Fashion Salvage Styling

Fashion Salvage Styling

Bristol Textile Recycling are a longstanding clothing reuse depot based off Feeder Road Bristol, and recently they opened their doors to the public for monthly kilo sales.

Kecks founder Helen took advantage of their cut price vintage offers, and got herself a whole new preloved wardrobe for AW16:



Teaming an under skirt, worn as outerwear, with a cobweb style top from New Look, Helen creates a modern goth look.


Dressing down the same vintage skirt with a mohair blend jumper from H&M.

Next Tall range gown, and vintage 80s house dress.

The real steal of the day – an Aquascutum vintage mac.


Making something from nothing: A reuse challenge

Making something from nothing: A reuse challenge

Most people planning the refit of a retail space would bob along to B&Q and buy a few fittings, maybe  a rail or two, and go about their opening. Not Kecks, we like to think outside the box a little, and so our Upcycling Lounge refit will be sourced entirely from reuse!

Starting my second upcycled shop refit, i have been reminded of the sheer scale of materials available to those looking to use second hand resources. Of course, working within the business, the stuff crops up during the working week: but networks like Bristol Reuse are striving to make them accessible to the public.

Often what is needed, is a bit of a rethink of what is necessary in a business: what must be bought new, and what can be borrowed, or reused.

In a recent t-shirt upcycling workshop with Call of the Brave we reproduced handpicked designers from local artists, and transferred then onto reworked t-shirts, using hand made stencils.



The results were great, a brilliant day all round, and Call of the Brave now have an upcycled option alongside their ethically sourced tees: check out their crowd funded designs!

We also managed to catch up with Made in Bristol TV to film the first of our features on their ‘Thrifty Thursday’ pieces. This time we took second hand clothing from Emmaus and showed people how to make their festival wardrobe by repurposing and restyling what they already own!

So, in both cases, materials already exist to suit peoples needs – all we have done is facilitate that. Simple!


So with the Upcycling Lounge set to launch in 2 weeks (eeek), we at Kecks are hoping to once again inspire reuse at every stage of the project.

Step one:our fixtures, fittings, and paint….all in tomorrows blog!



Nothing is Waste.

The world of reuse, upcycling, and recycling, is often described as a modern phenomenon. Sometimes seen as an outsider industry, it can be belittled and cycnically used by large companies to gain the ‘green market’.

What, in fact, is a modern phenomenon is the idea of waste – of resources, once used, becoming waste product, and the need to deal with that.

The old adage of the new car losing a quarter of its value the minute it drives off the lot runs through my head as i pluck wedding dresses from my local recycling centre, or pull bags of clothes on hangers from litter left on the street (NB this is theft by finding, but that’s another blog). In our hyper driven economy, once its worn, used, boring, unfashionable, broken, stained, too small, too big, scuffed, or just surplus, its waste. But it isn’t waste. What determines waste is what happens to it once it leaves the owners hands.

In the textiles sector that Kecks is part of, and in the furniture world we are just moving into with workshops, there is a movement away from seeing second hand garments and home wares as devalued, to seeing the innate value of each resource. If we donate an object to a charity shop, no matter the quality or condition, there may be a great undervaluing and the subsequent loss of revenue may not benefit your cause. It can lose money. Also, an old garment or object is subject to the same scrutiny you subject it to before throwing it away – so if it seems ugly or old to you, it may well to the person in the shop, and thus will not sell – again it becomes waste to deal with. Our responsibility as donors and consumers, does not go as far as simply giving, it means we have to ensure what we donate can and will be used, and to support the methods used to keep it from landfill. But how?

Emmaus Bristol fresh for the refit! 

Longstanding charity Emmaus, which has operated internationally since 1971, recognises the challenge of getting consumers to see the donations that come into their centres as equal to the goods in any other shop. They engage with the commercial sectors – allowing many start up businesses and home owners a cheaper alternative when setting up, alongside affordable goods for local people in their hundreds of outlets. Reuse is central in their centres, and the companions who run them dedicate their time and ingenuity to recycling so often, that i have learnt endless amounts of new tips and tricks since i took up residency in their warehouse studio.

