Monday, 16 May 2016


This post has been taken over by Lucy Graham of The Garage. I first met Lucy after emailing back and forth ahead of the launch of her online boutique. She was keen for me to be a part of it all after finding me through VENT, and she carefully pieced the launch together before releasing it at the start of this year. She is now in her 5th month, and succeeding at it - which is really no surprise as she has such a passion and drive for what she does. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting this woman, you will inevitably have a smile on your face as she is such a joy to know and be around (despite the sass from the photos above). Matthew Johnston has also uploaded images from this shoot HERE - and they are simply stunning. I invite you to check out her store HERE, and read on to find out about her discipline in vintage and second-hand fashion.

I will never forget the very first item of vintage clothing that I ever bought; (probably because I still wear it on the reg). It was on a trip to the Lisburn Road with my Mum and older sister during the Half term holidays, and Mum decided to take us charity shopping. For those unfamiliar with the concept of a charity shop, it’s a store owned by a charity that sells donated clothing, home wear and general bric-a-brac. In other words they are gold mines. I walked into an Action Cancer store, and my eyes were immediately drawn to a coat hanging in the corner. It was a vintage Monsoon coat. But not a fully a coat, it was some sort of interesting hybrid between a grey marl blazer, with dropped sleeves, oversized arms and big pockets in the front, and a fully lined warm winter coat. Dreamy The 16 year old me was in love. At seven pounds it didn’t set me back financially, but was a major investment. Everywhere I wore that coat I received compliments, and even had friends borrow it from time to time. It may just be a coat, but that coat played a big part in the evolution of my personal style, and laid the metaphorical foundation for my shopping habits and consumer ethos that has been essential in the creation of The Garage.  

I struggled as a teenager. I just oozed fear. The fear of what others thought of me. As soon as I was old enough to buy my own clothes I morphed into everyone around me, I dressed like my friends because I so desperately wanted to be seen as cool. I was anything but cool. I’ve been nearly 6ft since my mid-teens, and have always on the curvy side of the spectrum, meaning that finding jeans and the ‘cute’ little summery tops that the other girls had was a challenge in itself. However this all changed when I started delving into the world of vintage.  
First of all, let’s clarify what I mean by Vintage. The word ‘vintage’ in itself conjures up images of 50’s pin up girls, kitsch dresses and red lippy. That’s not what I’m about - but fair digs to the gals who rock that look. Vintage clothing is anything that predates 1990, with the latter half falling into the ‘second hand’ category. For me, hoking around in charity shops in my spare time was not just a past time; it wasn’t just a hobby or a pastime, but a lifestyle choice. It was my way of giving the proverbial two fingers to the style system that I felt so chained to. I was able to find colours and textures and shapes that weren’t on the high street. I was able to buy clothes that I felt comfortable in, that allowed me to move and flatter my shape instead of hide it. I found clothes that allowed me to experiment with layering and crazy combinations of both colour and pattern.  
In essence for me it was about finding individuality. I never felt like I fitted in with my generation. I look around me and see a whole decade of young people, (and increasingly younger people) making incredibly poor choices as to the direction of their lives. Of course I’m talking about living for the short term. This attitude that has been cultivated amongst my peers that it is normal to go out three or more nights of the week, wearing an outfit that you’ll most likely never wear again, to only wake up the next morning with sore feet, a sorer head and stained clothes. Now don’t get me wrong! I love a good boogie as much as the next gal, but surely there is more we can do as young adults other than to go out and get polluted night after night whist pouring our money, energy, and time down the drain for cheap thrills? This culture screams excess and consumerism and the live for the weekend kind of attitude that just wasn't cutting it for me any more. Yes we are young, (I turned 20 last month) and opportunities and open minds are hard to come by, but everyone in their twenties hope and dream for more; Of waking up and going to a job that you love, or being part of something so much bigger than just you. Sometimes I feel that we as a generation feel like every good idea has been tried and failed already, meaning there is no real point in trying anyway - However I rebuke that statement, and invite you to dig deep, find your God given talent and work until you see growth! This brings me to my next point in the story. (Brace yourselves, for this is where I enter the rant phase of the post). 

FIND YOUR SENSE OF EXPRESSION. FIND YOUR INDIVIDUALITY, AND FIND YOUR CREATIVE SPIRIT! I know you have it in you, because everyone has something in them that makes them tick. Something I have long struggled with, living as a student in Belfast, is the abuse of trends. You know what I’m talking about. When a trend spreads like wildfire, leaving in its wake thousands of carbon copies, buying ready-made ‘style’ that the high street is all too ready to sell. You only have to look at stores like Urban Outfitters or Topshop to get a rough idea of how young people are being sold an ‘ideal’ image. I am not saying that all the people of the world need to shop vintage in order to be individual, as style is about what you pull together, not the brands. I love mixing high street with vintage when my budget allows, but what I mean is that I think it is important for people to get creative with styles that reflect their own personality, rather than that of a trend found on a maniquin, unless it is a true reflection of yourself. I have been there, buying trendy items, only to find that I hated how I looked in them and they sat in the back of my wardrobe (everyone remember the peplum top trend? Unfortunately I do). 
It is importantant to put a little thought into the clothing we consume. There is an increasing need to be clued into where we are investing our money into when we buy fashion. We should be asking questions such as; Do you know where they come from? Do you know what they are made from? Do you know who made them? 

