Isabelle Hardy is the driving force behind Anita Is, her curated vintage collection named fondly after her mother's middle name, is a magical mix of whimsy and intrigue. The collection boasts anything from floaty 70s dresses to structured power blazers for a chic, 'I just threw this on' look. I had a conversation with Isabelle to find out what goes into styling these one of a kind pieces, where she harbours inspiration from and talked about how this love affair with vintage all started...
What made you decide to set up Anita is?
It was a combination of a few things really! I have loved vintage clothing for almost as long as I have been dressing myself so when I started my fashion blog, Fashion Et Moi, back in 2013, it was inevitable that I’d be sharing outfits full of unique vintage pieces. Then a few years ago, I thought that people might want to actually buy some of the pieces I was wearing and then this idea grew into starting a proper vintage brand. I had worked for a few other vintage brands across the world in my twenties so last year I decided it was finally time to do it my way. I’m also super passionate about conscious living and I wanted to offer an easier and curated way to shop vintage to encourage people to make more sustainable fashion choices.
Where does your love of vintage stem from?
My love for vintage began in my teens. I grew up in Bristol near a high street called Gloucester Road, which is full of secondhand and charity shops. In particular, I remember buying lots of beautiful vintage dresses and handbags from Repsycho, which is a pure, old-fashioned vintage shop on Gloucester Road that sells women’s and men’s clothes and homeware upstairs. These dresses weren’t for special occasions though, oh no! They were for gigs and nights out! I loved getting dressed up and knowing that I wouldn’t be wearing the same thing as anyone else.
What advice would you give to someone who is new to vintage shopping?
Wow, I have so much advice! Firstly, be open minded and patient. You’re unlikely to find exactly what you’re looking for on your first shopping trip - you really have to commit to the search (or allow curated vintage sellers like me to do the hunting for you!). Look in vintage shops, charity shops, on eBay, Depop, everywhere! Also, be ready to make small alterations or take a piece to the tailors - if the colour/pattern/shape are perfect, there is often a way to make the size work. Finally, once you’ve found something you love, take your time to check for stains, holes and imperfections, in natural light if possible. There’s nothing worse than having the buzz of a vintage find quashed by finding a mark when you get home.
How do you go about styling vintage pieces for your website?
I absolutely love styling - it’s one of my favourite parts of the job. I love playing with textures, colours and prints so I do what feels natural to me and then try to take it further by looking for inspiration on the runway, on Instagram and in films. I aim to make the styling wearable and relatable but still with an elevated and aspirational edge.
What do you look for when you source for your collections?
Sourcing is different every time! Sometimes I am looking for specific pieces, like if I am putting together a collection and I feel like something in particular is missing. Other times, I am just looking generally for the next season or I might just stumble across a piece that is not seasonally appropriate at all but I know it will work for a later collection. I always keep current trends in mind but I ensure I stay true to the brand aesthetic of sixties and seventies clothing with a nod to French nonchalance. I am always drawn in by unique and bold prints, little details and ruffles, always ruffles.
What inspires you creatively?
I think it’s possible to find inspiration in almost anything. I’m inspired by colour combinations you might see in nature or in food or in art. I love looking for outfit inspiration in series and films, especially those set in the sixties and seventies like Mad Men and The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, as well as in magazines and on Instagram.
How would you describe the ‘Anita Is’ woman?
The Anita Is woman is romantic, she’s nonchalant, she’s a nostalgic daydreamer. She is bold, styled, elevated. She is also modern, forward-thinking and responsible because above all, even though she loves clothes, she is passionate about paving the way for a sustainable world.
Why is secondhand sustainable clothing important to you?
There are many reasons (and I’m warning you, this might get a little preachy!). First and foremost, secondhand sustainable clothing is important to me because of the damage that the “new fashion” industry is doing to our plant. From using unimaginable amounts of water to produce just one pair of jeans to polluting other nations’ communities (to name just a couple of crimes), fast fashion brands are a big contributor to climate breakdown. Clothes should be made to last, worn over and over again and cherished, not made poorly and thrown away after just one wear. We don’t need to keep making as many new clothes as we do because there are already enough in existence, either in our wardrobes or in vintage and secondhand shops. As for allowing your personal style to evolve and being inspired by current trends? Well, so many looks that we see on the runway (and then subsequently on the high street) have been inspired by true vintage items! So I say, why buy new when you can buy the original? I truly believe that about 90% of the time we can create an outfit we love (that’s a take on current trends if that’s your bag) by shopping vintage and secondhand.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to set up their own online shop?
Take your time to really hone in on why you want to set up your shop, what its USP is, who your customer is and once you’ve established that, stay true to it. Then, on a practical note, don’t be afraid to ask others for help (a piece of advice I need to take sometimes!).
What plans do you have in store next for Anita Is?
Well, our spring/summer collections are currently on hold due to coronavirus (we shoot everything on models on location outside) but I’m currently working on a vintage loungewear/lingerie edit, which is coming this week! When the world gets back on track, you can expect a summer collection full of white lace, floral dresses, prairie details and much more as well as our delayed bridal collection later in the summer. I also want to do more IRL events and I’m looking to organise a shopping event in collaboration with some other cool vintage sellers so watch this space!
Follow Anita Is on Instagram - @shopanitais
And check out their website - www.anitais.com
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