There a hundreds of words you could use to describe the journey and campaign of someone like Caroline, but after a couple of hours nattering over Earl Grey and ginger biscuits, determined, positive, inspirational and vibrant are the four that best spring to mind. After beginning her ‘Knickers Models Own’ campaign just over a year ago, raising over £50,000, securing a book release and becoming Just Giving’s ‘Creative Fundraiser of the Year 2015’- it’s safe to say this lady has had quite the year. So, have you met Ms Jones?
So, for those that haven’t heard of you and your campaign can you tell us a little about yourself?
So my campaign is called Knickers Models Own and it’s a reference to the fact that I’ve spent all of 2015 wearing pre-loved clothes other than my pants- which of course, were my own. I got that idea from flicking through fashion magazines and often seeing celebrities who would reference their shoes, or watch, as ‘models own’ so thought that was quite appropriate. I really put no thought into it as I had about half an hour on New Years Eve when this whole idea came into my head.
It was in memory of my mum Mary, who had breast cancer and died in October 2014, so I had a very hard couple of months leading up to that Christmas and felt the need, and this real desire, to do something positive. It wasn’t necessarily going to be fundraising, but I knew that I needed to do something to lift my mood and I thought the easiest thing in the world would just be to dress up and have a bit of fun. It was a bit of a cop out! Lots of people fundraise by marathons, running or walking up mountains- or giving something up!
But considering you’ve raised over £50,000…
I’m continuously blown away by anybody who donates, and when I originally set up my Just Giving page I set it as an £1,000 target, thinking that that was really ambitious, giving the fact I was only really going to be getting dressed everyday and not breaking into a sweat or doing anything physical. I thought maybe 12 friends would be watching every single day- so to raise £1,000 was going to be a big challenge. It turned out I’d reached that within about 3 weeks, and the break for me was when the BBC interviewed me on day 6 about my ‘campaign’- and I thought ‘I haven’t got a campaign, I’ve just taken 6 pictues!’ And this journalist said, ‘I can see beyond that’.
Was that the moment that it felt like it had become a ‘real’ thing?
Yup. It really did, it really stopped me in my tracks because then, the following day I woke up and was on the UK homepage of the BBC website which is enormous, and then I was on the Mail Online page so the combination of those two features during my very first week meant I’d had around 97,000 visits to my Facebook page.
Which is incredibly surreal, considering it came out of nowhere and was so quick after everything had happened. It’s a lot to take on, and a lot of emotion…
Yes! My grief was very new and very very raw and everything at home was just magnified, and this silly little game that I thought I was playing with my friends suddenly was very public, and people were donating, so I was on it whether I liked it or not, there was no getting out.
Did that add a lot of pressure early on?
Yes, very much. I remember going into my wardrobe on about day 9, and having anxiety, and my oldest daughter coming in and saying ‘can we just get going and get dressed?!’ It was good common sense and I’ve often had to just go with that and remember that; it’s just about getting dressed. No one is measuring me, the only person is questioning me is myself and that almost just pushed me through.
I honestly don’t know how you’ve done it. I know you play it down as ‘only getting dressed’- but it is an incredible achievement. Especially as a lot of women do struggle to get dressed in the morning, and it can be quite a process- and a challenge. Do you think it’s changed the way you dress, or your style?
I do- in the last couple of weeks I’ve actually struggled as I haven’t had those guidelines. In fact the styling side of things was the easiest part and I very rarely put something on that didn’t work- and always varied my look. I didn’t default to denim frequently and I would go for dresses, skirts, separates, or trousers- different types of shoes, different waists etc- but the harder part was finding a photographer. I don’t have a Joe in my life, and as I’m not a professional, I didn’t know how to stand, about light, or getting the best picture until much later on in my year.
What do you think has been the hardest, or most surreal part?
