“Wake me up when September ends” are words I’ve heard from editors doing the four fashion capitals in less than four weeks.
Our eyes are closed to the emergency according to Extinction Rebellion, the movement making non-violent resistance to demand action on climate change. The activists illustrated this with a ‘die-in’ outside the main venue for London Fashion Week, calling for it to be cancelled. Yet inside, the British Fashion Council (BFC) staged showrooms fully dedicated to ‘Positive Fashion’ and sustainable design. Of course, a small group of designers aren’t going to shift the wasteful speedy system, but it was a sea change on the press releases previously put out by the BFC, boasting stats like 32,000 miles driven between shows by a fleet of Mercedes-Benz, 20,000 cups of espresso consumed [almost entirely in single-use cups]…The carbon footprint of London Fashion Week was no doubt similar this season, but the tone changed.
I saw sustainable designer Phoebe English join Extinction Rebellion and others on a panel discussion hosted by the BFC in London. Gabriela Hearst claimed to host the first carbon neutral catwalk show in New York. Gucci declared its show in Milan and operations, including its global supply chain 100% carbon neutral. Stella McCartney hosted a round-table chat with activists on the eve before her show in Paris.
These moves and commitments sound positive, but skeptics might say brands are just paying for carbon offsets or that Stella McCartney’s show—claimed to be her most sustainable to date, with over 75% of the ready-to-wear made from environmentally-friendly materials—still falls short, by containing some non-organic cotton. Still, more problematic, is the sheer volume because speed matters, not just on the high street, but more than ever in the luxury market too.
When you really take all this in, fashion can feel hopeless. As former fashion editor, now Extinction Rebellion activist, Bel Jacobs acknowledged on the panel at London Fashion Week:
“The fashion industry which markets, produces, consumes, disposes at an ever increasing rate. This is not an industry under threat and it’s set to rise by 63% in 10 years time… when you are part of Extinction Rebellion, grief is a large part.”
The discussion heralded the benefit of slowing down and even stopping, with Phoebe English sharing how she halted production for three seasons to find more sustainable ways of creating and shifting the label away from virgin resources.
Stockholm fashion week is usually prelude to fashion month, but this year the Swedish Fashion Council cancelled it to give them time to remodel, reach sustainability goals and set a new standard. Maybe they’ll create something that the global fashion community will demand as much as Scandinavian influencers?
Many industries are complicit in climate change, and fashion straddles many of them, including mining and agriculture. However, zeroing in on fashion first might be a clever move by campaigners, because collectively and creatively, I believe it has the ability to change and wake others to follow.
Cameron Saul, co-founder of the sustainable British brand, Bottletop also spoke on the BFC’s panel and showcased their #TOGETHERBAND campaign for change.
It is clear that fashion needs to change, not only for the planet, but also to save itself because somehow it feels off right now. What do you think fashion weeks could be if they should be?
“You’re going to open a cleaning shop?!” questioned Bella Middleton’s mum when she came up with the idea to create eco-friendly cleaning products. Now a fully fledged member of the Norfolk Natural Living team, Bella’s mum works in their shop in Holt, which has maintained one of Norfolk’s unique high streets.
Clean, like green is currently trending, but Bella delved into cleaning’s past to develop her natural formulas. We’re hearing more stories about the murky supply chains behind some products driving the clean living scene, so it is reassuring to know that Bella sources ingredients from skilled British artisans – from local lavender fields to English beeswax. Everything is mixed, bottled and labelled by hand in (as the brand name suggests) Norfolk and each ingredient is fully traceable.
Respect for materials runs in the family, from her sister with roots in ethical fashion design to her granny, who was a costume designer. Bella still has many vintage pieces from her grandmother’s collection and evidently loves vintage as much as I do, but also gets excited by the cleaning challenges presented by vintage garments and different old fabrics: “I’m constantly on a journey” says Bella.
Family was also a driving force behind the conception of Norfolk Natural Living. Having children made Bella think even more about the clothes we pass through generations and so wanted to create an heirloom-worthy garment and home care brand, designed to care.
