The Sustainable Shopper: “Most of my wardrobe is anywhere between 20 to 70 years old”

Written by Harriet Davey

Each week on the Sustainable Shopper, Stylist talks to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. This time, Serena Rees – founder of Les Boys Les Girls – talks to fashion editor Harriet Davey about the Instagram famous sustainable brand. 

Hands up who’s still addicted to wearing loungewear? If you thought it was a phase, think again. Judging by some of Instagram’s favourite brands, it’s here to stay. And with the likes of Les Boys Les Girls tapping in on ‘bed to street’ apparel, we’re all for merging our night and day outfits to create cool combinations that are boundaryless as well as sustainable. Created in 2017 by Serene Rees MBE, the entrepreneur has managed to fill social channels with the innovative, inclusive designs that aim to make everyone feel represented. 

With timeless collections, and quality-led design, each piece is made using sustainable materials. For spring/summer 2021, the edit of underwear has been carefully curated using bamboo which is crease-proof, UV resistant and hypoallergenic – as well as being eco-friendly, of course. 

Starting a brand with sustainability at its core from the offset and to learn, adapt and change to be increasingly more conscious of people and the planet is something Serena has mastered. Here, the founder of Les Boys Les Girls tells the Sustainable Shopper how hand-me-downs were the norm, why most of her wardrobe is 20-70 years old and how respect for your clothes is key. 

Founder of Les Boys Les Girls: Serena Rees

What is your earliest memory of sustainability?

Serena: I grew up in London in the 70s where we were experiencing mass power-cuts countrywide and water shortages, so we were taught by our families and even at school, to be conscious of saving electricity and water. In addition, my parents were very conscious regarding freshly and seasonally sourced produce foraging. We bought everything from oats, seeds, beans from sacks in the health food store and locally sourced meat and fish. We recycled everything – which as a child was irritating – but in hindsight I was glad I was taught this from an early age.

With regards to sustainability and clothing this was something I found even more annoying as a child as I was dressed in ‘hand-me-downs’ a lot. It was mostly things I didn’t want and didn’t really fit me, but I ended up having to wear it. One time at nursery school, I turned up to a party in a yellow dress with white flowers embroidered down at the bottom, only to have another girl point at me and say ‘she is wearing my dress!’. Other memories include my mother crocheting a flared trouser suit with a matching beret in turquoise, yellow and brown, unravelling the fibres from a previous incarnation – the original fashion upscaling. 

Les Boys Les Girls sweats

I have favourite items, such as some beautiful Vivienne Westwood dresses that I wear over and over again – I don’t keep them just for special events

Is there such a thing as truly sustainable fashion?   

Not really to be honest, we all just need to be as responsible as possible. It also really depends on how you shop, how you spend your fashion ‘budget’ – whatever that is. I love that feeling of wearing something for the first time as much as anyone, but I also make sure that I get lots of wear out of whatever I buy. 

I have favourite items, such as some beautiful Vivienne Westwood dresses that I wear over and over again – I don’t keep them just for special events, I might wear it to the office or out to dinner. I believe that one of the most important things is how you care for your clothes. If you invest in good quality pieces and look after them then they should last you – or someone you might pass them down to – a lifetime. 

Les Boys Les Girls bodysuit

At Les Girls Les Boys we have made a conscious effort to create timeless pieces that have comfort and durability at the heart of each item

Investment vs throw away fashion: how do you get customers to care?   

I think the biggest issue is that much of fast fashion becomes disposable fashion. At Les Girls Les Boys we have made a conscious effort to create timeless pieces that have comfort and durability at the heart of each item – our customers know that the piece they love will last and will always look as fresh as the day they brought it. We love seeing them share how they style their pieces in different ways to make every wear unique.  

What changes would you like to see happen in the fashion industry?

I appreciate that the bigger brands are introducing their customers to sustainability through special collections, but we all need to do more to build sustainability across every part of our business. We are making it our priority to find more sustainable fabrics to work with; we’ve always used 100% organic cotton for our sweats and jersey collections and we have recently introduced bamboo which is a great fabric for intimates being naturally breathable, UV resistant, hypoallergenic, and eco-friendly. These are steps in the right direction but we need to do more. 

Give us three sustainable tips

My wardrobe is predominantly vintage. I look after my clothes really well and always have done, it’s a sense of respect for the item. Most of my wardrobe is anywhere between 20 to 70 years old.

 Here are some tips that we also offer on our website for customers who want to take the best care of their Les Girls Les Boys favourites…

1.Don’t over wash your clothes. Hand wash as much as possible (especially underwear) and wash at lower temperatures.

2.If your clothing is broken, ripped, or suffering from wear-and-tear, seek out a trusted and quality local tailor or dressmaker to repair it. Better still, learn how to do it yourself. 85% of all textiles go to landfill each year. Globally, that’s the equivalent of one truckload of clothes every second.

3.When you no longer love or need your garment, pass it on. Well-made clothes that have been well looked after shouldn’t look second hand. You can clothes swap with friends and family or find your nearest good cause to donate your unwanted pieces.

      Sustainable Shopper edit by Serena:

      • Les Boys Les Girls

        Les Boys Les Girls crop top

        I love everything from our seamfree range – it’s a collection that we added sport styles to this year as the seamless knitting technique creates zero waste, eliminating fabric and thread waste from the production process, not to mention providing superior stretch and comfort. 

        Shop seamfree sport crop top daffodil at Les Boys Les Girls, £40

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      • Les Boys Les Girl swimsuit

        Les Boys Les Girls belted swimsuit

        We love collaborating with like-minded businesses and Liberty never goes out of fashion. This Les Girls Les Boys belted floral swimsuit is made using Liberty fabric.

        Shop belted swimsuit made with dizzy floral liberty fabric at Les Boys Les Girls, £150

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      • Les Boys Les Girls joggers

        Les Boys Les Girls joggers

        Made from 100% organic cotton, my favourite item from this collection is the pale vaporous grey oversized jogger. I’ll wear them relaxed at home and out with heels. 

        Shop loose fit track pants at Les Boys Les Girls, £65

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      • Les Boys Les Girls body

        Les Boys Les Girls body

        From the new bamboo collection – the black body is the one piece I can’t do without; it’s the perfect bed-to-street base layer for some many different outfits. 

        Shop bamboo rib body at Les Boys Les Girls, £65

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      • Vivienne Westwood bracelet

        Vivienne Westwood bracelet

        I have lots of vintage Vivienne Westwood, but I still love visiting the Conduit Street store for inspiration. 

        Shop Marella bracelet at Vivienne Westwood, £140

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      • Cartier ring at Grays Antiques

        Cartier ring at Grays Antiques

        I wear vintage jewellery, buying most at auction. I keep an eye on new arrivals at S.J. Phillips and Grays Antiques. 

        Shop vintage Cartier ring at Grays Antiques, £975

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      • Anissa Kermiche at Liberty

        Anissa Kermiche jugs at Liberty

        I love the Liberty home floor for its mix of new design talent and traditional crafts. 

        Shop Anissa Kermiche mini trio of jugs at Liberty London, £135

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      • The Wren Press cards

        The Wren Press cards

        I invest in good quality stationery that is handcrafted in England from The Wren Press using only FSC products. 

        Shop thank you cards at The Wren Press (pack of seven), £25

        BUY NOW

      Images: courtesy of Serena, Les Boys Les Girls and brands featured

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