Freelance stylist Alex Stedman is best known for her celebrated fashion blog, The Frugality. She launched the site 3 years ago, fresh from the folds of Red Magazine, where she worked as the fashion editor for 7 years. Alex began The Frugality with one aim; to make fine fashion approachable. Her blog fuses affordable style and her eye for design. Her talents lie in selecting wares that look expensive, but won’t leave your wallet parched. She also has some nifty tips for holding back the p’s on everyday habits and saving them for little luxuries. As she puts it “It’s amazing how easily you can save enough to buy that pair of heels or handbag you’ve had your eye on. You’d be amazed.“ And it has to be said, she doesn’t look like someone living on a shoestring. She arrives to our Sunday brunch at M1LK in Balham dressed in a crisp white shirt, boyfriend jeans, and the kind of skinny silk scarf that would make me look like a condescending airhostess. Needless to say, Alex looked fantastic. “My blog is about living fashionably on a budget,” She tells us, “But I’m some kind of coupon queen! I wanted to showcase the amazing things out there that everyone can afford.”
Alex has quickly made a name for herself as the London’s oracle of pocket-friendly fashion. She has popped up in Marie Claire (in a list of ‘The Best Fashion Blogs Ever’, we’ll have you know), The Telegraph, InStyle and Cosmopolitan. She is called on far and wide for tips on thrifty living, from planning a wedding on a budget to tactical car boot sale-ing. Her city guides lead you through some of the world’s most exciting destinations with pearls of penny wisdom at every turn. She also enlists insiders for tips on making the most of your trip. Just this week she has interviewed Jade Jagger for an upcoming Ibiza guide. Which we will be taking as gospel when we finally make it there ourselves.
Over crusty brown bread and baked eggs piled with roasted butter, crispy sage and feta, we delve into the life of one of London’s most followed fashion voices. If only the word ‘fabulous’ didn’t make us shudder, we would definitely use it to describe Alex.
Other than this wonderful place, where do you like to have brunch?
I live in Tooting but my breakfast meetings always seem to be in town. I love going to Dean Street Townhouse, Riding House Café, Granger & Co (I’m a bit of a regular there!) I sometimes go to NOPI, which is great, but the menu’s quite complicated and I actually prefer quite a classic breakfast. I love the bread at Balthazar, especially will avocado on it. I feel like that’s such an unoriginal thing to order now though…
I do just love it in here though. There aren’t that many places like this in South London, it’s still pretty unique.
So tell us where the blog began.
I set my blog up because I wanted to make this kind of fashion accessible. There were too many fashion blogs that had a casual Prada handbag here, or a Hermes scarf there, and it just wasn’t realistic or inspiring for the average person. I was working in fashion on a fashion editor’s wage, and I was shopping in Topshop and New Look. I wanted to take the stigma out of shopping in those places. If something’s lovely, buy it. It doesn’t matter where it comes from or what the label is. That was why I started it. I wanted to engage people. I care about the reader and don’t want to scare them off with high-end labels! I know that everyone goes through the same stages of life as me; getting a flat, moving out, moving on. So I try and do posts that people can relate to.
Do you encourage investing in the odd expensive thing?
There are definitely things that are worth splurging on. Things that last. I love Equipment shirts, for instance. D&D’s are a good example too, they’re just such good quality and worth spending money on. And they just look so cool and have this great story behind them! Shoes are also something I recommend spending a bit of money on from time to time. You can wear a Uniqlo shirt, but if you pair it with a pair of Jimmy Choos it’ll instantly look expensive.
Do you find that people who don’t work in fashion can be a bit dismissive of the industry?
Yes, definitely. It’s hard to explain how stressful it is if you’ve never seen inside the industry. But the reality is that it’s a tough place to be! You’re working to a deadline constantly. I used to work until 2am when I worked at the magazine, and then I’d fly to L.A at 12 hours notice. Which sounds fun, of course, but it means you’re constantly tired and you don’t have time for yourself. I do think people underestimate how hard people in fashion work. And how important it is as an industry! Fashion is one of the reasons that London is such an important city. Fashion week brings in so much tourism, and people come from all over the world to shop here. We have the best high street in the world here. People act like we don’t contribute to society, but they don’t look at the importance of the industry.
Do you think people see blogging as an easy job?
Doing the social media thing can be a Catch 22. I don’t like to just be called a ‘blogger’, because I do more than that. It’s funny because people assume you have so much free time, when in reality I’m doing a million things a day. I think people think I sit around just taking pictures of myself…!
Where are you loving at the moment, shop-wise?
I love And Other Stories. It’s great for Spring/Summer stuff, all those light fabrics and pastel colours. I like Cos, too. I go to H&M pretty much every day. They change the stock so much there that I don’t want to miss anything! It’s rare for someone to have something that I haven’t seen from H&M. They’re so on the pulse, more than any other high street shop. And the price tags are great!
What are your Sundays like?
A lie-in is very important to me on a weekend. I’d stay in bed all day if you let me. If we’re not in M1LK, my husband and I make eggs and soldiers and eat them in bed. We do our food shop, which we both absolutely love...! And then every single Sunday I go and see my Nan, who lives around the corner. She’s 91 and a proper South Londoner. The great thing now that I’m freelance is that I don’t get those Sunday night blues. Whenever it’s possible, I try not to organise any meetings for Monday morning, so I can work from home and ease into the week. Life is so strict, so it’s nice to structure your own days.
Some Sundays I sell at the Battersea car boot sale. There’s also an indoor one in Pimlico. I LOVE it. You have to be so tactical, and price everything pretty cheap. It’s amazing how much money you can make. You’ve got to get there early and have rails and hangers. Also take carrier bags, because people love them. Be prepared for people to go wild, the gates open and people just flood in. And the regulars can smell new blood, so they when you’re new to the game. It’s so much fun. Obviously working in fashion I’m constantly turning my wardrobe around and I don’t want to just chuck things away, so it’s a great way to get rid of things I don’t wear anymore.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever worn?
This sums me up. I’m too polite, so once some friends of mine at uni clubbed together to buy me a beige string vest. And I wore it with combat trousers with a snake up the leg and some heels. I wore just because they’d given it to me. It was a terrible outfit…
What do you love most about living in London?
I’ve lived here my whole life, so it’s home. I love South London because it’s never quiet. You can walk around at 3am and everybody’s still out and about. I love the history of this part, too. There’s a pie and mash shop that my Nan used to go to that hasn’t changed since her day. It’s exactly as it’s always been, and everything comes with a carton of Ribena for about 13p!
There’s such an incredible diversity of food in this city. I love that you can eat somewhere different every night of the week. At the risk of sounding like a London food snob, I hate the thought of being somewhere where there isn’t such variety…I also just love the tube! It’s something I think Londoners should be really proud of.
And finally, who is your most fashionable Londoner?
Ok, this is a pretty boring answer, but I have to say Alexa Chung. And Julia Sarr Jamois.