Of course the cleaning collection is not just for special pieces, as whether vintage or new, the biggest environmental impact of everything we wear is most likely to come from how we care for it and wash it. The better we look after things, the more sustainable the contents of our homes and wardrobes and that means washing things less often, cue Norfolk Natural Living’s handy range of refreshers, like one dedicated to denim.
There’s a lot to take in with the sustainability seashore of choices that impact things in different ways, so Bella’s aim was to keep things simple with products that are naturally potent, not preachy, look good and to provide proper instructions on how to use them.
Combining modern scientific research and age-old techniques, the first creation was scented vinegar. However, if you’re after fish and chip scents then you might like to head to Holt for Eric’s sustainable MSC-certified fish instead, because Bella’s all-purpose vinegar cleaner is scented with natural essential oils.
“I wanted to create a product that does all the things it’s supposed to do and do it really well, but also in a way that’s desirable.” [Which I can vouch for because after using the scented vinegar for the first time my husband walked into our bathroom and said how great it smelled; and before you think our household is stuck in the era of my vintage silks, we each have our cleaning domains – his is the kitchen and mine is the bathroom]
Projects in the works for Bella include renovating her kitchen and looking for a second shop in Holt, so that they can also hold workshops. Recently mulling over the purchase of an antique kitchen table marked with children’s names, Bella and I agree that there is a happy balance between clean and not too clean, and that sometimes signs of life are what makes things. She wants to give people confidence to take care of things in a natural way:
“Clothes can change your attitude and it’s good to know that they’ll last so you can wear them and enjoy them without worrying…let them live.”
The Manchester-based fast fashion retailer, Missguided recently made headlines for the wrong reasons with a £1 bikini. Depending on which side of the sun lounger you woke up on, you will either be disappointed you missed the bargain or angry, alongside MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) that just had proposals like a 1p fashion tax to raise millions for better clothing recycling rejected.
Despite the success of rapid fashion, trends are also moving towards investment purchases like well-being, live music and food experiences that will feed our souls. Insitu Architectural Salvage shared a few projects, including Manchester’s independent bar and gig venue Jimmy’s, who is now opening a site in Liverpool Docks and the neighbourhood Neapolitan pizzeria, Rudy’s who also has a new site in Liverpool.
Sustainability is influencing a number of industries, from construction to fashion and food. However, it is not simply about an environmental angle, as restaurants fashioned with truly reclaimed maple strip flooring, seating and lighting build a story and bring authenticity to your scene.
Salvaged furniture designed to be used outside can add a natural transition from the home to the garden and folding designs are also great for small outdoor spaces like mine. I bought the school bench [pictured above on the left] from Insitu a few years ago – perfect for city living.
Here are some of my picks of sustainable British fashion alongside furniture from Insitu. Now we just need some swimwear weather that is not missguided.
Earth Day seems appropriate to talk about something borrowed. The trousers covering my tush and blouse on my back [leased from Laura Ironside] and of course the earth are all borrowed. Fashion is just one piece of the sustainable development pie, but today also marks the start of Fashion Revolution Week when our shared question #WhoMadeMyClothes is heard the loudest. What I like about the few times I’ve rented my clothes is the respect you give them. Perhaps we should be treating everything in our wardrobes like they’re borrowed because what they could be is resources for tomorrow.
I am wearing the Knight drape top and Hero high-waisted trousers, which can be leased from Laura Ironside. My vintage Easter bonnet is by Kokin, the milliner that made hats for the ’90s classic Clueless that I found at Heavens Bazaar, an awesome shop in Bath for vintage and pre-loved designer pieces.
I got my fairy Earth Day earrings yonks ago from Snoopers Paradise in Brighton. If your eyes are on the next bank holidays then Bath and Brighton are worth a visit.
Ardingly Antiques & Collectors Fair showed its mettle (albeit disguised as petals )this week, as a major fair that continues to attract a strong following of dealers, designers and private buyers. It could have been the sunny start and morning light hitting the showground, but the architectural and decorative antiques looked especially pretty, like the first daffs in March.
My highlights included Mangan Antiques’ marbeled apothecary pots circa 1870 from southern Italy, coloured to signify the herbs they originally held. A floral telephone chair also caught my fancy for its fringing detail and so did numerous painted reclaimed doors.
