Hannah Young promotes sustainable fashion and interiors in her spare time. Here she talks of moving house in the first lockdown as a single mum, and sourcing almost everything second-hand, and how she will never go back to buying new
Life up to now has been full of ups and downs and that is no exaggeration! I was born in Norwich and raised in a South Norfolk village; studied media at the UEA and spent a year living in Stockholm learning the language and soaking up the country and culture.
I’m a devoted ‘Scandiphile’ to this day! I soon returned to Norfolk and lived in the beautiful countryside for many years.
After a very trying time and the breakup of my marriage I now find myself living in Attleborough with my two adorable children who keep me going.
I have worked in the print industry since 2003 and in my spare time I promote sustainable, preloved and vintage fashion and interiors through my Instagram page @CeceliaM_fashion_interiors.
I named the page after my Great Aunt who was a professional painter of ceramics in the 1930s and who is an inspiration to me even now she has gone.
I also enjoy knitting and have recently studied knitwear design in a bid to fulfil my dream of becoming a knitwear designer.
During the first lockdown I moved house and sourced almost everything second-hand. I found some real vintage bargains including G-plan, Ercol, a Grundig radiogram and even an Eames chair which I picked up for next to nothing.
As a result, I bought some tools, hit You Tube and taught myself how to do up furniture and reupholster dining chairs. I now do this as a little side-line! My dream is to make fashion and interiors my fulltime job.
At the start of 2020 before the lockdown, life was pretty hectic. I was studying for an MA in Art History, had my day job and was juggling the joys of being a mum.
It meant we were never at home together for dinner during the week and we were all getting rather frazzled.
At the time I was building up a vintage bridal collection and wanted to market myself as a sustainable wedding planner. Then the pandemic hit and weddings were cancelled so that was the end of that!
On a personal level my family and I needed a break and lockdown one gave us that. We were living in an old, three-storey cottage in the centre of a quaint Norfolk village with woodland walks on our doorstep.
We got to work making a lovely little garden, grew vegetables and spent our summer days bathing in the hot tub whilst learning maths for home school!
Although the global situation was dire, we were in a much needed, peaceful family bubble which gave us all time to unwind.
We then had to move house. It’s amazing what one woman and Vauxhall Astra can achieve! It was extremely hard work, but I did it and am proud to say I finally own my own home for my children.
Lockdown three was more challenging. Home school was quite intense for my son and it had an impact on his mental health.
On a professional level, I was furloughed from my day job again, but I have used that time to study new skills and do some upholstery jobs for local friends.
It also gave me the time to think about how I’d like life to be and what changes I need to make to my lifestyle to benefit my wellbeing and achieve my dreams of working in fashion and interiors.
I have always loved clothes and rooting around in charity shops. I started thinking maybe there was a market for preloved jewellery and so I bought a few ‘blind’ bundles of random jewellery that no one wanted and discovered some really unique pieces.
I set up pages on social media called Indigo Sky Vintage Accessories and had stalls at a few fayres. I really enjoyed this – and I started to read up on the impact fashion has on the environment.
I’m not a natural born seller, though, so I did this out of love rather than money! I then had the idea for the sustainable weddings.
I managed to get hold of some vintage and preloved dresses and lots of bridal accessories. I had photoshoots planned at local venues and volunteer models lined up.
Lockdown scuppered all that. Storage of the wedding dresses was an issue so some went on eBay for 99p which broke my heart. The rest are still in storage!
I shifted to focus on styling second-hand clothes to break the stigma that charity shops are just full of old lady clothes.
I post about my recent finds, whether a Ralph Lauren blazer bought for £6 or some sequinned Biba trousers discovered at a car boot sale.
I was also planning to offer a personal preloved shopping service and start a sustainable fashion podcast.
I now try to show how a 40ish year old woman can create her unique style in a sustainable way without spending a fortune.
I also started volunteering in my local Oxfam posting vintage items on their online shop. This was an expensive time for me! I always came home laden with vintage clothes!
As I said, moving house in lockdown as a single mum meant I had to source things second-hand and now I would never go back to buying new!
I always check if I can get what I need preloved first before resorting to buying new. It means my home is full of unique vintage items that reflect my personality – and this makes me happy!
