Welcome to the latest highly exciting instalment of Who What Wear UK’s Best Wardrobes in Britain. It’s where we do exactly what it says on the tin: delve into the most fantastical, awe-inspiring, and downright influential wardrobes in this fair country of ours. We’re honing in on the women who cause the street style photographers to press their shutters as much as the characters you don’t yet know—the ones who fly under the radar with secretly incredible clothing collections.
We have been to some amazing wardrobes in our five years of this franchise, but never have we seen a gigantic glass cabinet dedicated to handbags and a three-door wardrobe filled with nothing but printed dresses. That is until we stepped into Bettina Looney's Kensington home, that is. Bettina runs her own boutique personal shopping agency, where it is her job to help women curate their wardrobes and discover what makes them feel their best.
It's not surprising then, given her day job, that her own wardrobe is the definition of meticulous—everything is colour-coded and merchandised as lovingly as any shop window. Her style is also just as considered, as, despite her epic fashion collection, she doesn't buy into passing trends and has a really honed personal style. There's something nostalgic about her aesthetic, as she mixes beautiful vintage nightgowns with '80s blazers and gold jewellery that has a real Miami feel.
Keep scrolling for a tour of Bettina's collection, and her tips for assembling a timeless wardrobe and making wise fashion investments.
On Bettina: Elizinga Dress, Daphine Jewellery, Monica Vinader x Doina Necklace
Have you always been interested in fashion?
Honestly, no. The way I got into it was a crazy story. Even when I was little I never wanted to go shopping, and it was like pulling teeth to get me to go to the mall with my mum and get things for school. When I moved here from America I got this job for a German company, based in Berlin, and it’s an equivalent to OpenTable. You can only be here for six months as a U.S. visitor, and I wanted to see if I could get an internship unpaid and then eventually go back. I met this guy on a way to an interview and I was lost, and he said “I like your personality. Why don’t you see if the rest of the team likes you? We are a brand new company from Berlin and are looking for ambitious people for a sales role.” I ended up getting the job as a sales rep, and they sponsored me. I had to walk around with a tablet selling an online reservation platform for restaurants in East London. I was so bad at this job! I had to go to 15 restaurants a day with so many meetings and it was difficult, but at least I did it.
During this time, I met my husband, Carlos, who is from Miami and a similar friendship group, but we had never met back home. So we ended up meeting and it progressed to a relationship. On a Friday night, he invited me to go meet all of his friends for dinner for the first time. I got called in that night straight before to get fired from my job that I was doing horribly at. I was mortified inside, but everyone was so sweet at this dinner, offering me ideas. and one woman said, “I’m starting to work for a personal shopping company and you could try and get an internship.” So I interviewed for a company called Threads Styling, and that’s how the fashion progression happened. I worked there as a personal shopper when there were eight people at the very beginning and built myself up that way. That’s when I really realised I do love this industry, but what I love is working with other women to make sure they are happy with their wardrobes and the way they are feeling, and providing a service for them. That is what I have grown to love and it has been amazing to see that progression.
On Bettina: Elizinga Dress, Daphine Jewellery, Monica Vinader x Doina Necklace
When did you set up your own company?
I worked with Threads for two and a half years, and then I set up my own company afterwards. I was ready for something different and to do something on my own. I wanted it to be boutique, small and bespoke. We do full wardrobe refreshes and then we also create seasonal wardrobes for our clients, do styling edits and source any pieces they are after. We also resell our clients’ pieces, so that we are also circulating that fashion. It’s amazing to be able to offer that service so we can take pieces off their hands, and then we put a small percentage to charity.
Have you learned a lot about your own style by clearing other people's wardrobes?
Oh my gosh! I did not have style at all—if you saw my photos in college, it is hilarious. I also didn’t have the means. I was a college girl and I put myself through university and was always working to be able to pay rent and my school fees. I never got into fashion, although, I always went to a vintage store in the city I lived in to find pieces, and I enjoyed dressing up, but looking back, I had zero idea of what style was.
I did an internship in Miami and when I was there I started experimenting more. Miami style is quite flashy and glam, and there I started dabbling in different things and was figuring out my style. But when I worked at Threads, I was seeing beautiful things and when you have the knowledge and access it influences you a bit more. Then having a stable income and doing my own thing, I was able to really figure out what I love. Sometimes I used to buy something randomly and not always give it enough thought, and wear it a few times, and then I’d always sell my things. But I feel like it’s evolved more and more, and now, I really know my own style. I’m interested in buying more vintage than anything and think more people should get into that realm of shopping. You can buy things for really cheap, too. I think people think you have to do more work, and you do, but it’s also benefitting the world in terms of recycling shopping. I would love to have a vintage site and sell the beautiful vintage places I find.
On Bettina: Vintage Dior nightgown; Old Celine earrings; Daphine rings; By Far shoes.
Where do you shop for vintage the most?
I shop on Poshmark and Etsy a lot. I also love Lucia Zolea and this other vintage site on Etsy called Small Needs—she is amazing and has some really cool ’80s-style tops and fun jewellery. I always torture myself and go on Poshmark and try to find the perfect blazer I have in my mind and don’t stop until I find it.
