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 zeroing in on the girls who cause the street style photographers to press their shutters as much as the women you don’t yet know—the ones who fly under the radar with secretly incredible clothing collections.
It’s Fashion Revolution Week, and we thought there was no one better suited to repping conscious style choices better than Jasmine Hemsley. The Ayurveda and wellness guru, chef, author, TV presenter and beloved fashion darling is a complete ray of sunshine—one quick meeting and you’ll find she makes a very strong case for living your best life. The two of us have spent time comparing our extreme vintage shopping habits, but this week you’ll actually find Jasmine on her feel-good Instagram account challenging herself to wear nothing but eco-friendly and sustainable goods. You’re going to adore her happy wardrobe, so keep scrolling to jump in.
Phill Taylor; ON JASMINE: Eudon Choi suit; Veja sneakers; Modern Rarity earrings; Annoushka necklace; Nocturne ring
When did your interest in fashion first start to present itself?
I remember the ’80s really well. I didn’t get given a lot of clothes, and our family travelled a lot. I had a lot of hand-me-downs, so I first probably became conscious of fashion when I was around 9 or 10—when you start to go to birthday parties and you look at each other’s clothes. Everyone had these amazing (actually really ugly) puffball dresses, but at the time, I didn’t have them, so they were amazing. I remember having to wear ’80s hand-me-downs from my cousin (who’s older than me but smaller than me) and thinking, Oh, I just want a puffball!
When I turned 12 and we moved to Germany, I remember the ’70s came back in—ribbed vests and that type of thing. And I remember looking through a magazine’s fashion section and saying “Oh, mum, I love this, and I love this,” and she said, “I had all of that, but we’ve just got rid of it because we’ve moved!” That’s probably the first time I really started to have an idea of what I liked. Then I went on to do art, furniture and product design, so I was always quite aware of design, plus I started modelling.
So looking at your wardrobe now, the retro aesthetic you liked as a kid is still very much with you…
I hadn’t thought of that—yeah! I remember my mum buying me a ribbed top, and it was such a big thing for me. Clothing was either practical or it came from cousins, and I just really wanted that top. I wish I still had it. It had a little turtleneck and was sleeveless and striped in bright colours.
How did being a model shape your shopping habits and personal style?
It probably made it a nightmare. Because you come across a lot of fashion, so you see a lot of style. You also see a lot of girls wearing something really well, and then you feel like I want to wear that even if it doesn’t suit you. And then also between castings, you’re hanging around in places like Oxford Street, so there’s a lot of Ooh, maybe I need this; maybe I need that from high-street stores.
I think I was vaguely aware that the stuff I liked wasn’t the stuff I should go to castings in. I remember liking Japanese fabrics details, big patterns and tailoring, but what worked better for me [as a model needing to be a blank canvas] was the whole French cool jeans, leather jacket and T-shirt that everyone kind of got.
Nowadays your working week is full of so many different occasions, jobs and moments—from sound bowls to book writing and from recipe testing to photo shoots—how does your wardrobe work around that?
My typical day now? If I’m working from home, a tracksuit is my go-to. I like to be really warm—it’s very of my energy type, which is Vata. And I love to be comfortable. I spend my mornings dog-walking, which gets me outside. I’m often cooking and being photographed from behind a workstation—often what looks good in a whole silhouette doesn’t look good in a half picture, so I tend to have a lot of jumpers and jeans.
I love heels, but I don’t like walking long distances in them. I like that whole ’70s massive flares, but as soon as you take your heels off, you can’t wear trainers with them, so I tend to wear cropped trousers, which works for both and then carry heels in my bag. I’ve also got to think about the audience I’m talking to. I’d definitely be more outrageous if it was in a warmer country and had a chauffeur.
I’ve been freelance practically my whole career, whether it’s modelling or when I worked as a scenic artist. There was a short period—between 15 and 19—where I worked in a corporate environment, and I hated the clothes. Ugh. I remember going to Wallis and Dorothy Perkins. You’d sit in these trousers and then you’d have a baggy bum, and you’d have to dry clean and iron—that’s just not me. Even now when I speak to my friends who work in corporate environments, they spend all their Sundays ironing or picking up stuff from the dry cleaners.
Phill Taylor; On Jasmine: Dior dress, underwear, shoes and bag.
Could you use three words to describe your style?
Eclectic, I think, like my house. Comfortable. And then I think the third one is really difficult. I would say I dress quite masculine-y at times, but then in the summer, I’m such a dress girl. I would say I’m very seasonal. So in the winter, I like to be less feminine, and in the summer, I like to be very feminine. How’s that for three words?
You're a big supporter of sustainable fashion and shopping for vintage clothes—where has that interest come from, and do you have any recommendations for us?
I think we want a story on everything. It has to be authentic. Before, you know, back in the ’80s and ’90s, as long as there were caviar and gold leaf on your food and your towels were bleached white and your dressing gown was fluffy in hotels, that’s what we cared about. And now we want to know the full story.
I love vintage because I’m such a chameleon. I change my look a lot, and that’s obviously a very affordable way to do it. I love the feeling of finding a treasure—it either fits or it doesn’t fit, looks good or doesn’t look good. So some people say their heads explode when they walk into a charity shop or TK Maxx or somewhere where they have to rummage, but for me, that’s all of the buzz.
