Having recently calculated that the renovation of my flat is 4x more sustainable than one planet living, I could be feeling smug, but with two flights in the pipeline next month I am less carbon footprint proud. Let me explain…
One Planet Living is a framework created by Bioregional to help people understand their environmental impacts and enable us to do something about it. They calculated that we’re currently consuming resources and polluting the planet at a level of 40% higher than the earth can sustain.
During my Grand Designs Live talk on sustainable interiors, presenter Kevin McCloud surprised the audience stating that “if everyone consumed as much as the average North American, we would need five planets to support us.”
I glared at my American husband – oblivious – sweetly snapping my 45 minutes of fame, but I need not have been so quick to judge as the average western European consumes a similarly shocking amount, and even though my renovation was good, I am guilt tripping before we’ve even left London.
Life and love requires us to travel sometimes. Now that I’m cohabiting with my Californian husband I’ve been flying a lot less, but last year’s London summer lacked sun so we were inspired to book Seville, which will be followed by a business trip to Israel. At least my husband is travelling to Jerusalem to advance the message about human rights in the digital realm – so his conscience is cleaner than mine.
This post doesn’t tie itself into a sustainably packaged, non air cargo delivered answer, I just wanted to acknowledge where I am. There are of course ways I’ll reduce my environmental impact whilst travelling by walking lots, opting for locally purified water in recyclable glass bottles and ditching familiar flavours for restaurants with locally sourced ingredients. What a sacrifice. I’ll also be able to do the wild thing and actually wear my summer clothes, which Londoners rarely get to do.
Until we sign-up to a life in nothing but bamboo Birdsong knickers, increasing the average number of times we wear things is the most direct way to increase value and reduce waste in our wardrobes.
And of course, the weather in London has been lovely lately.
Wearing eco-hot Jumpsuit by COSSAC worn with a Pachacuti hat from Ethical Collection, Abacá bag from Tidy Street general store [with Noumenon vegan pouch inside] and rope sandals by Nomadic State of Mind
Above, Birdsong bamboo knickers in collaboration with Clio Peppiatt
Californian album artwork The Grateful Dead
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman
I know Sex in the City has been relegated to box-set territory but sometimes I refer to my flat as sustainability in the city, because like Carrie Bradshaw, I keep sweaters where my stove would have been.
Reflecting on the moment I decided to turn my kitchen into my wardrobe and started the journey towards a more sustainable life, I am getting ready to join Friends of the Earth, Salvo and Edward Bulmer Natural Paint for a Grand Designs Live talk on sustainable sourcing tomorrow.
Designing my home with sustainable materials inspired me to dress differently, but now that I’m trying to live more consciously I feel guilt for a wardrobe full of clothes accumulated over a decade working in the fashion industry. And of course anything I “Toss” gets donated, sold, given to friends or recycled, but as you educate yourself about sustainability, guilt inevitably follows.
When you really look at the manmade change we’re creating in the world, it is scary and to quote the SATC film scene above, “a lot of s**t went down here, attention must be paid.” However, the awakening that is brewing won’t be achieved through sustainability shaming.
I experienced a refreshing moment for the sustainability movement when I met designer Masato Jones the other week.
Masato was speaking on a panel for Fashion Revolution and reminded the audience of a SATC episode where Carrie skipped dinner out to buy something she really wanted. He joked that’s the kind of feeling you have to have when you buy something because then you will truly treasure it. Like working with salvaged materials, where pieces are often hard won, it is polar opposite to the immediacy we’re used to where we can have things so quickly – often before we’ve had time to think if we really liked something or even needed it.
That’s a long winded way of saying that Masato gave me the excuse to dust off my SATC box set and my guilt (wearing one of his organic fair trade t-shirts as a dress).
Join me at Grand Designs Live in the Grand Theatre at 12noon Saturday 12th May 2018.
Reclaimed wardrobe above made of wood salvaged from 100 year old industrial buildings in the north of England and a mix of vintage, ethical and sustainable sweaters.
Lips above credited to Ilia’s brilliant pigments and organic ingredients.
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman
My husband and I suffered a bout of food poisoning this week, but off he went to his conference in Brussels and off I went to join him for the weekend. Since completing the Six Items Challenge for Labour Behind the Label I have been conscious to wear more of my wardrobe more often – but also conscious that Brussels is home to some incredible vintage shops, I packed super light to save space for some new old treasures.
“I want my time with you” reads the new artwork of Tracey Emin lighting up the London station that welcomes everyone arriving from mainland Europe via the Eurostar. It’s said to be a love letter to Europe over Brexit madness, but the words are a fitting memo to oneself before you go shopping, and before I share my favourite places to shop in Brussels.
Sustainably speaking, “I want my time with you” is kinda like Livia Firth’s advice, every time you shop, always ask yourself “will I wear this a minimum of 30 times?” In other words, make sure it’s love.
