We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in our column "How I Shop."
As her Instagram handle would suggest, KarenBritChick, also known as Karen Blanchard, is a British fashion blogger and YouTuber. She's currently based in New York City, where she runs her website Where Did U Get That, in addition to collaborating with brands like & Other Stories and Shopbop. On Instagram and YouTube, she's racked up over 163K followers, who all seek styling tips and trend reports from Blanchard — and are drawn in by her addictively charming personality.
Blanchard's wardrobe is a delightful mix that encompasses many different categories of fashion. "I consider myself a magpie shopper in the sense that I dart from place to place, and I don't have a specific type of lane; I shop high street and also dip into designer, but I'm more partial to vintage and to thrift [shopping]," says Blanchard. "I think that comes from growing up in London; it just stuck with me and carried over to me living in New York. Those types of stores are my favorites and they help keep my wardrobe unique."
Here, Blanchard spills the details on determining a budget, the best vintage stores in New York City, tips for buying designer pieces online and more. Read on for our conversation.
"Growing up with my mom in London, we didn't have much money. She loved going to the street markets to look for bargains and I'd go with her. I'll always treasure those memories because it was so much fun. Her love of shopping rubbed off on me; we'd go every Saturday to see the latest things they got in and we'd always get something for nothing. We'd come home with a bag full of great finds, empty it on the kitchen table and I'd sometimes do a little runway show in the kitchen. It was brilliant.
I prefer shopping in-store, hands down. I like to see, overall, the colors, the shapes, the textures — it's like stepping back in time. Just to be able to touch and feel the garments and see what they look like in person, nothing beats that. And when you try something on that is amazing and makes you look so cool, there's nothing like it. One of my favorite New York City vintage boutiques is Love Day 31 in Astoria, Queens. It's the size of a shoebox but incredibly well-curated. Another one I like popping into recently is Church Street Surplus, also The Urban Jungle, which is part of L Train Vintage in Brooklyn. No Relation in the East Village, too.
I'm also pleased to see sustainability becoming more popular in fashion. Especially with YouTube hauls, it can feel all about consumption and less about styling the items. It's nice to see that interest in keeping an eye on and being wary of where things are coming from and considering vintage and thrift shopping. It's a welcome change and I love seeing it. I hope it's not a fad, but rather a long-term shift in the industry.
I really can't stand feeling like I have to define my personal style because I don't like to label myself, which I tell my followers as well. To the very broad strokes I would say that my style is feminine with some edge — in a nutshell that describes it pretty well. That's what I love: the juxtaposition of the feminine and the masculine. After that, I struggle to define my style and I almost prefer that someone defines it for me.
I like to bring my audience along with me while I shop, too. I recently filmed a video searching for the perfect camel coat. Every time I went into a shop I thought, "Let me just quickly record so people can see what's out there." Because it's nice to see how people find things, and I didn't know where I would ultimately find it or if I even would, but I thought they'd enjoy coming along for the hunt. Lo and behold, at the end, I walk into my local thrift shop and that's where it is. When I pulled it out I knew instantly that that was it. I'm still gobsmacked. I also integrated my followers in the video since they were helping me look, too, and would send me DMs when they saw something they thought I'd like.
Usually I have a budget in mind when I shop, depending on what I'm looking for. If it's a designer bag and I'm not buying it pre-loved, I know I'm paying the full retail price, so I'll look for slight differences in prices for it online. I'll usually have a rough idea of what I want to spend budget-wise. But if you're shopping vintage at that point, it's trying to find it for the best deal and in the best condition. And then like the coat, for example, I had a feeling I was going to get it from a thrift shop because you can get good quality for the cheapest price.
For high street brands I love Topshop, Mango and & Other Stories. I love Jacquemus that's kind of like the ultimate mod woman. I love Valentino, that's the dream inspiration for red carpet. Ganni is another one I like and I own a couple of their pieces now. Shrimps for its faux fur and beaded bags, of course. I love Staud, as well. I think it's a great growing brand and the price point is reasonable for the quality you get. Gucci, old Céline and Chloé also give me lots of inspiration.
As a blogger and influencer, my wardrobe has become increasingly loaned or gifted, especially in the past year. I'm doing more collaborations with brands, which are long-term and part of those relationships is that I wear items that they gift to me. I pick the items — they don't send me just anything — but it's usually on a monthly basis. Sometimes if I'm going away on holiday, I can also pull pieces from an agency that I like because it saves me from running around to find pieces, so I can borrow them and it saves me money, too. My wardrobe of gifted pieces has grown, so my spending has decreased as a result. Now when I do purchase something myself, it's extremely surgical. It has to be something that is a hole that I feel like I'm missing in my closet that will make my wardrobe better.
I do purge my wardrobe now more than ever. I'm finding that the frequency of packages is increasing and I'm receiving items faster than I'm getting rid of things. In New York especially, that presents a space issue. I'm constantly going to consignment or charity shops to clear things out. I remember the feeling of being gifted clothes for the first time and I remembered thinking, "Oh my god, this is the dream." It's amazing, especially if a brand you like wants to gift you something, but now it's slightly different because I do this for a living. You have to be more discerning with what you accept as gifted. I'm offered gifted items constantly and I have to decline most of them.
To a certain extent, I will buy things that I think might look good in a photo or video but it's never 100 percent of the reason that I purchase something. I have to like it, first and foremost, but I do keep it in mind. I've also made purchases based on what I've seen on social media and YouTube, definitely. I do follow a lot of content creators because I like their style, so you see something they have that you love and you pull out your laptop and start investigating. We definitely do influence each other."