I used to do so much second hand and vintage clothes shopping when I was younger and had more time on my hands but stopped after having kids. With a new perspective and awareness on the impact of our current shopping habits it’s something I’m really keen to get back into this year. I think as long as you know what suits you and what to look for it is a fantastic way to shop - better on your budget, the environment and keeping clothes out of landfill. It’s great way to reconnect to the joy of buying and wearing clothes, appreciating them and handing them on.
So I’m really excited to share this interview with Sally from Manifesto Woman, all about sustainable shopping. I met Sally last year and instantly fell in love with her cool style. Manifesto Woman is an online lifestyle store selling second hand (designer, high street, boutique labels), vintage clothing and accessories for the modern stylish woman (and now man). Her motto is style through sustainability and what I love is that it is a beautiful curation that feels like luxury shopping without the price tag! It’s also practical being an online store so more convenient than going to a vintage or second hand store and much easier to navigate. I also personally sell quite a lot of my clothes through her website as well and you can find some real bargains. It’s well worth a look and you can shop by size/ product type and she always gives a really good description on the fit and ways to wear it. Keep a close eye on her instagarm (@manifestowoman) for new drops as some things sell out straight away. She will also be opening a showroom up in her Suffolk home later this year.
1. Why did you set up Manifesto Woman?
As is the case with a huge number of start ups, I set up Manifesto Woman as a result of not being able to find what I needed. I was becoming increasingly uneasy with how I shopped for clothes… I was spending a fortune, for a start, but it also all seemed so wasteful. How could I continue to justify buying everything new when all around us there are obvious signs of planet devastation? But when I tried to find a convenient alternative solution for the type of clothes I like, I came away empty handed. The problem, I realised, was that while there were lots of amazing vintage shops, few had online offers. And while there were marketplaces catering towards the very high end (Vestiaire, HEWI, etc) and the low, jumble sale end (eBay), there wasn’t anywhere that felt like it was speaking to me. Like the majority of women, my wardrobe is a mash-up of designer, boutique label, a bit of vintage and high street. I wanted to be able to shop it all, in one place, online and in what felt like a boutique environment. Enter Manifesto Woman. I like to think it offers the option of stylish sustainability in one convenient, online, easy to use, beautifully designed package.
It’s somewhere fashion lovers can shop without the guilt, where they still feel like they are treating themselves and, importantly, feel amazing in the clothes they buy.
2. How does Manifesto Woman Work - how can someone buy or sell through you?
Manifesto Woman is set up so that anyone can shop it like a ‘normal online shop’, the key difference is that nothing is new. Visit www.manifestowoman.com to see more. We also have a Kids section + Manifesto Man has just launched.
In terms of selling via the store, I do a lot of sourcing myself but welcome stylish contributions from others. I tend to favour boutique and mid-range labels e.g. House of Holland, Apiece Apart, Rachel Comey, Rodebjer, Acne, Humanoid, Ganni, etc but happily accept top-end designer labels too. Special pieces from the best of the high street are also good - The Kooples, Cos, Uterque, Jaeger, etc. And I love vintage. If somebody is interested in selling via Manifesto Woman they can read up on how to do so here: https://manifestowoman.com/pages/sell-with-us
3. What are your top tips for buying second hand or vintage?
I have an entire book of tips… learnt the very hard way through making a lot of mistakes. Don’t be me!
Check everything and then check it again… the armpits are usually the first thing to go on garments and they can be quite tricky to fix unless you are a whizz with a needle and thread. Hems, buttons (make sure you check the cuff buttons too), lining, pockets (they often have holes). Think about what goes wrong on your clothes and then make sure the same hasn’t happened to whatever it is you’re holding.
And don’t over-reach yourself…by that I mean don’t buy things that need repairs if you haven’t managed to sew the buttons back onto garments currently in your wardrobe. The reality is that the beautiful jacket with a torn pocket will sit unworn in your wardrobe until you eventually donate it to charity.
If you’re in a grungy charity shop, ask the shop assistant if you can check the garments outside in natural light. I have often come home with ‘bargains of the century’ only to find they have a huge stain across the front that wasn’t visible in the store’s bad lighting. Armpit stains are also very hard to see in artificial light so have a careful look for these too.
I know it can be cringey - I hate doing it myself - but haggle, particularly if you’re buying more than one item. You’d be surprised how much you can save.
If you’re at a car boot sale, market or similar, either be there right at the start or right at the end, preferably both. The best pieces go in the blink of an eye so you have to be at the front of that queue. Conversely, all the best deals happen at the end where people are panic discounting so they don’t go home with all their stock.
The best secondhand tends to be found in cities - at charity shops and car boot markets - but head out of London/ major cities for vintage (i.e. proper vintage not secondhand).
Know your brands, especially main lines vs. diffusion lines. I have been tripped up more than once by Debenhams Edition lines… House of Holland is a very different proposition to H! by Henry Holland.
Be prepared to go home empty handed. Sometimes you’re lucky and other times you’re not. Buying something for the sake of it is throwing money down the drain.
4. Why do you think shopping secondhand is so important?
I could throw a thousand stats at you here! In summary - the waste in all phases of clothing production and retail is shocking. The pollution, the appalling working conditions and wages endured at so many factories, the plastic in synthetic fabric (almost always unrecyclable), the stack ‘em high/ sell ‘em cheap business model of so many high-street retailers, the waste of unsold stock, the throwaway fashion culture. Although secondhand isn’t the silver bullet, it does go some way to creating a circular fashion cycle and keeps clothes out of landfill. Personally I think secondhand also promotes the ‘buy less but better’ mindset. Why buy cheap if it has no resale value? Much better to buy well and then sell it on.
