Fashioning a style

The wider world perceives fashion as frivolity that should be done away with. The point is that fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you can do away with it, it would be like doing away with civilization.

So says legendary cultural anthropologist and photographer Bill Cunningham, he of the soon-to-be-released documentary on his life. And yes, I see what he is saying and will be rushing out to see the documentary; he is a style god after all.  However – and maybe I’m just playing with semantics here – my view differs slightly. Fashion I can live without, but personal style, that’s what floats my boat.

I’ll hold my hands up. I’ve been a complete sucker for fashion trends in the past, I used to care intensely about the latest colours, styles and shapes. But over the last few years I’ve cared less and less about fast fashion fixes and more about creating a personal style that works for me.

My fascination with fashion started as a teen; there was no better way for the teen me to feel like I fitted in, than by ensuring I was head to toe in the latest trends – or the version of them that my teen bank balance could stretch too.

Soon, buying into a trend when everyone else did ceased to satisfy me, I needed to be the one in the know, one step ahead of the crowd. But was I really thinking about whether the colours, shapes or styles suited me? Not so much.

Fast-forward to the present and I’ve all but lost my urge to reinvent my look in accordance with the fashion dictates of every season. Instead, it would appear I’ve created what Sunday Times fashion writer Claudia Croft has dubbed a ‘Portfolio Wardrobe’.

Creating a ‘Portfolio Wardrobe’ means no longer rushing to bag tonnes of new stuff each season. Instead it’s about playing with what you’ve got, injecting new key pieces as and when you find something you fall in love with and underpinning the lot with good quality wardrobe staples.

So, what of my ‘Portfolio Wardrobe’? Well, taking a quick peek inside I can see a black lace Marc Jacobs dress that I bought at INA, a designer consignment store in New York circa 2007 – I wore that this last Christmas day with a M&S cashmere cardigan that I picked up at a friend’s clothes swap party. There is also a green Halston mainline dress, which I got from Yoox in one of its delicious up-to-80% off sales. I bought it for a summer wedding, but have worn it over and over. And my much-loved Donna Karan silver grey leather jacket, picked up brand new for around $40 in an LA op-shop a few years back.

My wardrobe staples are mainly from Uniqlo and Urban Outfitters. Simple vests, T-shirts, jumpers, trousers and jeans. I have a pair of khaki trousers from Urban Outfitters that I have literally worn to death since I bought them in 2010. And there’s always a place in my wardrobe for a pair of Top Shop jeans, current favourites being a pair of super-stretchy black Leigh jeans.

Footwear staples include Converse and biker boots; for me, they just work. For glamming it up, I have my much-loved Miu Miu red patent killer heels and a trusty pair of gold Manolos that I’ve had since forever. Last injection? A pair of Hudson brown lace-up ankle boots.

I started with a quote from a legendary street-style photographer and I’m going to end with one from one of the rising stars of a new breed of style blogger photographers, David Nyanzi:

It doesn’t matter where you get your clothes from, it’s the way you wear them and the way you look when you wear them, the way you walk, your swagger.

By JOURNAL contributor

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