Does it help to be searching for something specific?
Yes, I think the easiest way of doing it is to find brands you love, and then just search for those brands. It helps narrow down the search if you look at the brands you love and know suit your shape, or else it’s an endless dark hole.
What takes up most space in your wardrobe?
Dresses! And tops, actually. I tend to always wear my blazers and black leggings with a heel—that’s my favourite look, really. It’s so simple and easy, and you don’t have to think about it. One thing I have learned is that I usually don’t wear makeup and do my hair, and I like low-maintenance pieces that are easy to put on and they do the talking themselves. So now, I’m trying to find those pieces that are easy to style and throw on with other things, and you don’t need specific colours or silhouettes to wear them.
What are the things that really hold their value or are worth investing in?
In terms of bags, structured bags are the best investment, because their shelf life lasts a lot longer. If you have a structured bag that is beautiful and box-shaped—because it’s a simple shape—it will always be classic and you’ll keep it. Also, neutral tones. you might love a pop of colour, but you won’t get as much use out of it. So I always suggest getting blacks, whites, neutrals and going from there. Obviously, the occasional piece you love, but only if you’ll wear it a lot.
How do you decide if you will wear something for a long time?
That’s something I’m trying to learn to do more and more, but I am good at it with ready-to-wear and shoes. In terms of the shape of the shoe, I’ll go for an older style, with a longer point and quite a low heel so I can wear them day-to-day and they are comfortable, and I know I’ll get use out of them. If I do buy a higher heel, it’s something I know I can pair with multiple outfits. My new obsession is finding more structured knitwear which will stay in my wardrobe for a long time, but it’s hard to find that intricacy in jumpers. Eighty per cent of what I buy now is vintage, and I’m going to try to do it always. The one thing I don’t buy vintage is shoes, however. When I go actually vintage shopping in Portobello, you can try them and see them, but it’s hard to buy vintage shoes online because you just can't tell if they fit.
On Bettina: Lucia Zolea vintage blazer, Nanushka shirt, Amina Muaddi shoes, Mayol earrings
What are the items you are requested to find the most?
It depends because everyone’s style is so different, although we still get bombarded with requests for Chanel Dad sandals and Amina Muaddi shoes. They are the gold dust for sure. Those two are always the most-requested items. You obviously get the occasional bag where everybody wants a specific piece, and collector's pieces are always sought after. Some clients don’t have Chanel in their wardrobe, and prefer brands like Attico and are not afraid to get items from a smaller brand. Then I have some clients who will fully only buy Chanel collector's pieces. Some clients are building their wardrobe with investment mind—which is great to be able to invest in pieces that you know hold their value.
And what pieces really hold their value?
Any Chanel collector's piece or things that are quite rare. Any Hermes bag, jewellery and watches depending on the piece you are getting. With Audemars Piguet or Patek Philippe, you can double your investment. But in terms of creating an “investment” wardrobe, we are very dependent on the client and are tailored to what they love, and go from there.
How did you learn that skill?
It takes some time, but I think I’m good at understanding someone else’s needs, and what I love about my job is knowing that your style is different from the person next to you, but figuring out what it is that makes them feel good and confident. But also helping them to venture into something that is a little different but still makes them feel confident and happy. It’s so fun understanding the difference in people’s styles. It has been great to see that clients have used us to revamp their entire wardrobes, and you see them trying all these incredible things and not being afraid to try something different. By doing it bespoke, you’re not just pushing lots of product on people because they are people and everyone has something they are wanting or wanting to stick to, and it’s about understanding them and what they actually want from their wardrobes.
What brands do you love personally?
This is a tough one! I love the brand Elzinga that is on MatchesFashion—I just love her stuff and it’s quite '80s, and it’s really fun. I love Khyeli, who did my wedding dress—I just love the intricacy of what he does and the materials he uses. He’s originally from Sharjah, and he’s so particular about his design and it’s very elegant. I cried at his first presentation I saw, which was bizarre, but it was because it was so beautiful. It’s very hard to find someone who has that passion in what they do and I just adore him. So he was definitely the person I wanted to make my wedding dress. Then there is a brand called Tongoro and she is based in Senegal and one of the first people to gift me and did all my bridesmaid dresses. She is amazing and is 100 people in one person the amount of work she does. I love Manu Atelier shoes—I wear them all the time. And what Jonathan does at Loewe is so artistic and beautiful, and artsy—it has been elevated to another level, and he is so talented.
And finally, how would you describe your own personal style?
It’s a little glam and very '80s! I enjoy having a more feminine style. Before, I tried to hold back and wear things that didn’t suit my body or me, but now, I realise I’m the most confident in more feminine silhouettes. I’m not afraid to be a bit bolder with what I’m wearing and to just wear a nightgown with heels. I love vintage nightgowns, they are so easy to wear and you can dress them down around the house or dress them up.
On Bettina: Small Needs vintage top; Manu Atelier shoes; H&M earrings.
Thanks for having us, Bettina! Keep scrolling to shop her wardrobe.
Shop Bettina's Wardrobe