The hardest part has probably been the mental challenge, on the days where social media was really amazing with real activity- and then for no reason, two or three very quiet days when you start to doubt yourself. Fundraising on your own is very lonely, and you’re in it on your own. I set myself little goals all year- so it might have been a goal to ‘get through February’, or a milestone, and they were my little points of breaking down the year. I think the other challenge was everything having to fit in around home life, my work, and children. So everything has to merge in around school pick up for example. But I think if you have the determination to do something, you do it. I didn’t realize I had this determination and drive in me.
I think thats such an amazing message, after the devastating event that triggered everything- you’ve taken something out of it which I think is a hugely positive and inspirational thing. When you have got a young family and you go through something like that, there are means and ways of dealing with it- but being able to do what you’ve done, is such a special way of looking at it…
I think so, mum and I were very drawn together by lots of things- style, interior design, fashion- and it was definitely paying respects to my mum, and my way of remembering her. When I open my bathroom and look in the mirror and put my make up on, that’s my moment where I’m thinking of my mum- always. And having spent periods of time here you don’t put yourself first, when you have the time to put your make up on, and put clothes on and do your hair- the positive reaction it has on you, and gives to other people is a really uplifiting thing and I think fashion does that to you. Whether that’s in a small way, from the nail varnish you use, lipstick, whatever you want to do and however much time you can spend on it- it can really lift you.
And that’s why I think this campaign is such a refreshing look at fashion. Sometimes people can think it’s quite vapid or quite self indulgent, or not very important, whereas you look at that side of it- and how it can really effect your mood, and pay tribute- I think it’s so much more than just what you’re wearing- it’s got a much bigger meaning- and nice to talk about it in that sense.
Yes! I wouldn’t say I’m avant garde in any respect, but I push the boundaries, and have gone as far as I can with certain looks. I didn’t want to do the whole fancy dress, which you could do, but I wanted it to look slightly off centre but fashion led- and it was really important that there were key trends that I could tap into, and I hope through the course of the year, you could find styles that maybe you could connect with. I did a whole week of denim, and jeans- just to show people. You can do it all second hand.
I think it shows that it can be done. Especially being a ‘fashion blogger’, it can be isolating when you dress a certain way, or you’re a certain age and feel you need to conform- but I think it’s refreshing to see someone doing something so different and being creative which I think is really cool…
Well as much as I love high street shopping, and love new clothes- I’ve had a year away from that- so now it does feel slightly strange, and that I’m being slightly dictated to, I don’t need to be spoon fed what I’m looking for. The beauty for me has always been with charity shops, I can rummage, I can look, I can go a little away from the norm and find things in the menswear department, or I can go and find vintage Jaeger, and great quality or I can find classic 80s designs that I remember and still make it fashion relevant. I want to look individual, I always have done- and I think that’s a really important message, that as a parent I want to get across to my children, is you don’t have to conform to one look. Body shapes are all different.
When I was in Marylebone Cancer Research UK, quite early on I found a Vivienne Westwood Anglomania drapey orange cardigan which was lovely! Just beautiful vintage pieces which are labels I’ve never heard of; great quality, great cut, colour, patterns! Coats- I can’t stop myself! But I justify it but saying if I go into a high street shop, I wouldn’t want to part with £60 for a t shirt or a jumper, as I don’t need to as this point in my life.
The book! How did the book come about?
A close friend suggested that a year long collection of photographs (all taken on my trusty i-phone 6) would make the perfect format for a book. Working with a book designer we produced a mock-up to show to Cancer Research UK who loved the concept and before I knew it a real life “Knickers Models Own” book was suddenly being worked on!
I’m hugely proud of this book, it’s very much a full stop to my campaign year and all the profits will go to Cancer Research UK. It catalogues all 365 preloved outfits and I would love readers to see this as a style journal, showing women of all ages that fashion can be whatever you want it to be, pick and choose like I do, dip in and out of looks, just be yourself. Kohl eyeliner optional.
And, finally- what’s next?
Well, I’m still wearing preloved 24/7, I’m really in no rush to buy new, although having just had a toe op I really do need to find myself some sensible footwear (sigh) and I’m excited to see what the high street brands think of my book, they all feature heavily!