Wardrobe Insider: Tanja Wessels

Writer, activist and artist, Tanja Wessels specialises in Eco-Anxiety, a chronic concern over environmental issues, giving public talks on the topic and creating artworks highlighting a disquiet that is gaining public attention.

In 2017, alarmed by fashion’s environmental impact, Tanja challenged herself to stop buying new clothing for one year. Two and a half years on, it is now a way of life.

1) Describe your style in 3 words

Unexpected, potluck, kooky.

2) What’s the most precious item in your wardrobe and why?

A black, knit cardigan my South African grandmother bought on her world travels, which included a stopover in Hong Kong, in the 1940s. The label reads: Made in Kowloon. Little did I know how full circle life is. 

3) What’s your go to outfit?

Anything long and flowing to keep the heat at bay and if needed, allows me to swoop into a space!

4) Favourite piece you bought recently and why?

In 2017, inspired by Christina Dean, Founder of Redress, I vowed to not buy any new clothing for a year and have never looked back. Today I only buy pre-loved and with that comes certain dynamics: the clothes pick me, I don’t pick them. I work with what is available and it has changed both my wardrobe and my thoughts on the world.

One of my favourite, recent purchases was a red and white evening dress that I bought from a thrift shop in Hong Kong. A week later I had an emcee job for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest winner, Salvador Sobral’s concert in Macau. The dress worked perfectly for the job, no one believed it was second hand.

Red and white evening dress

5) What is the best fashion advice you have received?

“It’s all a game darling.”

6) Who are your style icons?

I don’t have icons in the fashion world. However, when there are red carpet events I always look out for Cate Blanchett. She nails her look time and time again. It’s a visual delight to see what her collaboration with longtime stylist and sustainable fashion promoter, Elizabeth Stewart(@elizabethstewart1) results in.

Tanja Wessels
Cate Blanchett in Givenchy Haute Couture, designed by Clare Waight Keller

7) Personal style signifier

A conflict free, diamond tennis bracelet. My husband bought it for me before our wedding. It’s a discreet shot of dazzle that I wear nearly daily.

I also love how this style of bracelet got its moniker. When playing a vigorous match in the 1987 U.S. Open, tennis star Chris Evert she asked the officials to stop mid game because her diamond bracelet had come unclasped and fallen on the court. Since that time, the bracelet has been referred to as a tennis bracelet.

Conflict free, diamond tennis bracelet.

8) Less or more?

Less insecurity, more acceptance.

9) If you could have anyone’s wardrobe whose would it be and why?

Padmé Amidala, actor Natalie Portman’s character in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. There is some real versatility going on there.

10) If you were an item of clothing what would you be?

Hussein Chalayan’s coffee table skirt. Architecture + fashion.

Hussein Chalayan’s coffee table skirt
Chalayan’s Coffee Table Dress

11) Where do you love to shop?

Charity shops. I have a soft spot for the Salvation Army and I love what Vestiaire Collective is doing in the pre-loved space.

12) Favourite fashion apps?

Good on You, Business of Fashion & Buycott App.

13) If a museum asked you to donate one item from your wardrobe that represented you what would it be?

A plastic sculpture Alex Macro recently photographed me in. It will be around for hundreds of years.

14) What will we never find in your wardrobe?


15) What’s your number one fashion rule?

Don’t take it too seriously.

Follow Tanja Wessels on @tanjarina or www.tanjawessels.com

Tanja Wessels