Now we are working together to show shoppers there is an alternative to the fast fashion industry, and its unsustainable consumption, by housing upcycled clothing brands and furniture alongside donated goods, in an alternative ‘department’ store. Piloted in the Stokes Croft store in central Bristol,  the Upcycling Lounge will hold lines from Kecks, Emmaus vintage, and other local designer who source their goods from reuse and is set to launch summer 2016.

In the Emmaus studio, upcycling naturally…

Are we excited? Errr just a bit!!

And also pleased that the idea of old being inferior, of second hand being waste, of charity shops being places for old tat is being challenged head on by the charity sector.

Emmaus values human beings and is working to tackle the consumer culture that creates the world of the haves and have not’s: “Serve those worse off than yourself before yourself. Serve the most needy first” is its global ethos, and how better to do so  than to provide a viable alternative right in the commercial centre of a city meaning those who shop with them provide the income needed to sustain the solidarity projects that give to those most in need. If furniture is cheap, we can help some of the poor, but if we create a system of distribution and reuse at all levels, we can cater to all pockets and give to those in need – and give them beautiful, lasting foundations to build their homes upon. By recognising and paying for the innate value of our ‘waste’ we fund this work, reduce landfill, create a rich and varied market, and provide for all.

Nothing is waste!

Follow us online for further updates on how you can be involved, and more upcycling in action.





Six Weeks, Six Items: the ultimate capsule wardrobe

Six Weeks, Six Items:  the ultimate capsule wardrobe

I made a pledge in 2015 that I would buy no new clothes in 2016, and instead swish upcycle, swap, borrow, make, and generally wind my way through the year without spending a penny on new clothes. I have allowed myself to shop at charity shops once a month, but on a one in one out basis.

My aim is to show how shopping and not necessity is the basis of our current textiles industry, and through my own example show people there is an alternative to this planet destroying economy.

So, when Labour Behind the Label began advertising their 6 items challenge I masochistically could not refuse.

The concept of the six item wardrobe was interesting to me has someone who owns a lot of clothes. I mean a lot. My job has allowed me to build up a fair collection pieces that I love, and the chance to refine those down to the bare necessities was something I couldn’t resist. However yesterday, when the reality of wearing 6 bits of clothing for 6 weeks during a British winter Into Spring became real, I realised I would have to work harder than I thought to try to stay true to the promise I had made to pledgers.


Coats, shoes, and accessories aside (and of course underwear) I have chosen an extra large Pink Floyd t-shirt, faded denim shirt, black three-quarter length sleeve jumper, black and white striped vest dress,red wrap around dress, and my favourite ripped skinny jeans which were essential for work; upcycling furniture can get messy.

Looking at this tiny pile of clothes and the large wardrobe, that i have now put to bed buy draping an ugly throw over it for the next month and a half, I’m already worried that this challenge may prove very difficult. Like so many of us I’m used to reaching into my wardrobe and pulling out what I fancy to wear that day, and being self-employed in the world of Arts and textiles how I dress is a large part of me, but what is more important is that i remember who made my clothes.

So here we go!

Please do show your support for our global textile workers, and for my whiney angst by donating via this link:

For more information about the challenge and Labour Behind the Label, look out for the next blog.





Falling back in love with Fred Perry

We took an unloved, preowned Fred Perry tee, and used a quick no-sew technique to adapt it into a wearable crop tee, ideal with pencil skirts and high waisted jeans.

Here’s how….

Step one:

11896882_10153607097152174_1501455012_n (1) 

Step two:

better second 

Step three:

third  fourth

Step four:

fifth  sixth

Step five:

criss cross2

Final flourish:

sleeves  11949782_10153607098352174_249735746_n (1)

Tah dah!

fred perry blog pic

Tag us in your finished pics so we can coo over your upcycling skills xx

Upcycled T-shirt bag tutorial.

Upcycled T-shirt bag tutorial.

Having had such a great reception to my mini workshop at Love Bristol Fair this weekend, I’m responding to all the requests for a visual how to for the T-shirt bags. Its oh so simple and ensures your bag is a little waterproof at the bottom in case of leaky stuff. Not ideal for heavy books etc, but perfect for the beach or gym wear as its easily washable. Enjoy!

