Welcome to the latest highly exciting instalment of Who What Wear UK's Best Wardrobes in Britain. It's where we do exactly what that title 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.
This month we're with model, activist, photographer, Vivienne Westwood girl and all-round Instagram sensation, Emma Breschi. The straight-talking, head-to-toe-red-wearing, politically outspoken force of nature has such a truly multicultural heritage: Emma is Flipino-Italian, was born in Switzerland, grew up in Thailand and has such a crazy-good ability to imitate accents that I thought she was based in Texas. So I never thought she'd live in east London and have a wardrobe that we'd be able to dive into for this franchise. Our entire team has been following her every rad move for the past year or so: Emma's been signing campaigns, travelling the globe, notching up followers and been flying the body-positive flag for us all, whilst wearing some spectacularly unique outfits. We caught up with her fresh off a flight from NYC to capture Breschi's true personal style, as well as some words of wisdom, and—as to be expected if you watch her Instagram videos—a fair few LOLs.
Phill Taylor ON EMMA: ASOS White shirt; House of Holland skirt; Shoes bought in Los Angeles; Fendi bag
Do you have a first fashion memory?
I grew up in Thailand—in Phuket, by the sea—so a lot of the different clothes I saw were from tourists who would come and visit the island. Even to this day I think that’s how I gain inspo—from the people that I work with to my friends—and it’s always been other people around me that inspire me to try something new. I'll be like "What is that old man is wearing, that Hawaiian two-piece looks sick, I’m gonna do that."
I remember when I got my first bikini: I was with my friend who was into bikinis so we went bikini shopping and there were all these different colours. Colour was a big thing even when I was younger because when you’re on the beach it’s a colourful place, isn’t it? I've honed in on the colour blocking a lot more [since then].
As a kid my mum would always try to push me towards things that she liked, so even when I was younger I would rebel against what she wanted me to wear or what anyone else was wearing. I don’t know where I got it from, but I just always had this rebellious mentality… "No, I don’t want to wear that frilly dress because you’re telling me to wear it, I want to wear the cargo pants and the Von Dutch caps," which, weirdly, are coming back…
Phill Taylor ON EMMA: Vivienne Westwood skirt suit; ASH sneakers; Urban Outfitters sunglasses
At what point did you really start to be aware of what you were choosing to wear?
When I was younger I don’t think any of us knew what we were doing—you just did whatever and then paid the consequences from other kids later. So, you know, people would be like "Don’t wear this you’re going to get teased for it" but I’d still go out and do it anyways and then if someone gave me shit for it I’d cry about it later. But as I got older—and I started learning to not really give a shit about what other people thought—I'd wear something because I want to wear it, and if someone has a problem with what I wear, it’s their problem, it really isn’t mine. And when you learn to let go of those sort of doubts or insecurities it so much more empowering.
I was in the Hamptons a few weeks ago and it’s a very, you know, white [area]… and I here I am, this mixed-race Asian girl in a cowboy hat and leather jacket that says "sinner sinner chicken dinner" and everyone had their eyes on me. I remember going into my hotel and the lady was like "Are you ok? Do you need help?" and I was like "No, I’m here to check in!" For the many people who think "whoa, too much" there are as many saying "sick cowboy hat." But who cares what anyone else thinks; I just like to wake up and think "What am I going to dress like today?"
Phill Taylor ON EMMA: House of Holland jumper and skirt; ASOS shoes; Tuza bag; Hat from a friend
So I've realised throughout the shoot that a lot of your outfits have characters. Would you agree?
Yeah. I think it’s because I have this kind of performing quality in the way I dress. Style is something that I’ve had to learn along the way; it’s not something I’ve got naturally, as opposed to maybe other people. Some of my friends are just the most insane stylists and they just know what looks good and what is cool. I’m not really going out there to be cool; I’m just going out there to enjoy and have fun with it [fashion]. Some of my friends who work in the industry as proper stylists will be like "Hey, that’s actually a really cool piece" or "It’s cool how you put that together—I might not do that but it works for you."
So you’ve found your personal style. Can you even describe it?
It’s basically a reflection of what goes on in my head. Like you said, I change into these different characters, and there are days where I’m literally dressed up like [it's] for an event—all over the top, all red, in my stripper heels. Or I’m in a two-piece Hawaiian set and a baseball cap and I’m like someone’s grandad in Hawaii. My friends say I fluctuate from looking like someone’s dad to some goddess! And I love that. If I really want to sex it up or be a bit of a glamour-puss I have the ability to do it. Then if I just want to be someone who is really casual I can do that too.
