Upon entering the London bedroom of 29-year-old Amelie Rousseau, you are greeted with the archetypes of her attire. Her wardrobe? Quite literally bursting with colour, print eccentric accessories – she had to affix chains to her clothes rail to prevent any wardrobe mishaps – and of course, it’s overwhelmingly sustainability sourced. Displayed as an open casket, her wardrobe bares all. Significant, as Rousseau has curated an awe-defining style.
“I like to tell a story with what I wear, I like to feel like I’m in a movie or I’m in this period or that era.” Born and raised in the French city of Lyon where she also studied fashion design, Rousseau was enticed by the British culture and the premise of a city where you could be whoever you wanted and so she packed up and moved to London. “I was quite attracted by London by the fact that you could wear whatever you wanted, and no one would tell you anything.”
After feeling somewhat misunderstood on her home turf, she enrolled on a costume design short course at the renowned Central Saint Martins. “I always had small projects, I always either sold vintage garments, worked for a vintage website, volunteered for London Fashion Week or I interned for a sustainable designer.” Interning for quirky British designer Lu Flux, who won the Innovation Award in conjunction with the Ethical Fashion Forum in 2010, was a defining moment. “She’s amazing. I’ve got one of her dresses in my wardrobe that she made; she gave it to me.”
Today, Rousseau works as a full–time visual merchandiser for high-street store & Other Stories. On the side, she puts her sewing skills into practice as a freelance costume designer. Her most recent endeavour? Last summer she made the costumes for a historical theatre company that staged a Shakespeare adaptation at the arts and entertainment festival Vault in London.
While she remarks that she didn’t have a social life for the month of July, she thoroughly enjoyed the experience. “I was quite happy and proud to have a show in London with my costumes.” The processes proved a solace for a difficult time in her personal life. “I just love working with people, exchanging ideas with people, being passionate about creating characters with people and I’m kind of organised and easy going so usually I always like having an extra project on the side. Because as someone that works in the creative industry you always have to be doing something even though it’s small.”
Her knack for costume design pairs perfectly with her penchant for dressing up, a sartorial quirk that stems from her childhood and characterises her style, as for Rousseau, ensembles are all about building a character. “I like outfits that tell a story and are characterful,” she says. Harbouring a particular fondness for the silhouettes of the 40s, this era is where Rousseau feels most at home in her style. “I always say that my style stops in 1947 because that’s when Christian Dior brought his new look.”
She may not like the new look, but her look is overtly vintage. Yet, she is adamant that she would not want to live in any other era other than now. “Even though I’m doing my hair and I’m doing wet-set, it’s more of a fun thing rather than something that’s going to structure and rule my lifestyle because I don’t want to be ruled by what I wear.” Instead, Rousseau defines her style instead of letting it define her. She truly wants to have fun with fashion. “I like looking like I’m coming out of a circus, I could be on a show, on a stage somewhere.”
The boundless nature of shopping second-hand enables Rousseau to curate these characters. “It is more original, it is unique, I like the experience of finding treasures and because it is affordable and that’s how I can create a unique style.” She gathers her inspiration from a vast array of sources and is wary of straight up copying. “I don’t like to copy and paste outfits, that’s why sometimes I like to get inspired from lots of diverse things.”
Rousseau’s approach to shopping differs from the method most people adopt when executing their sartorial endeavours. How you ask? Well, she doesn’t buy items to match. Her system for sourcing her individual style? She envisions an imaginary Pinterest board. “When I see something that fits in one of my boards of inspiration whether it’s 1940s, Frida Kahlo, Pre-Raphaelite, whatever, the box that I like, ‘Oh I buy this so I can be that look or that look or that girl or that girl’,” she explains.
Although a vintage girl at heart, she is indeed a fan of the real-life Pinterest and of course, fashion’s favourite social media platform – Instagram. “Ten years ago, I used to save everything to my computer but now I’m doing Pinterest and Instagram,” says Rousseau.
