A Week Of Outfits With Francesca Willow From Ethical Unicorn
The Good Trade's Week of Outfits Series highlights women that have personally inspired us to shop and live with intention! Each woman takes her own unique approach to slow fashion and demonstrates how beautifully sustainable fashion can come to life. Today we're excited to share a week of outfits from Francesca Willow, the conscious blogger behind Ethical Unicorn!
I originally started Ethical Unicorn a few years ago as a documentation of my journey to low waste living and conscious consumerism. I come from an art and cultural studies background, so I strongly believe that the way to achieve change is through a combination of consumer choice, intersectional collective action, and policy change. I'd been more clued up with the political and social side for a while, but in 2016 I really started to understand the role the individual consumer can play, and started a blog as I learned on the go. Nowadays you can find me talking about fashion and lifestyle alongside cultural critique, so I get to use all the things I've trained in.
I'm a big believer in the circular economy and, whilst I think there are larger systemic issues we need to deal with in regards to sustainable fashion and accessibility, I do think engaging with secondhand shopping can be a good point of access for some who feel that ethical fashion brands are too restrictive for them. I've been fairly accidentally sustainable through my whole life due to the abundance of brilliant charity shops in my hometown of Newcastle, and basing my styling around creating looks that no one else can replicate (artists, what are we like eh!). I've been happily thrifting for over a decade now, and have learned I have a strange memory which means I can tell you the story of where every item in my closet comes from, including exact locations and dates for each thrifted piece I find. It's a niche talent I know, but it's fun to look at how an outfit can come together from a variety of locations and points in my history.
When it comes to purchasing I only add things into my wardrobe if I plan to keep them for at least five years, and I'm quite strict with myself in regards to the quality and materials I go for, including avoiding synthetics as much as possible. As a general rule when I pick something up I try and create 5 ways I could style it within the wardrobe I already have, so that freaky memory comes in handy for making informed choices. I love to play with silhouette and colour, and my style is definitely influenced by the UK creative space, so I can really vary between minimalism and boldness from day to day. I love how much my style can change as my wardrobe often ends up being a brilliant conversation starter around ethical living, and I get to show people that sustainable fashion doesn't have to look one certain way. It can be as wild or as minimal as you prefer!
I recently travelled to Tokyo with my dad, so this week features some amazing thrifted finds from the capital (as a disclaimer, it was the first time I had shopped in months, I often save it up for when I travel). We actually visited Shin-Koenji to take a Kintsugi class, not realising it's a complete haven for secondhand stores too, and I picked up this beautiful jumpsuit. It's currently pinned up at the bottom as I'm very short, but soon I'll get it properly hemmed by a local tailor.
I find a key factor to secondhand shopping is always looking with an eye for how you could alter pieces, and whether it will be worth the time and effort to do so. This definitely was, it's a timeless piece that will be with me for decades. It also matches perfectly with this necklace from Nozomi project, a company in Northern Japan who makes beautiful jewellery from broken pottery. They started after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, using pottery that had been destroyed in the area. I visited their workshop last year and it was an amazing experience.
This is another Tokyo thrift piece, I got it at the 2nd STREET in Shibuya. Top tip: if you're going to thrift in Shibuya go early, because that place is so busy. I actually don't know if this is meant to be a dress, but it's how I wear it and I love it. The cut is so interesting, I like to wear it without any accessories for a really clean look.
Thrifted dress from Shibuya | Old Vans shoes | Thought socks
Because I work from home most of the time I think it's important to acknowledge that often you'll find me in comfy clothes. I end up running around a lot being in a city like London, so I try and dedicate one day of the week to staying closer to home and getting life admin done. It's also the day I dedicate to my love of cooking, so whatever I wear has to be good for carrying heavy vegetables home and dancing around the kitchen. These trousers from Untouched World are brilliant for that, and are super breathable and cosy in both warm and cold weather.
These are the most unique trousers I own, but I love them! They're 100% cotton and super flowy. Whilst they are very oversized they do actually fit, and it's a really fun silhouette to play with. There's a lot going on print-wise with these (I have a hunch this fabric is originally from Liberty London, but I have no idea how it made its way to Japan) so I've kept things simple up top with a plain tee from the White T Shirt Company, who are great for sustainable basics.
The White T-Shirt Co Shirt | Thrifted trousers from Shin-Koenji
I love how fun and colourful these MATTER trousers are, they're a perfect pop for that Friday feeling, and the silk drapes so beautifully. I've paired them with this sassy tee and an incredible bracelet from ARTICLE 22. I accessorise with this a lot, it's handmade in Laos from recycled bomb shrapnel from the Vietnam war, and its purchase supports further clearing the land of bombs and returning it to the Laotian people. It's an incredible cause and a beautiful piece of jewellery.
I love these jeans because they're a great example of how we don't always need to buy new things—sometimes we just need a perspective change. I got them 5 years ago, had been wearing them rolled up and just felt a little tired of them. Instead of impulsively getting rid of something when I feel this way, I put it in a box out of sight for a month to see how I feel and if I miss it. A few weeks in I thought of the perfect outfit, and realised that if I cut the jeans at the bottom to make a frayed hem it would achieve the shape I'd been after without needing to buy anything new. Now they have a fresh lease on life!
Thrifted shirt from Kichijoji | Thrifted jeans from Seattle
I couldn't go through a week of outfits without a special mention to GRAMMAR, a brand who I love and have been lucky enough to journey with since their initial fundraising campaign. They hand make the most versatile white shirts from organic cotton in New York, and they are tailored to perfection. Sundays are a busy day for me, as I can go between a (vegetarian) Sunday roast, a church service or a G&T at the pub all in one day, so it's good to have something that's flexible and fun.