Sustainable designer Laura Ironside on season-less dressing

Sometimes less is more.   This is the approach of  designer Laura Ironside, who set-up her label with the aim of creating seasonless garments, thoughtfully, through sensitive and sustainable manufacturing.

For some, sustainable fashion is a contradiction in terms, and seasonless has only become part of the fashion vocab with the faster cycle encouraged by new shopping habits like see-now, buy-now.

Collections drop quicker than seasons transition.  Laura’s approach is more like season-less. With the first collection, Edit-01 under her belt, she is not in any rush to produce Edit-02, adamant to slow down the fashion cycle and let the first collection live.  If like me, you quickly fall for her edgy, womanly 1930s silhouettes, rest assured, when Edit-02 comes around it will fit just so, and Edit-01 won’t be pushed to the back of the wardrobe because it’s so identifiably last season.

Another move towards a time when the words sustainable and fashion can comfortably coexist is through garment leasing.  Laura is trialling this model to open her luxury pieces to more women.  I leased this copper crepe-backed satin silk dress for the price I could have paid for an occasion dress on the high street.   The difference is, once the occasion is over, it won’t sit in my wardrobe, but sooner get a lease of life from the next woman that wears it.

Here is my first leasing experience and interview with Laura Ironside.

Laura on the beginning of her label and consciously bringing products into the world. I had worked for some years in London for a number of fashion labels, but had always wanted to return to Scotland to set up my own label. When I first returned I was working with leather and found it very hard to get high-end leather pieces made in the UK. I spent a long time in product development, I met craftsmen and women from all over the UK and it was during this time that I developed a deeper understanding and respect for the craft that goes into making a single product. It also made me appreciate that if you’re deciding to bring new products into the world you need to be conscious of the impact these products are having. It made me re-evaluate my whole approach to designing and starting a brand.  Although I was unsuccessful in continuing the leather work, which was very difficult at the time, after I took some time out I slowly began developing the Edit-01 collection and the ethos of the brand was built through that seemingly unsuccessful experience.

Giving Edit-01 time to breathe. I think it’s easy in the industry to feel pressure to quickly create something new, I definitely feel that, especially as I love to create new work too. I have to remind myself to slow down! Obviously the whole ethos of the brand is slowing down and encouraging women to invest in long-lasting pieces so it’s important that I encourage this with how I approach the collections too. At the moment I want to keep focused on this collection and getting out there. It’s great to see the pieces on different body types and see women styling it in different ways. I’m also learning what works and what isn’t and taking that forward into the new collection. It’s important to me to get feedback from our existing audience and learn and grow from that, while also hopefully balancing it with exciting new and fresh ideas.

Those 1930s silhouettes.  I love the elegance of the 1930s. I love the idea of women’s clothes being sexy, but without showing off a lot of skin. I wanted the collection to celebrate femininity and the woman’s body, yet still be demure and elegant. I was aiming to give the 1930s silhouettes some edge, bringing them up-to-date whilst still maintaining their elegance.

It can be very challenging for consumers to track the journey of a garment and find out what it is made of, where, by who and under what conditions.  As a designer, Laura faces similar challenges seeking transparency from suppliers. It is so difficult. I can give you an example actually – when I was looking for fabrics for the collection I asked 6 different fabric suppliers for details about their manufacturing, ie. their compliance with EU regulations in respect of ecological and ethical procedures. 4/6 either didn’t know, didn’t respond or wouldn’t disclose. It’s a constant challenge, but I think the more we ask questions as designers, as retailers, as consumers, as anyone who wears clothes (!) the more likely it is for transparency to become the norm in supply chains.

How Laura defines seasonless fashion.  For me it is about good quality investment pieces, it’s something that’s made well that makes you feel good. I think you can be playful with how you style-up pieces no matter the season and no matter the cut/style or fabric of a garment. Seasonless fashion does not have to be dull either.

I am from Scotland, where the seasons all seem to merge together and you need to be dressed for all eventualities, so perhaps that’s really where my affinity for seasonless fashion comes from.