When it comes to second-hand clothes, my advice is to have a completely open mind. You never know what is going to be on the rails in charity shops. Sometimes there won’t be anything that catches your eye. Other times you are spoilt for choice.
Keep in mind that some charity shops sell unwanted stock from certain brands instead of it being sent to landfill. The shop I worked in had a regular delivery of dead stock from Ted Baker!
I would also say to take more risks. Preloved doesn’t cost as much so you can afford to be more experimental.
Accessories are key. A belt around a dress can transform the look or a statement necklace can really make an outfit pop.
Don’t take too much notice of the size on the labels. Vintage items often come up small and sizes vary from brand to brand so look along all the rails and not just the rail for your usual size.
We are lucky to have some great preloved shops in Norfolk. One of my absolute favourites is Take Two in Diss. Here you can take in your unwanted clothes for them to sell and you get to keep half the profit!
Also delve into the world of online preloved shopping. Vinted, Depop, Vestiare Collective are the main ones to watch. You can now also hire out items from places like On-Loan.
What is really fun is swapping clothes! Take a look at the Facebook group The Great British Clothes Swap and The Dress Change. List your unwanted items and swap them for something else. Sometimes you can find online swap events which are great fun.
To be truly sustainable, shop your existing wardrobe. Use what you already have. Change it up with different accessories, tuck a dress into trousers to make a cami top, embellish a neckline, sew something new from something old and have fun.
Also keep an eye on new sustainable brands which are popping up all the time. As technology changes, fabrics are too and can be made from recycled ocean plastic and lots of natural fibres.
Many high street stores are starting to change their ways and are being more transparent in their manufacturing processes. Beware of greenwashing but do your research and if you want to buy new, just make sure it is something you will wear and wear again until you decide to pass it on to someone else.
With second-hand furniture you sometimes have to use your imagination and look beyond the obvious. I’ve had stallholders balk at me actually wanting to buy a dilapidated chest of drawers for £5. A few hours with a sander and some wax it was as good as new!
If an item is structurally sound, the aesthetics can often be improved – and you’ll have a great piece of furniture.
Gumtree and car boots are my favourite for sourcing furniture but also keep an eye out for things on the side of the road or on Freecycle. A lot of repairs are easy to fix and if you see some nice chairs but don’t like the upholstery, give me a shout!
I think more people are starting to be aware of the impact the fashion industry has on our planet. Some of the designer fashion houses are reducing the number of collections per year and there have been some high-profile news stories about the working conditions in textile factories in this country and abroad.
Whilst on maternity leave, I worked as sales rep for an ethical Swedish label and that opened my eyes to what went on and showed me that there was a market for ethically produced clothing in the UK.
Unfortunately, that company no longer sells to the UK – so I think we are maybe a little behind the Scandinavian countries in our mindset.
When the shops opened after the first lockdown, I was devastated to see the massive queues to get back into fast fashion outlets like Primark.
I was hoping maybe people had had a chance to stop and think about their buying choices and the state of the planet.
Some high street stores appear to be making changes but weather they really are or are just trying to appear conscious of the problem, I don’t know.
The production of denim is a very polluting process, but Levi have just launched a sustainable range. The best way to buy denim is second-hand, though, and Norwich market have some excellent stalls to find your next pair of jeans.
Simply reducing the amount we buy, reusing what we have and recycling it when we have finished with it, will make a big difference.
This year I hope to address the work/life balance and make it work for my family. I’m hoping to build up CeceliaM Fashion and Interiors alongside my day job, maybe make a website or start a blog.
I usually have a few preloved bits for sale. I would love to collaborate with other like-minded folk too and maybe launch a homewares collection. I hope to continue my upholstery service and start making cushions and lamps out of preloved fabrics.
I still love the idea of starting a podcast but, in the meantime, I’ll continue showing how I style preloved outfits, offering tips on finding preloved gems and promoting sustainable fashion and interiors.
I hope to do another photoshoot wearing just second-hand clothes showing just how amazing they can look.
My priority is and always will be my children so first things first – a much needed holiday in the UK as soon as we are allowed!
If anyone would like more information, preloved shopping advice or would like to collaborate on a project, you can find Hannah on Instagram @cecelim_fashion_interiors or email Hannah at firstname.lastname@example.org