Meet Swedish actress and vintage lover Alicia Agneson in an exclusive interview about her passion for fabrics, converting clothes, and why she’s gone exclusively vintage.
From Eskilstuna to London
The first time I met Alicia for a coffee, she wore a divine, popping blue hat and matching dress – the kind of dress that no one can pass by without noticing. That’s Alicia in a nutshell.
Alicia Agneson was born and raised in the small Swedish town of Eskilstuna. At the age of 15, she made a bold decision to make her dreams come true and moved to London to pursue a career as an actress and singer.
“For me, clothes are what words are to a writer, or paint is to an artist. It’s a way of revealing who I am.”
Since then, she’s made a name for herself with her portrayal of Freydis in HBO’s Vikings. A perhaps less well-known fact is Alicia’s exceptional collection of vintage clothing and her genuine interest in pre-owned fashion. Being a true vintage fashionista and living a nomadic life can be a tricky combination. Alicia is lucky enough to be able to store her extensive collection at her parents’ house in Eskilstuna. There are more pieces there than one can imagine. It’s a veritable menagerie, like walking into a theatre’s department wardrobe full of dresses, hats, shoes and bags in all colours of a rainbow. It’s clear from the way Alicia describes and touches them that every piece is significant to her. “For me, clothes are what words are to a writer, or paint is to an artist. It’s a way of revealing who I am. I started wearing vintage when I fell in love with old Hollywood movies. I remember stopping my grandmother from throwing away her old clothes – I kept them and started converting them into new pieces that fit me better.”
Converting for the red carpet
Alicia does’t just redesign her everyday pieces. It’s also her go-to solution for gala pieces. “It was impossible to find the right stylist for red carpet events. They always wanted me to wear something from this season’s collections. But then I found Katie – and we’re a match made in heaven!” Alicia smiles and continues. ”Katie runs Converted Closet in London. She dresses me in clothes that we convert together, whether they’re vintage or second hand. Katie styled me for the BAFTA Film Awards in London this year, together with Frida Martinsson from by FRIDA EM. The skirt was originally a vintage silk Victorian petticoat. Then Frida made a top entirely out of old bicycle inner tubes, creating the most stunning shape, fit, and fluid movement,” Alicia explains.
Alicia’s best fashion tip is crystal clear: ”Convert them! Some pieces shouldn’t be converted, like antique pieces with historical value. But other than that – convert! Right now, I have a green maxi dress that I converted into a jumpsuit. If I ever feel done with a piece, I might sell it as vintage. But it rarely happens. It’s hard to part with something I love,” Alicia smiles.
Caring for the precious
Today, Alicia has a vintage collection gathered from all over the world, like the movie project that took her to an old village in the mountains of Slovakia, where she found her favourite vintage green leather Escada trousers. Or a journey to a car boot sale in France, where she found a vintage Christian Dior suit. ”I have no idea how many countries I’m up to now… but it’s got to be quite a few. I always find the most incredible pieces in the most far-flung places. Most people wouldn’t even think of looking there. One of my oldest pieces is a silk dress that’s almost too delicate to wear. I bring it out sometimes just to touch the fabric and admire it.”
So, how does she care for her clothes and make them last? ”Airing and misting them to refresh, and skip traditional washing is the best. I love Pure Effect Clothing Mist fragrances and how the good bacteria really helps my pieces stay fresh without washing them,” Alicia says. ”It’s perfect since I travel a lot and don’t do laundry. I don’t even have a washing machine in my London flat,” Alicia laughs.
Our demand drives production
In 2018 Alicia made the decision to wear only vintage and pre-owned fashion. It was her way of slowing down the crazy consumption of fashion.
Alicia’s outfit for the 2020 BAFTA Film Festival in London by Converted Closet and Swedish designer Frida Martinson. The skirt is a vintage silk Victorian petticoat. The top is made entirely of old bicycle inner tubes. Photo: Converted Closet
”Our demand drives production and the market. We know it affects our environment, but it’s like we’re oblivious to how the retail industry works. Retail won’t bother to change, as long as we keep buying all these clothes. We have to start by changing our habits. The fashion industry decision-makers are fully aware of our environmental crisis. But they won’t bother to change as long as there’s a growing demand for clothes from consumers.”