Maybe you have never asked yourself these questions before. And to be honest, I don’t blame you. Clothing is such an integral part of our everyday lives, meaning that we don’t give much thought to the story behind the clothes. Fashion always has been there, and always will be there. So why is there a need to question where our clothes come from and how they are made? In 2014, the GDP of the Fashion industry as a whole, was estimated to be above One hundred and eighty six billion dollars. And is currently worth $3000 trillion. In 2013 the British Fashion Industry was accredited to 26 Billion pounds worth of the UK’s economy. The world fashion market grew 15% between the year 2004 and 2013, indicating that we buy and consume more clothes than ever before. Clothes are more accessible and affordable than ever before - what a time to be alive, right? More clothes, more choice, less cost? Not quite. A crucial part of the equation that we rarely tale into account is the people who make our clothes. Usually in countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and China. Cheaper clothes for us, means less pay for them. That’s it in a nutshell. You may think that you are on to a cracker deal getting that crop top for 8 quid from H&M, but if we actually stop to think about the deeper repercussions of our purchases, what we will find are uglier truths inside of a glamourous industry. Sadly, the demand for more, the excessiveness of the western world that we find ourselves in, has to cost someone. And more often than not, that means women men and often children, working in unsanitary, unsafe environments that we refer to as ‘sweated labour’. I know that this post has taken a dark turn, but stay with me. I am only addressing surface points to a much greater problem, but it’s one that more light needs to be shed upon.  

We have a lack of love and appreciation for our clothes and the people that made them. And why would you treat that £8 crop top from H&M with care and respect when you can just go back to the store and buy another when the one you own loses its shape or rips. This whole cycle described in these passages is what those in the industry refer to as ‘Fast Fashion’. All very depressing right? WRONG. What people fail to realise is that the choice is in their hands. You are the consumers, you have the choice! My heart for Belfast is to see a nation of consumers aware of the impact that the choices they make have on the economy, the environment, and most importantly, the quality of life of other humans across the world. What’s this got to do with vintage clothing I hear you say? Well I’ll tell you.  
Only 10% of the clothes donated to charity shops actually end up in physical stores, with the rest being shipped to developing countries. This harms the economy of that country, due to local people buying western clothing over their own home made pieces. Shopping independently, or in a charity shop has a wealth of benefits. First of all, you are buying clothes of a better quality. Anyone who owns a pair of Levi’s 501’s will know what I’m talking about! These clothes have already made it through a couple of decades, and even if they are marked or a bit scuffed, they have character and a story to tell, which is something that cannot be bought on the high street. Secondly, I can guarantee that if you rock up to your friends 20th wearing a batwing floral, flared jumpsuit teamed with chunky sandals and a fedora you will be making a statement – whilst many other women will be wearing the same trending basics. Wearing second hand clothing also uses up clothes that are already here on the earth, perfectly good clothing that are either going to be shipped across the world, or end up as landfill. Meaning that by shopping second hand/vintage, you are not contributing to the vicious cycle that is fast fashion. All of the previous text leads me to the conclusion.  

The Garage. The Garage began back in November 2014, when I volunteered in a charity shop. I saw some amazing pieces that the staff assured me wasn’t going to sell, so I bought it instead. By the end of my 9 months of volenteering, I had accumulated more than a suitcase of vintage pieces. In 2015, I started my Degree in Fashion and Textiles in the University of Ulster art college, and I knew that I wanted to sell these clothes online. I couldn’t keep them, as I wanted to share them with other people and bring to light all of the above, whilst selling style. Being in the art college inspired me to pursue my goals, and also gave me the space and support to start out. We had our first official shoot in December, (where I met Megan-Cáitlín) and then the store going online on New Year’s Eve. Business was slow to start, as January is a slow month for all businesses, and there were times that I was terrified that I had made a mistake. I had invested a lot of time, a lot of my own money and a lot of energy into something completely on my own. I felt exposed and like a 6 year old impersonating an adult. But as time moved on, business picked up, and I am now proud to say that The Garage ships worldwide, and we have shipped our vintage goodies across the world, from Denmark to Washington DC, to Australia to France to New York to London. It truly is an amazing feeling. And don’t get me wrong, there are times I wish that I could pack it all in and just be more like my free-spirited friends, living for the kicks, without the worry of business bills, shipping items, building office supplies and checking my emails four times a day. But honestly, when I sit and look at it all, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I get such a kick from it all – from planning the outfits, directing the shoots and putting together the looks online. It is a joy to go trawling through local charity and vintage shops, designing and giving out business cards. I come alive doing all of these things, even though it costs time, energy, sleep and sacrifice. 

In essence, I want you to be individual, not products of what society will try to sell you. You have a power to change the industry, but also a power to change your own lifestyle. My world revolves around fashion, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I am the most content I have ever felt, because of my discipline, and the fire that comes from working for a passion. I feel very privileged to have hijacked this space from Megan, and I hope that you feel in some way inspired to find your discipline, what makes you come alive, and to throw yourself in head first. I promise that the benefits outweigh the cost.  

Love Luce xx

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