Fashion with a cause

STIL Lifestyle boutique owner Sulaika Weihs tells UK for UNHCR about her recent fundraising efforts thanks to Cate Blanchett’s contribution of pre-owned clothing.  

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© UNHCR/Susan Hopper

STIL Lifestyle – a boutique owned by Sulaika Weihs in Sussex – gave fashion lovers across the world the unique opportunity to purchase pieces from a pre-owned collection generously contributed by UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett.

UK for UNHCR spoke to Sulaika about using fashion for good, how to impact change from the ground up and so much more:

Q: Why did you decide to support UK for UNHCR?

A: I was fortunate to interview Cate Blanchett for the editorial section on my website. We discussed re-wearing clothing and sustainable fashion. She generously donated a collection of her own pre-loved clothing to STIL Lifestyle to sell and she requested that the proceeds go to UNHCR relief efforts in Lesvos, Greece.

Q: There are plenty of examples of people using fashion for good and you’re one of them! How do you think the fashion industry can be a positive force for change?

A: Ideally, the industry could stop continually churning out new unsustainable fashion, often using cheap labour, and concentrate on making clothes that last, using fabrics from sustainable sources. At STIL, we try to encourage people to buy well – all the labels we offer are ‘investment dressing’- the pieces should last many years. And if our clients do tire of them, we try to encourage them to sell through our mini circular economy. The buying of pre-worn/ loved clothing enables the new purchaser to enjoy an item that perhaps wouldn’t normally fit within their budget.

By purchasing an item or simply by donating, people will hopefully understand that their contribution to this cause will make a real difference to other’s lives.

Q: What sort of pieces are in the Cate Blanchett collection?

 A: It’s an incredible collection. The labels include Givenchy, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana, Delpozo and of course Giorgio Armani. There are also items for off-duty days from Closed, Bassike and Raquel Allegra. There are even a couple of dresses that were made for Cate by some up-and-coming young designers.

 Q: What would you like to communicate to the potential buyers of these pieces?

 A: In a general sense, that buying someone else’s pre-loved clothing can be both rewarding and fun. In this case, it is an exclusive one-off opportunity to purchase an item of clothing from the personal collection of a true Hollywood icon. Cate hand-picked each and every piece, making this sale exceptionally unique and exclusive for the purchaser. Each item also comes with a card of authenticity, signed by Cate.

Q: How do you think using fashion can help refugees tell their stories?

A: I think the more charitable events like this that take place, events which highlight the plight of refugees, the more conversations will arise, and the more awareness will be created. This is, on the one hand, a fun event, – but on the other, it‘s deeply serious. By purchasing an item or simply by donating, people will hopefully understand that their contribution to this cause will make a real difference to other’s lives.

Q: What sort of advice would you give those (whether it’s fashion buyers or sellers) wanting to start somewhere and make a positive change?

A: I would say really look at your fashion choices – look at the fabric, the labels, see where things are made and what the brand’s ethos is. If you have expensive taste but perhaps don’t have the buget to match try looking for pre-owned clothing that’s in good condition, there are so many great pre-owned stores now so enjoy shopping around. Keeping your favourite pieces at the back of your wardrobe will also allow you to rediscover them. At the heart of this exclusive sale is the need for more awareness and support for UNHCR. I hope that anyone who is in a position to, will donate, however small the amount may be.

For more information on STIL Lifestyle and to read Sulaika’s interview with UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett, visit their website.

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