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Coffee with Rommy: Meet Phoebe Boateng

Slow Fashion Advocate + Sustainable Fashion Influencer
Phoebe Boateng

Jen: You describe yourself on Instagram as a real life Bratz doll, which is just ace! Your style is super quirky and cool. Tell me about how you developed your own personal style.

Phoebe: I think it’s from years and years of charity shopping and thrifting, when I was younger my mum was like “If you wanna buy clothes you’re going to have to buy them from charity shops” so I think its been so long that I’m used to thrifting my own clothes. When you go to charity shops it’s not laid out the way that high street shops are, so routing through clothes and deciding what I like and don’t like has helped me to develop my own style.

Jen: When charity shopping, do you look for specific things or do you prefer to wing it and shop with an open mind?

Phoebe: A bit of both! I have a list on my notes (that’s always growing) of specific things I want as a reminder to look out for them. It helps when I’m out and about and popping in shops to get specific things rather than buy loads of stuff I don’t need. It’s also good to go with a bit of an open mind as you never know what you might find.

Jen: What kind of things are on your list at the moment?

Phoebe: A pair of brown cowboy boots have been on it since summer last year. A cute 2000’s mini skirt and cute cardie’s for spring!

Jen: Are you one that follows trends?

Phoebe: It’s hard not to be influenced by what we see on Instagram and around us, but I know what colours I like and what things suit me, so mixing them with current trends is fun. I try to ask myself ‘Am I going to wear this in a years time?’ because I know there are some trends I won’t wear in the future so tapping into certain ones is fun.

Jen: One thing I particularly about your style is how you interpret the styling in your own way, like your Instagram post wearing a tie you’d find in the mens section of a charity shop but the way you wore it made me want to go raid my Dads tie drawer. Where does that stylistic, creative side come from?

Phoebe: A lot of my wardrobe is either my Mums, Dads and brothers old clothes (which I don’t think he particularly likes!) Looking at old pictures of my parents, I take inspiration from those 90s pictures. My Dad doesn’t wear his ties anymore and some of his suit jackets are oversized on me so I just grab stuff from them!

Jen: Do you have a styling process or do you go with one item and build the outfit around it? (like the tie)

Phoebe: It depends on what I see as the main part of the outfit. I’m very into bags and shoes and I like them to match. Sometimes it can be a vintage coat (which I love) so I'll base it all around one of those. The majority of my wardrobe is quite minimal and basic. It’s easier to style stuff when some items are more minimal, then bring colours in with accessories like statement earrings.

Jen: Would you say that earrings are your main fashion accessory?

Phoebe: Definitely, my mum has loads of gorgeous gold vintage earrings that I wear.

Jen: What tips do you have for anyone wanting to shop more sustainably?

Phoebe: First thing is to unsubscribe from fast fashion email marketing and unfollow them. I used to be on boohoo and PLT every week a few years ago. Sometimes you don’t necessarily need or want stuff but when you see it you’re like oh I’ve got to have it. As I mentioned before writing down in your notes particular things you’re looking for is a great thing because sometimes you can get carried away.

Jen: How often do you buy new stuff?

Phoebe: To be honest not that often. This month I’ve bought a few new things that have been on my list for like 3 months that I’ve said ok, it’s time to buy it now because I know that I actually want it.

Jen: What made you come away from fast fashion?

Phoebe: I did a law degree so for my dissertation I wanted to do something fashion related, so I did it about modern slavery. The factories in Leicester popped up so I began a case study into the boohoo group. When you’re reading about stuff and seeing interviews of garment workers you just think, wow this is really bad. So I realised I needed to watch my consumption of things. From then I realised there are much better ways to shop and be more mindful. Like you can still buy fast fashion, but you can buy it secondhand.

Jen: That is a big problem isn’t it, we’re all so detached from it that you don’t see it until you really dig deep. My background is in fast fashion imports and the main reason I came away from it was because I was seeing the effects first hand whereas the majority of people are seeing pretty things online and buying them straight off with no idea whats going on behind the scenes. It’s great to see people actively doing their research and saying hang on a minute, what is going on? The more exposure we do on it the better and change will eventually kick into play. Were you a regular fast fashion shopper?

Phoebe: It was a mixture. I’ve always shopped second hand but the thing for me is that I always have to look good and I thought that was synonymous with having to have a new outfit, which fuelled my fast fashion addiction. I just love clothes and accessories so when I was buying new stuff it was like a little bit of dopamine making me feel good about myself. Coming away from that I was like what can I do that will still give me the same feeling? Now it’s like what ways can I restyle my wardrobe and how many wears can I get out of an item. That’s where my happiness now comes from.