Do you ever regret anything you've worn?
I never have regrets. I can always be like "I won’t go back to that again" but a lot of the time I don’t really keep my stuff—I give it away and then it opens new doors. I love experimenting: I’m willing to learn new things, like new trends. The only sort of things that I tend to hold onto are statement pieces that I can remember wearing, and I'll hand them down to someone later on in life. I give a lot of clothes to my friends because also my fluctuates all the time…
I went to this store in Church St, Stoke Newington—there’s an amazing store that sells designer clothes that are vintage—and they had so many vintage Westwood pieces and all of it was really small and they were selling it for half the price. I knew this would look so good on a friend, or on my sister, and it's 50% off… so I just buy it and give it to my friends, and take pictures of them in it. It would be a wasted opportunity: I can’t wear it but someone else can. My friends like me a lot!
So how do you tend to shop?
When I go to shops I’ll browse a lot. I’ll sometimes buy things in store when I know what I want. But I’ll often look online, play around with it, buy it, if I don’t like it, send it back. I hate changing rooms—I get really sweaty in changing rooms. So you’ll never seen me on Oxford Circus.
Phill Taylor ON EMMA: ASOS jacket and jeans; Urban Outfitters top; Vans sneakers; Space Cowboy hat.
Can you recall a particularly big purchase, or a moment where you think you shouldn't have spent so much money?
I tell myself this every day! And what’s funny is that when you start earning a good salary there are days where I’m like "You know what? Actually, I deserve to treat myself. I work hard. So what if I want to buy a £300 ring?" I don’t really go around buying expensive stuff: I shop on ASOS the majority of the time, and I’m in a lucky position where some brands want to send me some things. I don’t have to have designer stuff, and when I bought my Westwood [checked skirt suit pictured above] that was a big moment, but it’s because I love Westwood and I’m supporting a friend and representing the brand and it’s important to me. Some people are like "I’ll buy this designer bag because it’s an investment," and when I buy jewellery I think it’s an investment!
So what was the last thing you bought?
A ring. It’s from Chinatown, New York. This Chinese lady was selling gold jewellery and she was really pissed off with me because I was wearing it for ages before I bought it, but I just needed to make sure it was right. She was like "It’s 14 karat gold, you can guarantee it’s going to be fine—it’s not fake." And I knew that, but it’s [still] a lot of money. I saw it and it was a dragon and I just thought it was really cool—it’s an early birthday and Christmas present.
And what do you buy on repeat?
I buy caps a lot. I have a lot of hats because sometimes it’s just easier for me to throw on a hat—I feel like less naked [wearing one]. I have a LOT of shoes. It’s weird because shoe brands love me so they just send me really cool [shoes]. I’ll have a Puma delivery and think "I didn’t ask for these, but thanks!" I don’t shop too much—I like to buy statement pieces and try and style them up differently each time. If I go shopping I get basics and stuff from cheaper or more affordable brands.
Phill Taylor ON EMMA: Olivia Rose dress; Urban Outfitters sunglasses; Hustler Hollywood shoes.
So where and how did the wearing head-to-toe red obsession begin?
It started when I did a job with [stylist] PC Williams. She’s great. Love her. An incredible woman. And we did this job together for ASOS and they were doing colour blocking. And I was gobsmacked: "What? Colour blocking? I didn’t know this was a thing!" I knew there was colour but I didn’t know you could do this with it. She put me in an all-red outfit and I was just like "This. Looks. Epic." I’d never seen myself in so much red and then I was casually buying red things and seeing how far I could take this. I always had so much denim and black T-shirts and black dresses and that was so boring, so how cool would it be to have all red? I just worked on building a bit of a red wardrobe. But my favourite colour is actually blue.
Do you have any style icons?
I gain a lot of inspo from the people around me. Obviously Vivienne is one and I met this amazing woman on a job for an H&M campaign together: her name is Debra Rapoport, and she’s incredible. She designs jewellery and things out of paper towels and egg cartons and Nespresso caps—she made this beautiful necklace out of Nespresso caps. She loves shopping in thrift stores, so when I was in New York this time around we had brunch twice and she took me around all of her favourite shops. She has this rule [puts on strong New York accent] "I only spend $5. I can’t buy anything more than $5." And I think I need to be like that.
Thanks for having us, Emma!
Emma Breschi is represented by Models1.