This late Victorian stained glass panel rescued from Birmingham by Smiths of Stratford, and the ‘60s bag bursting with flowers were under the same roof at Ardingly and could arguably both be considered romantic gestures🌹.
The next Ardingly Fair will be held on Tuesday 23rd and Wednesday 24th April 2019 at the South of England Showground near Haywards Heath (as usual).
Had I not already left my heart in San Francisco in 2015 when I met the man I would marry seven months later, Love Street Vintage would have stolen it. Sustainable gems are dotted in many neighbourhoods, but High on a hill, Haight Street calls if you are after a single destination to explore vintage and pre-loved fashion. Berkeley is a must for Ohmega Salvage if you’re into reclaimed interiors. If time allows, I thoroughly recommend crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County for giant redwood trees and environmentally conscious communities. I had the vegan sausage of my life at Gestalt Haus in the town of Fairfax. But enough about my love life. Here’s some ethical and vintage finds to start your own love affair with the SF Bay Area.
Marina District – 2110 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123, USA. Plus more Amour Vert stores to explore in numerous neighbourhoods in the Bay Area…
Starting with green love. These sustainable staples are what you would expect to find if you raided the wardrobe of a chic French woman: classic tees, great silk blouses, a boyfriend blazer, relaxed sweaters, a slinky jumpsuit. AND then added free-spirited prints; this is after all San Francisco, where 97% of Amour Vert’s clothing is made (within just a few miles of the brand’s head office).Natural, quality fabrics are arguably the building blocks behind both French and Californian style, which Amour Vert translates beautifully with eco-friendly materials like GOTS certified organic cotton, Mulberry silk and modal.
Love Street Vintage
Haight & Ashbury neighbourhood – 1506 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
Visit the kaleidoscopic corner of Haight and Ashbury and absorb the setting of 1967’s Summer of Love and then explore bohemian sixties and seventies fashion at Love Street Vintage. From paper-doll-making childhood days spent cutting out Sears catalogs to setting up this dress-up heaven, the owner edits beautiful clothing for women and men alongside accessories that date back to the twenties. Discover new jewellery made in California and antique Native American turquoise pieces.
Haight & Ashbury neighbourhood – 1764 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
Caution: one may leave Static Vintage wanting to paint one’s walls a ‘90s shade of lime green. There is a lot to look at with painted walls decorated with women’s and men’s fashion. Stock ranges from reasonably priced rare pieces to cabinets reserved for vintage Vuitton luggage, designer jewellery and bags by the likes of Gucci and Chanel. Other accessories include lots of ties and shoes, which range from secondhand so-wrong-they’re-right to vintage Yves Saint Laurent. Rails are packed so it’s a good place if you are in the mood for a rummage. Take intermittent breaks in the brown teddybear chair.
Decades of Fashion
Haight & Ashbury neighbourhood – 1653 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
As the name suggests, here you can shop by the decade of fashion that takes your fancy. Most pieces fall between the thirties to the eighties, but the collection spans 100 years from the 1890s. I’ve shopped everyday attire, but it’s particularly good for party-wear. Sadly I don’t drink champagne everyday like the late Cilla Black was said to, but on my last visit I was tempted by a pair of ‘80s champagne bottle and coupe earrings (that would be a perfect blind-date identifier). Don’t worry if you’re not reading this from the UK or you were born after 1995 and these Blind Date jokes are lost on you because if you’re into vintage then Decades of Fashion definitely won’t be.
Haight & Ashbury neighbourhood – 1660 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
There’s nothing like a good window display to make you appreciate the pleasure that is unique to visiting a shop built with bricks instead of clicks. In fact the whole store front of Wasteland’s San Francisco location is worthy of a minute or two before you dive past Art Deco tiles to discover pre-loved fashion peppered with vintage. Expect high-end and contemporary designers, and when I last visited there was practically a cabinet dedicated to collectable Prada accessories. Of course stock changes quickly, but men’s clothes and accessories always maintain a healthy share of the space.
