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

Sustainability – teamwork

Sustainability – teamwork

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.  ~Margaret Meade


I’ve been pretty absent from blogworld – the practicalities of building my business have taken up a LOT of time…who knew there were so many types of clothes rail to choose from?! Plus battles with finances, but we all hear that one, right?

One thing that has kept me going through this chaos, is the collaborations with pals, and those just happy to help.

The more i have delved into sustainable living, the more i realise it really only works once everyone gets into it – the potential is incredible when you combine practical and creative talents without the red tape of corporate living.


For example, the guys over at Freecycle – this online listing of donated goods has enabled thousands to get the stuff they need for free – whether it be furniture, or clothing, even sometimes food – and dispose of what they don’t need. Even down to unassuming stuff like old hair dye, it all stays out of landfill and saves money for the recipient. I have personally furnished most of my home with it, and as a single parent, have put clothes and toys back in and been thanked in a most heart warming way. If your local network needs a boost, why not encourage friends and family to whack something on there – advertise via social media – and watch it grow as word spreads. Its amazing what trash you can dispose of and what treasure you can find.

Another great factor is that Freecycle is based on basic human courtesy and generosity – simply asking and giving thanks is discouraged in consumer society, and should be encouraged way more. When i reached out to an old uni pal of mine for some help with a promo video, he offered his time in exchange for accommodation during one of  their many filming trips around the country – he and his partner’s company kindly filmed, edited and produced the piece and it just hit 200 views. Incredibly generous, and we had a great time working together and a bit of partying to boot.

If you fancy a video of your own, or have any other filming projects, give them a shout, I will be for my next shoot:

The film was not complete without some music, so i contacted a band i have seen several times at gigs and festivals called ALASKA. They also agreed to let me use their latest single as the background music in exchange for a little help on their South West tour – amazing eh?



They just released their latest single which features a collaborative artwork  with Dots Printhaus who live in their hometown of Leeds.

Give it all a look, its incredible stuff, and all based on a spirit of collaboration and working together to make the projects that may not get funding or support of the ground. Much like my own little Kecks Clothing.

Next up is some work I’m doing with the brilliant Figure 8 Festival in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support – tickets are on sale now, and I’ll keep you posted with all developments! check it out!

H & M: Always question your sources.

H & M: Always question your sources.

As a former employee of H&M, i have varying issues with this company – first of all, i was not sacked from the company, i worked here for a long time and rose through the ranks quickly. I also quickly learned that despite employing a diverse and often lovely bunch of staff at all levels, the company has little regard for humans as a whole – whether it be staff or customers. Their ethics are dubious at every level, so i was interested to see their launch of a ‘conscious’ collection.

If the ‘horse meat scandals’ of this year have taught us anything, it is to question our sources before we purchase a product – years of blindly buying what is presented to us on our shelves has made us numb to the tricks of advertising. That’s what its there for, to make you buy no matter what. So ‘low fat’ can mean fattier that our previous product but comparatively low, mascaras models wear lash inserts in ads giving us a false idea of what the product achieves, and clothing projects an unrealistic idea of body shape due to sizing that disregards modern body proportions.

In this case, calling their range conscious in light of the repeated reports of slave labour standards in their affiliated factories over the years, made me instantly cynical:


I would argue, that if these were white people in the UK, there would be uproar, but being India we have all become numb to this. This is not sustainable – if we use slave labour we create a double standard of humanity that spreads. If large corporations had their way, this would be happening in our ‘civilised’ states – we are all aware of the ‘Poundland’ controversy and it’s a good example of how we can stand up to this slide in standards. It also begs the question, are we fine with others suffering so we can have more cheap clothes – do we need all this STUFF? Id say no, of course.

When i worked for H&M, i had my first experience of workplace bullying, i was unable to wear the clothing as it didn’t fit me (I was a size 12 at the time) and i experienced staff regularly making open jokes anbout the Big Is Beautiful range which was shoved at the back of the store until i was assigned to it – being someone who could “sympathise with the customer”…i’ll read that as fat eh? I regularly worked unpaid overtime, the wages were incredibly low for the supervisory level i worked at (this was pre-minimum wage) and the manager produced such a high staff turn over through her management ‘technique’ that we regularly had to re recruit. At no time was any of this addressed, and being a naive 18 year old, i did little about it. I did, however, tell people to ignore the sizing, fed back complaints and read their responses to the sweat shop allegations they regularly faced – this is what lead me to leave the company.


Given the efforts to improve their carbon footprint are admirable, their recycling is to be applauded – but the levels of waste produced by their huge stores with fast fashion and all its packaging is something they have done little about. I would also question the policy of stores such as this taking in old stock to ‘recycle’ – where does it go? Do they sell it on? And does it push prices up for more ethical manufacturers and charity stores once producers reclaim and re sell their stock? Wait:

You’re buying it,

using it,

and taking it back to them…and you have no promise as to what happens to it?

There are vagaries laid out in their policies, but ti seems that they are making profit out of what others do for free and thus crippling the recycle / upcycle chain and preventing charitable deeds.


Here are their ‘policies’:

There are commitments and ideas, but no promises – and what of reducing this waste by producing less, raising prices reasonably: thus enabling workers high wages and better conditions instead of impossible production targets?

Its a bit of a horse that has already bolted for me..and i know there are those who will defend he H&M brand. You’re brand loyal or like the clothes – hey, i love their clothes, but they can be sourced elsewhere, and being brand loyal to a store of this size, honey that’s beyond unwise. You’re being brainwashed, and as the evidence shows, they care little about you, your planet or your body image. Their promises are thinly veiled PR.

Just re read the statement below – a wonderful of vague PR and an open statement of ‘there’s a limit to our regard for human life’

H&M’s auditors carry out regular checks to ensure that there are no underage workers in the factories. It is extremely rare for child labour to be discovered at H&M’s suppliers or their subcontractors. Should this nonetheless happen, H&M requires the supplier to take responsibility and, together with H&M and the family, to find a solution in the best interests of the child. An investigation is then carried out, looking at how best to resolve the situation based on the child’s interests. On many occasions, the solution will involve the supplier contributing financially so that the child can receive an education, while compensating the family for the loss of income. If H&M discovers repeated breaches of its ban on child labour at a supplier – or one of its subcontractors – the cooperation will be ended for good

Then read the question about H&M’s independent auditors. The more you read, the more you see.

So, look into what you’re buying – here at Kecks i’m open about my processing, it’s mainly just me, but it enables me to see how as an employer you have a responsibility to your staff and to the planet. Using small improvemnts as a marketing tool is not enough – if you are compromising your worker’s welfare, you are in defiance of human rights, if you produce huge amounts of waste through over production and packaging, youre destryoing the planet. You dont deserve the money of those who do care, and as people who do, lets encourage others to read the lable a little more closely. Make these companies earn our money.