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8 insider tips on how to shop more sustainably from a fashion model

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Megan Murray
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Eunice Olumide spills her secrets on sustainable fashion including where and how to pick up the best clothes for less money, and with less impact on the environment.

Eunice Olumide is wonderfully warm, witty and with a hell of a lot to say on subjects ranging from Grenfell and the need for diversity in the media, to the best eco-friendly fashion brands. In fact, she’s the impressive kind of woman (oh, she co-presents The Sista Collective podcast and has a MBE) we’d all love to have in our circle of friends.

And if you were lucky enough to enjoy a cocktail or two with the Scottish supermodel, we wouldn’t blame you for asking her to share some of her style secrets, considering she has graced catwalks all over the world – and is known for pulling off some incredible looks.

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But you’d be seriously mistaken if you imagined that only designer threads have a place in Olumide’s wardrobe. As a strong supporter of sustainable shopping and a champion of eco-friendly fashion, Olumide is as much at home in a charity shop as she is in Chanel. 

In fact, at the beginning of this year she bagged the award for best dressed at the opening of the V&A’s Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition for donning a silver, sparkling mini dress (which she picked up for £4.99 in Barnado’s no less). 

With a clear talent for putting together outfits that are both stylish and sustainable, we asked Olumide for her insider tips on how to bag the best threads that have a small economic and environmental footprint and she absolutely did not disappoint. 

From the exact charity shops to flock to and when you should go, to tricks and tips for upcycling pieces you’ve already got, Olumide truly is the oracle of eco-fashion.

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1. Fashion colleges are a resource you need to tap into

“Email fashion colleges and universities and ask them if they’re having any sample sales. You can get some seriously wicked outfits. When I’ve worn stuff on the red carpet and it’s looked super fly I’ve got it from a graduate fashion student, because they make the best stuff. 

“It’s always going to be unique, they really want to make something for you and they’re going to be happy to do it for whatever your budget is because they themselves are just starting out. They’re either coming out college or coming out of uni so any work they can get that’s paid they’re going to be happy with. In some cases, if it’s a big event they might even let you just borrow it. So definitely try that. 

“College designers are going to be able to make you stand-out clothes if you’re on a budget, but they’re definitely going to be able to make every day clothes for you cheaper, too.”

2. Check your facts to know you’re being sustainable  

“What you find with a lot of brands is that they claim to be sustainable, but actually, when you look into how they’re manufactured you’ll find that somewhere in the process it isn’t sustainable. So definitely look for brands that are sustainable 100% start to finish in their manufacturing.”

Eunice Olumide: eco-friendly fashion
Eunice Olumide on the red carpet for Star Wars: The Last Jedi screening.

3. Definitely visit charity shops – and these are the ones to try

“Get out of your comfort zone, and I hate to say this because I’m giving away my trade secrets, but if you live in London it’s definitely worth jumping on the Victoria line and going up to Highgate to look at the charity shops. You should also try St John’s Wood; basically go to charity shops in affluent areas because you’ve got people with much more money and you’re going to be able to pick some really stylish pieces for much cheaper. I was in St John’s Wood one day and I was like ‘woah’. 

“Try and avoid charity shops in very densely populated areas like East London, because obviously more people will be going there and the prices may be higher.

“I’d also recommend going to areas that are a bit further away because they tend to have a lot of good stuff, and hold on to it longer, too. There’s a few places I would specifically recommend like Barnardo’s in Brixton, and the various Shelter charity shops in Edinburgh.”

4. Go early in the morning

“Get up early and go to charity shops as soon as they open. The staff usually sort all of their stock first thing in the morning, so if you don’t get in there first and leave it until the afternoon all the good stuff will be gone.”

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5. Research trends and then try to find that in the charity shops

“I actually didn’t mean to do this, but I was awarded best dressed at the opening of the V&A’s Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition and I was wearing a dress from Barnado’s that I bought for £4.99. The dress featured sequins and leopard print, so it turned out I was ridiculously on trend, even though I hadn’t meant to be. So you should always research trends, look at what’s hot and then try and mirror that in what you buy from charity shops.”

6. If you’re working with charity shop clothes, always accessorise to get the look right

“It can be hard to get the perfect fitting shirt or trousers when you’re shopping at a charity shop, so always accessorise and that’s how you can make it look new. If you add some new bling to it, it’s going to bring your piece to life.”

Eunice Olumide at the launch of Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams.

7. Experiment with making your own clothes

“If you don’t know anything about sewing that doesn’t have to stop you being creative with reinventing clothes, there’s actually loads of cool stuff that you can do. Start by taking old denim jackets and cutting the sleeves off, take old denim jeans and cut the trousers off and turn them into shorts. Bring new life to them by getting funky patches, biker patches, loads of different cool things. 

“In terms of not knowing how to sew but wanting to get the same outcome, there are types of clothing glue that you can iron and it sticks fabric together so you don’t have to know how to sew. Upcycling and recycling old clothes are such a good way to create something unique that’s eco-friendly.”

8. Raid your elder’s closets 

“Mums and grans always seem to have dope stuff hidden away at the back of their wardrobes that you don’t know about. Raid these and see if there’s anything you can make work for you. Oh, and don’t even let your mum, gran or aunties throw away their clothes before you’ve checked them. They might not want the clutter, but there could be some gems in there!”

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Images: Getty 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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