“We started out as skint teenagers who had a passion for retro clothes and wanted to look different so we used to raid charity shops and customise our own clothes,” says Annika Sanders. Anni and her then skint teen friend, Kerry Seager, started buying men’s clothes from secondhand shops and reconstructing them into experimental creations to wear out clubbing in the early nineties. The duo now have a shop, Junky Styling, in the Truman Brewery, in Shoreditch. The story of their rise from rags, to well, funky rags, is chronicled in their new book, Junky Styling, just published by A&C Black. What makes them stand out is their use of men’s suits and shirts, literally, in some cases, turning them on their heads and into tailored, figure-hugging quirkily unique designs. When I visit there’s a basque made out of a man’s suit, shirt cuffs that are now a waistcoat, a bolero that was once a pair of trousers and a dress that used to be a shirt.
Junky Styling also offers Wardrobe Surgery. One proud customer is picking up his pin-stripe suit jacket, which is now more fitted and edged in denim. “Wardrobe Surgery is a service that allows customers to bring their old/worn out/tragic garments to the Junky store and be part of the redesign process,” explains Anni, “We enjoy listening to feedback on the designs and tweaking garments to give a made-to-measure feel. This approach enables us to make garments with real people in mind.”
Their book is a breathless run through their early catwalks as they turned a hobby into a thriving business – the pair have run up outfits for Gwen Stefani and Kate Moss, and now sell their designs in Top Shop’s Oxford Circus outlet as well as Oxfam in Westbourne Grove. It’s inspirational to see what you could do with an old suit and a bit of imagination. “We treat clothes as raw material and completely transform them into something new,” says Anni, “We’re not about being greener than thou, but we think people should be responsible for the environment, reuse resources and be more considerate about their consumption.” At the end of the book there are a list of their signature designs and an explanation of how to make some of them. For me personally the explanations and diagrams are not detailed enough, although I’m going to give some of them a go – who could resist the lure of a pair of ‘magic trousers’? In the meantime, here are Anni’s tips on how to customise your clothes.
- Change the buttons. Cannibalise buttons from other garments you no longer wear or pick them up from charity shops.
- Sew beads on.
- Buy clothes from charity shops and practise on them.
- Cut up old T-shirts – the material doesn’t fray.
- If you can’t sew in a zip, make ties out of stretchy leggings, shirt sleeves or ribbons.
- Take elements from clothes and turn them into something else: several pockets can be linked together to make a belt, shirt sleeves could become a scarf, the lapel from a man’s jacket can be re-fashioned to make a halter-neck waistcoat.
- Pick up sewing or knitting machines on freecycle.org or ebay; look for yarn and thread in charity shops and check out car boot sales for equipment like embroidery hoops.
Pictures by Ness Sherry