Stemming from her love of costume design, she draws inspiration from period dramas such as childhood favourite Agatha Christie’s Poirot and the Netflix show Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. “The main character is this lady detective and I love what she wears, and I’ve actually got the catalogue of the costumes that my cousin bought in Australia for me.”
Her main modern muse? Jenny Walton, fashion illustrator and director at the acclaimed street-style blog The Satoralist. Boasting a staggering 207k Instagram followers, Walton holds influencer status on the platform where she shares style snaps mixing vintage with high-street, so it’s clear to see where Rousseau’s fondness for her stems from. “I like her because she buys lots of vintage and fifties earrings and fifties dresses, but she wears them with a very modern twist, with a more kind of Miu Miu, Prada twist,” she says. Rousseau describes the time she was ‘influenced’ into purchasing a white vintage 1950s handbag inspired by the tiny accessories Walton is often snapped carrying on Instagram.
While it was once a hobby, second-hand shopping has now taken on a new meaning for Rousseau and it’s all in the name of sustainability. “Nowadays I realise it’s way more sustainable and I really want to try and to only shop second-hand, it’s hard when you work for a high-street brand but I think if I had more money I would buy more pieces from the 40s and 30s,” she explains.
To shout the vintage love, Rousseau shares her outfits on Instagram using the hashtag #slowfashion to connect with other like-minded individuals and showcase that shopping second-hand need not mean waving goodbye to trends all together. “I’m trying to share the fact that you don’t have to buy something new just because it’s cheap.”
Each outfit Rousseau curates oozes an eclectic essence of nostalgia. From the red sailor dress she favours for her favourite past time of swing dancing to the full 40s ensemble complete with matching umbrella, Rousseau remarks that nothing in her wardrobe goes together and prefers her style to be a mix of everything.
Detailing the aforementioned attire, she says: “For me it’s very 1940s during the war somehow and I like it because it took me ages to find that specific knitted sleeveless waistcoat.” Other favourites? A fantastic puff-sleeved checked shirt that very nearly became the one that got away.
Akin to her style cues, in order to keep things fresh she scours for vintage treasures across the globe which she then documents on Instagram. Her most recent find is a fantastic navy peasant blouse from a vintage store in Gothenburg. “I like eclectic style and I love when I go travelling and I always find the vintage shops and I go there and buy something from that country.” She gestures to a much-loved jacket that she bought while searching for gems on a trip to Copenhagen. “I like finding the good vintage shops from a specific city and I will go back every time and find something because I want to support their business as well.”
Rousseau’s style seems limitless. One quick scroll of her Instagram account and you’ll be met with a multitude of different personas – the swing dancing sailor to her set of Victorian creatives which she captions ‘this is what happens when I have a day off work’.
“I like to challenge a person’s eye,” Rousseau remarks. Although, she is adamant that she dresses for herself, something which has often left her blindsided by how others view her.
“I know because I dress a bit crazy, I know people are going to say something.” She sniggers when she recalls the time a stranger in a club commented that she looked “kind of out of time”. Her most memorable comment? “Someone called me Elton John in the street one day because I was wearing a red hat and glasses.” Certainly not the worst critique we’ve ever heard but Rousseau has grown used to it she says, particularly when it comes to the awkward politics of family gatherings. “Now they’re getting used to it that that’s me and it’s not a phase, that’s how I’m going to dress, and some people love that I do that, and some people will always have a comment to say.”
Accomplished in all things out there, her one style rule may shock you – she does not wear the colour black. “I don’t wear black at all, it’s super nice, it’s super chic and when I see myself in black I’m like ‘wow I look super elegant’ but I don’t find it that interesting it doesn’t really fit my persona, I like something that has detail,” reveals Rousseau.
Mixing bold colours, prints and ensembles from different eras is atypical of Amelie’s attire. Accomplished in curating a unique look, Rousseau proves that second-hand shopping is the gateway to constructing a powerful personal style. It may be harder than shopping the high-street, but if you’re willing to put in the time treasures can truly be found. “If there is a charity shop on my way home from work you’ll be sure to find me there at least three times a week,” she remarks. Standout style that’s sustainable? We can all get behind that.