Becky Barnes is a personal stylist helping women find confidence with their own authentic style. However, Becky does this in a way that is much kinder to our planet than you might expect! All her services encourage a more sustainable approach to shopping and styling. She’s been running sell-out charity shopping tours for over a year and her mission is to help slow down the fashion industry by encouraging others to rethink their relationship with clothes. She has also recently launched Little Green Wardrobe which is a regular clothes swapping event in Bristol which supports Labour Behind the Label.
As a change maker within your industry, tell us a bit more about your background?
I spent almost 20 years following a traditional corporate career before realising that my heart was never really in it. When I reached 40 I had one of those “life’s too short” moments so made a lot of changes. This included leaving my job and setting up my image consultancy business. My primary aim was to empower women so that they felt able to dress in a way that reflected who they truly were as an individual. My knowledge and concern for the environment was growing alongside the business and it reached a point where it made total sense to bring both of them together. So the journey of sustainable styling began and haven’t looked back since.
What are the challenges you’ve had to overcome on your journey with sustainable fashion, and how did you address them?
One of the challenges I realised quite quickly is just how bombarded we are with marketing messages. At the end of 2017 I vowed to not buy any new clothes for a whole year and so from January 1st, I started to unsubscribe from all the mailing lists I appeared on. Once I started viewing the messages from the perspective of not buying anything, I realised that how in the past, I had been so susceptible to browsing the sales etc. It dawned on me that I had been buying things through desire and not through need. So shutting off those messages was really powerful. Another challenge is finding sustainable brands that produce the type of clothing and footwear that I enjoy wearing. There are undoubtedly some incredible companies out there, it’s just that a lot of the clothes aren’t my style. That’s where the world of pre-loved clothes come into their own and why I’m so passionate about buying from secondhand sources. Not only is it great for the environment but it means I can style myself in an authentic way.
What would you do differently if you could?
I would love companies to experience the same level of eco guilt that I feel. If the people at the top had the environment within their company values and ethos, things could be so different. There’s only so much as an individual that I feel I can do so change at industry level would make such a huge difference.
What keeps you motivated and positive when things get tough?
I’ve had quite a lot of wobbles along the way and sometimes I feel totally powerless to make a difference. But then I remember the ripple effect and see the joy on the faces of the women I take second hand shopping when they realise they can do it! I’m also a firm believer that taking some action is better than taking none, so I’ll continue to do my bit!
What advice would you give women who don’t know where to start with shopping for second-hand clothing?
A great place to start is to shop for accessories – so look out for an incredible piece of jewellery, a fabulous scarf or a gorgeous bag. These are low risk items which don’t involve trying anything on! As you become more confident, start to browse the clothes. I always look either side of my size. For example, if you’re a size 14, also look at the size 12s and size 16s. This is because no two companies cut from the same block, so sizing can vary hugely. I have clothes in my wardrobe that go from a size 10 to a size 18 and they all fit. So always go for fit rather than the size label.
Who inspires you and why?
The woman who truly set me off on my journey of sustainabilty is an eco designer called Linda Thomas. If there was ever a person who had people and planet at the top of their agenda, it’s Linda. She was the one who gently encouraged me to look clothes in a different way and she sparked an insatiable appetite in me to fully understand the industry in which I work. She also produces some incredible eco clothes and I’m very lucky to have a few items in my wardrobe, including a silk ball gown which Linda upcycled into a Westwood-esque skirt for me!