ColourWalking: Vibrant Flaneurs
Galina is a stylist and owns a vintage store, Gigi’s Dressing Room in Walthamstow, East London. I met Galina at ‘ColourWalk’, an initiative she launched 5 months ago as a way to bring together the colourful personalities she had collected through her distinctive way of dressing and being.
She kindly agreed to meet up at Gigi’s to tell me about her philosophy and how she started the ColourWalk.
How did ColourWalk come about?
I was influenced by AdvancedStyle, I looked at what they were doing, and I thought they are just getting dressed up, walking around New York. So I put up a Facebook page and said ‘who wants to dress up and get together?’ And it became a celebration of who we are and how we dress. The first ColourWalk was at the V&A, we wandered and chatted. I was thrilled Molly Parkin came along, she has been an inspiration to me, and it was lovely she joined us. We all just support each other with the way we express ourselves through our way of dressing, we love being creative. I used to think that I would need to find ways to fund a foundation, to change the world in a big way, but you know this is what I can do every day…..just be me. If I can be a little bit of inspiration, if I can connect with people and share my values, then that’s enough.
The ColourWalk has already been forging new connections with amazing women like Sue Kreitzman, who attended the last one at Spitalfields, and now Advanced Style are saying ‘shall we do a ColourWalk?’ As Galina says, “they influenced me and then it goes back around….It’s always been about sharing ideas and collaborating for me. I don’t see this as ‘mine’ it’s for all of us to have fun with. I don’t have an agenda. It’s not like it’s a movement that I want to control! And ColourWalk is about all shapes, sizes, ages, colour, it’s about diversity and commonality. It’s for everyone to enjoy.
Where do these ideas come from?
I grew up under communism, I didn’t have much opportunity to be creative, that side of me was quite suppressed, I was sunny on the outside as a child but inside I was a little bit depressed. I couldn’t express myself. Not with the way I dressed, there was very little choice. But my grandmother had a sewing machine and I took her sixties pieces and reworked them for myself so even then I was beginning to take some control of how I looked.
Then at eighteen I came to London and it was like Alice in Wonderland. I went to Epsom Antique Market and I just went crazy. All the colours and all the choice; such a contrast to the greyness of growing up in Bulgaria.
And then I had my children, I was still quite young, for a while I wasn’t so interested in how I looked. When the children started school other mothers would ask about my clothes and I’d say come to the house and they would try stuff on and borrow things. I would style them; that would bring about changes in the way they saw themselves. I realised then that this was a kind of way of doing therapy. I had intended to go back to education and train in psychology but suddenly I had this business and it didn’t feel relevant to train as a counsellor. I seemed to naturally influence people to try something different, to step out of their comfort zone. We all have a need to express ourselves, to be creative, if I can encourage that, if I can help someone find out a bit more about who they are, to be brave and show themselves, then that feels good. And that’s what happens at Gigi’s. When clients say they have been ‘Gigified’ and they feel so much better, it makes me happy. I’m playing a small part in making it better for someone.
How does the way you dress reflect who you are?
When I wake up in the morning I look around my wardrobe and this item jumps out; so it makes me look a certain way and my outfit of the day is literally 100% reflection of my mood; of my vibration. Sometimes I feel down and I think I can change this. I accept that feeling of being sad, I’m not denying those feelings, but when I’m like that then that’s when I will choose something that is even more outrageous. I don’t want to hide away on those days. I will deliberately put myself in a position where I get more attention. I will embrace my attention seeking inner little child! I want to maintain a sense of humility but there is a difference between that and putting yourself down. When I dress in this way, when I am authentic, I communicate with more people, I make relationships and straight away that makes me feel better. And those connections make others feel good too. And I am inspired to play with my identity to forge more links to others and we create this cycle of inspiration. And it’s all because of the manner in which I dress.
Do you see Dress as having a way to make not just an individual happier but having a bigger part to play in the world?
So on a personal level when I suppress who I am it makes me unhappy, why I should be a particular way to suit others? I don’t want to fragmentize my personality, to split off my creativity; I want to express all of me so I can be a fully nuanced person. I can be quite political in the way I mix up the symbolism in how I dress; I take different cultural references and wear them together. This often leads to a dialogue. That’s good. I want to spark off ideas and debate. My clothes do that. People stop me in the street and they may not always be complimentary but we talk and who knows they may go home and think yes we are all the same really. In this part of London we have such a mix of cultures it’s good to learn about each other, we are all humans underneath, I may not agree with your views but I can try to understand them. I want to create a community where we are all accepted, I do that in my own little way in Gigi’s. People drop by to chat and try on clothes and play with the way they look, people from all backgrounds and communities. It’s all-encompassing. That’s my vision that we all get along together, no one is left out. I start with myself, my ideas about fashion, and colour and the arts and how they have helped me, then I hope that my way helps others; that my love, of creativity, colour, way of being, expands and brings about healing and forgiveness. We can all share that. I don’t see fashion as being superficial if it can help me with these goals.
Gigi's Dresing Room
Galina shared so much with me during our chat. She has a beautiful philosophy on life. I can see how transformative her way of looking at the world is for her clients, she is nurturing, kind and encouraging. There is no sense that her way of dressing is right for everyone, but she inspires others to find their own way of being that can be expressed in the way that they dress. I love her vision for the unifying qualities that fashion can have for communities. The ColourWalk is a simple, tangible way of connecting people to each other, to walk and talk and experience a time and space together that is constrained only by a love of self-expression; like colourful Flaneurs, a moving art form through the streets of London.