Make It Personal
Harness the Power of Personalisation
The advent of Big Data has enabled brands to personalize products, experiences and even feelings. Consequently, digitally savvy consumers demand evermore bespoke offerings in exchange for their data. This has led to everything from the in-store customisation of t-shirts and customer-designed shoes to DNA-matched skincare and makeup.
"In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different." —Coco Chanel
With a strong, but pretty homogonised high street offering cheap, near-disposable clothes for the trend-led, it seems that if you want to be different, or seen as creative, unique and stylish, then you've got to personalise it! One way to do this is to develop a styling shorthand that is uniquely you. The other way, is to get out a needle and thread and get back to first principles.
For me the desire to personalize my clothes began as a teenager, sitting in my bedroom, scraping away at the thighs of my Levi 501s with a blunt penknife!
I wanted to create an ‘authentic’ distressed look, as opposed to the artificial, ‘shop-bought’ ripped jeans that everyone else had.
I paired them with my version of an off-the-shoulder Bardot top, made by stretching my black long-sleeved ballet leotard over my shoulders!
And if I could get away with it, I turned up the hems of my skirts to make micro-minis.
"Fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well.” —Vivienne Westwood
I was fortunate that my mum indulged some of this behaviour (not the hemming of the mini-skirts). She was a home economics teacher and a whizz with a sewing machine, so when the opportunity arose to attend a formal ball with a bunch of friends, I begged her to make me a dress. Not just any dress - a corset-backed, Cinderella-style gown that looked like a 90s Vivienne Westwood corset. Although we had some disagreements over the tightness of the corset and the depth of the neckline, she did an amazing job of realising my utterly bespoke vision in cornflower blue silk taffeta, and I felt like a true princess at the ball!
Later, when I wanted to pair my favourite tops and dresses with a necklace that was so complementary it looked as if it ‘came with’, I decided the only option was to make the necklaces myself. My one-of-a-kind pieces, hand made from semi-precious stones and beads, were so pretty, I began to take commissions for them. I even printed business cards to hand out to the scores of people who admired them! They were labour-intensive, but the process was therapeutic and the results were much-admired and utterly unique. But with a full-time career, it wasn't a viable business proposition!
Then I noticed that a summer skirt I’d enjoyed wearing a few seasons previously, was beginning to look dated.
I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a super-hoarder when it comes to clothes, so I was unwilling to simply toss it out or consign it.
Instead, I stitched ribbon straps onto the waistband, pulled it up under my arms and wore it as a dress! And why not? It looked way better that way than it ever did as a skirt!
It should be noted that my dressmaking skills are pretty poor at best. But that has never stopped me!
When the stitching won’t be seen, I do it myself. For anything more taxing than a hem, sequin or button, I use a quality tailor.
French women have their clothes altered by a seamstress to fit properly as a matter of routine, making them appear more expensive, more bespoke.
They didn’t earn their world-renowned reputation for chicness by accident.
Last November, the night before Mr O and I were going to London for a long weekend, I found myself franticly cutting the buttons off the coat I wanted to take and stitching on the new multicoloured ones I’d bought earlier that day – all 16 of them.
And I hadn’t packed yet!
There have been a number of times over the years that I’ve passed on buying a coat or jacket simply because I didn’t like the buttons.
Buttons are like the jewellery of an outfit – they can make or break it.
So now, if I love the jacket, but hate the buttons I simply cut them off and replace them, changing the whole personality of the piece and making it truly personal.
So now it's your turn: how can you tailor your wardrobe to fit your personality, taste and bodyshape? What would set your look apart from your counterparts at work or at lunch with the girls? Do you have clothes hanging in the wardrobe with the tags on just waiting for a chance to be altered to fit or customised to make you love them more?
What are you waiting for? The time is NOW to be you; to be different, memorable, unique. If nothing else, you’ll have fun customising and enjoying the compliments that ensue!
I'd love you to share your newly created pieces by tweeting me or tagging me on Instagram @nikkiojiwears