‘BUY LESS, BUY BETTER’ AN INTERVIEW WITH LAURA VIDREQUIN
By Francine Heath
The words “buy less, buy better” are everywhere – they’re even printed on the cover of Edward Enninful’s Vogue that’s resting in front of me on my coffee table right now. It’s a message that The Forward Lab stands firmly behind.
In order to gain an expert’s insight on how a “less is more” approach to shopping works in reality, we spoke to Laura Roso Vidrequin, a senior buyer at Harvey Nichols with a seriously enviable work history. Laura is also the founder of Kids o’clock, a newly launched fashion resale site allowing parents to consider alternatives to buying so many brand new clothes.
Here, she talks about the importance of figuring out how a trend works for you, and why ‘ownership’ of clothes should be a thing of the past.
Hi Laura! To start with, could you tell us a bit about your background?
I am French, Parisian born and raised until I reached 17 and moved to New York for my first job as a sales assistant in a showroom. I loved it and felt completely adopted by the city so I ended up staying for quite a few years. After gaining an understanding of the wholesale side of the industry, I moved into buying and joined Lauren Santo Domingo’s team at Moda Operandi – this is where I learned how to apply taste to numbers.
A couple of years later, I was hired by Ralph Lauren/ Club Monaco and I discovered so much, including the politics behind a big corporation, the retail math and the experience of travelling in America. It was such an amazing company to grow in. After eight years in New York, I had a wake-up call when I was approached by Condé Nast to join Style.com – its e-commerce platform. I had a different type of learning experience there since the company failed and I found myself redundant after just seven months on the team. Thankfully, I got an extremely lucky break and joined Net-a-Porter as a shoe buyer. What a company to be part of!
More recently, after my maternity leave, I joined Harvey Nichols’ team as a senior buyer of non-apparel. I work with a strong team to ensure there is the right product, at the right price and at the right time. It’s important that we don’t ‘run out of stock’ of the hits and that we don’t end up with too much of the less popular items. Overall, I think buying for a retail space is an amazing role to have, and I’m so thankful to have met all of the people I have so far in the industry.
You have another exciting new venture to tell us about – congratulations on launching Kids O’clock! What can you tell us about the platform and the inspiration behind it?
Thank you! The platform is essentially a go-to for parents/care-givers and families that want cool/useful clothes for kids from birth to 12 years old. Being a mum and a buyer all at once felt strange because of an internal questioning around spending. I had been buying second-hand and vintage clothes for myself for quite a while, and although I wanted to spoil Albert and myself with good quality garments, I quickly found myself piling up boxes of clothes. Think about it: for the first three years of a kid’s life, there are approximately eight/ten sizes that are used. Typically a kid’s closet has on average 15/20 pieces – I’ll let you do the math!
So, I started looking for a platform that sells and resells, where I could buy or rent kids clothes. When I couldn’t find what I wanted, I decided to create it myself! The timing couldn’t be better because being more responsible and careful is ‘trendy’ and I hope it lasts. I want to change the mentality so that parents start to consider second-hand for their household.
You touched on this just when you mentioned shopping more responsibly is trending. The message “Buy Less, Buy Better” is really starting to resonate. What does the phrase mean to you?
Being thoughtful. It means that a whole new journey is being printed in people’s minds before they actually purchase an item. Easier said for an adult than for a kid! I’m always glad to find a strong media channel or a blogger with a strong following who’s setting an example. My friend Julia Restoin Roitfeld created her own platform that promotes careful spending and I hope that new generations will continue to follow the lead here. We still have a long way to go, but every small action helps and counts.
If someone was looking to ‘buy less, buy better’ and invest in something that would last, what would you recommend that they focus on?
Well, the things that last are those that we take good care of. It’s important to love your clothes, clean them and keep them protected. Don’t buy a copy from fast fashion retailers. Instead, find something that has been produced using good materials and comes from a process that’s both creative and reflective.
Would you say that trends are becoming a thing of the past, or are they still important?
Trends are important as they reflect our economy. What has become a real issue is the amount of trends, often generated by marketing and PR companies, to sell a maximum of a brand’s products.
I have always loved analysing trends after they overtook a city, or a season. What we can totally see now, is that we live in a completely uncertain and dissociative society where all trends clash and are being spotted on the runway, and in the street. Trends have travelled a bit, from being entirely product driven, to now being “behaviour” driven. An example? Wearing the heeled sneakers from Isabel Marant in 2010 vs being responsible in 2020, or is it just me?
If someone does want to try a new trend, what’s the most sustainable or responsible way for them to approach it?
Simple: get it from a second-hand shop! A trend is either characterised by a silhouette, certain fabrics style together or a colour. There is rarely something ‘new’ coming out. Personally, I love purchasing something I’ve discovered while thrift shopping, then redesigning it with a seamstress. I think it’s important to think about what you really love about the trend you’re looking to try out. How is it a trend to you? Most of the time, what we love about a trend is either the creative around it or the silhouettes.
What do you recommend people do with the clothes they no longer need or love? You mentioned the importance of caring for your clothes – could you share any care tips for keeping things in their best condition?
I often like to “declutter” my wardrobe using the following set of rules:
- Not worn in a year and pristine, branded: sell on a second-hand platform such a Vestiaire Collective
- Not worn in a year: can I tweak it to change the length or adjust the shape with a seamstress?
- Not worn in a year: donate
We have to learn to let go, and to be less “product driven”. For me, ownership of a piece of clothing has no future. I hope people start understanding this concept sooner rather than later. We do not need to own forever.
What is the future?
Communication has been so transparent and aggressive towards fast fashion that I think in the future brands will be forced to be more aware of their impact. Now, we must remain realistic, the fashion industry does create a lot of jobs and we have to be careful what we wish for. I think laboratories, tech and brands will have to parner to innovate, not for the sake of comfort but for the importance of our future generation and our planet. The thinking behind ownership of a product is shifting – who thought we would be using something like Airbnb years back? The rotation offers a platform that promotes fashion renting from peers to peers, that would be a HUGE help already. I hope that Kids O’clock engages families to start renting and sharing more.
Finally, do you have any favourite inspirational quotes when it comes to fashion?
I have always been a big advocate of a statement said by Yves Saint Laurent: “Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it.”
The amount of trends being “generated” and “promoted” by fast fashion companies is out of control, and because their creative approach is so good, they now manage almost to sell “a dream” via a piece of garment. We must be careful and try to explain, when possible, that postures, style, silhouettes and outfits must remain a personal way of expressing oneself – not a way to “window display” a brand.
Francine Heath is a contributor to THEFORWARDLAB. London-based product editor and sustainable fashion journalist who advocates conscious consumerism and loves discovering those who are determined to drive change and create a better fashion future. She’s previously written articles for British Vogue, Eco-Age, Refinery 29, Mr Porter and i-D.