Livia Firth’s 30 Wears campaign is interesting: If I don’t love something straight away or it’s not practical—like a long-sleeve T-shirt—I’m getting better at putting it down and not thinking Oh my god, it’s a bargain or I don’t have a purple one of these. I love that we’re getting a choice now of people who are, like farmers, doing it the harder way to sustainably produce something that gives them minimal margins. It’s a lot more work, a lot more headache and also when you make that claim, you’re open to a lot of criticism.
Phill Taylor; On Jasmine: A selection of vintage pieces.
Any favourite sustainable, ethical or conscious brands we should really know about?
Some of my favourite brands like Mara Hoffman and Mother of Pearl didn’t set out as sustainable, ethical or conscious but have changed their production lines. As an art student, growing up to be ethical about where your stuff comes from might mean your stuff never gets to market and then creativity gets killed, so it’s a really difficult one.
Rêve en Vert is great, and I love what Vestiaire Collective does as well. There used to be a stigma about secondhand clothes, and you can go on there now, and it’s amazing how [designer] pieces hold their value. And I like the idea of you almost turning your wardrobe over.
How do you tend to shop?
It’s very spontaneous. Although I have to say that when I finished my last book, I went shopping with my friend and felt like I was a teenager again. I would usually avoid it on a Saturday—my freelance nature means I don’t have to do it—but there was something about it that made me feel like a young girl again, and it was the whole excitement of going into town. But most of my shopping is spontaneous, and I’m an absolute magpie, so if it’s a sale or a discount or one-day-only pop-up, I’m there. You know, I’ll get Nick [her fiancé] to stop the car.
I find it hilarious that Nick has to put a time limit and spending limit on you when you go vintage shopping, as you get carried away!
I know. I will get cross with him because when it’s his turn to shop, I’m the best shopping partner. I’ll bring everything to him in two sizes, I’ll give him feedback straight away and I’ll make his whole experience really fast. If he has to be somewhere where I’m shopping, he’ll sit on a chair, bored, and just go Hmm, I don’t think you’ll ever wear it. That’s his favourite comment, and then that whole thing makes me buy.
If you could only save one thing from your wardrobe, what would it be?
I would say my engagement ring—which I didn’t think I’d be so attached to, but I’m really happy with it. I’ve only had it a year and a half, and I think I was pretty scared because I’d bought it spontaneously. I hadn’t even seen it or tried it on. Sometimes you might like something, but when it’s on, it might not suit you—the colour, the shape, the size. It took about 14 years to get engaged and about seven months for the ring to arrive, and I was panicking that I wouldn’t like it, and I love it. It's not traditional, and it’s not a diamond—it’s a chrysoberyl in a big Indian-gold setting.
It was made by some artisans in India, and they’re called Gajendra Shanane (Gajendra Singh Chouhan, whom I believe is part of the royal family in India, and his partner Shanane Davis is Irish and has lived in Afghanistan and now India and is a connoisseur of the arts), and they’re basically dedicating their lives to bringing the artisans back to doing what they’ve been doing for generations. Incredible weaving techniques; sandstone sculpting… The kind of things that have gone out of fashion or no one can afford to pay for anymore, and they say that once those people stop teaching their children, it will literally be lost because you can’t write down how to do these things—it has to be a whole life experience.
Do you have a “happy outfit”?
I think this is one of the reasons I recently bought an ’80-style Moschino jumper from TKMaxx—it’s purple, and when I was young, my godfather bought me a purple corduroy Benetton skirt and a matching fluffy purple jumper. I must have been about 6 or 7 years old, and I remember waking up every morning and saying “Mum, are we going to wear that purple outfit today?” and she’d say “No, you have to wear your uniform.” It was this recurring thing, and then before you know it, you’ve grown out of it.
Do you ever step out of the house and regret what you’re wearing?
Yes. 1. It’s usually covered in dog hair, but because my flat is quite dark, you can’t really tell. 2 It was kooky in the mirror at 8 a.m., but outside it doesn’t translate. Sometimes I wish I’d made more of an effort. I think I end up going for that kind of kookily dressed New York/French don’t care/L.A. laid-back thing and then I arrive at a business meeting and everyone’s suited up, and I look like I didn’t actually give a damn (but not in a cool way).
Is there a best outfit to cook in when you’re hosting?
Anything with an apron. I’ve got seven aprons! For a dinner party, probably a sleeveless dress. Or if it was a casual party, then knitwear and jeans. No suede shoes because you’ll drop stuff on them, and no long bell sleeves or anything like that.
And do you have any major fashion aims for 2018?
I’m going to have another clear-out. This year I’m going to minimise a little bit. You want the energy to move in your environment, and when your wardrobe is stuffed, you can’t actually see what you’ve got. So what I’ve done recently is clear out a massive box of all of my black stuff—I took all the black out and suddenly my wardrobe could breathe, and I was wearing things I’d usually dismiss because it’s very easy to wear black in London.
Well, Jasmine, anything you fancy flinging our way… Keep scrolling to shop Hemsley’s style.