Jen: It’s refreshing to see people now proud to say ‘I wore this dress 4 years ago to this event and look how I’ve restyled and reworn it today’ isn't it! Where do you predict the future of fashion to go?

Phoebe: On one hand our generation is becoming a lot more concerned with things like climate change and the damage that fast fashion causes the planet but then on the other hand we have influencer culture where they’re promoting it on a daily basis and it’s very hard to ignore and not be persuaded. It’s difficult. My hope is that more people will shop more consciously. I’m not saying that everyone should stop buying fast fashion and only buy more sustainable stuff but it’s more about shopping consciously. What ways can I make things last?

Jen: On influencer culture, if you were approached by a fast fashion company to work with them to create content what would you say?

Phoebe: If I already buy from that brand, like to be honest I still buy my jeans from zara because they fit well. But the way that some brands promote their clothes and talk about their sustainability pledges I just don’t think that I could do it, the way their eithics are, the way they treat their garment workers and deal with a climate crisis, I’d basically be helping to promote it.

Jen: I’ve seen quite a few influencers recently that have started to work with fast fashion brands and they’re people that I’ve appreciated for being ambassadors for sustainability and it almost felt like a kick in the teeth to see them wearing these brands and posting hauls. I understand that you have to pay the bills but for everything they stood for, there’s other ways round it to use it in a positive way. Especially when you have a huge platform on Instagram. Moving on, I’m interested to know more about your fashion sense, how would you describe your style?

Phoebe: Some days I look like a 70s Auntie, other days I’ll be in streetstyle. I lean more towards vintage fashion because the quality and fit is better. It’s everchanging!

Jen: I like that because I find a lot of people that shop second hand still look for recent brands, whereas you're someone that likes to style a true vintage gem and it’s nice to see. The way you put things together is super cool.

Phoebe: Thank you! Confidence definitely sells the outfit, just wear whatever you want to wear.

Jen: Do you have advice for anyone struggling with confidence, especially when it comes to Instagram?

Phoebe: When I’m wearing clothes that when I’m walking down the street past a window or storefront and I see my reflection and think ‘I look great today’. Anything that makes you feel good about yourself.

Jen: You’re so right about that because most days when I’m in the studio at home, I’ll just wear tracksuit bottoms and a jumper with my hair up, my attitude is different to when I put a dress on and a pair of shoes. It’s the simple things like that isn’t it where you’re like “I’m feeling myself today!” I find you execute it through everything you do though the day giving you that boost.  Now, we’ve spoken about charity shops but do you buy secondhand online?

Phoebe: Yes, I like Depop which has a lot of small businesses with some great vintage finds but I do find it can be quite pricey, so I started looking on Vinted last year. It’s affordable and there are a lot of great bargains on there.

Jen: I’ve heard great things about Vinted, I don’t have it (which is probably a good thing!) but a lot of my friends do and when I see them they're like ‘Vinted, fiver!’ and I’m like what! Do you think Vinted might be the new Ebay?

Phoebe: I’ve never really shopped on Ebay. The whole bidding thing isn’t for me. Vinted is more for the average seller but if you want true vintage, Depop is probably better as a lot of the sellers authenticate stuff and you actually know you’re getting true designer.

Jen: Do you like to buy designer?

Phoebe: Yes in a sense that I want to buy pieces that are timeless and you can invest in a piece knowing that it’s never going to lose value if you look after it well. At the same time there's a lot of designer that is pricey for no reason. You can buy the same thing that just doesn’t have the label. But definitely yes for handbags!

Jen: I've never made a big designer purchase but I think if I was going to it would be for something like a handbag that I would like to have for a long time with the chance to pass it on as an heirloom. I’ve heard a lot of people buy like Chanel bags and pass them through the family, it almost makes it a treasure doesn’t it.

Phoebe: My mum bought a Moschino bag in the 80s that she passed onto me a few years ago and I was like I need to treasure this bag. It’s a great thing to pass on as a great investment and if you keep them well they last. I have mine in dust bags on a shelf!

Jen: Going back to your mention of small businesses, are there any in particular you’d like to give a shout out to?

Phoebe: I worked with @soulandflare in the past and I love the bits that Gay been doing recently, especially reworks on her depop. I also recently met the owner of @clothesbeforebrosuk, a Birmingham based feminist sustainable brand, selling vintage levi’s that fit perfectly.

Find Phoebe on instagram @pashun4fashun__ and see who's next up on the series here