extra room inside the boot for warm air to circulate around your toes.

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4/ Mind the gap(s)

Where you can, tuck things in. For example, tuck tops into bottoms and put your gloves on BEFORE you put on your coat/ski suit. This helps prevent those little gaps where cold air can seap in (and once it’s in it’s horrid) Don’t underestimate the importance of a neck warmer or a scarf and do your coat ALL the way up!

5/ Don’t forget the moisturiser and lip balm 

Temperatures that don’t get above freezing are harsh on your skin and lips. You’ll dry out in no time so take care of your face too and lather on the moisturiser! But.... make sure your products are NOT water-based as water-based lotions accelerate frostbite!


Remember, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. If you dress correctly for the conditions, you can go out in practically any weather…….even I had my limits though!

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It's a jungle out there!

If you’ve been clothes shopping recently, you will have discovered you cannot MOVE for animal prints - leopard in particular. Now, I know that leopard print has some women running for the hills. One woman visibly shuddered when I picked up a blouse on a recent shopping trip so if it’s really not your thing, then just walk away.

If you’d like to give it a go though, here’s three simple styling ideas for you:

1/ Funk up a plain jeans and t-shirt look with a jacket.

Both looks here are where the coat does all the talking. This is because everything else is stripped back to allow the coat to the be main attraction. Because the coats are styled with neutrals (black, white and denim) the look is less obvious than pairing with with a colour such as red. The coat is from Asos at £75 and the biker jacket is from Boohoo at £35.

2/ Keep the look simple with plain accessories

This wrap dress from Hobbs at £99 is a real classic and even office ready when styled with black shoes and bag. Again, keep the look simple with minimal accessories and if black isn’t your thing, chocolate or rose brown will look equally elegant.

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3/ Add a hint of print with an accessory

If wearing leopard print on clothing seems a step too far, why not try a skinny belt or bag? You decide on the size and have as much impact as you dare! Using it as a tiny accent is a fun (and inexpensive) way to add some personality to an otherwise clean and simple outfit.

I love this belt from LaRedoute Just a flash of it showing under a well cut jacket adds a hint of trend but won’t break the bank or bring you out in a sweat! The bag from Roman is also a really fun way to add a print to your look without being too overpowering. You could even try a pair of shoes or boots.

So there you have it - go as wild or as subtle as you like but above all, have some fun and choose whatever suits your style best x

Make a statement with these bold earrings!

I stumbled across these beautiful statement earrings in Collab this week (I’m pretty sure I was a magpie in a former life as I’m constantly drawn to shiny, colourful things!)

I instantly loved the playful, fun designs and then when I researched the brand and found out there’s repurposing going on too, I loved it even more. 

The range is Dakota Rae Dust and it’s handmade in Bristol by a designer called Bec (maybe another reason I love it!).

While the fixings, zips and tassels are new, the fabrics used are either vintage or secondhand which have been sourced in charity shops and jumble sales or from off cuts and textile left overs. 

To see more of the range either pop into Collab on the Gloucester Rd or shop online here

It's happening.........a whole year without buying new clothes!

 

I'm not really a believer in New Year's Resolutions. I've made them in the past but never really stuck to them so this year I thought I'd set myself some challenges instead. Things that were important to me but that actually made a difference to the world in a positive way.

The Challenge:

Not to buy any clothes from brand new sources for an entire year.

Why I hear you ask? Well as of the 1st January, China will no longer accept waste from the rest of the world. This includes a HUGE amount of textile waste from the U.K.

This means we all need to try and reduce the amount of waste created in the first place. In the U.K. alone, we export 365m kilos of used clothes every year and the figure is rising.

Where are all these clothes going? Sadly mostly to landfill and when you know it takes over 1000 years for a faux fur coat to break down, we're creating a huge problem.

Image from Pinterest

Image from Pinterest

Why will the challenge help?

I started off believing that I could make a difference just by changing my own consumer habits but quickly realised there would be a much bigger impact if more women joined me. I opened up the challenge to the women who follow me on a Facebook and very quickly I had over 70 eco-conscious women all pledging to do the same.

That's over 70 of us who, this year, will source our clothes from charity shops, pre-loved boutiques, clothes swapping events, vintage stores and so on. Re-using clothes that could otherwise end up as waste.

Does the challenge mean absolutely all clothes?

No. There are certain items we're just not prepared to buy secondhand and these are:

Underwear (secondhand pants? Just NO!)

Swimwear

Sleepwear

Specialist items e.g. Sportswear/gym stuff

Footwear

The first port of call will always be to try to source secondhand because brand new items do come onto the secondhand market, but if it's not possible to source the above, new is permitted in these cases.

Image from Pinterest

Image from Pinterest

 

Every month I'm going to provide support and expert guidance. The first face to face event will be a "how to charity shop like a pro" which will be held in one of my favourite charity shops, free of charge in conjunction with Eco Designer Linda Thomas

Linda gave up shopping on the High Street over 12 years ago, so between us we have a lot to share. If you'd like to come along and listen to our top tips, please book your place here

Care to join us in the challenge too?

If you'd like to have a go, it's not too late! Just start from now but please get in touch with me to let me know you're on board. That was I can make sure you receive all my tips on how to survive the year with ease. Go on, you know you can do it! x

 

 

In need of a confidence boost? I might have just the thing for you!

One of the reasons I set up my business was because I witnessed women losing their confidence over the years and I wanted to help give some back. I can say this from a position of authority as I was one of those women. The type that had a career, a great social life and didn't think twice about spending time and money on myself. 

Then babies happened. My world changed overnight. Post natal depression kicked in, I felt isolated, incompetent as a mother and over time, I slowly lost my identity. 