Why she chose an atelier in London to sample and produce her collection.  It was important to me that the collection was produced in the UK. After location, I was then guided by quality of finish and workmanship. I had tried a number of different places but already had a rapport with this particular atelier. I went to visit them in Greenwich and they were just so open and easy to work with. We began sampling with them from then on and now work with them on small batch production.

How Laura’s sustainable business ambitions extend to other personal areas of her life.  I am a real fan of second-hand/antique furniture and homeware like vases, kitchen crockery and tins. When I can it always feels better to use fresh produce for cooking and also to buy locally and buy natural products. I’ve enjoyed making some of my own cosmetics recently too. But as ever, it can be so difficult to remain diligent throughout all areas, at every moment, for one reason or another. I think everyone can do the best they can at the period of life they’re at and make positive changes, but I don’t give myself a hard time about it. In the past year or so I’ve got better at just owning less and really thinking about whether or not I need something, in all areas of my life.

Laura’s mission for garment leasing, is this the future for sustainable fashion?  I think one of the main things is accessibility, I know that higher price tags for sustainable products makes things so difficult for people who really do want to engage in a more ethical approach to their wardrobe, but don’t feel that they can afford it. Leasing clothes at a lower price opens this up to a wider audience, if garments are shared it reduces the risk of them hanging in a dark corner of someone’s wardrobe unused, or worse, in landfill. Higher price tags can make people feel like they have no alternative but to shop on the high street for their special occasion, even though they would prefer something different, something unique. It also allows people to try something before they potentially invest in a piece.

At the moment we are very much in the trialling stages, we want to listen to our early lease customers and learn, so we can make this service the best it can be. It would be amazing to think of more brands doing something similar in the future, absolutely.

I highly recommend leasing from Laura Ironside.  Luxuriously delivered to and collected from your door, it is a dream for those a custom to small space urban living.  Why should our experiences be confined by the extent of our storage space?  I didn’t need to buy the Laura Ironside Knight dress to own it that day.

Laura Ironside

Lease from Laura Ironside 

 

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

Back to school with Midcentury East

Run, don’t walk through the gates of Goldfinger’s Haggerston School when the Midcentury East show returns to the London Borough of Hackney on 15 October 2017 – for pieces like this psychedelic film poster from exhibitor Orson & Welles will be in high demand.

It has been longer than I care to note since this time of year yielded a timetable and new school books, but there is still something about the autumn air that brings a blank page ready for new adventures.

Seasons dominated by an increasing desire for midcentury design can be traced to the tastes of Petra Curtis and Lucy Ryder Richardson, the duo behind Midcentury Modern®.  Modern Shows, including Midcentury East is the expansion of Showhome, a one-off event set in Lucy’s sixties house with a mix of pieces they both loved.  Fifteen years later and the pair have achieved multiple gold stars for their design shows, sourcing for clients like Saatchi & Saatchi and The Modern Marketplace, their directory of the best C20 dealers and C21 designers. “We did it organically and are really proud of the way we tackled every step without getting into any debt and managed to be there to pick up our kids from school” says Lucy, with the brightest gold star feeling for working mums.

The first thing Lucy tells me is that her and Petra still love their jobs.  Perhaps immersing oneself in the post-war period, where people appreciated the little things, a time when designers created within constraints and built things to last is a good way to find fulfilment?  I interviewed Lucy for answers, news about their next show and advice on making a modern business.

Artemide Alistro Morsetto desk lamp from exhibitor Punk the Clock 

Is the eco-friendly side of antiques in that their environmental cost has already been paid an important consideration for antique dealers to attract new customers? 

I don’t think it is as important as turning a deal or they would all be driving electric vans. Our dealers love quality and heritage and are very proud of the pieces they bring to the show. They are all concerned with the authenticity of the piece and longevity of product use with the fact that these pieces from the midcentury were not created to self destruct to encourage more sales like so much modern landfill. The eco side of it is very important to me, Petra and our customers. We keep paper to a minimum and print on both sides of everything. We never over-print show maps. We are more likely to under print as we hate waste.

You have created a strong loyal following for your shows and marketplace. How do you stay front of mind?  

