Bee-eautiful sustainable fashion that’s Gung Ho

British bee supporting cause aside, it’s just a brilliant statement sweatshirt. Gung Ho donates £5 to a charity that works with endangered bees with every purchase of this piece.

The Gung Ho design philosophy is undeniably designed to get people talking with its forward thinking ethics, but British-made collections, organic fabrics and climate neutral clothes are not without seriously appealing aesthetics.

I chatted to the London-based designer Sophie Dunster about her brand of sustainable fashion and being genuinely fashion.  Gung Ho isn’t preachy and they appreciate people might just fall for their prints, but every garment has a hidden meaning for those that want to look further. Subtly connecting her customers with social and environmental issues, Sophie calls it “wearing your heart on your sleeve.”

I picked-up my Gung Ho sweatshirt and these vintage ‘80s ski pants from the heart of my neighbourhood, London’s Portobello Road.  Gung Ho is stocked at Ethical Collection and I encourage anyone looking for flattering trousers to seek ski pants from Clemmie Myers at Lime Green Bow Vintage.

Even in my current state, with a broken foot, I couldn’t bee happier.  Okay, enough bee jokes, here is my interview with Sophie.

You are Gung Ho and extremely enthusiastic about fashion with meaning and the causes you support. Do you think the fashion revolution is a battle?

Change is always tricky, but we’re seeing such a positive switch in that people now feel they can personally make a difference. It doesn’t feel impossible anymore! With all the big changes, Trump, Brexit.. people are really having to question what they want to stand for.

The challenge for the sustainable fashion industry is to make the products just as, if not, more exciting than the standard options – so appealing to those who don’t necessarily shop ethical. Gung Ho wants to be at the forefront of this change.

What’s in your heart for the sleeves you will create in 2018?

Gung Ho started off representing the everyday issues, like what sort of washing detergent you should be using, but we found it’s good to rep the issues people are aware of and feel passionate about.  For SS18 we will be launching our campaign for the impact of plastics and the oceans! It’s an issue that a lot of people are aware of now and it definitely has tugged on a few heart strings – especially with Blue Planet.

You were raised on a low carbon lifestyle.  How is taking your way of life and building it into a sustainable business?

It’s been a challenge to find the right suppliers that live up to the standards we want to keep, especially as we try and keep our carbon footprint as little as possible and want to support small local businesses. This also makes it harder to keep items affordable, but we do our best and we have wonderful relationships with our suppliers – it’s nice to work with other like minded people.

Gung Ho

The Ethical Collection Portobello pop-up is open until 5th February 2018

©Photographs courtesy of Gung Ho

Conscious Christmas Gifts

Fashion Revolution fanzine #001:Money Fashion Power  pages of poetry, illustration, photography, graphic design and editorials that explore the hidden stories behind our clothes

green rose earrings by Gung Ho from Ethical Collection

nothing more, nothing less t-shirt by Prabal Gurung from YOOXYGEN

lip crayon in shade Keen by Axiology from Content Beauty

sample vial of Edition Perfume She Came to Stay inspired by the novel written by Simone de Beauvoir in 1943.  A unique stocking filler or just an excuse to top-up the shopping basket and enjoy the holiday discounts on Content Beauty when you spend £30+ (ends 29th Nov 2017)

candy skull leggings by Yoga Democracy from Rêve En Vert

antique jewellery box LASSCO

face care kit Natural Spa Supplies featuring British Hemp Oil Soft Soap,  Rhassoul Clay, fragrant Organic Rose water and Virgin Cold Pressed Organic Argan Oil

 

Reclaimed interiors and renovating the Wabi-Sabi way

I recently discovered that my nickname at university was the swan. Okay so I have a long neck, but my friend suggested that it was more likely to do with my perfect hair. Rest assured, I also dislike the woman with the “perfect hair” my friend described, as perfectionists never see perfect in themselves. Nor am I a fan of people referring to themselves as perfectionists, but before I hit the back bar on this whole paragraph, I’ll get to the point. Renovating my flat with reclaimed materials gave way to a total mind shift. From perfection seeker to imperfection appreciator. When you buy new, the shine often fades with the first scratch or signs or wear.  However, buying reclaimed pieces and reusing old materials freed me to be less precious, knowing that loving signs of use would only add to their characterful beauty.

