Last year, I had the pleasure of working at the Watusi Festival, and by chance met Lucy Pratt who was selling her own range of up-cycled products. Since then, I have kept up to date with Lucy’s exciting progress in Birmingham as she set up her own ethical fashion label, Nothing New. Today I talk with Lucy about charity shopping, quitting your day job, and finding inspiration.
Three years ago, your boyfriend challenged you to change your shopping habits and buy nothing new for six months. Tell us about this transition from high street shopping to second-hand.
At first I found it pretty constricting and I decided the best thing to was avoid temptation and not go shopping at all. I then discovered the charity shops in different areas of the city (I was living in Stoke-on-Trent at the time) and as there were so many I began to feel more determined, and would venture into areas I would never have thought to go normally. I can be pretty quick in a charity shop, when you’re looking for something specific and you need it that day, there’s no time to waste! I would have normally just popped into H&M if I needed a black top for example, but now I might need to visit two, three, or four charity shops to find what I want. So it’s very much get in, find the right section, flick through the rail and move on to the next. I have to be quite organised if I’m looking for something special: I might find the perfect dress for a wedding, but it’s a size 16 and needs altering, so I also learnt to factor this in. During those first six months I went to Bestival, where the theme was ‘Fantasy’. I knew I wanted to dress up as an Elf so I had to be really organised in getting all those bits together in time – I ended up making a hooded cape from some curtains, it is probably one of my favourite up-cycled pieces to date.
What is your criteria when shopping second-hand? Are you always on the hunt for particular items or brands?
I generally go second-hand shopping with a purpose – it is normally for something I need or a present for someone. So that is my only criteria really! It is pretty thrilling when you stumble upon a designer item at a tiny price, but at the end of the day, the main question is ‘do I REALLY need that?’. Shopping second-hand is guilt free, so there are no brands to avoid or boycott, but I always try and buy quality items as they last longer. Oh, leggings! I’m always looking for black leggings as they are really hard to come by in good condition!
Following the success of the challenge you set up your own label ‘Nothing New’, and last year took the ultimate plunge of quitting your day job. Was this a difficult choice?
No, not at all. I think I had been waiting for inspiration to hit for a year or so. My job at the time was very much a time and bank account filler, not something I wanted to do long term. I feel very lucky to be so sure of what I want to do.
You now have a studio at the Custard Factory in Birmingham and have teamed up with Laura Loves to offer up-cycling workshops under the brand ‘Rethink, Remake, Relove’. How do you keep motivated?
All the bad stuff that happens in the fashion and textile industry keeps me motivated to make a difference. Whether it’s by teaching people the skills to up-cycle for themselves, offering services to increase the life of treasured items instead of it ending up in landfill, creating bespoke items from eco or vintage fabrics where I know that a fair wage was paid to all….It’s a passion and it keeps me motivated.
When you’re feeling discouraged, where do you go for a fresh injection of inspiration?
I don’t think I have a go-to thing, but my best ideas normally come to me when I’m super relaxed, like just before you to go to sleep…so I try and stay as relaxed as possible, and always make time for chilling out.
From your experiences over the last year, what advice would you offer someone looking to quit their day job and start their own business?
As my experience is within a creative business, I would say be different. If your aesthetic looks the same as your competitors how are people going to recognise you? It’s about your ideas being fresh and new and that coming through in all you produce. Also, do not be discouraged or threatened by copy-cats: be the best at what you do, others cannot fake your skills! I don’t know if I’m the best example of starting up a business, I am not a fan of the boring stuff and am still learning so much!
Finally, can you share with us any exciting new projects you have in the pipeline?
I am currently revamping my website (www.iamnothingnew.com) and will be launching a couple of new services when it is unveiled in November: GreenSeam is an ethical dressmaking mail-order service, offering limited styles in stunning eco fabrics at a fixed price. And I will be taking on students for one-to-one sewing tuition by the hour. Both of these services will be available to purchase as gift vouchers in time for Christmas!