Sunday, 31 October 2010

Whose coat's that jacket?

In the 10 rules of winter dressing,  Guardian editor Jess Cartner-Morley tells you to 'wear a proper coat'. Not a parka, apparently. The whole article lists a bunch of lush and dramatically expensive stuff, despite clearly wanting to appear sensible and present some core wardrobe additions in this season. 'Proper coat', according to Cartner-Morley, 'does not have to mean an expensive coat. It means a grown-up coat that doesn't make you look like a slobby fourth former on a field trip. The Jil Sander collection at Uniqlo has some beautiful tailored wool coats for around £100 (...)'. Actually, all the +J coats are about £150 (and some men's coats £200). However, Uniqlo minus Jil Sander has a bunch of nice coats, and  I guess for the quality fabrics (it's all wool, tweed, and faux fur) £60-£80 is not awful for a coat which you are likely to wear every day for the next few months. Still, I will never forget once getting two fantastic winter coats on promotion in Beyond Retro for £17 each.

Uniqlo coats

Cheaper and greener ways of getting a buff coat include trawling through second hand and charity shops on the outskirts of town, crossing your fingers that half of London hadn't already trawled through them last week and bought all the good stuff out. But you could also raid your own wardrobe (or that of a friend or relative or anyone else who'd let you) and see what you can find there. Planet Green had this awesome article on updating your winter coat with links to appropriate craftster tutorials:

"There's no need to purchase a new jacket when you can perform a little wardrobe magic on a jacket you already own. With a little cropping, painting, embroidery or sewing, your jacket will look better than new!

1. Crop it!
Make your long dowdy coat short and sassy with a little creative scissor work.

2. Paint it!
A denim jacket is the perfect canvas for a colorful painting. Trim your artwork in coordinating ribbon for a great finished look.

3. Resize it!
Transform your saggy baggy coat into a form fitting jacket. Beautiful!

4. Applique and embroider it!
Here's another great idea for your denim jackets: make an applique from thrifted t's, and embroider a favorite quote.

5. Add details!
This jacket looks completely different with the addition of a zipper, collar, and cuffs."

Possibly a much better example of all of these techniques combined is the work of a young local UCL designer Kate Ross, whose label Trash of Camden is all about upcycled jackets and jumpers:

"Trash of Camden aims to use recycled fabric/found objects/old trash in order to produce customized second-hand jackets, jumpers and other clothing. There's nothing off-the-peg here.The aim is to create fun and wearable hand-made items that are guaranteed one-offs. This is the ultimate in recycled, reinvented and re-worked clothing."

Trash of Camden stuff is the sort of classy DIY aesthetic of contemporary sustainable fashion: none of its style is compromised because of the materials used. Objects that would otherwise be discarded get a new, glamorous life. All pieces evoke a SEX era Vivienne Westwood, though definitely updated with more modern influences, not all harking back to punk. The pervasive leopard print (aka the new denim, in the words of Cartner-Morley) gives a very current trend-conscious impression. All pieces are unisex, which is a rare feature with emerging designers who, however experimental, like to specialize very quickly in set gender conventions.

Aside from jackets and jumpers, Trash of Camden also produces jewellery (subline Crap of Camden), and future plans include customized footwear. A selection of products are stocked in Philip Normal's Happy Shack, shop units 920/921 in Camden Market, an insanely awesome shop packed with labels like Charles of London, Tatty Devine and Red Mutha. Kate is always keen to accept your trash, so if you have stuff you want to donate, email She also takes personal commissions, and all items are unique one-offs.

Lastly, on the topic of upcycling: Upcycle it! blog is looking for your upcycling stories for a publication due out in January:  “Upcycle it! – the handbook” with upcycle manuals, workshop reports and articles.

They are looking for submissions about:
  • Upcycling
  • How to think through the creative process of upcycling
  • Opinions and thoughts about trash – how is it to be a trash collector? How can you store it, live with it, and what can you do with it?
  • Cradle to Cradle and production processes
  • Energy efficiency – calculating the resources when remaking trash, when is it not sustainable to recycle trash?
  • Sustainability
  • Consumerism and anti trash lifestyle
Check out the submission guidelines over at the blog, and if you have any experience with upcycling, let them know!

Comment away on the topic of coats! And maybe even post pictures!
Sustainably yours,


  1. Nice post! Really enjoyed reading it :)

  2. Yes! I love this post and must totally agree about getting a coat second hand - all my favourite coats have been second hand and it is not too late to find some amazing ones in charity shops. I was in charity shops on Goodge Street and around Marylebone on Friday and there were still many many nice ones to be had.

  3. That was so cool!