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‘Reworking secondhand garments is so fulfilling. I’ve embraced a flamboyant facet of myself’

Style influencer Nicole Akong will get a thrill – and a superbly numerous wardrobe – from reworking secondhand garments

Preloved style is booming amid a price of dwelling squeeze and an increase in eco pondering. As soon as area of interest, the secondhand market is now on the right track to take 10% of world gross sales, whereas eBay has simply axed charges for sellers of preloved garms.

In our Second Nature collection, we unzip this rising pattern and meet the preloved pioneers who’re serving to to ship it mainstream. 1,000,000 miles from its moth-eaten, austere fame of yesteryear, they see preloved as trendy, expressive and enjoyable.

For the ultimate article within the collection, we meet Nicole Akong: a dressmaker, maker, alteration skilled and secondhand style influencer with a aptitude for embellishment, who was a finalist on the 2020 collection of the BBC’s Nice British Stitching Bee. Throughout her childhood in Trinidad the selection of imported garments was restricted, so Akong grew up round dressmaking. She’s now based mostly in London. 

Nicole Akong

It took a very long time for Nicole Akong to present herself permission to purchase ready-made garments once more after showing on the BBC’s Nice British Stitching Bee. There was an expectation from members of the general public that she would all the time be outfitted in self-made items. However after dipping her toe in charity procuring a few summers in the past on the request of her then tween- aged daughter, who’d been becoming a member of pals on charity procuring journeys and requested her mum if she’d accompany her, Akong discovered the proper center floor: reworking secondhand garments.

“It felt like I used to be doing a healthful factor as a result of I’m supporting a charity however I’m additionally shopping for one thing which may in any other case go to landfill,” says Akong. “I began to see stitching patterns as fairly restrictive, and making from scratch gave me resolution fatigue. Now I modify what I don’t like or elevate the clothes in a means that feels extra me. It’s fulfilling, I really discover it a lot extra satisfying as a artistic course of.”

Akong prefers the time period ‘transformation’ to ‘upcycling’ and remodel she does. Whereas others would possibly add a easy patch to cowl the burn holes on the red-striped shirt (pictured) she picked up at a neighborhood kilo sale for £1, Akong shortened the entire garment, changed the cuffs and embellished it with mirrored panelling, sequins, tassels, tape and embroidered ric-rac.

Embellishment is her stitching signature (additional evidenced by her self-made tassel-front trousers). “As I’ve grown into myself, I’ve positively embraced a way more vibrant, flamboyant facet that I’m undecided I might have had the boldness to in my 20s and 30s,” she tells Optimistic Information.

Repair up look sharp: Nicole Akong, pictured at dwelling in London, in a shirt she purchased at a neighborhood kilo sale for £1

It could look to some like a celebration shirt, however for Akong it crammed a necessity for a sensible piece to put on to high school conferences. Having an ‘event thoughts’ is central to her secondhand procuring journeys and to arising with a design imaginative and prescient. “The minute I see one thing that matches the invoice, the dots will join,” she says.

Her follow might need developed post-Stitching Bee, however she already had the knack, making a bomber jacket from outdated clothes together with a vibrant African dashiki throughout the present’s Cut back, Reuse and Recycle week. “It didn’t do nicely within the judging, however I like the mash-up of various influences.”

Akong describes her stitching expertise as empowering, however encourages everybody to embrace transformation, even non-sewists. “There are folks on the market with these expertise who love to make use of them, so why not allow them to?”

Photographs: Nicole Akong photographed for Optimistic Information by Will Sanders

The information:

  • 2.2

    Shopping for a used garment extends its life by 2.2 years on common, lowering its carbon, waste and water footprint by 73%, in accordance with analysis by Vestiaire Collective

  • 61

    Make-do and menders have been credited with boosting gross sales of patches, color dye and thimbles. The John Lewis division retailer bought out of darning needles in 2023, and gross sales of restore merchandise, akin to patches and restore tape, have been up 61%, it stated

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