I want to talk about my Louis Vuitton cap. First spotted on a now very famous image of a young Gisele Bündchen in British Vogue, as we entered a new century, she wore a jacket and bag to match, with those endless golden legs to accessorise. It was an era of unashamed logo placement, and while I never got my hands on the jacket, which I would have had to sell my car to buy, through a series of curious and magical events, the cap and bag entered my world. In those pre-internet shopping days, the cap in particular got me stopped regularly, even in London, which felt like a huge compliment. How I loved it. Then, of course, copies appeared. I think I even saw one on The Jeremy Kyle Show, so I retired it, into what I call my time capsule, packed with a few things I’ll never wear again, but just can’t give away.
I’ve talked here in the past about my absolute inability to wear casual wear, or lounge wear as it’s been renamed, with any type of confidence. And I have also written many times about giving up fast fashion and going back to the beloved concept of saving up for things made with care, from quality fabrics, which are built to last.
Then I came across By Elleven. Launched by experienced fashion industry experts Rachel and Joanne, it marries purchasing high quality, long-lasting casual pieces, made using ethically sourced, organic materials alongside especially curated vintage pieces. The website and social media goes one step further by putting looks together, so you can get style pointers on how they can be integrated. I may write about fashion, but I always appreciate fresh eyes. I caught up with Rachel for a virtual chat to find out more.
We’ve all been wearing more casual pieces during lockdown and yours are different in that they aren’t fast fashion. What type of style fans do you have in mind?
Our collection is aimed at conscious customers who understand our ethos of buying something you love and wearing it over and over again. We created it with busy lifestyles in mind – mums on the school run, business women running errands or just meeting friends for coffee at weekends. You don’t have to be a fashion leader to wear By Elleven – we give our customers styling advice and our collection works as a capsule wardrobe making it easy to put together. By Elleven is sustainable fashion that doesn’t sacrifice style.
You are both so experienced in the fashion industry, when lockdown is over what are your future plans?
We plan to continue to grow the brand, which will hopefully be much easier once lockdown is over. We launched in November 2020, and are amazed and grateful for the response we’ve had so far. We’re really excited about exploring potential collaborations and expanding the collection to include more recycled fabrics, it is important to us that the brand holds onto its integrity as it grows.
You also stock some vintage pieces and style them with current designs, do you have any tips on styling treasured pieces with new purchases?
We love the idea of using vintage clothes, not only does it make your look more unique but it’s great to give those pieces another lease of life, it’s the ultimate way to shop sustainably. Once upon a time vintage was all we wore, so it felt natural to include it as part of the brand. We’re both comfortable styling vintage with new season finds, and if it works, it works, it doesn’t matter when or where you bought it. We would just recommend checking the sizing on vintage as it doesn’t always correlate to the current UK sizing. We tried each vintage piece ourselves and gave up to date sizing advice to make it easier for our customers to buy it online without being able to try it on first. Our collection works so well with vintage outerwear so we’d recommend wearing one of our hoodies or tracksuits underneath a trench coat, leather biker or an oversized blazer. We have plans to introduce more varied vintage styles with our Summer collection so watch this space!
You have highlighted the trend for some fashion fans who buy garments and discard them after just a couple of wears. How would you like them to move away from that?
Luckily we’re both of an age where we dodged the generation of fast fashion so neither of us have ever really been accustomed to wearing something once then throwing it away. The rise of social media and people documenting their outfits means some people don’t like to be seen photographed in an outfit more than once. We believe you should buy something you love and be able to style it lots of different ways, our clothes are made to last so they can be worn often without falling apart like cheap garments can. We’re both creatures of habit and we live in the same outfits on rotation. But what it really comes down to is that fast fashion is not sustainable, it harms people and the planet, and we’re at a tipping point now where we need to change how we consume clothes, and we want By Elleven to be part of the change.