Eden & Eden
North Beach neighbourhood – 560 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
Not everything in Eden & Eden is sustainable, but the store and staff exhibit such respect for both new and vintage that it is truly a place to shop forever pieces. Eden & Eden’s vintage clothes and jewellery is so well-edited that it could even convert people that don’t usually do vintage. They also exhibit in A Current Affair, an event for premier vintage retailers and private dealers that comes to the Bay twice a year.
Inner Richmond neighbourhood – 212 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA
Step inside Seedstore and you feel a flowering spectrum of the sustainable fashion scene – ranging from local labels with collections made in California to independent brands from around the globe that nurture traditional in-country techniques. A pop-up of ‘80s and ‘90s vintage by WRN FRSH, a local SF label that also sells their own non-binary cut and sewn collection made of recycled denim sits well in this store of mainly new wardrobe staples for women and men and gifty goods.
Gravel & Gold
Mission District – 3266 21st St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
Let’s just say they had me at the doormat welcome message.
Gravel & Gold is home to an independent, woman-owned design collective and is mainly stocked with things the women make themselves including clothing, accessories and gifts featuring their handmade prints. Joyfully crafted items for your own home dome include stained glass shaka signs and unusual sculptures and ceramics. Expect a multi-sensory experience with warm, cruelty-free Californian scents from the likes of Fiele Fragrances.
Mission District – 914 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA. One of Ref’s two locations in SF.
It is increasingly rare to find a brand that you can’t get on home ground, so if you’re not based in San Francisco, New York or LA, Reformation calls for some revelling. Tech-savvy stores invite shoppers to add items to the fitting room from a monitor, but as a Brit usually restricted to viewing Reformation’s sexy strand of sustainable from behind a screen, I preferred to cruise the gallery-like display. Save your upper-arm workout for another time because unlike stores with jam-packed rails, Reformation dresses theirs with just one of each item. Then you can test sizes across bottoms, dresses and tops ready for future screen-shopping.
Berkeley – 2400 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702, USA
Exploring Ohmega Salvage is a happy excursion to inspire interestingly dressed interiors. This place is a staple of community for reuse with unusual objects that fit a need and tell a story. It’s a given that you will eye-up salvage bigger than your suitcase could carry; which in my case was a trough sink circa 1960, but there are smaller shoppable items too (like the glass pendant light shades pictured). It’s also fun to look at different architectural elements and furniture that you don’t find back home.
Fairfax in Marin County – 9 Bolinas Rd, Fairfax, CA 94930, USA
Mystic Rose is a new jewel to the treasure town that is Fairfax. Stepping inside is like entering a fortune tellers cabin with vintage clothes and ‘90s iridescent Moschino boots waiting to tell you about the life you could have if you choose them. This store has trinkets galore, gifts and great American vintage accessories for women and men. I saw mostly one-offs on my visit, apart from this trolley out front holding deadstock handbags from the seventies. It’s well worth crossing the Golden Gate Bridge for a taste of intentional living here.
This edit sums up my mood for the month ahead. It’s that time of year when your pinkie ring should give you super powers and you can cloak your face and your body in pillows [when not showing off that you’re capable of dancing in white whilst eating cranberry canapés].
Is it me or are haircare ads stuck in the 1950s? Can the contents of one plastic bottle really deliver on all of those promises? And are we even looking for those things at the end of a good shampooing?
Hair diaries of women with great locks usually involve a lotta steps and it is easy to succumb to the idea that we need a complicated routine to achieve the hair of our dreams. I just discovered a shampoo that needs no conditioner step, which is quite a significant discovery for my habitual hair routine. So could zero waste be the philosophy that actually delivers the haircare promise without a long, product heavy process?
Having heard that I was working to overhaul my beauty routine, Olivia of ethical homeware and accessories brand Nido Collective introduced me to Hanna of Acala, who offered to let me sample zero waste shampoo called Beauty Kubes.
Fellow member of Ethical Writers & Creatives, Hanna Pumfrey created her online store Acala to empower people with easy sustainable alternatives.Expect natural, organic and vegan health and beauty. But before you click to discover Acala’s plastic-freedom, let me spoil the end with the promise that I am a zero waste haircare convert.
My Acala delivery arrived in reusable packaging by RePack, which I was almost equally intrigued by so I put the whole thing in my weekender ready for my night away in Paris.