Born from Zen Buddhism, wabi-sabi cannot be bought. Your appreciation might start with a single chipped vase you have had forever. Rather than discarding it, the Japanese philosophy encourages you to accept things as they are. Wabi-sabi is the wonky, handmade, home-grown and weathered with age. A u-turn from the mass-produced, single-use society, it teaches us to be content and cherish what we have.

I am not pretending to have found zen, I still fuss with my hair for about fifteen minutes every morning. But through reuse and renovating my home with natural materials, I am making a more genuine environment that will continue to get better with age.

Difficult to translate into words, I am still working at my definition of a wabi-sabi way of life.  However, I think I am close when I appreciate the imperfect pattern of white ceramic tiles at the back of my wardrobe (that was once the kitchen).  Rather than sending the tiles to landfill, they live with my clothes and accessories as an accepted part of my home’s history.

 

Reclaimed doors and sanitary ware at V&V Reclamation  /  my irregular wardrobe tiles

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

PR 101: I am enough

Just like a business, we personally rely on our reputation so we should all know a bit about PR.  The other week I saw movement maker and musician, Charlie Dark talk about his life through the theme of encouragement. The plus one of a friend, I had no idea what I was walking into when I pulled-up a pew in the charming chapel at The House of St. Barnabas, a not-for-profit members’ club in London.  Here is some of the wisdom I walked away with intertwined with stories from that week.  I hope it helps your understanding of PR and why we should all be PRing not only others, but ourselves.

My professional reputation had me addressing a room full of women in business on the power of PR.  In the name of encouraging women through mentorship, of course I was game, and armed with a decade of experience in PR to talk about. Less seasoned in running my own business, the journey for Reclaimed Woman has just begun, so I felt like an imposter advising women on their businesses when I too am a beginner.  Charlie Dark had his audience introducing themselves to the person next to them by paying them a compliment.  Charlie explained that as children, we lap up encouragement but as puberty hits we’re more ready to reject compliments.  PR and positive talk have the power to influence perception. Talking myself back into being comfortable at beginner phase, open to encouragement, helped both me and the audience recognise our abilities and limitations to move forward for the future.

A few days later, the future kicks in, and I am in a café feeling momentarily flat.  An older man (about 70) with a face as youthful as my new business joins the queue and asks me: “Are you a happy bunny?”  At that moment, I wasn’t, but with his genuine smile and my answer that I was, I suddenly was.  His question was his PR, you never get a second chance at a first impression and his charisma totally transformed my mood.

Charlie Dark started and finished his talk with the importance of finding your champions, people that will not necessarily always give you or tell you what you want to hear, but that will encourage you.  Growing-up in a part of London where people on his street didn’t make it much further than their neighbourhood, all Charlie wanted was a bike so he could explore a bit further. Instead of the bike-shaped present he hoped to see one birthday morning, his mum presented two gifts.  The first was a box of pins and the second was a globe.  She told him to close his eyes and put a pin in the globe, for wherever it landed, she would take him.  The pin landed on the boot and kicked Charlie and his champion to Rome.

I just lost one of my champions to cancer.  My friend Charmaine was a talented costume designer with confidence that she shared with everyone that crossed her path.  Dressing actors and models, she saw the insecurities that don’t come through on screen and found admirable self-believe.

Build your champions in the media by believing in yourself and what you are pitching.  Every morning, Charlie Dark wakes up to a wall of street art in his garden with these encouraging words.  Repeat after me: “I am enough.”

©Photograph  of me wearing a trench by independent designer Naya Rea courtesy of All Women Should Own – a new project with my friend and champion Roxanne Chen.   To be continued…

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.