5. What are your top tips for looking after your clothes and giving them a longer life?
I should caveat this by saying I am a big believer in wearing your ‘best’ everyday. I own one pair of jeans, silk dominates my wardrobe, I have zero practical clothing and I'm never seen without a big earring. Throw on your ballgown for day wear and trudge through a cow field in your leather trousers. Clothes are for wearing and enjoying. That said there are obviously ways you can prolong their life. Here are my relatively prosaic (but useful!) tips:
Learn sewing basics… I can’t tell you how many discarded items come my way; chucked simply because the hem has come down, or a button has come off. Sewing is actually really simple… you could learn how to do the basics in a morning. Failing that, take everything that needs mending to your local dry cleaners who will do most jobs for between £5 and £10
Hang as much as you can, not only is it much easier to see what you already own but it keeps clothes crease free and aired. Don’t leave things at the back of cupboards/ in dark places - it encourages moths
Get moth pheromone sticky sheets - they are the only effective deterrent against moths that I have found. Get them before you discover you have a moth problem (moths, by the way, are most active in Spring and Summer).
Get a fabric shaver. All those knits you never wear because of ‘the bobbles’? Just shave them off. I am evangelical about this one (also, for reference, there is no difference between cheap vs. expensive knits… they all bobble equally)
Vanish roll on is your best friend when it comes to stains. Don’t be deterred if a stain doesn’t come out first time… often the second or third time does the trick
Sunlight fades marks… this works for baby’s clothes as much as it does grownups. A brown mark that the Vanish just isn’t shifting? Leave in the sunlight for a day or two and be amazed as it disappears
Dye your clothes! If something is a little faded/ has stains then whip out the dye. Dylon does amazing washing machine versions that couldn’t be easier to use and will give you a whole new item of clothing to wear. I am super keen to start experimenting with vegetable dyes too.
6. What do you think the future of sustainable fashion and the retail environment is?
It’s so hard to say. There’s a real shift in consumer awareness thanks to a few high-profile documentaries as well as climate change making headline news. I think growing consumer pressure will force big brands to continue to change their production and retail practices; you can already see this filtering through via Conscious ranges, clothes recycling schemes and the like. The government's new proposed legislation re companies having to pay to recycle their own waste is also brilliant. If you look at the big fashion houses, most of them are radically changing their sourcing and production so this will almost certainly filter down to an extent to high street retailers. But then on the flip side, I read recently that Primark is now the biggest clothing retailer in the UK and there is nothing sustainable about their clothes. So I don’t know. I’m hoping for the best.
7. Why do you think more people are becoming aware of and interested in learning about more sustainable shopping habits?
I agree that people are becoming more interested in sustainability but I do think it’s still relatively niche. I read the below the line comments of a newspaper article recently and was shocked by how few people agreed with the need to shop more sustainably… and this was the Guardian! But yes, agreed, it is a growing movement. I think sustainability used to be a bit ‘crunchy’ and was very much on the periphery of society, championed by Greenpeace types but not taken very seriously. But now, thanks in part to a few hard-hitting documentaries, it is very much in the mainstream. Charities such as Friends of the Earth are also doing an amazing job of making us rethink our consumption behaviour and of course there are hard hitters on instagram too like Fash_Rev.
8. Where else do you like to shop in a sustainable way?
Manifesto Woman is the main source of my clothes nowadays but every now and again I do ‘go shopping’ for myself. I definitely love to shop still; feels like such a treat. My top shopping destinations would be...
Car boot markets are by far the best source of clothes. Go to inner city ones for current fashion and country ones for vintage. Make a flask of coffee before you head out at the crack of dawn to get all the best buys… the coffee is *always* shit at these things (in fact, if anybody is scrabbling around for a new business idea, that is a good one… a mobile coffee cart for car boot markets would go down a treat)!
I can also never walk past a charity shop without popping my head in.
Online vintage stores such as Retold Vintage, Valery’s Vintage + Honeykins Vintage are all worth a browse
And I’ve recently been dipping my toe into DePop but it’s a bit hit and miss and very much geared towards teens rather than people like me (although I’m obviously barely out of my teens myself ;-))
9. What are your favourite small and ethical brands?
Ooh, I have a real soft spot for boutique brands. I have so many favourites. My top ten are probably the following, but if you asked me the same question tomorrow the list would look different again…
9. What styles will you be wearing or looking for this Spring?
My perennial search is for ankle boots with a 3/4 cm heel… this never changes as they are so hard to find. Why, why, why do brands insist on making boots with unwalkable heels? My preference is for camel, caramel or ivory… lighter colours rather than black, which can be very heavy.
Other than boots I’ll be on the hunt for:
A slouchy suit that can be worn with heels, trainers or sandals
Silk culottes that can be worn on their own or layered under dresses
A pleated silk duster coat to replace my beloved vintage one that I’ve worn until it is literally falling apart at the seams
A top and midi skirt co-ord - bold stripes or floral would be great
A silk bold floral jumpsuit - I’d wear it with a statement earring + flat tan sandals in the day and heels at night
70s, square-framed sunglasses
In terms of general style, right now I can’t get enough of Gucci & Dries van Noten. It’s so funny as I’ve always been quite minimalist in my dress sense but suddenly I want to look just like a Christmas tree.