With a huge dollop of passion and by telling stories. Our Inside Modernism blog insidemodernism.co.uk shows you our inner workings as a business and Destination Modernism destinationmodernism.com shows you the kinds of places we, and a few midmod fans, love going to.  We are on Instagram and Twitter almost daily and Facebook about twice a week and try to make a You Tube video when we can. We really enjoy meeting the families of all the C20th designers whether it is at the shows or through interviewing them – we enjoy feeling immersed in that world as a kind of escape from this one.

 Illum Wikkelso chair from exhibitor Twentieth Century Antiques

Responsibilities follow you even further when you have your own company and it becomes harder to define work time and you time, because the business is you time too.  What advice would you give someone just starting their own business? 

Make time for social media. It is essential to any creative company these days with Instagram Facebook and You Tube being the main ones.  Have people sign a mailing list and build up a following.  Send an email out once a month. Give them something for free. Dont just ask them to give you money.  We give them blog posts about destinations, find archive footage to share on Facebook, that kind of thing and when we can afford it we have the occasional party or launch.

What is the first thing you do when you get a moment for you?

I meditate and spend time with my two children Molly and Bert and  friends and family whenever I can.  I love dancing to soul music when the kids are busy. Modcast and Soul Affair on Facebook are great groups to join if you want to get in with that scene.  Petra has three kids and two are studying in Eindhoven and Berlin so she likes visiting them.  We both still love a good antiques fair and the Barbican and South Bank are always favourite spots for a mooch about in London. You don’t see brutalism much better than that.

If you’re planning to pay a visit to Midcentury East, here are Lucy’s tips. 

 

 Bring your ping pong bats and balls for you or the kids as there are ping pong tables out the back by the catering vans.

 

Don’t worry about bringing a car as most dealers deliver at the end of the day and if they are booked-up we have a delivery man on-site.

 

 Make a day of it by booking somewhere good to eat like Bunbunbun a Vietnamese restaurant on Kingsland Road or Beagle London next to Hoxton overground.

 

 Visit the Geffrye Museum, Hackney City Farm (if with kids) or head to the market on Columbia Road and haggle for the last flowers and plants at rock bottom prices at 3pm.

 

  Then head for La Cabina or Happiness Forgets for a cocktail and if you are really splashing out book a room at Ace Hotel…it’s 15 minutes walk away.

Between you and me, hush hush, Lucy and Petra have been asked to produce a show at Hepworth Wakefield gallery next year and Lucy is onto writing her second book after the success of 100 Midcentury Chairs and their stories.  

The result of relentless research, tracking down the families of design greats for the real facts- you can sit comfortably with this chair book to pass the time until October’s Midcentury East.

Midcentury East

15 October 2017

Erno Goldfinger’s Haggerston School, Weymouth Terrace, London, E2 8LS

9am early entry for trade and collectors is £15

10am-4pm is £10 or check out advance ticket deals here

©Photographs courtesy of Modern Shows

Reclaimed Kitchen Before and (almost) After

Transforming my kitchen into a walk-in wardrobe might sound crazy, but as you can see above, my windowless eighties kitchen was destined for new life.   I reused bits from the old kitchen and moved it to the back of the living room to make the most of the biggest room in my flat.

Sourcing inspiration and materials took me from my mum’s shed to New York where the sketching started.  This is my photo diary.

Sketching my kitchen at The Butcher’s Daughter a.k.a the vegetable slaughter house of New York City.

Running around Manhattan, I might as well have been wearing nothing but a fig leaf in the lack of layers I packed for a New York winter.  I finally made it to reclaimed renovation heaven The Demolition Depot. Doors, windows, shutters, sanitaryware, stone, irreplaceable artefacts and cats, lots of cats.

I didn’t go as ornate as this radiator, but my drop-in at Demolition Depot confirmed my preference for black.  Fun rad fact: matt black is one of the best choices for radiant heat (the kind that heats bodies). Can you tell I’m now obsessed with any tricks to keep myself warm…

Remember when I found a Belfast sink sitting in my mum’s back garden?  Well, this time I almost took this wooden sink surround.  I should add, my mum is also in the middle of a renovation, she doesn’t normally store salvage in her shed.  However, I decided my worktop needed to be one long strip of something to avoid overcrowding the small kitchen with too many materials.  That one stays with you ma.

