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the interview


TV star, passionate charity patron and bona fide national treasure Joanna Lumley talks personal style, the importance of lasting fashion and why she’s a supporter of M&S’ Shwopping campaign

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Queen of shwops

Joanna Lumley lets fashion writer and stylist Bay Garnet get her hands on her pre-loved clothes for a fast wardrobe refresh.



From Purdey to Patsy, Joanna Lumley is one of the UK’s most recognisable faces. A former model who’s as famous for picketing No. 10 with The Gurkhas as she is for her thrifty attitude to fashion (who can forget the invention of bra shoes on Girl Friday), when it comes to Lumley and style, as long as you’re getting the most out of your wardrobe, anything goes.

I’m afraid people aren’t doing stuff to their clothes, I mean adapting them rather than thinking ‘oh well I would have bought that skirt but it’s too long,’” she confides.

I don’t give a fig about labels – I cut them out, even if it’s Chanel or Prada. And it doesn’t matter what size it is – some of my clothes are a size 8 and some are a size 16, I couldn’t care less what it says.

Lumley admits that she once went to an event attended by Christian Louboutin wearing a pair of M&S boots she’d re-soled with a coat of red nail varnish. A fashion faux pas to some but refreshingly normal to most, it’s Lumley’s affinity for recycling and reusing that makes her the perfect partner for Shwopping – an initiative that turns

used pieces into raw materials or donates them to Oxfam. That, and her fondness for M&S.

If you had something from M&S it would last you, and those were the important things when I was growing up in the Fifties and Sixties. My M&S basics have lasted me forever.

So how does Lumley describe her personal style? “Oh I have none!” she says. “I love long layers of things – what I call striding clothes – and I hate very high heels. When I go to premieres I wear stuff that nobody will remember – someone will shout ‘what’re you wearing Joanna’ and I just go ‘umm…’”

One thing Lumley is sure about though is her contribution to charitable causes. “I’m always amazed that people think I do a lot. I just see it as part of living – you do what you can for other people otherwise I think life would be quite dull.”


“Patsy dresses immaculately. People who dress up as her wear ripped black tights as boozy Patsy, but that’s only when she begins to unravel.”
“Purdey had to run and climb fences and fight men and do it all in high heels. I remember this dress so well, she’s got a gun tucked in there too.”
“Shwopping is so much a part of my lifestyle. I’m very thrifty, I’ve always reused everything – I can’t bear chucking stuff into landfill.”
“Bra shoes? Is it not the ultimate! That was actually desperation because I thought I was getting foot rot from my wet shoes – I wish people did more like that.”
“I wore this little M&S jacket to the Chelsea Flower Show so I’ve been photographed in it – with Shwopping it can go to a new happy home.”
“I’ve got stuff that’s looking so tired and ordinary and familiar but it’s gold dust to another woman. Take it to M&S and they’ll give them directly to Oxfam.”
Refresh with new-in womenswear


Photographer: John Phillips/Getty Images / Interviewer: Emma Sleight

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