“I don’t even have a
Choosing vintage doesn’t mean a complete stop of buying clothes, of course. It can still be pricy, and you can still feel the urge to hunt and make a good catch. ”I was out the other day looking for a flea market in the middle of nowhere in Sweden – it’s called Kerstis Vintagebod in Stallarholmen. It used to be a theatre and still had all these old costumes left. They had a huge collection of the most beautiful and amazing pieces I’ve ever seen. The best piece I found was a tiny sleeveless dress similar to one in the old Agatha Christie movie, Evil Under the Sun. I just love it!” Alicia gushes with a smile.
Beware of zippers
Underwear can be an exception to her commitment and bought new, Alicia reveals. Other than that, she’s gone all-in for pre-owned. ”I think I’ve become immune to all the adverts and shops shouting out their messages. They don’t do it for me anymore,” Alicia says.
When we discuss the pros and cons of new and pre-owned clothes, Alicia mentions a particular weakness with vintage pieces – old zippers. ”I had a shooting in Vienna and flew into London, just over the day, for an interview. It was a warm summer day, so I didn’t bring a jacket. I just had my heels and a small bag and was wearing this stunning vintage piece – a coral coloured body-hugging dress. I was still on the flight when I realised the zipper had broken, all the way from my neck to my bum. And I didn’t have anything to cover it with… I tried to find a zipper and a sewing kit but no luck. I walked through the airport and somehow made it through the interview without turning my back to show the broken zipper and my back. Ever since then, I always make sure to check or change the zipper – it’s a common weakness with vintage clothes,” Alicia laughs.
There’s never a dull moment when meeting Alicia – digging into her journeys, the pieces she’s found, and their charm. She really is one fashion-obsessed, planet-loving kind of woman. Giggling and generously sharing her stories and best tips on any topic you can imagine. I look forward to her keeping her promise to win an Oscar. The best part will be checking out her gala dress for the occasion – vintage and converted, of course.
Interview and text by Linda Rosendahl Nordin
Pure Effect www.pureeffectsweden.com
Two-piece – corset and skirt – bothhand made pieces from Axelinas in Retuna. ”It was love at first sight – I fell in love with their structure as soon as I saw them! The corset has a handmade label that says ”barely nothing” which I love!” Alicia says and laughs. Photo by Mikael Lundblad from our shoot at Torö, Sweden, for Pure Effect in the summer of 2020.
Alicia´s Fashion Favorites
Your favourite fabric?
Lace – a signature for elegance, femininity, and beauty. And suede – it’s such a unique material. You can wear it all year round. A little suede can transform an ordinary outfit into something extraordinary.
Best outfit for a night out?
Definitely a little black lace dress I found in Berlin at Vintage Kilo Store when I was there for Fashion Week. I love it. I’d probably pair it with my black cowboy boots.
One outfit for the rest of your life?
That would definitely be the white jumpsuit that I scored in a thrift store in London’s East End. And my black cowboy boots again. They’re the one pair of shoes that I can wear with everything. Plus a
huge black straw hat to protect my skin from the sun.
Alicia´s Sustainable Wardrobe Tips
Convert Your Pieces
Don’t be afraid to redesign: do it yourself or enlist the help of a professional. Start with pieces you’re no longer in love with. Convert a two-piece outfit into a dress. Or give new life to a maxi dress by redesigning it into a jumpsuit. It’s lots of fun, and you’ll never get tired of it.
I always start by looking at the fabrics. Touch it, feel it, get a sense of the silk, prints, and colours. But it’s not just the colours that make pieces fabulous; it’s so much more. And I visit all kinds of vintage stores – don’t judge a book by its cover.
Care To Last
I try to look after my pieces as much as I can to make them last. Many of them aren’t suited to over laundering, so I find other ways to keep them fresh and clean. Some go to the dry cleaners, others I hang up outside to freshen up and spray with Pure Effect Clothing Mist. It’s a daily habit, especially if I’ve been dancing like crazy!
You don’t need to change an entire outfit. Start small – add a belt or hat, gloves, tights, or heels.