SalvoWEB had me seeing salvage from London’s Kings Cross station and I chose the glazed 1940s staff noticeboard above to fashion as my overhead kitchen cabinets.  I had been eyeing-up vintage English Rose kitchens, but this design decision put me on a different train towards Historische Bauelemente where I found these gymnasium floorboards (circa 1910) salvaged from a school near Berlin.   These will be the doors for my old kitchen carcasses.

Organ pipes from The Architectural Forum salvaged from a church in East London were transformed into a decorative extractor fan pipe for the Arts and Crafts fireplace from Haes that I styled as my cooker hood and splashback.  And breathe.  My most ambitious use of salvage so far…

I will be back with the big (small) reclaimed kitchen reveal soon.

Take Two Bruton

Artist Chloë Holt and dealer in rare antiques, Chris Holmes have cultivated the kind of careers many dream of, doing what they love.  There is an air of anticipation as I interview the two, both buzzing, ready to stand at Bruton Decorative Antiques Fair this October.  It might sound early, but excitement has been building since Bruton launched onto the interiors calendar last year at the luxury laden Haynes International Motor Museum.

Amore dei Fiori Chloë Holt RCA FRSA

Whether buying or selling, unexpected things can be found at fairs.  Love – Chloë and Chris confide, is one of them.  They met at a fair five years ago.  “I was getting inspiration and Chris was selling the most amazing things,” Chloë recalled, including his grandmother’s Italian mirror, which she persuaded him not to sell.  Most men don’t present a  sixteenth century Italian altarpiece painting depicting deep blue skies that match their “sparkly blue eyes.”  It’s a good thing Chris’ father had the sense to sack him from the family shipping and haulage business, telling him to go and do something he enjoyed with his life instead.

Intuition, an exhibition by antique dealer and interior designer, Axel Vervoordt with Daniela Ferretti inspired their recent trip to Venice, but it turned out Chris had more than the Biennale in mind, and he proposed.  Chloë didn’t say no…

Think but not too much.  There are two ways of understanding intuition – the scientific take says it comes from a subconscious store of knowledge and experience, the kind that underlies a dealer’s seasoned eye for style and authenticity.  The other mystical and fateful face of intuition defies reason and explains the saying when you know, you know.   As Chris and Chloë show us, both senses of the word can come into play at an antiques fair.

“A real time of change and experiment” came for Chloë when she sold her first painting at her degree show.  A first foray into her now signature, textural mixed media work, the painting depicted rusty red brackets in a snowy vision of the Horseshoe Pass in North Wales on New Year’s Day.  That year would later see Chloë win the Royal Society of Arts Student Design Awards and become a Fellow of the RSA.

Chris Holmes Antiques at Bath Decorative Antiques Fair

I was introduced to the couple in February at the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair, the longstanding fair by Cooper Events, the same organisers behind Bruton.  Now exhibiting together, they describe their tastes as eclectic, yet identical and only disagree about the amount of stuff they can squeeze into their home.  Forget museum-like living, Chris makes Italian Renaissance pieces, antiquities and early art feel ripe for real living, alongside Chloë’s paintings with their celebration of imperfection that puts one at ease in their presence.

 Ashes Chloë Holt RCA FRSA

carved wooden figure from Gotland c.1350. Chris Holmes Antiques

Signs of provenance, past stories and the green-minded make beauty of reused objects.  Chris has “always felt there is no more eco-friendly way of living than valuing an object for not only its beauty and quality, but also for the fact it can and is reused over hundreds of years.”   I bought a French grape pickers’ hod (similar to the below, flagged for Bruton) from Chris this summer at Salvo.  The crest represents the Pope’s vineyard, and almost a hundred years later, the hod is holding my house plant.

French antique grape hod. Chris Holmes Antiques

Bruton promises a trove with the best decorative antique dealers from the UK and Europe. “Just make sure you are an early bird and ready to make quick decisions as competition to buy from these dealers’ collections is fierce. Don’t miss out by hesitating – there is nothing worse,” Chris shares from his personal experience!

