By Chere Di Boscio
Imagine the scene: a celebrity is on a shoot for a major magazine. Fluffy fur coats, sky high leather stilettos and silk gowns are offered, but the celeb freaks out – she’s a vegan and refuses to wear any of this. The magazine’s stylist is in a tizzy; she has no idea how to dress this hot young talent. Enter Holly Ounstead to the rescue!
This top vegan stylist counts the likes of Leona Lewis, Joss Stone and Little Mix as clients, and for everyone she dresses, she endeavours to include cruelty-free clothing. Not sure what that even means? Recently PETA teamed up with Holly Ounstead to create a video (which you can watch below) in which she reveals her top tips and fashion picks for a cruelty-free winter wardrobe.
Holly points out that with stylish vegan leather bags from Matt & Nat, chic wool-free coats from Topshop, luxurious faux-fur coats from Shrimps, and cute vegan slogan tees from Veganized World, buying clothing items that don’t harm the planet or the animals who live on it is easier (and chicer!) than ever.
Of course,vegan fashion isn’t just for vegans, either. Whether you consider yourself an animal advocate, an environmentalist, or just someone who loves stylish, cutting- edge clothing, anyone can make a powerful fashion statement by wearing vegan clothing.
I’m a huge fan of Holly’s ability to make her clients look their best, so asked her for a bit of info and advice.
Where do you find cruelty-free fashion choices for your clients?
I actually do a lot of my research on Instagram now, using various hashtags and flicking through the feeds of animal-friendly bloggers to discover new designers. There’s a great community online that you can learn from, so I find it’s a really useful tool. I also do a lot of networking here in London, popping along to various sustainability events, checking out eco-friendly boutiques, and meeting up with designers to have a chat about their collections.
Do you aim to use cruelty-free fashion that’s also eco-friendly?
Yes, I do aim to do this, but it can be a difficult issue to navigate because – as you know – it’s easy to find vegan shoes on the high street, but they are most likely not eco-friendly, as faux-leather materials often contain polyester and plastics. My aim at the moment is to create an awareness of cruelty-free and eco-friendly styles.
It’s really exciting to see so much time and energy being put into textile innovation – we’ve already got great leather alternatives such as cork leather, Piñatex, and grape-skin leather! I think Veja is a really great example of a cruelty-free yet eco-friendly brand – it does use leather in its goods, but it also provides vegan alternatives which have the same eco-friendly ethos. To be honest, the most eco-friendly approach is simply to reduce our waste, which means buying well and buying less.
Tell us about some of your best vintage finds.
I am so lucky here in London because we are absolutely spoiled for choice when it comes to vintage stores! One of my favourites is most definitely William Vintage in Marylebone. My most practical find has to be a Nike puffer jacket, which has become my go-to outerwear when I’m on set, and I use it daily in the winter. I also found an amazing ’70s jumpsuit at William Vintage, which I shot on actor Ophelia Lovibond for Untitled magazine.
How do you determine who should wear what?
For me, it’s all about personality and finding out what my client really loves about fashion – then, I build on it. For example, lovely actor Ophelia Lovibond loves vintage fashion, so I work out which designers I think she’d naturally be drawn to whilst keeping in mind current trends. It’s definitely a collaborative process in my studio – we try on a load of options and always keep in mind which brands we want to support and which we’ve already worn. It’s a process, but I absolutely love it! My goal is to make sure all of my clients feel beautiful and confident in their clothes.
Whose style do you most admire and why?
I love how Olivia Palermo puts looks together – she’s a genius, and I take a lot of inspiration from her combinations.
What are your own personal favourite wardrobe staples?
I went to Sri Lanka earlier this year, found an amazing sustainable Indian brand called Shift, and brought a dress from its autumn/winter 2017 collection. It’s an emerald-green midi dress with a slightly exaggerated shoulder – perfect for playing dress-up in the winter months. I also have a Topshop checked suit, which I wear everywhere at the moment because it’s perfect for work. There’s a black Zara dress I’ve had for years that I’m layering up with a chunky knit and pairing with combat boots at the moment – I love that look this winter.
Which style mistakes do you note most often?
This is an interesting one. I find most mistakes are made when people put trends ahead of their personal style or wear styles they do not feel comfortable in. For me, trends are there to inspire. You take on board the ones that will slot nicely into your wardrobe and leave the ones that don’t resonate.
What advice would you give the average girl to up her style a bit?
Honestly, I think it’s all about being comfortable. If you are comfortable, you are confident, and confidence speaks volumes – you hold yourself differently when you’re wearing clothes you absolutely love. For example, I do not feel comfortable in bodycon or short skirts, so I would forever be fidgeting and feeling self-conscious. Take an extra five minutes in the morning to consider your day and dress accordingly.
Do you think fashion is truly moving towards a more cruelty free future?
Yes, I do. The industry – including fashion’s most powerful conglomerates, such as Kering and LVMH – is taking time to outline its sustainable strategies. Gucci has shunned fur this year, and I think the average consumer is more inquisitive now that unacceptable working conditions in the supply chain are public knowledge. I think we all need to reassess our views on fast fashion. On average, we wear only 20 per cent of our wardrobes, which amounts to a lot of waste. I think we need to purchase clothes we truly love and take on a “buy well, buy less” attitude towards shopping – rather than buying a haul!
Main image: Thoreau the label from Holly’s website