The essentials What you’ll need: Old t-shirt ,Scissors, Duct tape, Needle and thread (optional)
Cut off the sleeves – larger holes mean a longer handle. Cut out the neck – the deeper the cut, the larger the bag opening.
Turn inside out – take bottom hem and fold up toward neck twice making each fold around 2cm tall.
Duct tape along the fold, making sure to overlap at the sides a little. Turn over and duct tape along the other sides, overlapping onto the tape from the first side. Add another layer of tape along the bottom edge, making sure it sticks to the first and second pieces. The more you stick the duct tape to the duct tape, the better it glues.
Turn the right way out and pull unfinished edges slightly to ‘hem’.
Put stuff in your bag! You can sew the outer edge if you like, but i’ve never needed to.
Wear your bag like a boss! You could even post a selfie on your social media and tag us, or post to our facebook page: kecksclothingbristol xx


Personal icons – women who inspire my fashion range

Personal icons – women who inspire my fashion range

The fashion industry is full of people who explain themselves as “I used to ….. but now i do this” people. Painters, writers, architects, and most of all, musicians. I am no different, I’ve never devoted myself entirely to any one discipline, but the thing I’ve felt most devoted to is music. Fashion has always felt an integral part of being a performer – essential to performance and an extension of the craft. Perhaps it is ego, or part of that innate need to express, whatever the reason, musicians have always been my style icons with their boundary pushing, easily imitable, expressive styles.

For this blog, I will talk about some of the ladies who have influenced me the most (I’ll get to the gents later), starting with the women who forged my formative style….

1) The Runaways

ImageWhats not to like here? All that denim and the customised, handmade tees certainly permeated my consciousness!

Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Sandy West and Cherie Currie were scandalously young when they hit the big time in the mid 70s, and they were scandalous in general. Their lyrics were explicit and the clothing followed suit – Cherie Currie infamously sported a basque and suspenders for one live show in Japan. Nothing compared to Gaga or tongue lolling Cyrus, but at the time, damn shocking.

ImageAs a 12 / 13-year-old, i fell in love with their shocking nature and the styling – I tucked my jeans into my boots, my tee into my flares, and wore my cut offs high and tight. Quite rightly, it all terrified my parents, and Joan Jett has fuelled my love of annoying society in general ever since. Though i go the pleather route where I can.

2) Tori Amos

This particular goddess has always produced artistry that feels a little bit like she creeps into my room at night, and like some sort of perverse tooth fairy, steals my thoughts making them into amazing songs, and wonderful visual art. Tori’s work is incredibly evocative – Neil Gaiman long ago made her into a character in one of his graphic novels – and her stylistic choices are often inspired.


She is never afraid to flash a bit of flesh, and rarely follows any fashion whatsoever, but always manages to remain incredibly haute couture. When I have seen Tori live, she has appeared in everything from jeans and vest to immense chiffon gowns, all the while skipping from piano to harpsichord, often playing both at the same time, and singing complex, towering vocals for huge audiences. Of late, her personal appearance (sometimes her stylist should be slapped) and plastic surgery choices have been criticised, but hey, she’s only human right? Sometimes I struggle getting past pajamas and I’m not a multi million selling artist. So, chill.


The above artwork from concept album ‘American Doll Possee’ is a fine example of the extra mile Tori goes for the visual aspects of her work – inventing different personas for songs and changing into their costume during gigs, down to the wigs. What a gal.

3) PJ Harvey

ImageA mixture of pure passion and folk, PJ is as complex and aloof as they come. She is a fascinating woman, and an adept visual artist whose image has been carefully cultivated and remains strong today. Her clothes are often underplayed, but she is cutting edge indeed – don’t doubt it.

ImageThis t-shirt set me off making my own slogan tops (soon to be revived) and i loved this picture so much I once recreated it for one grateful boyfriend.

Lucky guy.

PJ can often veer into the gothic and folky looking costume – but it’s all very much determined by the feel of her albums, and sits perfectly with them. A truly devoted approach.

4) Cher


Less the body stocking, enormo hair stuff of the 80s, and much more the mega gown, eyeliner, Sonny betrothed days of the 60s and 70s.

