Becky Burgum, ELLE journalist, CSM grad and founder of Galchester Magazine,a definitive celebration of Manchester’s inspirational female creatives andactivists that first came into being as a part of her final university project, tellsCaragh Taylor about what inspires and empowers her, her love of eBay and hertips for finding an amazing second-hand steal.
Now, more than ever, it seems apt to reflect on what inspires and empowers us, to pursue creativity and to find a sense of normality. In a time where we can’t browse and purchase pieces in our local charity shops, eBay perhaps provides an alternative way to satisfy our sustainable sartorial wants, and social distancing should prompt us to create and engage with digital creative communities and expand our world-view beyond what we know. We can change our world. These are strange times, but we can still allow our creativity to flourish, and use social media platforms to inspire one another.
Catch Becky talking to Caragh about the power of the creative community and offering up her take on how we can change the world through creativity in the 2020 print edition of THREAD Magazine, available to buy now.
What most inspires you in your day to day life?
A lot on Instagram. Seeing small publications and magazines and communities form. Like Bricks Magazine, or Azeema Magazine - they’ve now got their own talent platform. Bricks did talks about fashion week; it’s grown into such a huge brand. Seeing the people that are working tirelessly like this, mainly for free, young women who are working together to create these publications that are trying to change the world. Changing the way people think, shining a light on communities that don’t necessarily have a big voice. Scrolling through Instagram, I see my friends making all this amazing work. That is what most inspires me.
The people around you.
Definitely. Mainly seeing other women working with other women, creating communities. Working on these projects that you’ve never heard of before. Someone’s writing a book on someone, someone’s got their own magazine, or even, my editor, Hannah [Nathanson], on a Monday she reads to kids from disadvantaged homes and goes in and reads them stories. Little things. They’re really inspiring.
Who is the most inspirational woman that you’ve ever interviewed?
With the magazine [ELLE], I was with Farah [Storr, Editor in Chief of ELLE] interviewing Linder Sterling. She was one of the first artists I took notice of when I went to university. It was the most radical thing I’d ever seen, and it blew my mind. It was just a fluke that I managed to meet her, interview her, and she was so forthcoming. She’s such a huge icon. The stories she was telling me – just every single one was incredibly interesting. Interviewing an older woman is interesting in the way that they just have so much experience. They’ve seen so many changes in the world, in the way that maybe women are treated – it’s not just a story. They’ve been through it.
Would you say it’s older women, people like Linder, who most empower you to be creative?
Maybe, although, to be honest, it’s probably the energy of younger people. Even the teenagers that are fighting around climate change. Young girls really believe they can make a difference - they are so young, but they are just going out and doing these things. It’s so empowering. Teenage girls are really inspiring. Think about Amika George: she was, what, 19 when she started her period poverty campaign calling for free periods!
Yeah, she was so young!
Exactly. It’s amazing – just being so young and going out and doing these things. I find that empowering.
What do you think the greatest takeaways for you have been from the amazing women you’ve spoken to?
Lots of them were fearless in their own field. Taking a chance on themselves. Going against the grain. I feel like in general, creativity is a big decision – to even do something creative. To choose to write, to choose to paint. It feels brave to do anything in the arts.
There are a lot of younger people now who are really passionate about things like climate change, really fearless about enacting change. But that doesn’t always translate into activating through things like conscious consumption – people don’t always think about their everyday on that macro-scale. Do you think that’s beginning to shift?
I think that… when I first started shopping in vintage shops, it was a bit weird. You went to art school, so you bought vintage clothes. Widely, it’s now more normal, like, my friend who works in finance, she found a really cool top in a vintage shop. It’s becoming a part of our culture, in a way. My Mum, when I was younger, she’d be begging me to buy clothes that someone hadn’t already worn - she’d be like, please, I’ll give you money for clothes. Before, for me, it was actually just style, but now it’s ingrained.
There are so many more sustainable brands now, but the sustainability is not their selling point - it’s just is what they’re about. It’s just there. It’s just in their DNA now. People don’t necessarily register it, but the cool brands are the ones that are being ethical, are being sustainable.
It’s like, they do these practices, and if we question them on it, they can be like, ‘oh yeah, we do this, this and this’. We care. And it’s really not the central focus of their marketing.
Do you think sustainable and ethical fashion is a bit of a class issue? Some of the brands producing these amazing sustainable pieces, such as the ELLE List-featured Bethany Williams, can be so expensive.
Well, in some ways. Amazing brands such as Bethany Williams, like, the high fashion brands that are sustainable – these brands just do cost more. There’s no way you can make it cost less if it’s made in Britain like that. But vintage shopping, charity shopping, it is the best for the environment, fundamentally, because you’re wearing what’s there, and it’s the cheapest.
And I feel like you personally find such great vintage and charity shop pieces! What are your tips for finding great vintage and second-hand pieces?
I would say finding a good shop. Make a note if you go into a good one. Even if it’s in a different area – you know, like, Chelsea. My favourite shop is in Parsons Green, and of course there are very wealthy people, so you just find incredible things. I bought a Ganni dress for £24. From that season. I couldn’t believe it. And I also always use eBay. Keep a list of all the brands that you want so that you don’t forget what you’re looking for. Search on a regular basis. Use the same terms, the same search terms, but change the words. Say the same thing in different words. People input it incorrectly - try incorrect spellings. It’s always good to try that.
I feel like eBay is such a treasure trove but it’s so hard to find great pieces. The cheap stuff, the amazing stuff, is the stuff that is always the hardest to find.
True, but it’s still definitely my favourite place to shop, I’d say. Take the time to dig. You find things that are definitely more unique than anything else that you’re going to find. I’ve got three vintage Dior Saddle Bags. I got them all on eBay when I was in my first year at Uni, so it was before everyone started doing them on the runway again. I got them for £140. Real ones. And now they’re at least £500.
That’s insane! And what do you think is the wackiest thing you’ve ever bought?
There’s stuff that I’ve found that was wacky but it now… just no. I used to go to the East End Thrift Store often in my first year, and I thought I found such amazing outfits. Looking back, I look horrendous. I got this big tent-like long dress that was pink, pastel purple, pastel blue triangles. I wore it with a white Fila puffer jacket and then my fringe in plaits and, god, I don’t even know. My best buys were generally by Karen Millen. I’m obsessed with finding Karen Millen on eBay. Karen Millen dresses, jackets. I have the most incredible jackets – they’re my favourite. They fit so well. I think once you find a brand that works, fits really well and it’s just great, pursue that. If I have a spare moment I will just search ‘Karen Millen skirt’. ‘Karen Millen two-piece’.
I guess a part of that is trying to predict where trends will go without being unsustainable about it and knowing what you’ll cherish and wear for a long time.
Yeah. My favourite boots I have were £10 on eBay – these amazing snakeskin boots that I wear all the time. The heel has broken off like four times, but I always get them re-soled. I cannot find a shoe that is that amazing. And it’s way more sustainable.
I love the fact, too, that these items have such a life before you even own them. And then when you purchase them, they take on a whole new story - they have a personal resonance for you.
It’s so great. My friend bought a top and she was wearing it one of my Instagrams and my family friend’s mum was like ‘oh my god I have that top’ - as in she still owned it having bought it a long time ago. My friend had picked up the same top in a charity shop, where someone else had given it away. I think it’s fun.
This interview has been edited for clarity.