Meet Jessica Cresswell, also known as 'The Woodland Wife', sustainability and slow lifestyle journalist inspired by wild nature and simplicity. We ask her for some tips on country living and how we can all live a more conscious life.
Your blog focuses on slow living inspired by nature. What was the inspiration behind starting it in 2015?
I started ‘The Woodland Wife’ as something to focus myself on when my daughter started preschool; as a self employed graphic designer, the broken half days of preschool meant I didn’t have time to sink my teeth into a design project for a client, so I decided to put my creativity into something else that I felt hugely passionate about.
For me, photography and writing have always been something I loved, but never got much focus, however, living where we do I am inspired daily by my family and the changing seasons so when preschool began, The Woodland Wife was born.
It was on my blog and Instagram I chose to share the life we live here in the woods, the environment that immediately surrounds us and also sharing a way of life that isn’t ‘flash’ with countless holidays and new gadgets, but about a simpler way of life where we focus on working hard, being mindful about where our money goes and taking time to focus on what matters most, our family.
What are your top tips for somebody keen to change their ways, to become more aware of shopping from sustainable fashion brands?
I honestly believe it’s about taking more time to choose well and hard as it is to accept, you also need to spend a bit more on a single item!
Not so long ago, people would buy items for the home, to wear or for a family that were well made and would last beyond one wear; now it seems that because the shops, magazines, ‘celebrities’ and social media are permanently pushing ‘new trends’, people just buy something wear once and throw it away and because the ‘fast fashion’ is so cheap, they feel they can do that with absolutely guilt.
I believe consumers are becoming so conditioned into the cheaper ‘fast’ fashion, that now when they look at a beautifully crafted wooden toy, a timeless heirloom child’s outfit or perhaps a coat that costs more than a few pounds, it is immediately brushed aside and branded as a “luxury item”. When you consider the price of a dress I may buy for my daughter, a coat for myself, to some might be the equivalent of 10-20 items in a popular unethical high street chain, but there is no comparison in the quality, as well as the time that product will last!
The way I shop for fashion items is very different to most, I have a seasonal wardrobe, Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter, some items I have had for over 10 years, as they are pieces that I spent more money on simply for the quality of the fabric and craftsmanship that has gone into it. So I might not always be ‘on trend’, but I am much happier knowing that what is in mine, my husbands and our daughter’s wardrobe will get plenty of wear out of it and it has been made to meet excellent ethical standards.
How do you believe brands should be adapting to be more mindful of sustainability?
I have certainly seen a shift in brands becoming more mindful of sustainability. A couple of high street brands are certainly paying more attention, whether it is in the fabrics they use, the quality of craftsmanship and/or the well-being of their workers. I do think that more could be done; however the demand needs to be there and ultimately I think that is where the main issue lies.
As I said above, consumers aren’t keen to spend more than a few pounds on items of clothing for their home or their wardrobe, so most of the demand is going into driving what I consider the ‘throwaway consumers’ and the ‘micro seasons’ of fashion; turning what used to be four seasons into many more, simply to churn out what the latest ‘celebrity’ is wearing or online trend is and making it affordable for the masses.
I choose to only buy from and support brands who have the same ethics as me and who continue to provide the best sustainable fashion possible; most of these brands either support UK makers with most of their product made in this country, or take the time to work with makers abroad who are not only happy in their work, but also those who are just as passionate about making quality products.
I do believe that more should be done about the packaging products are sent out in, however again, this is all about demand and with most of the big name brands it is about getting a product out onto the market as fast as possible and the ‘bottom line’ financially, rather than deciding that all packaging should absolutely be biodegradable or recyclable at the very least.
You regularly recommend clothes that are British made, and made to last. Can you share some recent star finds with us, across kids fashion/jewellery/interiors?
I would recommend TROY London, as it is a small brand that shares all the same values as myself, not to mention, they make clothing that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. Country fashion to me, was always something that seemed to be made well and stylish for men, but not so much for women, however TROY has some lovely pieces that are not only something I consider stylish, but also functional and well made too.
Other brands I have championed for many years are Thought Clothing for myself and Nellie Quats and Little Cotton Clothes for my daughter. These three brands share all of the same core values I believe in; like TROY they are stylish, functional and incredibly well made, as well as having lovely people behind the scenes and really putting a lot of thought into the packaging that goes out with their orders.
Thought Clothing I wear a lot of and with each collection there is always a stand out piece that I wear over and over again, in fact, I am still wearing several items from when I first found them years and years ago as they are some of my ‘go to’ pieces.
Nellie Quats and Little London Clothes my daughter and myself love; made in the UK, small independents that produce timeless, well-made clothing, which is hard wearing for little ones. The designs, fabrics and patters used in each collection launched are just the sort of pieces I would wear as a child and my mother even kept, so I know that most of my daughter’s wardrobe will be held onto and passed down through the family.
What are your favourite pieces from the TROY London collection?
I don’t know where to start! There are so many lovely pieces available; most worn has to be the Wax Parka which has been amazing for Spring, occasional downpours in Summer and now heading into Autumn when I don’t want to wear something too heavy. It is ideal for taking the dogs out through the woods and over fields and it gets a lot of use on school runs… It is also wonderful for walks with my daughter as the pockets are so deep that they are often filled with all sorts of nature finds, so much so, my daughter often requests I wear it instead of her taking her basket out with her!
Heading into Autumn/Winter, other pieces from TROY that I keep admiring are the beautiful stoles for wrapping up in on a morning autumn walk or keeping cosy indoors with, as well as the stylish yet functional jumpers and gilets which are just ideal for layering up in.
Then there are the accessories and it’s plain to see how stunning their hats are, from pom-pom knits in a range of colours to the lovely looking Fedoras which I keep having to restrain myself from buying!
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