I think a common assumption about vintage is that it is only for people with a particularly bold maximalist style. And I think the rise of these small handpicked curated collections of vintage are fighting back against these stereotypes. They are making vintage and secondhand clothing accessible for a wider range of personal styles and showcasing how incorporating vintage into your outfit can be effortless and easy. Kate, the owner of the online shop Wear Not New is the perfect example of someone finding that vintage sweet spot and helping to show how secondhand can be perfect for a contemporary audience. I wanted to chat to Kate to find out what sparked her interest in circular fashion, the process of putting together and sourcing her collections and the importance of thinking and considering before you buy.
What made you decide to set up Wear Not New?
"In the past I’ve worked for big high street fashion retailers and other vintage brands but I wanted to do my own thing. I love the rummage but I know that many people don’t have time to spend searching out those special pieces. I wanted to offer vintage that was accessible to everyone, a real alternative to buying new - curated collections made up of great quality gems, that are relevant for modern fashion lovers."
Where does your love of vintage stem from?
"My love of vintage stemmed from a desire to stand out - and from financial necessity! As a child, I spent my Sundays selling my old toys at boot sales and spending any profits on clothes and trinkets from the other stalls. For me there was nothing better than receiving a bag of hand-me-downs from my cousin or cutting up my brother’s old jeans to create the perfect pair of denim shorts. I always enjoyed dressing up and was very lucky that both my Mum and Step-Mum have incredible wardrobes, filled with amazing pieces collected over the years."
"As a teenager vintage and second hand became an affordable way for me experiment and create my own unique style. I’d often go rummaging in charity shops and vintage fairs looking for one-off pieces that I could mix in with high street stuff to try and make my look different. In my early twenties I got sucked in by fast fashion and the constant need for new and eventually I ended up with a huge wardrobe but nothing to wear! I began re-selling what I no longer wore on eBay and Depop and became more focused on the quality and longevity of the pieces I was adding into my wardrobe. Around the same time I began educating myself on the impact of the fashion industry and now shopping second hand is very much connected to sustainability, a way for me to enjoy fashion more consciously."
What advice would you give to someone who is new to vintage shopping?
"Vintage shopping can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not someone with time to spare. I find it helpful to create a list of items I’m looking for and save it in my notes on my phone. Then whenever I find myself in a vintage shop I can refer back to that list to help narrow the search. If you’re put off by the rummage there are loads of great sellers on Etsy, Depop and Instagram that offer a more refined selection. When you’re buying online, don’t be afraid to ask for further information or more detailed images from sellers. And finally, find a good tailor; some of my favourite vintage pieces are those that I’ve had taken in or adjusted to fit me."
Where do you see the future of fashion heading?
"The fashion industry is beginning to make changes towards a sustainable future but there is still a long way to go. I think we need to look to the past to find a sustainable future for fashion. My Nan loves to tell the story of how she got married in a dress that she borrowed from a friend, who’d been married in it the month before. That same dress was worn by 5 other brides in her circle on their wedding days! Back then people had less, but the things they had were good quality and they took care of them."
"As consumers, we have to try and change our mindset and become more conscious by buying less, choosing better quality items when we can, borrowing or buying vintage instead of buying new, and trying to create our own style rather than just following fashion. When I buy something, whether it be new to me or just new, I try to think about where it’s come from and its longevity in my wardrobe. Is it good quality? Is it well made? What fabric is it made from? And is it something I can see myself wearing for years or just to that one party? The aim is to create a collection of pieces, things that work together, that you feel great in, that suit your body and your lifestyle, things that can be worn over and over again and maybe one day passed on."
What do you look for when you source for your collections?
"Before I go buying, I look at that season’s shows, the colours, patterns, fabrics and shapes; I think about the pieces I’d like to add to my own wardrobe for the coming season. I make a lot of lists and I try to think about how I will form everything into collections that make sense. When I'm sourcing, I am very focused on the quality, detailing, cut and condition of each piece. There are certain timeless pieces and designers that I am always on the look out for (for example great denim, classic tailoring and Burberry trenches) but it’s different every time - you never know what you’re going to find and that’s what makes it so fun!"
What inspires you creatively?
"I’m inspired by everything. I am always seeing people on the street and feeling inspired by what they’re wearing. I’m obsessed with Vogue Runway. I especially love the looks from the 90’s Versace, Prada and Calvin Klein shows. I also spend a lot of time looking at street style photography; I love seeing what people are wearing to the current shows. Aside from that, interiors, art, nature, film, photography, TV, magazines, blogs, Pinterest, Tumblr, and of course Instagram. Some of my favourite accounts include:"
How would you describe Wear Not New’s aesthetic?
"The Wear Not New aesthetic is about providing a modern, wearable take on vintage, offering a mix of classic, minimal style and more trend-led stand out pieces. We specialise in designers like Burberry, Versace and MaxMara, providing an affordable and sustainable alternative to shopping new, for stylish women who love the planet just as much as they love fashion."
Why is secondhand sustainable clothing important to you?
"It’s the only way forward. The fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters. It’s impossible to ignore the impact of fast fashion on our planet and whilst the industry is beginning to work towards improving working conditions and creating a slower and more sustainable future, we too have to take responsibility for our choices as consumers. We can’t continue to consume unconsciously in the way that we have been doing; we have the power to encourage and support change by choosing where we spend our money. We don’t have to always buy new to be on trend or stylish. Most designers are influenced by vintage when creating their collections and therefore it’s possible to find relevant vintage pieces that not only translate to current trends but which are unique, more affordable and often better quality."
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to set up their own online shop?
"Don’t hesitate! I’d been dreaming of setting up Wear Not New for years before I actually plucked up the courage to do it. On a more practical note I’d say don’t be afraid to ask for help with things the you find challenging, whether it be accounting, photography or website building; there are lots of amazing small businesses and creatives out there that can help you build your vision."
What plans do you have in store next for Wear Not New?
"It’s been a challenging fews months for everyone. COVID-19 has put a lot of things on hold. Unfortunately I was unable to go ahead with our May and June Collections but now the restrictions are beginning to ease and I’m excited to launch our July Collection. My main focus at the moment is to keep the business growing. I currently work from my flat in East London and eventually I’d like to have a dedicated Wear Not New studio space, and do more IRL events and pop ups. I’m also looking to offer a sourcing service where customers can contact me when they’re looking for a specific piece and I’ll search it out for them."
Follow Wear Not New on Instagram - @wearnotnew
And check out their website - www.wearnotnew.com
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