Welcome to the latest highly exciting instalment of Who What Wear UK’s Best Wardrobes in Britain. It’s where we do exactly what it says on the tin: delve into the most fantastical, awe-inspiring and downright influential wardrobes in this fair country of ours. We’re honing in on the women who cause the street style photographers to press their shutters as much as the characters you don’t yet know—the ones who fly under the radar with secretly incredible clothing collections.
This month, we visited a girl you’ll no doubt recognise if you’re a keen online shopper: Lydia Graham. Countless brands in the fashion industry rely on the modelling charms (and correlating retail stats) of this half-Thai, half-British girl to showcase their clothes in the very best way, so you’ll no doubt have seen her all over the internet on sites like Urban Outfitters, ASOS, Burberry and AlexaChung.
But what does a girl who has access to all of these clothes actually wear in her own time? Well, Lydia’s ’90s-tinged personal style (which has led to her working on a retro-style lingerie brand that will be revealed later this summer—stay tuned to her Instagram for more info) and collection of vintage finds has been gathering fans on social media, so we went to her East London home to uncover more…
Phill Taylor; ON LYDIA GRAHAM: Shrimps jacket
Do you have any early fashion memories?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a fashion designer. I used to dress my little sister up in bits of cloth I’d find around the house. You could call it fashion, but not good fashion! I was probably about 7 or 8, wearing a kitchen towel as a skirt.
At what point did you start to become aware of what you were wearing?
Only when I met my boyfriend when I was 18. Before then, I was just following what everyone else was wearing, or I would wear black a lot because I was modelling. I always wore skinny jeans and a T-shirt, and I didn’t really have any sort of personal identity. But when I met him, he made me definitely more daring… His dress sense is very eccentric as well. He’s into the ska/reggae/skinhead kind of vibe, so he’ll wear trousers, a vest and dungaree braces, and go out like that. I thought, God—he’s got so much confidence. I wanted a bit of that as well. I had always known what I liked, but I didn’t feel comfortable wearing it.
You’re now 23. How would you say your style has evolved since then?
[It’s been] very drastic. I used to be a skinny jeans–and–Dr. Martens kind of girl, but now I wear everything. I don’t really have a set style, I don’t think. It depends on what I’m doing that day. I can be really girly, or I can be really boyish. I like the ’90s. I like floral dresses and cardigans. If you go to a casting, you have to dress a certain way.
Really? Does that notion still exist?
A little! If it’s for a very commercial client or more “mumsy” kind of thing, I’d wear something more subtle. But if it’s a brand like Urban Outfitters, you want to show them your youth and your style, so you dress accordingly. I think it’s so boring when models just dress in the “model uniform,” and I think clients like it when you stand out.
I’d never wear high heels at a casting (some agencies would kill me for that), but I’m short anyways, so I’m not going to be any taller in heels than the girls who are already 6 feet tall. I think some people like that—when you come just as yourself but you’ve not tried too hard.
So what are you into right now?
I like knits and jumpers Bella Hadid–style, undone cropped cardigans or chunky ones with no top underneath. I think it’s a really sexy vibe. I like lime green. Everyone’s wearing it now, but I think it’s great because it actually goes with a lot of skin tones. A lot of people think green isn’t their colour, and it depends on what kind of green it is, but I think lime is cool right now. I’ve just ordered some lime-green high heels.
What do you always wear on repeat?
Jeans. Every cut of jeans. Jeans in slightly, slightly different colours, like one shade lighter. I just love jeans. And I wear them all, actually. I don’t have one favourite pair—what I choose just depends on what day it is. Josh [my boyfriend] finds it annoying because I ask him, “Can you bring me these jeans?” and he can’t ever find the ones I’m talking about. I probably have about 20 pairs. I’ve got a pile upstairs, and I’m trying to donate them; I know I’ll still wear them, I need to minimise my wardrobe.
A lot of mine are from Levi’s, Urban Outfitters, Weekday and Monki. I find that with brands like Zara, the sizing is weird with jeans. I find they’re tight on my calves and then loose on my thighs and then tight on my waist, and I’m like, Who is their fit model? The more you spend, the better the jeans will probably be. But I don’t have the budget to spend £300 on a pair of jeans 20 times!
Phill Taylor; ON LYDIA GRAHAM: Vintage coat; ASOS dress; Reebok trainers
What are your shopping habits? Do you shop often? Alone or with people?
I still like going out and shopping. For online shopping, I always have the ASOS app on my phone, but I think I do like to go into shops and try things on a lot because also I hate going to the post office to return stuff. I like walking through Selfridges, for example, and I prefer going by myself. I know it’s a bit rude, but when you’re done in a shop and your friend is still looking around…
So what was the last thing you bought?
A pair of denim shorts for summer from Mango. I’ve ordered some heels too. They’re not high heels, but they’re strappy and really nice. They’re ’90s in style and from this random website I saw on Instagram called Luna & Lucifer. I’ve got the black ones and the brown ones and the green ones, so they’re a staple in my wardrobe this summer!
Phill Taylor; ON LYDIA GRAHAM: Zara jacket; Levi’s jeans; AlexaChung shoes
Do you have any style icons?
I do love Bella Hadid’s style, but I think that’s from her stylist, Mimi Cutrell. I think she styles a few models and she’s really cool—she nails every single person’s style individually. Alexa Chung I love. Her fashion line is just beautiful and elegant, but tomboyish as well. Those are the only two people I can name!
Phill Taylor; ON LYDIA GRAHAM: Oh Lydia top; Brandy Melville trousers; Prada hat
Can you recall a particularly big purchase that meant something to you?
My Gucci GG Marmont bag I think about two or three years ago. I’d already been wanting it for a year, and whenever I get a big job, I always think I can treat myself, but I rarely buy designer pieces because I think it’s a bit extravagant. Even now, I don’t feel very comfortable going into designer stores and breathing on the stuff! I just feel weird about it. I went to the Gucci store in Heathrow and got a duty-free discount. I think that’s what made me feel like I could buy it.
Is there anything in your wardrobe you’re sentimental about that you’d rescue if the whole lot was going up in flames?
No. It’s just clothes. I love my clothes, but I’d save something else for sure.
Phill Taylor; ON LYDIA GRAHAM: Brandy Melville cardigan; AlexaChung jeans; Nike trainers
Do you have any fashion regrets?
My outfit I wore to my first visit at Models1 when I was 15! I’d never been to a real model agency—I only had the idea of America’s Next Top Model judging panel. I went to Zara with my mum to buy a leather jacket, as I thought this was what all models wore. Then I went to Schuh and bought the most ridiculous pair of high heels. The entire soles and heels were covered in multicoloured glitter. Thank god Models1 saw past my style!
Thanks for having us, Lydia!