The new TV show sees tweens enter the world of sustainable fashion, competing to earn a coveted spot at London Fashion Week
Many fashion designers start before their feet can even swing onto a sewing machine pedal. Martin Margiela, for instance, was designing miniature garments for his Barbies as a kid (which he later drew upon for his AW94 Doll’s Wardrobe collection), while Simon Porte Jacquemus crafted his first skirt at eight years old from Converse laces and a ripped-down curtain.
Precious few though, are precocious enough to get into Harajuku decora before they’ve even hit double figures, like Brighton-based Lyra did. Now 12, she’s one of the contestants on Style It Out, a new CBBC show that sees nine fashionable tweens competing to win a place at London Fashion Week.
Each episode, the group are challenged to produce a new look based on a theme using pre-loved pieces, scraps of fabric, and all sorts of jazzy embellishments, working with a team of “seamsters” to finish before the second hand ticks down to zero. As well as showing off the creations themselves a slew of surprise guests are ready to be dressed, from preened poodles to their actual teachers. Sure, The Slammer slapped, but we don’t remember kids’ TV being this good.
Hosted by Emma Willis, it features two resident judges: stylists Ayishat Akanbi and Jorge Antonio, who are both stoked to be part of it. “I got involved as I love children and young people for their imagination, honesty, ambition, curiosity, sense of limitlessness and of course, how painfully adorable they are. I also know first hand how fashion and style can boost confidence,” Akanbi says. “Anything that promotes individuality and creativity is right up my street, so when the producers reached out to me it was a no brainer!” adds Antonio.
It’s clear that these kids have seriously passed their upcycling proficiency tests. From a burnt orange deconstructed jacket (Antonio reckons it reminds him of Galliano for Dior) to a grungy giraffe-inspired look made from one of Willis’ own donations, it’s anything but textbook. “Each day on-set meant emotionally preparing to be stunned by the originality or the fun execution of their designs,” Akanbi says. “The mind-blowing aspect of the show is that the majority of our designers had no prior training,” she adds. It’s this genuinely naive approach that creates magic, leading to raw designs unadulterated by the adult world.
Hearteningly, it’s also a mega win for sustainable fashion. In little asides, phantasmagorically animated pieces of clothing natter about the perils of fast fashion. “The only materials available to the designers was our fashion closet filled with second hand clothing from charity shops and even some of the old clothes from our own wardrobes,” Akanbi says. “Nothing was wasted: a chain off a bag made a gorgeous embellishment on a bomber jacket, a beaded necklace became a trail of pearls finishing a look,” adds Antonio.
“I’m optimistic about the next generation of fashion designers. They are much more environmentally conscious than my generation were” – Ayishat Akambi
It’s filled Akanbi with hope for the future. “I’m optimistic about the next generation of fashion designers. They are much more environmentally conscious than my generation were,” she says, emphasising the magic of learning how to sew and repair. But it also showcases that kids can play an active role in fashion design before they are all grown up. Just look at Louis Vuitton’s new 13-year-old intern Milan Odessa. “The most beautiful designs in Style It Out to me seemed to come from a very pure childlike imagination,” Antonio says.
With every day being a school day and all that, we spoke to three of the show’s shiniest stars – Lyra, Dexter, and Olivia – to hear about their styles and learn how to be a better mate to the planet.
You describe your style as vintage, pirate and mismatch – what or who inspired this? It’s very Vivienne Westwood!
I was first inspired when I was around nine or ten by the Harajuku decora fashion from Japan, but I always wanted to make it my own, so I took other inspiration from Gothic to Pirates of the Caribbean and fantasy cartoons, Victorian ruffles, street art and punk whilst still adding my own finishing touches. I am passionate about mixing up different fashion styles and clashes, but making sure that they still balance and work together as an outfit.
You also love hats – we love your frog hat! Tell us about your collection.
Talking about balancing an outfit, hats are a brilliant way to do this, often they will match a colour that is also in my clothing. I have all different shapes and sizes of hats from fluffy berets to my top hat. My favourite hats are obviously my frog hat, my pink beret and I crocheted myself a spotted mushroom hat. I like hats because they keep my head warm in the winter and some will shade my eyes in the summer, so they are a very practical item of clothing and you can have a lot of fun dressing them up as well.
How can we all be more sustainable about our fashion choices?
Rather than high street shopping, go to charity shops, buy on preloved shops or sites, car-boot sales and jumble sales. I think it’s important to create your own style that suits you and your personality rather than changing your wardrobe every season in the way the fashion industry would like us to.
What’s the most rubbish thing about fast fashion?
It is such a throwaway and wasteful culture, and its huge production contributes a lot to global warming. It is also well known that the working conditions of the people making the clothes for cheap fast fashion can be dreadful. It doesn’t take much research to find out how damaging fast fashion is.
You describe your style as Victorian – why are you into (very!) vintage clothing?
I think I’m into Victorian and vintage fashion because each one was carefully made by hand and not mass-produced, which gives the clothes so much more life and uniqueness.
You got a sewing machine at eight – why did you ask for one? Can anyone get to grips with sewing?
I first asked for a sewing machine because I always grew up around people who sewed (some of my aunties and my childminder), so it was a no brainer really, it meant I could make whatever I wanted whenever. I think anyone can get to grips with sewing, with the amount of videos out there it is now possible to get to grips with everything!
What kind of stuff do you like to make?
I personally like making summer things like shorts and shirts plus occasionwear like ties and pocket squares. It’s nice to have something unique, because it gives you an opportunity to express yourself in a way no other can. It means you know you are the only person in the world with this item in this fabric.
Who are your style icons?
My personal style icons are Sherlock Holmes and the Mad Hatter, because they both wear things that they like or that are maybe not very conventional to wear in that scenario.
Do you feel optimistic about your generation helping us save the planet? How can we help through fashion?
I believe that my generation can save the planet, and I feel optimistic about this. We can do this partly through fashion, by moving away from fast fashion, and moving towards buying from smaller businesses as well as making our own clothes.
You describe your style as sporty – what’s your inspo?
My style is actually sporty-classy, as I love to feel comfortable in the clothes that I am wearing but at the same time, it has to look classy either by adding an accent piece or accessory item. My inspirations are Zendaya and Marsai Martin.
What got you into making clothes?
I have always been very creative, always curious and making things, whether it be clothes, jewellery or lip gloss. I would definitely attribute it to something that runs in my blood as both my Grandmas were seamstresses, but I actually didn’t realise I had the gift until recently and it has therefore fuelled my desire of one day becoming a fashion designer.
What kind of pieces do you like to make with your sewing machine?
I use my sewing machine to make a number of things but I have become really good at making bags, customising hoodies and skirts; I recently made a skirt for my twin sister, which she loves.
Are you hoping to go to fashion or art school in the future?
Living in London is definitely a bonus as there are many fashion/art schools on my doorstep, but as well as being a fashion designer, I would also like to become a lawyer and will probably specialise in Commercial Law which will be an added benefit to my career in fashion.
How can we shop for new clothes more sustainably? Or should we be fixing our old ones?
I would say we should look at more creative ways to up-cycle, recycle and revamp the clothes we currently have in our closets, as well as being more mindful as to what we are buying, asking ourselves what the item that we want to purchase currently goes with and whether it can be used in a multi-purpose way.