Good timing for a hair treat trial, I chose shampoo cubes for normal to dry hair, as living in the city I tend to wash my hair a lot and my lengths get dry. Plus I’m a sucker for anything rose or grapefruit and this formula is infused with rose extract, a blend of organic palmarosa, orange and grapefruit essential oils.
If you are less than thrilled about taking plastic bottles into the shower, but quite like an escape to the Cornish Riviera then Beauty Kubes could be for you too. Made in Cornwall, the product and packaging is 100% biodegradable. The cubes are cruelty free and free from palm oil, sulphates, and packed with vitamin E and pro vitamin B5 to promote growth, a healthy scalp and hair.
Apart from an unfortunate purple Halloween hair-in-can incident when I was about eleven, I do not dye my hair and I am particular about what I subject it to. It took me a moment to balance the right amount of water to shampoo cube – whilst sussing out how to work the shower in my hotel – but back home I perfected the crumbling technique. In the palm of your hand you gradually work it into a paste and a pleasing lather. If you’re accustomed to equating lather with cleanliness then it will take some getting used to natural shampoo, but honestly my hair feels clarified and cleaner.
Upon return to London, I posted the RePack packaging, which is returned to its source for free and then cleaned and redistributed to brands and stores using the service (many of which offer incentives through RePack’s online community). Then I washed my hair. Beauty Kubes passed the was my head just happier in Paris? test and my hair still feels softer in London’s hard water.
[Cue shot of woman in urban jungle having sexual experience with freshly washed hair]
Wearing hair washed with Beauty Kubes in Paris with pre-loved fake snake trousers & hair washed with Beauty Kubes in London with a poppy print jumpsuit from People Tree for their collaboration with the V&A Museum. See the latest V&A collection here
Paolo Carzana, the boy behind this quote and the collection below titled The Boy You Stole was one emerging talent presented in the season that put sustainability top of mind at LFW.
The British Fashion Council’s announcement that London Fashion Week would be entirely fur-free was just one step, but caring for animals can quickly lead to more environmental awareness if fashion graduate Paolo Carzana’s vegan journey is anything to go by. At first Paolo went vegan becasue of caring for animals, but now he does it for the environment too and works with planet-friendly fabrics like Pinatex. There is a myriad of aspects in the production of both real leather and leather alternatives that can cause harm to animals, people and the environment, but Pinatex (a textile made from reclaimed pineapple leaves that would otherwise be wasted) arguably ticks multiple sustainability choices at once.
Beneath the vegan fabrics and vegetable dyes, Paolo’s graduate collection (pictured below) was also a comment that the government controls us like puppets with models swamped by clothes and freaky figures that shadowed over them on the catwalk.
Multiple tabs with Celine reviews from Paris Fashion Week were shadowing over this post as I tried to focus on writing about my delights from LFW… Hedi Slimane just showed his first collection – after stepping into Phoebe Philo’s furry sandals – as Artistic Director of the French fashion house Celine. I allowed myself to digress because it turns out Hedi Slimane and the next designer that caught my eye in London both count Lady Gaga among their fans…
Cassandra Verity Green manipulated plastic waste to create bags that explore early existence with the digital world to comment on today’s excess and create future artefacts in handbags designed to be treasured.
He rebelled against the current move towards inclusiveness and cast very young, mainly white models, yet opened up the new menswear line to women with sizes that will cater to their bodies too. It is impossible to ignore Hedi’s power to make big changes with a CV that notes transforming the image of male sex appeal through skinny tailoring at Dior Homme almost 20 years ago to the recent shift in Saint Laurent. But right now, with such a deviation from feminist design it is hard to appreciate the change at Celine as it feels like a step backward.
On a positive note – here are some other favourites under London Fashion Week’s Positive Fashion initiative that are definitely pushing the path for change forward.
Last fashion week I was doing my Six Items Challenge for Labour Behind the Label so this time I was free to step out in anything. Above, wearing a vintage Bay Trading dress and vintage Daks jacket, ’80s Persol glasses from Spex in the City, boots from my days working at Gucci & bag by Muuñ.