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At Home with Charlie Collins

personal styling

Visualist speaks with sustainable fashion stylist and author of Frida Style Icon, Charlie Collins.

Words by 

Megan Hill

Published on 

September 26, 2022

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Few have had as profound an influence on culture, art and fashion as Frida Kahlo. Frida has inspired fashion lovers the world over, Charlie Collins amongst them. Charlie is the founder of Creative Wardrobe—a style consultancy specialising in curating "magical wardrobes", filled with pre-owned pieces and vintage treasures. In recent years, Charlie has also added Head of Consignment at Vestiaire Collective, Author and Mother to her CV—all whilst settling into a colourful new home in Lewes.

Charlie's debut book is an ode to her lifelong style idol fittingly titled, Frida Style Icon—a project she embarked on in her first few months as a new mother. We speak to Charlie about cultivating peace with colour, finding lifelong companionship in clothing, and creating a fitting tribute to an enduring icon, Frida Kahlo...

Incidentally sustainable

When I first started hunting for pre-loved pieces, it wasn't because I was conscious of being sustainable. I simply loved the unexpected mix that occurs when lots of random things are thrown together in an organic way. I loved the creative freedom that hunting for second-hand pieces afforded me. New season pieces in trend-lead stores felt stale in comparison and besides, I am a bargain hunter! Now the word sustainable is used widely, "over-used" some might say. To me, "sustainable" means consuming and producing consciously with the longevity of our materials, the planet and the item itself in mind.

Behind the wardrobe door

I've had certain pieces in my wardrobe for over 15 years. Perhaps the oldest and most well-worn is a faded denim shirt from Marks and Spencer that I picked up in a charity shop. I adore my white Rixo bias-cut maxi skirt—I found it pre-owned on eBay and wore it for the night before my wedding. I style it with classic striped shirts or simple sweatshirts and brogues to make the most out of it day-to-day. Brands I love, found in my wardrobe and around my home: Vestiaire Collective for pre-loved treasures, The Restory for clothing and accessory aftercare, By Sarah for their beautiful facial oils, Ocean Bottle for their big impact drinking bottles and Patagonia and Ganni for their pioneering circular strategies.

Fashioning motherhood

Motherhood brought about two style transformations for me. In my pregnancy, I lost my way. My clothes simply didn't fit anymore and so, in desperation, I turned to my husband's shirts. I spent many months living in tracksuit bottoms and any shirt that would close over my enormous tummy. Then when my son was about 6 months old, I re-found myself. I am more in love with fashion than ever before. I love colours, crochet, patchwork, quilt, wearable art and anything that makes a statement!

In response to my own experience of becoming unrecognisable to myself, and the journey we go on as blooming mothers, I added Magical Mamas Wardrobe Reboot sessions to my services. Pregnancy is beautiful, real, and grounding but also tough—it can really knock us for six when it comes to body confidence. I love to support women in rediscovering their creative juices and getting excited about styling themselves again!

The colours of home

We were lucky enough to move into a house that was already beautifully done by paint and tastemaker, Cassandra Ellis—founder of Atelier Ellis. We wanted to keep the house as beautifully "wabi-sabi" as we'd move into it, so we sold a lot of our old things and started from scratch. My passion for mad colours manifests more in my taste in outfits than interiors. I have found serenity in living in a more simple space with calming colours. For our bedroom, we took inspiration from our local area, particularly Charleston House—the beautiful home of artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. We used Atelier Ellis paints, to craft a fun powder pink, yellow and grey colour scheme, reminiscent of the Bloomsbury style.

Pen to paper

I knew my lovely editor, Kajal Mistry, through Creative Wardrobe as she had bought a few pieces from me. She gathered I was Frida obsessed, and the book grew organically from there! My son was three months when I started the project so the hardest part of the writing process was trying to muster the brain power to focus. It was hard being away from him for long stints of time, but I'm proud of myself for persevering. In the end, we even turned the book around in record time.

My research process was fast and furious, I owned most books on Frida prior to the book opportunity and so I dived in head first and enjoyed the process immensely. I loved learning more about my icon and particularly loved finding out that, like me, she had a passion for the spiritual, the mystical and anything magical and fantastical. In my childhood, I wrote freely and often and loved English literature but I suppose I stopped once it wasn't necessary anymore. I have always found writing easy and enjoyable and love connecting what's inside your heart or head with pen and paper. Frida loved writing and penned many hundreds of letters to her loved ones.

Remembering Frida

I am a lifelong Frida Kahlo fan. I am inspired by her unconventionality, her unapologetic boldness and her continued ability to surprise and delight. A style icon is someone who is renowned for inspiring and influencing the tastes of many people all at once, Frida continues to do this posthumously. She has inspired some of the greatest fashion designers of all time from Jean Paul Gaultier to Valentino and encouraged many thousands of us to adorn flower crowns or embrace our unconventional beauty. She is a true style icon!

I hope the book makes readers come to appreciate how Frida infused her fashion with her spirit. Her clothes were a reflection of her heart, mind, passions and of course her politics. She was an artist who channelled her creativity out into the world in multi-faceted ways.

Charlie Collins curates sustainable outfits and shares vintage treasures on her Instagram, you can also find out more about her styling services on her website. Frida Style Icon, is now available to order.

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