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Interview: Grace Woodward

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As the spokesperson for green lifestyle organisation Global Cool’s ‘turn up the style, turn down the heat’ campaign (which aims to tackle the carbon footprint Brits create with home heating by encouraging people to layer up rather than cranking up the thermostat), we caught up with Britain's Next Top Model judge and The X Factor stylist Grace Woodward the morning after the talent show's grand final last month to talk about ethical fashion, being a stylist...and that TV show, of course.

The X Factor final was last night; you must be exhausted.

I left the studios at about midnight as they wanted everything cleared by the next morning. What do you do with all that stuff? It’s interesting talking about Global Cool, because I was at the end of my tether last night - I just wanted to go into the car park and burn it all, but that’s so against my ethics. Luckily we found a clothes recycling bank in an ASDA carpark, so there were midnight dashes with trollies full of clothes! But at least I recycled them.

Do you recycle your clothes regularly?

People think that because I work in fashion that I’m some sort of shopaholic clothes monster, but I’m not really. I like to buy a key piece and I’ll try and wear it as much as possible. There’s not enough money to buy all the stuff I’d like. Plus I don’t have the space to store it. Luckily I live by a shop called Bang Bang which is a cool swap shop. With my career I’m expected to push the envelope, so it’s great for getting individual one off pieces that noone else has.

Have you always tried to live a green life?

I worked with Global Cool last year and my dad used to work for Friends of the Earth, so it’s a notion that isn’t far from my heart. I think people find that surprising because fashion is such an unethical industry now that the high street is fast turnaround with clothes that are not meant to be kept. I personally don’t believe in trends and buying stuff on a seasonal basis; what I believe in is style and lifestyle, and to live your life in the best way possible so that you’re not leaving a trail of destruction behind you.

How can you be an ethical fashionista?

I’m very much focused on natural fibres, organically grown cotton and stuff that doesn’t have a massive carbon footprint because clothes usually do have one. People don’t realise; they think that they’re buying a British designer but they don’t know that it’s been made in China. It might say 'made in Britain' because it’s been assembled here, but it might have been actually made somewhere else. Things have to become much more transparent and fashion is a very unregulated industry. It would be great if there was more support for people who do manufacture clothes in Britain. It’s very difficult because it makes it very expensive as we have such a small industry, and then you price yourself out of the market unless you have a lot of support.

Do you have any ethical fashion brand favourites?

I’ve always been a massive fan of Katharine Hamnett. I love her ‘No more fashion victim’ slogan t-shirt. She makes clothes that don’t damage the environment and that have a message. Clothes are ultimately our psychology, our armour, but they also give messages to other people about who we are and she makes that very simple by putting slogans on her t-shirts.

Have you got any green fashion tips?

I think, as much as the high street is great, be aware of where these clothes are made and how many times you’ve used them. I think it’s worth spending a bit more money on clothes so that you can keep them. Buy stuff that’s an investment. My stepdad used to say that I just wanted to buy expensive things, but it’s not about that; the well-made pieces will last forever. I think it’s really important that people remember that sort of thing and keep amazing pieces for your potential children – I love the thought of that.

How did you get into styling?

I was always fascinated with dressing up when I was growing up. I went to art school and it always seemed to be my thing. I always knew that I’d get into fashion, but at the time I didn’t know what a stylist was. It was a kind of trial and error process of getting to this point, which is great as I can bring so much more to it as a job. I get lots of people asking me 'how do I become a stylist?’ I don’t really know. There’s no set formula, you just have to have it in you.

Is there anything you would suggest?

There are so many people who want to be a stylist these days - it’s such a trendy job, which it wasn’t when I first started. I think what’s got me this far is that I’ve always had quite an individual sense of style, and I think that people should make stuff at home. That’s how you’ll be individual, that’s how you’ll get noticed. So few people these days actually make stuff. I mean, you could walk into a room with five girls with a Topshop dress on - how do you show your vision and individuality? To show real talent, buy some fabric; know what the fabric does on the body; sew it together; have an idea of what a pattern does. I was the creative director of a fashion label so I know how to make clothes, and it wasn’t until I knew how to do this that I hadan understanding of what makes a piece so expensive and unique.

Visit the Global Cool website to find Grace's step-by-step guide to customising your own winter jumper, and then enter our competition to win the actual jumper Grace hand-customised for the guide.

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