Work In Fashion Presents… The Converted Closet
by Yasmin Jones-Henry
Fast Fashion, fast food, fast life… with one click of a button we can acquire a brand new look with a newly purchased wardrobe online. With several swipes we can survey potential marriage proposals and with the help of social media and instant messaging we can stay in touch without ever meeting our friends face to face. Welcome to the twenty first century: The era of Connectivity and Convenience. As data reigns supreme, there is a real danger that we are losing our sense of humanity.
In my article ‘Abstract Impressions’, I reflected upon the plight of my generation. As I stood in a room filled with Rothko, and as I marvelled at Pollock, I became acutely aware of how their art work made me feel. The conclusion of that particular excursion was rather liberating, but simultaneously left me feeling rather mournful. I realised then, on that cold November evening, the extent to which my generation (anyone born post 1992) has been sold a lie. As the millennium arrived, technology and data began to usurp the place of the physical, human elements of life. Pixels began to replace people.
As you will observe from reading my articles on @workinfashion.me, I have many ‘eureka’ moments. Most of them occur while I am out and about, usually thinking about art – in some capacity. For me art is a very expansive word, it has always played a crucial role in my life. My father is a musician and my mother a designer – so I have been surrounded by creative power and its energy since birth. Being creative is just as important as breathing in the scheme of human survival. Society has misled us into dismissing ‘creativity’ and ‘art’ as social and leisurely activities when in actual fact our creative power is the cornerstone of our humanity. My parents could not help but show me through their own work and lives, that freedom of expression and the right to self determination are not luxuries, but fundamental human rights. This belief informs everything I think, everything I say and everything I do.
So when it comes to ‘fashion’, I have always considered myself as something of a rebel. I value freedom of expression – I believe strongly in the right to self determination, so month after month, year after year, I loathed being told what to do and what to wear by glossy publications. The fashion industry has become rigid. Stuck in a cycle of ‘seasons’ and trends that insist on universal participation, there is little room for individuality and creative thought.
In ‘Functionality vs The Aesthetic’ I began this journey by asking the question, ‘What is fashion for?’ As you know, fashion is taken from the Latin ‘facere’ meaning to do or to make – so my line of argument rests firmly in the belief that ultimately, fashion is what YOU make it. The process of manufacture and creativity that is implied in its original Latin state also speaks of imagination, skill, art and handmade craft. These are things that only the individual can contribute to the world of fashion. Oligopolies, major corporations and big retail (fast fashion) sit outside of this realm. This is the exclusive territory of the artisan.
I am well aware that the stance I have taken towards fashion is an unusual one. Many choose to simply follow, never challenging the status quo, merely repeating the same jargon, repackaging the same motif as a new and exciting trend. The fashion industry is moving further and further away from the human touch. Machines replace workers, shop assistants disappear from the shop floors as self service stations arrive on the high street and all the while the consumer is conditioned to think less and less of the human hands that make their garments. Fashion – is art. It deserves to be revered in the same way that fine art is cherished, respected and protected. Could you imagine if every piece of couture was treated like a Monet? The stigma that would accompany being seen with a counterfeit would soon put those pirates out of business.
Art in its formal capacity is also deemed as a good investment amongst high net worth individuals. They don’t buy, they invest. That attitude towards fashion would change consumer spending patterns dramatically. Instead of rushing to the nearest high street – sweat shop endorsed brands, the consumer, conscious of their money, would pause to examine the quality of the product on offer, the material and the craft. These items would be hung carefully in the closet, preserved to be worn on display for the appointed occasion. The pageantry that exists alongside the functionality of fashion would no longer be cast off as the preserve of the few fashionistas who dominate the public scene. Treating fashion as art, celebrating the creative power that infuses it is good for humanity and good for business. The designer, the seamstress, the tailors and the factory workers would all be paid their rightful due according to the value of each item’s worth as opposed to the shareholder’s lust for profit. The consumer would take more care, modifying where necessary, tailoring, replacing buttons and re-dying after wear and tear to ensure the full value of said item has been extracted.