Not my favourite singer, but nonetheless a talented woman, and a much overlooked style icon. For some reason, I have always leaned towards the Navajo Indian look, no idea why, and Cher seemed to cultivate an accessible version of that for me – this inspired MANY an Afghan coat purchase. She had a snaggle toothed, aloof beauty, also possessed by my sister, which I very much admired. Now, Cher’s face looks very different, as we all know.

These days I’m more a fan of the dysfunctional Mom she depicted in Mermaids…anyone who knows me knows what I mean…

ImageI also love those mega dresses the 70s did so well, praise the lord they are back again! Check her out in this snazzy ensemble…Afro? Check. Fringing? Check. Bikini? Uh huh. Chandelier earrings? Yup. And yellow.

Also, a great tune.

5) Juliette Lewis


Now, Jules is a recent addition and is mainly here as she encapsulates so many looks that I love. A real rock n roll chameleon. Borrowing heavily from my true messiah, Patti Smith, and working all the clichés, JLew sums up a lot of what i like and what has stayed with me. The below picture could basically have been me from the age of 15..


Shirt and tie is such a classic eh? She also rocks a leather driving glove regularly which I’ve never been able to pull off…

ImageOverall, I love the bat shit crazy, all out rock styling she dons for this persona. It’s the disregard for the norm that appeals most to me – combining vintage and new, and wearing whatever the hell you feel like. That’s at the heart of my fashion ethic and its great to see it employed!

I’m sure I’ll kick myself for not including so may wonderful women, Allison Mosshart is already plaguing me,, but these are the lasses that spring to mind right now.

Who influences you?!

tattoos and i

tattoos and i

I often get asked how i got into the upcycled clothing malarkey – and especially how I came to paint on clothes.

I was always an artistic kid – my Dad brought home rolls of printer paper (yes, once it was on rolls kids) and wallpaper for me to draw on, so prolific was I.

At uni, i lost my love of drawing somewhat…no idea why…but it went away, only to crop up again in my twenties when i discovered a love of drawing tattoos for people. I got into the genre heartily – mainly in a way of photographing tattoos and dreaming up my own. I have never really had a desire to actually tattoo people, and after a few goes with the machine, i gave it up as a bad job. It makes me cringe, not the blood or anything, just the BUZZ of the machine. Blergh.

I also lack the incredible precision required of many artists…and y’know, I find it hard to uphold traditions in any genre, let alone the ones so ingrained in the tattoo world. I don’t like being told what to draw. Or do. Ever really.

After witnessing some amazing tattoos, and working at a shop, I left the tattoo world behind for many reasons, but i felt the need to keep drawing. So the t-shirts came about, and this is the medium I have grown to love.

The tattoo influence is still visible in some t-shirts.

Still my love of ink is very strong and I recently continued my own tattoo project, with a small tattoo from Holey Skin in Bristol.


For those of you who have never had a tattoo, this was just a quick design – having a fair amount of ink, and knowing what I wanted and where, i was booked in super fast.Its a kodama from a Studio Ghibli film, they are little tree spirits, and the receptionist and i had a good ogle of the little critters before  choosing the one I wanted.

There was much kodama love in the shop that day…

Often you would have a consultation – especially if it is a bespoke design, and no decent artist will ever directly tattoo a sketch you have drawn yourself. they will redraw it to make it work. There is a method to their madness – it’s all about line and placement, so shop around and get what you want, but listen to the artist. You wouldn’t just build a wall without some advice first eh?

This was a small graphic piece, so it was printed off, put onto transfer paper..

DSC_0883…so I could check I liked the look of it, and then BAM, it began.

I didn’t take a picture of that bit – I spend time before a tattoo relaxing and breathing so I don’t flinch or giggle – which is the worst! It also helps it hurt less.

Does  a tattoo hurt? Yeah. Its lots of tiny in pricks putting ink under your skin. But personally, it doesn’t bug me too much, and this one was weirdly ok! Barely hurt! But then it was only a little un.


Here it is covered with clingfilm to protect it – it is an open wound after all!

Aftercare is a real hotbed of debate, but listen to what the artist says and do your research. Good aftercare can make a huge difference to the quality and longevity of a piece.

So, yes a brief overview of my tattoeyness. if you’d like to know more let me know and thanks to Holey Skin for being lovely…now, back to Kecks!

Hawt stock for hot weather

Hawt stock for hot weather

So, it’s pretty hot right?