I was so impressed with the brand. As someone who wants more advice about how to approach casual looks with style, I also had a chat to Jackie, @badhairdaygirl on Instagram, who as an actress, blogger, writer and busy mum, I always enjoy talking to about all things chic. Here’s Jackie’s warm and unfiltered take.
I love how you are styling By Elleven – what do you love about the brand?
There are a few things that drew me to By Elleven. I’ve known Jo and her family for years and I’ve followed Jo’s fashion on social media for a long time. It’s clear she knows what she’s talking about so following her new project and supporting a local business just made sense to me. But I was drawn to their stand against ‘fast fashion’ too. I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes down to buying ‘disposable fashion’ and wearing it once (if at all) then it stays in a drawer until a trip to the charity shop. And the rise of the influencer has affected me too – it shouldn’t, I feel. But for a brief moment, I bought into it. It was when I’d lost a lot of weight and yes, I did feel better about how clothes looked on me – but there’s a lot of poor quality, badly made clothes that don’t fit me in my wardrobe. And I do feel a bit guilty about how they are made. So, By Elleven’s slow fashion ethic, buy quality, love it and want to wear it over again was really refreshing and reminded me of when I first bought fashion: I saved for, cherished and wore my favourite pieces again and again.
How do you talk to your daughters about sustainable fashion and how do they feel about it?
As my girls are 14 and 16 now and they choose what they wear, and I do worry about a generation that seems to move between disposable fashion and increasingly expensive designer labels. What I do love is that we can have a conversation about fashion in all of its glory, and everything related to its design, production and promotion. I also have to remember that even though we are closer in many ways now, there is still a generational gap. My own parents tried to ban me from wearing some looks, which I would then pack into my handbag and get changed into when I left the house – sorry Mum! My daughters do berate me for not keeping some of the things they see me photographed in, so I’ll encourage them to keep things they love – hopefully, they can pass them on one day!
Are you looking forward to dressing your casual looks up again as we hopefully move towards lockdown ending?
You know me well Nancy, I do love a dress and shoes! And I have a bordering on unhealthy obsession with coats. Oh and hats. I’ve already messaged to see if they can stock anything like the gorgeous rancher from Lack Of Color.
For me, fashion is something I love to experiment with, and as an actor, I think I wear some form of costume every day which can alter or reflect how I am feeling that day. You’ll find me some days working in the office dressed as if I’m going to an awards ceremony! I might have needed to feel the confidence of power dressing that day, or I might have felt invincible and you need to know it! I was diagnosed with depression a few years back, and clothing definitely became an armour for me, it can change me into the person I want to be that day, rather than the person I was feeling I was. I remember being told that if you weren’t confident for a job interview, then you should go in pretending to be someone who you thought would smash that interview. Now I love to have a balance between feeling comfortable in casual looks, but still experience that absolute joy in dressing up. I’m really looking forward to getting out there, that’s for sure, and over the years we have had a few adventures. Just name the date, I’ll be there with the age old question – what are we wearing?
Here’s my answer, Jackie: I’m going to start small. Even I can manage a fresh By Elleven white T, which I won’t be wearing with ‘mom’ jeans, by the way. Teamed with jeans I already adore from Massimo Dutti, and a Burberry mac that’s so old it really is last century, I’m definitely feeling more ready to sport something box fresh with my moth-avoiding coat.
I shall throw caution to the wind and throw my old LV bag over the top and if I’m going to try this new, casually cool approach, the time capsule is getting opened.
You know what they say: if the cap fits….
You can discover more about By Elleven and shop the range at www.byelleven.co.uk
About the author: Nancy Buckland Kirk is a writer with a keen interest in fashion and beauty and a career which has spanned modelling, teaching and spreading the word about leading beauty brands. You may also enjoy: Nancy Buckland Kirk on why, in the world of fashion and beyond, change is not just going to come, it needs to come and Nancy Buckland Kirk reflects on sharing a birthday with Jennifer Lopez