Is this a mere hypothesis? Have I dreamt up a Thomas More-like Utopia? Or is there anyone else out there who agrees with me?
Scrolling through my instagram one morning last year I stumbled across a profile that amused me. Every morning, a stylist named Kate, would post a photograph of herself wearing an outfit – with an extensive caption beneath it. She would describe where the item was from, how she found it. How it made her feel. Was it comfortable? If not she would describe how she planned to rectify the situation. Later these photographs metamorphosed into short 1 minute videos explaining for example how to pin an item in preparation for alterations. How to transform a rather dull looking off the hanger ensemble into a one-off custom piece. How to breathe new life into an old purchase that some might have thrown out, by cutting bits off, adding new buttons… Eureka! I had found another comrade.
Ladies and gentleman, allow me to introduce you to Kate Mcguire, stylist extraordinaire and founder of The Converted Closet.
Yasmin: What provoked you to start The Converted Closet?
Kate: A life-long love of converting clothes from what I see in front of me to what I want to see! I feel a very strong sense of how a piece of clothing needs to fit a body to flatter it to the max. If the fit is not good, trends and fashions are irrelevant. Growing up it was always easier to play around and convert clothes that had been bought at a discount – vintage, in sales etc. (less consumer-anxiety meant increased creative thinking/less to lose) and I still feel this way. And I’ve discovered there is something so rewarding about breathing new life into something that has been given up on.
Did you know that women only wear about 20% of the clothes they own? I believe the scope for creativity and conversion is ripe: there’s 80% of redundant clothing sitting in virtually every woman’s closet!
Yasmin: What drew me to your work, was the fact that The Converted Closet feels like the perfect antidote to the damage fast fashion has done to the way we treat our clothes. Was that your intention?
Kate: Fast fashion doesn’t sit well with me either – and I wouldn’t even call myself a particularly “eco person” at all really, but the idea of clothes being worn once or twice before being destined for landfill just doesn’t feel right when there are SO many incredible, really well-made original pieces just sitting around unworn because they are Not New. I am on a personal mission to get women thinking about getting their fashion-fix in an alternative way.
We are so programmed to think of the high-street when we are bored of our wardrobes; but how about finding out what the options might be to change some of what you’ve got? The Converted Closet is about assuring people that you don’t have to be a fashion designer, a seamstress or a stylist to convert your closet. All you need is inspiration, guides on what can be done to get a perfect fit/make things unique/your very own, and a good alterations person to turn your vision into a reality (at your local dry cleaners!). Converting feels good on so many different levels. If you’ve done it, you know.
Yasmin: How would you define your signature style?
Kate: Thoughtful. Cool is priority for me. And by cool I mean on-trend, original and unique. All in one! I particularly enjoy creating my own style by mixing things up. For example: vintage (because it is different, original and requires a bit of thought to properly edge it up) with ultra modern to create an edgy look. Edge is a word I use a lot – its prerequisite for me when it comes to clothes. I get a real kick out of wearing something unusual and covetable and ideally, label-less. I much prefer my clothes to be appreciated for their style and design rather than the label they bear.
Yasmin: You have recently started doing video tutorials (which I love by the way) will this be a permanent fixture on your insta-blog?
Kate: Absolutely! I love showing “before and afters” – they are super exciting! The transformation that can happen with a couple of snips and tucks is quite astonishing. There’s nothing better than inspiring others to be creative. It’s a win-win and brings me a great deal of pleasure to witness. I am about to launch a website which will be giving really cool ideas and examples of how to convert – practical ones as well as style conversions – eg. how to edge up vintage. And The Converted Closet is making a YouTube series which is just super fun! If it’s as fun to watch as it is to make – it’ll be massive. And that’s exciting.
I would love to see a huge movement towards people converting what they’ve got and “getting their creative on” because I believe that’s what makes life infinitely interesting and fulfilling. Not to mention the closet! [End]
A woman after my own heart…
Follow The Converted Closet on instagram: @convertedcloset . Visit www.convertedcloset.com
Until Next Time…