In conversation with broadcaster and slow fashion campaigner Venetia La Manna
Meet broadcaster and slow fashion campaigner Venetia La Manna. As part of Earth Day 2023, we chatted to her about the impact of fast furniture on our planet, the role vintage plays in her interior design choices and her tips for buying pre-owned. Check out her wishlist here.
How do you describe your interior design style?
I would say that I’m drawn to fairly minimal interiors that make me feel calm, as I have quite an anxious mind – which is why I love the clean lines of mid century furniture. As with fashion, I think my style is storytelling, as to me that’s the most beautiful thing about an item: being able to talk about where I found it, how long I’ve had it and the stories that are woven into it.
How do you feel your fashion style influences your interior design decor?
My work in fashion has made me all the more conscious of the homeware items that I give a home to, so overall I really don’t buy that much and prioritise secondhand and vintage furniture wherever possible. Like with my clothes, I have a few hand-me-down pieces from my family and I love to think that I’m adding to their stories. I also have old items from IKEA which inspire me to put extra pressure on them to protect their workers, while celebrating these pieces in a bid to honour the people who made them.
Do you see any similarities in the (fast)fashion and (fast)furniture industries?
Unfortunately, yes. Corporations are churning out more homeware than citizens need, which are being made in exploitative conditions so although fast furniture may seem as though it’s more “affordable” than ever, the true cost is much higher. Like fashion, it’s extracting resources from the planet, adding to harmful carbon emissions and due to the high production rate and accessible price point, we’re buying more than ever, meaning we’re wasting more than ever – in the UK alone, we’re throwing out nearly 70 million items of furniture each year. There is important nuance here: due to austerity and the rapidly worsening housing crisis, young people are unable to buy their own home, meaning we have more renters moving between furnished and unfurnished properties of differing sizes and furnish requirements, meaning there’s more need to buy into fast homewear, especially when you take into consideration access to second hand furniture and the shipping costs required.
What shocked you most when researching the environmental impacts of furniture?
That IKEA is no stranger to an H&M collaboration, and that both their CEOs think they’re doing brilliant work to protect the planet 🙂 We need Fast Furniture to be more transparent about where they are producing, ensure their factories are audited externally to protect their workers. They also need to be transparent about how much they’re producing and we need legislation to ensure there are caps on how much they’re able to produce, as well as ensuring the materials are sourced responsibly.
Tell us about some of your favourite pre-owned finds and the stories behind them.
My husband bought me an up-cycled iron clothing rail on eBay for Christmas a few years ago. Each month, I add about 5 items of my existing wardrobe to it that I want to get more wear out of and style up in fresh ways. I know I’m going to have it for life. Placed near it, I have a long mirror on wheels which is from the 1930s. I was searching for the perfect mirror for the longest time and was so excited when I found one in a vintage shop! Finally, I recently found a gorgeous mid century Danish chair on Vinterior – which is now my reading chair! It sits next to a decade old IKEA side table, a tall bookcase that I was given for my 18th birthday, a second hand and vintage onyx coffee table and a rug that was handed down to me by my mum as a wedding present.
What advice would you give when buying interiors?
I think it starts by celebrating what you already own. When I first learnt about the impacts of fast homewear, I was tempted to throw away my plant pots, tables and vases that I bought from Sainsbury’s home line, but it’s really important to treasure them. These items are our responsibility (we bought them, after all) so if you have something that needs a new lease of life, try giving it a fresh lick of paint, re-upholstering it, adding a cover to it, or upcycling it (check out YouTube tutorials if you’re stuck for inspiration). If you really don’t want to keep something, use a resale platform to re-sell it, as giving it to a charity shop could mean that it ends up as landfill.
What advice would you give when buying pre-owned?
I think it helps to get to know your own style. I love vintage interior books to find inspiration – and of course Pinterest. Try to only invest in pieces that will truly stand the test of time. It takes time and patience, but there are many gems to be found, and fortunately we have Vinterior which is an absolute treasure trove of pre-loved and upcycled pieces!