I’ve been updating the Etsy store accordingly, and squeezed in a little shoot with my favourite model Geri!


I also branched out into more of the handpainted range – pretty challenging with upcycled stock as you never really know what you’re getting to paint on, but hey, that’s the fun of it!

I LOVE paiting on denim jackets at the moment, especially running off these wolf designs….


…and i’m getting to work on more of the Derby Grrls as they seemed super popular!


More soon! Give the store a look for more updates, or check out the Facebook page xx

Clothes: sizing and sustainability

Clothes: sizing and sustainability

One of the first things i do when i pick up a garment to upcycle, is cut out the tag – not just to banish the former brand, but to remove the dreaded size.

Having worked in fashion retail since my teen years, i have watched women squeeze into sizes they are convince they are, cry in fitting rooms and generally beat themselves up about something they have little control over. The fact is, there is no such thing as a size 12, or 0, or 16 – there is no set measurement, universal to all stores that determines its size, so lets let it go. For good.

“An online survey of 1,000 women, indicated that 15% bought a bigger dress size than they expected when shopping at Primark. Top Shop and New Look were also named as stores with smaller sizing. Marks & Spencer, Asda’s George brand and Next had the most generous sizes, the survey found, although opinions were not always uniform.


Working for one Swedish firm, i regularly advised women to go home, cut the size out and just enjoy the garment, as the sizes changed from piece to piece and even across ranges in store. Ridiculous. Not only confusing and humiliating for the men and women trying to find anything to fit and look good amongst the plethora of choice, but creating massive amounts of waste in the process, after all, if no one fits in the clothes, they usually end up being further processed, often shipped around the world, and eventually sent to landfill, which destroys our planet.

So it’s no good for anyone – why is it still going on?

One reason may be that we don’t dress for our shape – just because something is fashionable or looks good on someone we think is pretty awesome, does not mean it looks great on us. Sadly, most shop assistants wont be up on body shape either (or possibly care as long as you’re buying), so doing your own research is wise before you buy something you can’t use. Gok Wan and those kind of folk have some good starter pointers, and this Channel 4 bit of advice seems a good starter:

And for the gentlemen, this looked to be full of good advice, mainly suited based – but not being a chap, please let me know if it’s baloney:

This guide is a vague one for both:

Dress for your shape and you’re more likely to get a sustainable wardrobe.

Another reason why this pattern continues may be there is no consistent sizing. For a moment putting aside the important psychosociological issues of ‘vanity sizing’ and branding clothes by only making them fit certain ‘aspirational sizes’, inconsistent sizing can lead consumers to buy ill-fitting clothing, often more clothing to find what fits, and causes more waste of energy and money. All our precious resources!

Theres a bit of an apologetic for this practise here, but i still think it sucks:

Ah good old Cosmo…

So – im aware this is a shameless plug, but hey its my passion people, deal with it – when upcycling Kecks clothing i aim to make it as free size or adjustable as possible. The business was born out of my frustration with band t-shirts not fitting properly, I took my cue from Kat Von D and customised them.

Never stopped since:

Kat Von D Hits The Alexa Chung Show!

Modern clothes sizing is based on an NIST standard created in 1949 – it was later withdrawn in the 1980s and nothing has replaced it since – I think this is pretty tragic. It also leads us to the real and tragic point behind inconsistent sizing and subsequent waste: no one knows or cares what size we really are.

So, if the high street doesn’t care about us, how can we combat it:

1)  Knowing your own measurements and measuring up clothes in store

2) Trying EVERYTHING on (also trying and going back the next day to try again is often advisable) and knowing which stores cater to your size and shape and going there to beat compulsive purchases of ill-fitting stuff.

3) Move off the high street altogether and shop local – clothing sizing came from the move from going to a tailor for clothes, so go back to a tailor. Find people who can adjust and make your clothes – you can buy well made stuff cheaply second-hand and get it adjusted.

4) Re think your clothes – the internet is full of natty tips on reworking, remodelling, adjusting and styling clothes differently to suit you. For example:

Clever eh?

5) More importantly FORGET the size label! Complain to the stores about it, feedback online when sizing is bad, and perhaps we can stop this terrible waste.

For more info and to commission upcycled clothing, check out my work :