We first saw Kayt Mendies (@citythrifter) on Instagram.
As a vintage inspired brand, we were naturally intrigued by her dreamy environmentally conscious style
We reached out to Kayt to find out more about fashion, lifestyle choices and how we can all choose to shop better.
When did your passion for vintage and pre-loved clothing start?
Memories of going to the local jumble sale with my Gran and being so excited to spend a morning rummaging in her local School Hall when I went to stay and playing dress up from her magical box of clothes that my mum and Aunty wore as kids are probably my earliest links to the world of preloved and vintage.
Fast forward to a 14-year-old me and I had a unique sense of style straight off the bat. By shopping vintage and second-hand I was able to create outfits no one else had. Whilst my friends were coming into London to traipse Oxford Street, I’d soon grown bored of it and discovered Camden- now living In North London, it’s a place that’s never lost that magic for me.
For me there’s no comparison with the buzz you get from finding a gem in a charity shop, to the mundane, repetitiveness that I see as I pass the high street stores. I can’t get my head around why everyone wants to be seen in the same Zara dress that someone on Instagram has deemed a must-have.
As time has gone on I’ve become increasingly aware that buying second hand is a hugely positive step in helping the environment and as well as often supporting some great causes, and this is an area my account often focuses on discussing. I’m keen to promote the benefits and positives of shopping second hand and to style outfits I find.
I also now work for a charity and head up their retail operations and so my working life involves being a charity shops a fair bit too but this in no way has killed it for me!
Has this extended into other areas of your life, such as homeware?
Yes, absolutely. I’ve a definite affiliation with the 70’s when it comes to homeware. I’m drawn to all the browns, wicker, rattan. My two most coveted home possessions would be a vintage wooden screen I picked up at a vintage yard sale a couple of years back and my peacock chair- I have vivid memories of finally finding one in budget and treating myself on my Birthday on a hot August day a couple of years back. I got it back home on the Overground from a vintage store in Angel! I have often picked up interesting vases or pictures and frames in charity shops too.
Miss L Fire exists due to a lack of sizing options in vintage footwear - finding inspiration mainly from the 40s all the way to the 70s. Is there an era or decade that you must identify with?
I really love putting outfits together by mixing across the decades rather than sticking to any usual style rules. So this could mean some high-waisted 80’s jeans with a 70s blouse for instance. I’d say the vintage in my wardrobe is generally 60’s 70’s and 80’s. With the latter probably most suiting my shape- I love a high waist pulled in with a belt coupled with a bodysuit, I’m boyish in shape with little curves and so this helps differentiate between my hips and waist. Plus, I was born in the 80s and so will around have found memories of the fashion and all the nostalgic feelings for that time.
It feels like shopping on the high street and online is increasingly being filled with fast fashion.
Any advice for someone who wants to make their wardrobe more ethical and sustainable?
If there’s one thing I think we can take from this last year, it’s that we need less of everything. I think most of can confidently say our wardrobes are bigger than necessary.. and often pieces are sat there unworn and unloved. So firstly I would say shop your own wardrobe. Have a good tidy up and change over every few months to remind yourself of what you have and try out some different combinations- I’ve enjoyed rediscovering some of mine over lockdown. Fashion is cyclic, so if you are one to follow trends then it’s likely that you already have something that is being promoted to you as the latest must-have piece.
Clothes swaps are becoming very popular and this is something you can even do within your friendship groups. Or perhaps there’s a piece you really want that is out of budget that you and a friend can go in together on.
For me, I like to shop all of my wardrobe second hand via charity shops mainly as well as vintage sellers and fairs. It’s the thrill of the hunt in person that I enjoy most and finding something totally unique. Shopping this way you’re prolonging the lifespan of the clothes and giving them a new life with you as well as supporting many great causes. If this is the route you take I’d always say go with an open mind- many say a list but in my personal experience this rarely pans out. Always check the men’s section and don’t pay any notice to sizing. Think about the shapes and styles that you already have in your wardrobe that you love and that work hard for you and keep an eye out for similar as these are likely to be pieces that you get the most wear out of rather than buying something on a whim that really isn’t you. Take your time and check for faults and damage- always try on where possible. Don’t be put off an amazing piece that would work with your wardrobe- there is a lot that a seamstress can do to make it perfect for an extra few pounds.
Tell us about your most treasured piece…
I was given a dress by my Nan that belonged to her Grandmother. It’s black lace with a silk slip underneath and still in perfect condition. It’s so lovely to have a piece of history from a the family although she’s not been worn by ne other than in my flat yet!
But I would have to say that I treasure a pair of men’s highwaisted baggy trousers most! They are mustard and black dogtooth, a little big around the waist but I hoist them in with a belt. I wear them every week without fail! I picked them up in a vintage shop in Bricklane a few years back- I was unusually shopping with a friend rather than alone who said she didn’t think they suited me and I am forever grateful that I didn’t listen as I loved them and they are without a doubt the most worn piece in my wardrobe.
How do you still find style inspiration now most shops are closed?
I have had a lot of time for dress up over the last year! I have really rediscovered my own wardrobe and it’s been great.
I’ve a keen interest in photography as well as styling and I have a lot of fun expressing myself through my account and being creative, particularly with sunlight and shadows. I love textures, patterns, neutrals and colour and have found that regardless of size, gender, age or colour.. an outfit can really lift your mood and give you confidence and positivity to face the day.
I follow a lot of creatives- photographers, stylists, artists, fashion brands, makers.. and many more, all of which insire me.
Where is the first place you want to visit when we’re eventually allowed?
If we’re talking holidays.. I’d love to feel the sun on my skin and go to a remote part of Portugal and soak up the colours and sights in between bathing. Equally I’d be happy with a Eurostar journey for little Amsterdam visit for a long weekend.
In the UK, I’m missing being able to visit Brighton – it’s a vintage haven and I would’nt mind seeing the sea.
In London.. I really miss being able to swing by my favourite old fashioned boozers for a solo point and debrief with myself after work or after a charity shop jaunt on the weekend. I also hope to go and spend some time with my tattooist in Kentish Town to get a new addition or two to mark coming out the other side of all of this!
And of course there’s family to fit in first- a squeeze with my 98 year old Nan who comes up to my waist these days would be just lovely, and all of the others,
How would you like to see the world change post-pandemic?
Kinder, slower, more mindful.
I hope there is money invested in healthcare and welfare state across the world and that we see the gap between rich and poor get smaller.
That conversations about racism and privilege continue to be at the forefront to drive change and equality.
We’re experiencing a global crisis for which an extraordinary amount of money has been mobilised in order to respond to. It would be great to see spending (much smaller amounts of which are needed) directed at combating climate change before it’s irreversible and too late, because ecosystem health equals human health.