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

 

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

 

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

 

Conscious Consumer

Jumpsuits aren’t always the smartest move when it comes to travelling, but I always seem to choose one because the chic/comfort balance outweighs the likely woman v jumpsuit wrestling in the loo. This People Tree collaboration with the V&A is wonderful.  The Tulip print is based on a fabric from the 1930s, originally by the Calico Printers’ Association in Manchester, now held in the V&A archive.

In Safe Hands hand cream Laidbare

V&A collaboration jumpsuit People Tree

Classic Small Drawstring bag Baia

EcoTools sustainable sleep mask from Boots

Sandals Brother Vellies

Anna Skodbo on building her ethical London brand phannatiq

Part-time harpist, educator, occasional snowboarder, and driving force behind  phannatiq, Anna Skodbo takes a “clothes for people” attitude to designing.  Attracting people from the likes of musicians Kate Nash, Harper and the pavement population with her city inspired textiles.  Unique prints include fly tipping inspired by waste around Walthamstow, where the phannatiq design studio is based.

Committed to responsible employment, sustainable manufacture and dressing in a way that transcends the call for a seasonal wardrobe cull.  Phannatiq questions fashion’s status quo.

I am inspired by her respect for social and stylistic individualism, and now armed with her local guide to a good day in Walthamstow to share with you. Here is my interview with phannatiq Anna.

Anna Skodbo

It’s a shame that it’s even a talking point, but given the rarity with which they appear in fashion campaigns, I have to ask about your decision to cast women over the age of 40 and women of different race and size to model your collection? 

Because we make clothes for people and people come in all ages, shapes, ethnic origins and sizes, not to mention having different clothing needs. There’s no point trying to sell to them using only one example over and over again. We still only use about 6 models so it’s still not ideal, but hopefully it helps a bit towards people being able to see themselves in the clothes.

On our online shop, we try to have as many examples of different shapes in our clothes as possible along the bottom of the garment page so people can see for themselves too.

Oeko-Tex 100 certified bamboo silk dress in London print

organic cotton & bamboo mix dress in London print

Did you always produce clothes in sizes 6 to 20?  Why do you think more designers don’t make clothes in sizes above a 16?

I really can’t speak for other brands as I have no idea what they are going through. We have evolved over time. In the beginning we thought we had to conform to fit in and then a few seasons in I was like, “fuck this shit!” and started putting my fingers up at the whole thing bit by bit. Starting with banning photo retouching of any of our photographs- what you see is what you get- and then becoming more diverse with our model choices. This inspired our sizings.

What is it about London that inspires you?

Everything really, its vibrancy, its diversity, its unashamedness and of course the shit bits 😜

fly tipping print inspired by waste around Walthamstow

Where would you send someone looking for a day in Walthamstow?

Oooo there are so many awesome things in Walthamstow! If you like drinking there is Ravenswood Estate up by Shernhall street. In what is essentially an industrial estate you’ll find Wild Card Brewery who brew the most excellent beers, and often have some really great musical acts and DJs; opposite them is Gods Own Junkyard, a museum of neon light and bar, Mother’s Ruin, a gin palace, not to mention a host of street food. You practically don’t need to leave for the weekend.

Otherwise I love walking around Lloyd Park and visiting the William Morris Gallery, The Marshes are beautiful, as is Hollow Pond if you want to pretend you’re not in a city.

How did your Steiner school education and growing up with adults with learning disabilities influence your approach?

I think in some ways growing up with adults with learning disabilities, I’m more aware of how unique everyone is and that it’s ok. I feel very privileged to have spent such a large part of my childhood with people who make you see the world in a different way, who may have struggles with some things we take for granted but equally bring so much to the world in other ways we won’t have considered. It’s humbling. It has in some cases even made me question the status quo. As in who are we to decide what is the correct way to experience something/react to something/achieve something?

Oeko-Tex 100 certified bamboo silk top with fly tipping print skirt

How would you advise people looking to make more sustainable wardrobe choices? 

Buy mindfully. Ask yourself, do you really need this? The biggest eco friendly thing you can do is reduce everything you consume. This makes a much bigger difference than anything else. I realise this goes against capitalism and having a business, so oops.

Which is your favourite phrase of your 3D printed necklaces?  

That really depends on my mood, however I have actually been called a Leftoid Sanctimonious Cunt on Twitter, so probably that one.

What do you have coming up for fashion weeks and beyond? 

We are working on a really exciting project for fashion week so definitely keep an eye out! As for beyond, who knows….

Shop Phannatiq

©Photographs courtesy of Phannatiq