The navy jacket I’m wearing above is by Natacha Cadonici. I was rerouted dropping my bag at the hotel when I found Natacha’s studio and shop and fell for the bomber made in Brussels using fabrics from a couture house in Paris.
The Sablon Area has some gorgeous boutiques and on the weekends The Sablon Antiques Market is a must. Find the stripey tents before the 15th-century Catholic church, Église Notre-Dame au Sablon and you’re in the right place for antiques including high jewellery and fashion jewellery like this bakelite ring I found from Caroline Michils’ stand. Complete with a portrait of someone’s loved one, I didn’t need convincing… this ring will definitely be loved.
On my second visit to Gabriele Vintage, I actually made it to the back of the shop to see vintage shoe heaven (the first was a fly-by on route to Bruges). I don’t often buy vintage shoes, partly because my feet are a size 38-39, so I usually avoid the embarrassment of seeing if they will squeeze into pretty teeny-tiny shoes with no clearly marked size. The shoes are handily displayed by size at Gabriele Vintage and include a good selection of 38, 39 and 40s dating from the ’40s to the ’70s. These suede block heels are from the ’60s – worn with shiny ’90s trousers I got on Brick Lane in London.
Whilst in the area, check-out the beautifully curated edit of designer vintage and preloved pieces next door to Gabriele Vintage at Isabelle Bajart.
And the window styling at Ramon & Valy on Rue des Teinturiers gives better outfit game than Instagram.
As you can imagine, traditional moules weren’t what the doctor ordered in our case, so we went for Ethiopian where it is customary to eat with your hands. We tried the intimate exchange called gursha – where you scoop up the first taste of stew from the sharing platter and feed each other.
We got carried away with the first food we’d eaten in two days and kept feeding each other for half the meal. *no food positioning necessary, this over-share is permission to puke now*
Seriously though, even with a sensitive stomach this restaurant was too good to skip dinner. Fashion aside, I would go back to Brussels just for the food at Toukoul. We loved this restaurant.
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman
It seems appropriate to end my Six Items Challenge for Labour Behind the Label in the little white dress I started in. I wore my white Reformation dress to celebrate our two year wedding anniversary and it got me thinking…
I have too many clothes and although I am on a mission to make my wardrobe more sustainable, I still face fashion urges to buy something new. Even if it is beautiful and ethically made in organic cotton, I still need to learn that less is more. What I am saying is that I am not holier than thou. Weirdly though, the one time that arguably justifies a shopping trip (one’s wedding) I actually wore a dress I had owned for years.
It wasn’t from a previous marriage (not mine anyway) or a sample sale where all sorts of this is too good to resist scenarios run through your mind – strangely it was a student loan purchase for my photography degree. Nine years later, wise enough to recognise love at first sight kind of craziness and the value of a 1960s Courreges hanging in my wardrobe, I couldn’t get married in anything else.
One of my takeaways from the challenge is to think of buying clothes like choosing a life partner. Find out what they’re made of and ask yourself if you’re excited by the prospect of being seen with them years down the line.
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman
Having spent a few days working away in Brighton – the town where I grew up – talk turned to where I might ultimately set-up home if my husband and I decide we have out-grown our little garden flat barely made for two.
Back home in London, I dropped-off my luggage to travel east to see the new collection by sustainable luxury label VIMPELOVA. The event took place in a Victorian family home where designer, Veronika Vimpelova lives and works. Mentally setting-up home and filling my wardrobe with Veronika’s chic pieces made of organic linen, organic cotton and peace silk, the period setting perfectly complimented traditional pleating and cording techniques.
I haven’t contemplated a crop-top for years, but VIMPELOVA nails them with sophisticated examples like this made of peace silk.
It’s surprising what shopping in a relaxed environment can do for your confidence. I bought this crop-top in traditional hand-block printed, hand-dyed Czech Indigo (Veronika is originally from the Czech Republic).
The new VIMPELOVA collection, which includes pieces for women and men is available to preview and pre-order from your own home now.
If you’re curious to know more, pay a visit to @vimpelova to hear about future events.
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman
My Six Items Challenge made packing simple for a last minute work trip to Madrid. I got out the Gabriele Vintage green dress – a symbol of fresh starts and progress, as we think of the green light as go.
This Maison Bengal bag I got from Tidy Street general store in Brighton has become my go-to ethical biz bag as it is light to lug around a laptop. I was on their online store yesterday and thought I’d share that they also stock ethical shoes by Rachel Comey. See below for some of the greenest must-haves.
antique green light at LASSCO Brunswick House
Rachel Comey Bose clogs from Tidy Street general store
Rachel Comey Lourde boots from Tidy Street general store
Nomadic State of Mind JC sandals – also available from Nomadics if you are after easier shipping in Europe (made of partly reclaimed polypropylene cord – super durable and sustainable. Less sustainable if like me, you want to order them in every colour…🙀)
Rafa The Simple Sandal. I am dying to get my feet into a pair of these sandals made of vegan recycled textiles. Handmade in LA – Rafa has stockists throughout the US, one in Japan and they ship internationally.
