One thing I believe we all should do more of is experiment with the clothes we already have, rather than endlessly buying into fast fashion. There’s an interview with Caryn Franklin on Who What Wear, where the esteemed professor/journalist/author/activist talks about her career and what’s in her wardrobe. Franklin discusses taking a more considered approach to the way she dresses and it really resonates:

‘For me fashion is about self-stying; it’s about taking what’s out there—like we did in the ‘80s when there was no high street, and you didn’t have value retailers… We were much more naturally sustainable and it was much more about slow fashion and supporting young designers, small labels, going to market stalls and then styling it up your own way to say your own thing.’

‘I’ve slowed my consumption right down in the last 10-15 years. I buy from samples sales, I buy a lot more vintage and second-hand. I don’t mind if I pick up something from the high street but I’m not buying it first-hand, I’m not generating that demand, I’m choosing something that now has a life and needs another home to go to.’


There’s also a great GIF of Caryn Franklin tying her signature head scarves; read the full Who What Wear feature HERE. And keep on experimenting.

23 thoughts on “Caryn Franklin on experimenting with style

  1. I love her way of thinking! Fast fashion is unsustainable for me and for the planet. Whenever I walk past the typical shops (H&M, Zara, Primark etc.) all I can think of is the huge quantities of poor quality stuff that is soon going to end up in a landfill. So depressing. But you post today makes me smile – Caryn’s style is so bold and unique!

  2. How fun! I love having the freedom to be me…and I can see by this sharing, she is a true free spirit and I really admire that in her, among other things. I believe if you feel good in what you are wearing, get out the door and have fun….I’ve always been under the thought that it’s not important what others think of me, their opinion of me is none of my business…..Thanks, this was such a fun read!

  3. This is fun fashion…like a smorgasbord of clothes…take the ideas that appeal and incorporate them maybe one at a time so that you are having a fling but maybe not going all the way…..LOVETH Caryn’s style and her “Ican’tdogirly”…me either…Great selection!…

  4. Now I feel my decision to stop buying new and instead use what I have in different ways has been endorsed by a style icon! Yay! Thank you Caryn and Alison : )

  5. I love this. It’s so noticeable in Caryn’s outfits that the proportions really work, so that her clothes look ‘curated’, as opposed to ‘thrown together’. I wish I could manage the same approach, but fear I need to work on it in order to look half as stylish as she does. Lots of food for thought here, thank you.

  6. Love her wacky style. Funny she talks about the freedom of the Eighties, though, as I remember that era as being rather formulaic with shoulder pads and designer style tempting new buyers.

  7. Sorry but this doesn’t work for me. I’m all for thinking carefully about what you buy, not contributing to the fast fashion thing etc. But some of us have fundamentally traditional working lives and this wacky look just wouldn’t cut it! Yes, she’s fun, and she’s lucky that she inhabits a world where she can indulge that.

    1. I’m with you here. Amazingly I have less of an “itch” that needs scratching in the stores. Fashion feels at such loose ends with itself lately. Nothing looks original, and being “original” seems like trying too hard. And let’s face it—Caryn is beautiful, slim and not that “old”. I still believe in experimenting and trying new things but am not at all convinced this is the way to go.

  8. I especially like the bright colors and distinctive prints – also admire her forthrightness in mixing them!

  9. I totally agree with Caryn’s support of experimentation and self styling. The effect of Instagram and social media, in general I fear, has had the opposite effect with too many people rushing to buy the same bag that inevitably every influencer is carrying, or white bootie, whatever the item of the moment is. The sheep mentality in fashion has exploded and I applaud Caryn for emphasizing personal style. She also is one hell of a pattern mix master!

  10. To me the most important point is that I shop my closet first. I use what I have already chosen and work with it to reflect my personal style. I don’t have Caryn’s style, but I can appreciate how she puts her existing clothing together to reflect current ideas, as well as her own personality. This idea is still a little new to me, but I am enjoying just filling in instead of buying whole new seasonal wardrobes. This also gives me a chance to really reflect on why I own what I do and how it serves me. We owe our planet a more thoughtful approach to what we buy and what we throw away.

