As another Michaelmas term whirls past, I find myself once again procrastinating on more than my deadlines. The fashion Instagram I have long harboured thoughts of creating remains a stagnant idea. Our university has offered no shortage of successful fashion bloggers, with past students winning partnerships from ASOS, Missguided and New Look. But, like many, not knowing how exactly how to start has curtailed some of my enthusiasm. Luckily for inspiring fashion bloggers (including myself) third year Mildertian and creator of their own eminent fashion Instagram, Fliss Barrows, has offered me advice on getting into the world of online fashion in Durham.
Fliss’ own account (@Sunflissed) has been gaining traction since it’s conception last January, and remains at the forefront of Durham’s alternative scene. Their bio, “Looks and Books is a false dichotomy: choose both” is something we could all learn from. However they acknowledge the account was initially more self-referential than audience intended. “I always created an outfit, loved it and never got to see it again (…) I kinda did it for myself really,” Fliss confesses with a rhetorical shrug. They urge hesitant fashion bloggers to “just start it, and then you can figure out where to go with it”.
This process of ‘figuring things out’ is encouraging for most students. In the increasingly professionalised world of online fashion, we may feel lost in a haze of ring lights and eye-wateringly expensive cameras. Fliss emphasises that their photos are taken on a dependable phone camera, set to self-timer. “Some of my early images are very fuzzy” they admit, underlining this as part of the creative process, “ it’s still nice to see where my outfits have come from”. In short, they advise, “don’t worry too much about looking cool”.
Admittedly there is an irony here; Fliss undeniably looks cool. Offering a unique blend of enviable eyeliner and alternative fashion, their androgynous style never fails to impress. Fliss tells me that most of their clothes are second-hand or restyled, including center pieces such as their fur-lined boots, draped chains and earrings fashioned from plastic roses. Durham’s plentiful charity shops offers a wealth of opportunity for this:
“Durham is very good for charity shops, stuff in them is really good quality. If anyone wants to start a fashion Instagram in general, the charity shops are the way to go”.
They advise trawling secondhand stores with a particular colour or style in mind to help build outfits. While these attempts may not always be successful, “I’ve never really struggled with finding good things”. Certainly, with designer donations on the rise, charity shops offer an affordable way to develop an individual style. Myself having recently acquired a military jacket (originally from a Durham charity store) that has miraculously retained 28 original buttons, I am inclined to agree. Currently on their year abroad in Slovenia, Fliss concedes that this has become harder away from North road’s veritable line of second-hand fashion, “you’ll see me putting up a lot of old clothes that I’ve refashioned at the moment”.
More importantly, my interview with Fliss indicates that Durham offers more than stylish pre-owned clothing. When I asked about their success, they admitted:
“I didn’t expect it to get so much love, people come up to me in Osbourne’s and say ‘ah your Instagram is so cool’”
Not only presenting an alternative look that is in minority, but themselves proud part of the LGBT+ community, this sort of support is heartening to write about. That students encourage a myriad of amazing fashion and beautiful diverse people who wear it is extremely encouraging. Concerning LGBT+ style particularly, Fliss underlines that “it’s such a big thing that isn’t mentioned or celebrated as much as it should be”. This has been encouraged recently by last year’s LGBT+ fashion show, which Fliss argues gives members of the community “a chance to express themselves in their own gay way”. With their instagram rightfully putting queer fashion forward, this acceptance within Durham fashion will hopefully only flower further.
My interview with Fliss has left me feeling positive about starting a fashion Instagram in Durham. Not only do we have a wide variety of resources to draw from, but a student community that appreciates fashion in all its forms. I would emphasise Fliss’ advice to all fellow would-be fashion bloggers, “just start it!”. Enjoy playing with different styles and have fun with the process. Hopefully Durham will be inspired to find, and insta, our own unique images like Fliss has.