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman
Today’s eco-warrior is less hemp, more hot. I don’t mean to do a disservice to the durable natural fibre, but hemp clothing is still building a new rep amongst fashion seekers that have discovered sexy and sustainable can coexist – as they do in the #ecohot label COSSAC.
I met Agatka Kozak, the woman behind COSSAC in a café off Brick Lane in East London. The day of our interview was one of the worst snow days in the city this season, yet our café was surprisingly busy with the usual mix of hipsters and high-flyers you would expect on the border of Shoreditch and the financial district.
The concept of seasons is fluid for Agatka, which is reflected in her collections with items that can be styled up or down throughout the year – or even from day to night. This design philosophy works for the sustainable fashion-minded, along with buying less, but better, and it also works for women living in the city that want a versatile wardrobe with often very little storage space.
I’m styled-up the day we meet – making the most of the multiple accessories the Labour Behind the Label Six Items Challenge rules allow, but both Agatka and her intern Mao look at me and shiver as I take a seat in less layers than suitable for the weather.
Thankfully, this is the second time Agatka and I are meeting, and she’s used to seeing me half-dressed as the first time we met in a Hoxton hotel suite at her shopping and preview event. I bought an asymmetric midi dress just before I started my challenge, which is impatiently waiting in my wardrobe to be worn. My dress encapsulates the COSSAC signature of effortless sass and I can’t wait to wear it.
“People don’t like to be told off” she says as we get past niceties and down to the nitty gritty topic of ethical fashion. “If we were only aiming at ethically minded people, we would be out of business.”
COSSAC treads the balance with a non-preachy, yet transparent tone about the materials, manufacturing – even garment neck labels are made of recycled polyester. “For me it’s a standard, I don’t necessarily scream loads about it but if someone asks me, I explain.”
Agatka emphasises the importance of balance, as it is that which allows her the freedom to create the newness the fashion industry demands, whilst maintaining her mission as a sustainable designer. I clutched onto maximising usefulness in COSSAC’s manifesto, as the Six Items Challenge has made me think more about how my wardrobe works for me. She adds more food for thought with the fact that “apparently we wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time.” I want to have some kind of useful fashion formula by the end of my challenge and to create a new relationship with my clothes – upping the average number of wears each garment gets.
As well as designing, Agatka also shops consciously, and (aside from wearing COSSAC most of the time) before making a purchase she asks herself if she will wear it at least 30 times.
Just like sustainable shopping, sustainable designing comes with its challenges, for example when your collection orders amount to more than the quantity of deadstock fabric you have to make the pieces…Thankfully COSSAC has built great relationships with buyers, so she could utilise some beautiful deadstock fabrics that came with a warehouse one of her manufacturers recently acquired. The fabric would have either been recycled or chucked, as nobody else wanted to deal with the difficulties of working with it. Agatka has overcome the challenges of deadstock fabric by agreeing with the manufacturer and buyers that when it runs out, extra orders will be fulfilled using other organic fibres.
Sourcing fabrics locally allows Agatka to keep the carbon footprint and the costs down for both the brand and her customer. There is an increasingly enticing selection of sustainable fabrics on the scene, and she is always researching new options, but also adamant about keeping her brand affordable.
Other strings to her sustainable bow include candles and organic perfume. I bought one of the first editions of Her – the debut COSSAC fragrance (which officially launches in August) and it lives in my handbag as a secret mood-lifter.
Currently partaking in many perfume courses and exploring the health benefits of essential oils, Agatka’s next mission is not only to dress, but de-stress her customer.
“The woman I design for, in my head she lives in the city, so on top of having amazing scents, it could have stress relief benefits”.
We end on Fashion Revolution as the week that encourages us all to ask brands ‘Who made my clothes’ is fast approaching on the 23rd – 29th April 2018. The campaign also encourages us to remember the Rana Plaza factory collapse, where over 1000 people were killed and many more were injured on 24th April 2013.
Incidentally, Mao, Agatka’s intern is starring in this year’s campaign (pictured far left).
COSSAC offers a refreshingly realistic perspective for an ethical brand with the realisation that women often buy fashion first, but that sustainability is also an increasingly expected added value. COSSAC caters to modern women who want to feel feminine, empowered and beautiful inside and out.
“I just want everyone working on my brand to be happy. There’s a very humane element, like I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I knew that someone was miserable. I want to go to bed every night with a clear conscience.”
The new COSSAC collection Transeasonal Diaries is available to shop now.
COSSAC counts global stockists. Check out the full list here.
And if like me, you’re obsessing over the jewellery worn with COSSAC clothes throughout, check out jewellery designer Naida C. Castel.
@Photographs courtesy of COSSAC