He strongly believes the best way of learning about antiques is to handle them, see them and experience them and learn from the specialist dealers who are selling at fairs.  Chris never stops learning, “there is always something new and exciting to discover.”

Should you discover a giant clam, a Sycamore Dairy Bowl or an early onion bottle, Chloë could be close, collecting inspirational objects for her studio…

stone Minoan capital with octopus motif Chris Holmes Antiques 

Be sure not to miss the rare early stone Minoan capital with a carved octopus motif and Chloë’s sought after paintings on the Chris Holmes Antiques stand, which promises plenty to excite both the eyes and the mind.

Bruton Decorative Antiques Fair

13-15 October 2017

Haynes International, Sparkford, Somerset, BA22 7LH

Entry is £5 or get your Free Ticket here

Chris Holmes Antiques

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman & courtesy of Chloë Holt & Chris Holmes

Ethical Collection x Reclaimed Woman

Part free spirit, part dedicated fan of fashion, 10 years in the industry has ingrained particular months (before fashion weeks) when I feel the clothes in my wardrobe aren’t cutting it.  Coupled with 10 consecutive grey London days and counting, I know I am not alone with wardrobe woes in this transitional weather.

A lack of inspiration can lead to impulse buys for fast fashion pick-me-ups.  The disappointment is that they rarely satisfy our need for long, as research by McKinsey proved with the stat “nearly three-fifths of all clothing produced ends up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being made.”

A woman “ain’t what she wears but, what she knows.” Do you know that know that India Arie lyric? Well, this woman has been educating herself.  I just took a free online course by Future Learn with Fashion Revolution and Exeter University called Who Made My Clothes? Fashion Revolution is a global movement for transparency catalysed by the fatal Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh.  The course lifted the lid on issues facing the global fashion industry and made me even more conscious about materials and the things I consume.

To solve transitional weather dressing with sustainable choices, I collaborated with neighbouring business, Ethical Collection, an eco-luxury boutique.  Ethical Collection is a force for positive change, founded to enrich the lives of the women that shop with them as well as the lives of the people that make their products.

I fashioned a Mara Hoffman summer slip dress with this grey trench by Kowtow and they felt amazing.  Arms free, slips are so comfy and perfect for layering as the season changes, whilst the relaxed-fit trench felt like soft denim, which can be both cool and cosy.  I wore them with the knowledge that the dress was made of Birla Viscose – made from the pulp of sustainably harvested trees, and the trench was made with Fair Trade organic cotton, so you could say my test-wear was biased. Once you know, you can’t un-know and what is fashion, if not for making us feel good?

Shop Ethical Collection

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

4 home fashions to note now for the cosy season

Whether you’re into antiques or not, Tallboy Interiors takes a new approach to old interiors that can inspire us all for the cosy season ahead.

On his 18th birthday, Matt Dixon of Tallboy Interiors was given £1000 from his parents to spend as he wanted.  Instead of blowing it, he decided to invest the money in various antique pieces and thus his addiction and business was born.

 Red or dead 

No, I am not referring to the controversial Brit shoe brand, but a desire for darker interiors, a new take on tapestry and rich reds.  Once upon a time wearing different tones of red, mismatching scarlet with crimson, gave the impression you got dressed in the dark.  Matt describes his style  as “mismatched but works.  I like to try different pieces, patterns, colours, ages.  Nothing needs to match for it to work necessarily.”  Now is the time to embrace mismatched.  Enjoy ebonised antique wood, dark interiors,  and dress yourself and your home in red.

 Lady boho 

This tapestry and velvet covered table sits on the edge between elegant and artsy.  Pom Poms are trending big time, but antique pom pom tassels will retain crafty charm.

 Inside out

An awareness for more thoughtful purchasing has produced an abundance of green living trends, from eco friendly antiques and natural materials to literally green coloured interiors.  Merging our environments by bringing the outside in and inside out is increasingly popular.  These Mid-20th-Century Willy Guhl planters are statement greenery that can work inside and out.

   Earthy velvet

Relaxed rose, terracotta, cinnamon, rust.  All great shades and even better in velvet, both grand, intimate and above all, cosy.

Shop Tallboy Interiors

©Photographs courtesy of Tallboy Interiors