The British stylist and “thrifting” pioneer, who has channelled her own modus operandi into a collection for MiH Jeans, reveals how she’s brought vintage clothes out of their dark and dusty stashes and into the light.
The attitude towards thrift stores was a bit different [when I started out], in that people didn’t go to them as much. Tons of people I know have thrifted for years, but it wasn’t as widespread, so there was such great stuff to be found. It was seen as being more underground, especially charity shops rather than vintage.
“I love the thrill of the hunt. I love finding something great. A new idea, to me, is something great from the past. I also like the fact that it’s had a previous life. But it’s really about the hunt and editing out the piece that I love; that jumps out at me.
“My mother and father had great style: original, stylish and inspiring. Completely out of the ordinary. My mother wrote about fashion when I was growing up in the
Vogue Book of Fashion Photography, in the 70s. I think I spent my early years looking at fashion pictures as she did her research. I think that’s why I still love the 70s.
“I remember trying on my mother’s hats, scarves, high heels and handbags. I loved watching my mum getting ready to go out, putting on lipstick. She looked so glamorous to me. I think I held on to the contact with fashion as I was growing up through my older sister Rose, who was a proper Kings Road punk. But for a long time I was into riding – I had a pony, and so jodhpurs and riding boots were what I wore the whole time. I really developed my love of clothes and fashion when I started thrifting.
“I used to love looking at W magazine in the 80s, when it was super big and glossy. My dad saw the magazine in the US and thought it looked amazing and so got a subscription. Every month I’d pore through the pages. I loved the punk princess, Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, and I loved the supermodels and the whole Versace thing of the late 80s. Kate Bush was a big one, too. The movie Subway I found captivating; Isabelle Adjani was so stylish and beautiful.
“The energy of early [Garnette’s non-conformist zine] Cheap Date was so great. It was so genuine. We loved Portobello [Road], we loved charity shops. We loved old clothes. We had a lot of fun looking. Cheap Date was so from the heart of everyone involved. I met Kira Jolliffe before, who founded Cheap Date, and who is my co-editor on Fanpages. She’s one of the cleverest, most original people I know. I also met and came to love Anita Pallenberg, Chloë Sevingy and Debbie Harry. So many amazing people.
“I kept the same attitude at British Vogue. Clothes are clothes at the end of the day, and it’s about the way you put them together. My rail at Vogue always looked a bit like it was from a thrift store, but always tight – I hope. It’s about keeping to the story and narrative in your mind. But I always did keep to the Cheap Date philosophy. I used high-fashion clothes but I never wanted them to look high fashion. Money didn’t come into it for me. Thrift or runway, it was always about the piece.
“I love being on my own and just looking, editing, hunting. For me it’s a combination of a buzz and a form of relaxation. That hidden gem. I think it’s okay to see something in a magazine and not be able to buy it. Let’s face it, pretty much everything can be bought, on the whole. I still use old clothes. Gives it some spirit.
“I’ve found so many great things [at thrift shops]. Probably my favourite of all was the banana print top I used on Kate Moss in my first Vogue shoot. Chloé then went on to copy it. I still have that top. I love it, but it’s a bit small and everyone think it’s Chloé! Which I find irritating. I’ve found tons, but most are just a great mix of shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters, blouses, with no label. Some of these are part of the Golborne Road collection [for Mih Jeans].
“My style has pretty much stayed the same over the years. It’s evolved for sure; more pared down in a way. And, like most people getting older, I’m drawn to the classics. But I love the same clothes I’ve had for over 20 years and I wear them all the time. Mih Jeans was such a perfect fit … I think my collection fits in perfectly. Mih makes clothes that you want and keep for years and years.
“I wanted to capture some of my favourite pieces from over the years. Some of the pieces I’ve used in shoots; all the pieces have been part of my wardrobe for ages. I wanted to capture a collection that was super wearable; pieces you’d want to hang on to for years.
“I’ve always loved Portobello Market [near Golborne Road]. An old friend of mine lived on Portobello Road in the 90s, and so I used to spend a lot of time there anyway. Friends and I used to love hanging out there. Going to the Notting Hill [Music & Video] Exchange, the market and charity shops. It was a way of life.”
“I LOVE THE THRILL OF THE HUNT. I ALSO LIKE THE FACT THAT IT’S HAD A PREVIOUS LIFE”
Kate Moss wearing Garnett’s thrift banana-print top for British Vogue in 2003.