My self esteem took a nose dive, my body took a battering and as a result I morphed into the background. My son didn't sleep through the night until he started primary school and I gave birth to another baby in his first term. So just as I had one successful sleeper, another round of sleepless nights began.....

You will be hard pressed to find ANY photos of me at this stage of my life. I really didn't like what I saw and to some extent, I gave up. I was in survival mode and when you're there you just don't have the capacity for anything else.

But slowly things got better, the children became older, I got some sleep and I began my second career as a stylist to enable me to work around their needs.

 

Personal Stylist Bristol Becky Barnes Style

And that is where the magic happened. My love of colour and clothes returned. The excitement of buying a beautiful piece came flooding back. I got my hair cut, had my nails done and started to put myself further up the priority list. I was turning into me again and it was bloody powerful stuff!

Over time I started to rebuild my sense of self worth and noticed that instead of it being an indulgence, the whole family benefitted from my new found happiness.

So why am I telling you all this? Because over the next 12 months I'm going to be teaming up with other incredible business women whose purpose is exactly the same as mine - to help you feel better about yourself, to give you a shot of confidence and to help you see just how beautiful you are just the way you are now.

The first collaboration is super exciting as I'll be working with Janette from Beautifully You Photography. Janette creates absolutely stunning photos of women and is as passionate as I am about helping women to see their true beauty. You can check out her work here: https://www.facebook.com/beautifullywomanportraits/

For a limited period we are coming together to offer you a unique makeover package which includes: 

A style and body shape consultation

A full colour consultation and booklet of colour swatches to keep

A wardrobe edit to include an outfit building session 

A shopping list of suggested pieces to invest in

A high quality, luxury makeover photoshoot including professional hair and make up

A gorgeous 10 x 8 inch image to treasure forever

 

And most importantly:  A HUGE boost of confidence and much needed pick me up! All for just £399. 

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So if you feel like a you're ready for a little lift, we're here for you  x

Is a capsule wardrobe the answer to your style dilemmas?

So how hard could it be to create a capsule wardrobe from scratch and then wear it for 30 days? Honestly, I thought it would be a breeze. I thought it would be great fun to style a new look every day, document the pieces and the price of the outfit and share it with my followers. I thought there might be a few small challenges along the way but I had NO IDEA how quickly it would start to affect me (for the worse).

My capsule wardrobe of 18 pieces of clothes and a handful of accessories.

My capsule wardrobe of 18 pieces of clothes and a handful of accessories.

I should state that all I sourced all the pieces from local charity shops as I wanted to show that you can pick up some great finds, meaning style is accessible to everyone. I also wanted to highlight how buying secondhand clothes is kinder to the environment. My views on this remain absolutely the same - and I will continue to be an avid shopper of pre-loved clothes, be it from charity shops, second hand boutiques, swishing events and so on.

So how did the 30 days go? I started out full of enthusiasm. It was new, I was keen to see how well the pieces worked together and I felt positive. The outfits came together nicely and I enjoyed the fact that every morning there was no overwhelm. It felt good.

But from day 10 I started to feel differently. I began to crave my old clothes and I was desperate for more colour. And from that point on, I realised I had made more and more mistakes with the 18 items I had selected. By day 20 I thought finishing the challenge would be impossible. I was just so down and felt so unlike 'me' that it felt counterintuitive to continue. I even had my 6 year old daughter beg me to put my "old clothes' on as she just wanted her mummy back. But I was determined to get to the end so started focusing on how a capsule wardrobe could work.

So having reached day 30 (and boy am I glad it's over!) I have the following 6 tips for you to help you if you ever feel like having a go at a capsule wardrobe yourself:

1 - Your clothes have to fit you well. Some of my items didn't - they were a touch too big or too small meaning ultimately, they were uncomfortable to wear. If they don't fit, you're not going to wear them so don't give them wardrobe space.

2 - If colour is your thing, then you've got to have lots of it in your capsule. I purposely chose a lot of neutrals to give me maximum flexibility and I had one accent colour in orange (not one of my favourite colours but I thought I'd give it a go). Turns out I hate wearing orange and I missed all the jewel tones I love so much. I discovered that stripping me of colour, stripped me of happiness. I know that sounds pretty dramatic, but it's true and the speed at which my mood dropped, actually scared me.

3 - You have to love the items and want to wear them. My issue was I didn't love any of my items, they were just OK. But if your clothes are just OK, that's probably how you're going to feel when you're wearing them. Nothing excited me and I started wearing the items in different ways to try and make them work better for me. If you don't believe me, below is a picture of me wearing a pair of trousers as a scarf!

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4 - You have to decide what your capsule wardrobe is for and plan accordingly. Mine was supposed to be for both work and play and I just didn't have enough variety or fun to cover all bases. I also work  with a lot of women who want to keep work and weekend clothes very separate. If this resonates with you then I suggest one capsule wardrobe for work and one for home, which leads nicely onto number 5...

5 - You need to have enough clothes in your collection. I had 18 pieces (4 of which were outerwear) and it simply wasn't enough. Although I enjoyed the fact I wasn't overwhelmed with choice, it did feel like I was depriving myself and that's never a good thing! I think you need at least 30 items in a capsule to help you feel you have sufficient variety and to stop the boredom. Trust me when I say I was sick of my items by the end of the challenge!

6 - You can go outside your capsule when you need to. I had a number of evening events to attend during my 30 days and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't turn my items into 'party wear'. Once I had given myself to go outside the capsule for special occasions, it felt so much better.

So here we are on day 30 and I cannot tell you how excited I am about delving into my own wardrobe tomorrow to choose something fabulous! Having lived with a capsule for 30 days I can see how one could work and I'm going to take the learnings into my own wardrobe where I will definitely be stripping out and refining. But for now, I'm going to select the outfit for day 31 - one which is full of colour and makes me feel like me again x