Is Colour Analysis the Key to Curating a More Sustainable Wardrobe?

Could an in-depth understanding of the colour wheel provide us with the tools we need to better evolve our own personal style, and resist being tempted by trends? Colour analyst Essie Walker speaks to vintage specialist Laura von Behr about getting to know the hues that work for you.

There are few things as seemingly simple, yet as curiously complex as colour. From its underlying effect on our emotions to the precise nuances behind each shade, or the ways in which different hues compliment and contrast with one another, the humble colour wheel offers up world of insight ripe for our understanding. It should come as no surprise, then, that our relationship with colour might hold the key to developing a more sustainable personal style.

This was the premise that piqued vintage specialist Laura von Behr’s interest in learning more about the importance of diverse tones and pigments for both herself and her clients. Her search led the East London-based retailer to an appointment with colour connoisseur Essie Walker. “Essie really opened my eyes to colour analysis,” explained Laura. “Her approach is modern and relaxed. We share a love of vintage and both strive to shop sustainably.” 

Amid rainbow hues and carefully curated vintage clothing, Laura had her colours analysed and Essie discovered an array of exquisitely edited dresses in her studio. Below, the duo discuss everything from colour’s potential to slow us down, to its role in helping us better define our own aesthetic and discover the wonders of second-hand shopping

EW: When did you decide to start selling vintage and was it always a passion? 

LVB: I started selling vintage a few years ago after working in print design and costume. I I have always shopped vintage, and trawled fairs and markets with my Dad from a young age, he does antiques. I started wearing vintage as a teenager because it was a way to be different and stand out. What led you to colour analysis?

EW: After becoming a Mum I had totally lost my sense of style and self-expression. One day I realised that wearing the right colours close to your face makes all the difference to how you look and feel. I had my colours analyses and realised that this was an important tool that I wanted to share with others. I knew this concept had 1980’s connotations so, I was determined to take a more modern approach.

LVB: Colour and clothes can play such an integral role in how we feel both physically and emotionally. It is so easy to get lost and overwhelmed when there is so much choice now. When I had my colours done with you, it really clarified what I like and gave me that extra bit of confidence that I think lots of us could use. 

EW: I think it is the perfect tool for finding out who you really are, and as well as a way to slow down. When you understand your colours – you no longer waste your time and money on clothes that don’t suit you – and you can be much more considered with your consumption of new things. 

LVB: Essentially with your colours, everything becomes clear and you are able to make better decisions when buying and not be dictated by trend. The great thing about vintage is that you are able to try so many different styles from different eras. Looking to the past has always inspired designers, so shopping vintage is a great way to nod to a trend without buying into something that will be over next season.

EW: I have always loved vintage, starting with jumble sales as a little girl, and I think it’s the best way to create your own timeless style that will work from one season to the next. Aside from mending and making do with what you already have; pre-loved or vintage clothing is the most sustainable choice you can make for your wardrobe.

LVB: Absolutely, to buy something that has already existed in the world, rather than adding to the huge carbon footprint of fashion, is the most sustainable way to shop.

EW: The word ‘sustainable’ is being thrown around carelessly at the moment by some who still don’t quite get the bigger picture. I don’t believe that you are truly ‘sustainable’ if you buy mass produced clothing on the high street – even if you do promise to wear it many times. Not only is it poorly made from synthetic fibres, it will have been created by underpaid workers in a polluted environment. There are lots of brands ‘green washing’ as they promote themselves as sustainable, but using recycled polyester isn’t enough. It’s the scale and the pace of the production that needs to be addressed.

LVB: Even products made from natural fibres, which are perceived to be more sustainable as they will eventually break down, use a huge amount of water to be produced. Brands like Zara who drop around 26 collections per year, cannot be sustainable on this scale. We have got to the point as consumers, where we expect new things every couple of weeks. Even with vintage, I try to stock pieces that I really love, without worrying too much about seasonality. If you love something, you will wait to wear it. 

EW: I love the fact that vintage clothing has lasted for such a long time and the fabric still feels beautiful. You are more likely to wash it less or cold hand wash it like delicates. I firmly believe this is the attitude we need to take with all our clothing. As they did in the 1950’s; clothes were precious, treated well and mended carefully. There wasn’t an abundance of clothes to treat so carelessly. When you buy a vintage piece, it feels like treasure and your attitude towards it is built on emotion.

LVB:  If we hand washed and properly stored our clothes, they would last. I have a weakness for antique silk slips, handmade and often painstakingly embroidered.  I think about who might have made something and how long it must have taken. There is a certain lack of respect for garments now, especially those bought cheaply on the high street. Seeing the sales in full flow, with everything discarded on the floor, makes you realise how we treat clothing.

EW: I totally agree that shopping second-hand, thrift or vintage should be encouraged and I love to do that with my clients – I do however think in general, that people’s attitude towards consuming clothing and their pace of shopping still needs to change, and this is where I think colour analysis can help because it forces you to slow down.

LVB: We definitely all need to slow down with our consumption. I sell via appointment only as it encourages a slower pace of shopping. My customers take their time trying lots of pieces in a relaxed environment, and in the end they will choose something that they really love. Through your colour work with clients, you are giving them the tools to choose well and only buy things that will be cherished and worn again and again.


Want to build out your vintage collection? Discover the best websites for second hand shopping

Get creative with colour at home by learning to make your own natural dye from avocado stones

William Blanks Blaney and Gabriel Heard share their insights on the future of vintage fashion.