    I do agree. And it’s perfectly possible to curate what you buy and keep a streamlined wardrobe. I tend to only buy things under £300 (except coats); only made of natural fabrics (not totally hard and fast) and that I either need and/or absolutely love. (The last is Alex Schulman’s advice, I think). I love it when I think of a combination of separates I haven’t thought of before.

  12. Loved this. Thank you for the link and the inspiration. I also am not interested in buying into inexpensive throwaway fashion. I buy from independent stores or local designers, and then I keep the the things I own for as long as I can. Many of my clothes and accessories are from the 1980s. At my 26-year-old niece’s 2014 wedding, I realized everything I had on—scarf, dress, shoes, coat, purse, Hanro lingerie, possibly my Wolford tights—was older than she was. Caring for beautiful clothing, and finding new ways to combine pieces, appeals to me. In the past, I’ve donated to vintage clothing stores, but I’ve avoided shopping vintage. I’m now determined to find some good local places and explore them. I’m paring back my wardrobe to what I love most. When I add to it, I’ll look at vintage first, and then at independently owned stores still extant in my San Francisco Bay Area hood.

  13. I love Caryn’s comment…”…I’m choosing something that now has a life and needs another home to go to.”
    Great thinking.

    We are doing enough harm to the planet. We shouldn’t support fast fashion. I can’t recall the last time I paid full retail price for any item of clothing. Fortunately, I live in a city where you can dress very well and quite uniquely, if you wish, from purchases made at resale or thrift shops. Lingerie and shoes are bought on sale. Mixing and matching with already owned items can be creative and rewarding. Because I am not paying retail, I seem to be a little more experimental in what I purchase which is fun. What am I doing with the money I have saved? I travel . I leave next Saturday on a seven week vacation!

  14. I have been a fan of Caryn ever since she presented “The Clorhes Show”. Thanks for the interview !

  15. Caryn was (and is) my first style crush, back in The Clothes Show days. An innate sense of style paired with humour makes for an interesting wardrobe. And that works whether you work in the creative industries or you’re shopping in Sainsbury’s!

  16. Also a big fan of Caryn’s since the Clothes Show days – in fact her mallen streak from the 80’s was the inspiration for my current grey streak in my hair!

    With regard to not buying pre-owened or mixing patterns due to not working in a ‘creative’ environment, I work in education and today I am wearing a navy patterned liberty shirt (charity shop),navy boden trousers (bought new and now approx. 5 years old), low (bright orange) bock heeled shoes (M&S bought new) and I pair with (in colder weather) an electric pink wool jacket (charity shop and just changed the buttons to more expensive looking ones). If you do your research you can find some really good quality, classic brands in vintage/charity shops.

  17. I have in common with several writers above been a fan of Caryn since the Clothes Show. She has always had strong personal style and looks terrific in her well fitted patterned ensemble in these photographs against the patterned tiled floor.
    I agree with the comments of Prima Darling above. And I follow her blog.

    My take on all of this is that I keep my clothes and look after them well. I know my style and it doesn’t deviate much. Colour schemes and shapes and whether something is fitted or not go through cycles. I have shopped both high and low, from Cos and Zara and Whistles and Uniqlo. These are good for adding modern touches to basics one has already. I’ve had to buy much less than I used to and to make better use of the clothes I already have. I managed to go to my son’s wedding recently with nothing new shopping my closet. I looked and felt good in my clothes in the event. I planned carefully my outfits and took three finally choosing a photogenic Paul Smith silk geometric patterned dress bought years ago from Bicester Village boutique. It went with the mood weather and what was being worn by the bridesmaids and mother of the bride in her brand new outfit. Confidence is key.

  18. Read the interview with Caryn after writing in. How could I not mention her important campaigns. After Fashion Targets Breast Cancer the significant attempts to add Diversity to the runway as other walks of life. Needed more than ever now. A woman with a heart and conscience. Admirable. Thanks once again Alyson for featuring a woman of this calibre of a certain age who also looks great. Keep up the good work !

  19. I love clothes and buy more than I should, but I don’t shop at fast fashion stores and I do resell items I no longer want through a local preloved shop. My daughter is 11 and has recently become very interested in clothes and shopping (and loves the high street!) – trying to talk to her about the environment, sweat shop wages etc. has made me realise the only way to win this battle is to lead by example. Even if I do buy quality, I still need to buy less, and use what I have!

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