The Art of Tribal 

Art and design have the enviable ability to break down barriers that traditionally divide cultures. The universality of interiors that involve and speak to people around the world is surely something worth celebrating, so why was I nervous to talk about Tribal Art? My fashion background and thrill in finding antique textiles has given me the chance to see rare tribal pieces over the years. However, like many people attracted to Tribal Art, I have a knowledge gap that can make buying or even discussing the topic intimidating.

I need not have held back as I was in great hands with the insightful words and work of Ian Shaw and Anthony Hepworth, whom you can catch and chat with yourself at the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair 1 – 3 April 2022.

From the exhibition series ‘An Eclectic Eye’ © Anthony Hepworth Fine Art

The creative cohesion we find when people blend different periods with contemporary pieces or different styles arguably defines our time. Some of the most exciting spaces are a reflection of many cultures, as people seek to research their heritage or look for connection through pieces from places that keep craft skills alive out of human necessity. Artefacts like this provide a stark contrast to the consumer culture that exists across the world.

Both Ian Shaw and Anthony Hepworth are experienced collectors so if you are captivated by tribal objects, but conscious of appropriation in design then their memorable discoveries and tips for finding true Tribal Art are a good place to start.

Ian Shaw, the man behind Tribal Arts & Textiles encapsulates the nuances of cultural appropriation early into our conversation with a lovely picture of his wife with her niece, who are both Ashante from Ghana. They are wearing textiles of the Ewe people so they had to ask permission before wearing them for the photo. “Cultural appropriation isn’t just relevant to Europeans, it is relevant to the indigenous population also because these are religious objects within their own spheres,” he says.

Staying safely in the realms of appreciation rather than appropriation, African weaving artistry can be celebrated through interior design and the daily enjoyment for people from different cultures. For example, Ian tells me that some of the textiles work well as personal pieces like bedspreads as they are very durable.

If you keep missing, get closer to the basket

Ian has done his research and explains “there are not that many people that will attempt to deal in (antique) African baskets.” He points out that there are many of them around and people try to fake it but especially “the Tutsi, Chokwe and the Kuba peoples have special techniques for making these baskets that no one can replicate. Only the local women know how to make these and that’s been handed down from generation to generation.”

Both keen runners, Ian met his wife at the National Stadium training. She was a police officer at the time as well as an international runner for Ghana. However, it was long before Ian met his wife, back in 1989 when he was introduced to Tribal Art by friends. Two Glasgow artists dragged him to the Museum of Mankind in London. He describes eyeing huge Easter Island figures whilst ascending a big marble staircase before entering a large room full of Yoruba carvings from Nigeria. “Walking into that room, I didn’t know anything about the images that were there. Even with no knowledge, you had to be impressed by the sculptural quality, it was just incredible.”

You never forget your first

Ian was off on his journey with learnings from friends about art history and the powerful influence on painters such as Matisse and Modigliani, who had big collections of African Tribal Art. Eight years later, a lovely Yoruba kola nut bowl carved as a chicken was Ian’s first purchase, and objects he could never part with include an extremely rare Yoruba Geledi mask. Before you buy a tribal piece it is essential to ask questions, so meeting dealers at longstanding fairs like Bath Decorative is a good first move. Find out about the provenance so that you know what you have is genuine and that your intended purpose is in tune with trustworthy knowledge of what it is.

Norwegian church tapestry circa 1913 Tribal Art & Textiles
Norwegian church tapestry circa 1913 © Tribal Arts & Textiles

Although Ian focuses on textiles of West Africa, he recently discovered a piece from Scandinavia that he will bring to Bath. “Not normally my area, but I do have a smattering of knowledge of these things and this is a really beautiful Norwegian church tapestry.” We muse about the story of how it got here and relate over the joyous moment when particularly textiles just speak to you.

An Eclectic Eye

Anthony Hepworth’s eye for pairing Tribal Art with Modern British Painting and Sculpture can be traced to the ‘70s from art college to the start of his career for the British Museum.

A series of 'An Eclectic Eye' exhibitions Anthony Hepworth Fine Art
From the exhibition series ‘An Eclectic Eye’ © Anthony Hepworth Fine Art

“A museum by its very nature has all of these different cultures, different ages all together. The departments can be quite insular, but when they put on shows all of these things come together.” He recalls a library show with “big glass cases, and at one time they had fabulous Oceanic objects in a cabinet and then they had an African object, and then some Greek objects. That’s what set me off.”

Anthony Hepworth Fine Art was established in Bath in 1989 with locations in London and their own returning exhibition ‘An Eclectic Eye’ held over the years. Today they represent Scottish artist Peter Seal and you can see their dual passions collide at fairs with Anthony’s specialism in Modern British and Post-War Painting and Sculpture with African and Oceanic Tribal Art.

“We used to spend ages, I mean two days arranging the things, and that’s how I live in my house…So at the moment, I am sitting in a room with a 16th-century carving next to a 1958 painting with some African objects surrounded by Japanese bronzes to the right and then I’ve got some Greek antiquities to the left and a Hawaiian bowl, and then pre-Columbian pieces and 18th-century glass next to a little Henry Moore. It’s just fun. It’s a pleasure to live in this way.”

The cherry on top of this storied setting is that Anthony lives in a reclaimed house, having swapped their Bath townhouse for a bungalow built by the city architect from reclaimed Cotswold stone with a Cotswold stone roof and a bell tower.

Provenance is incredibly important to him, and the stand at Bath will feature things like Oceanic clubs and paddles. “Genuinely old things that were made by a tribal person, for a tribal person’s use. That’s how we define Tribal Art or objects.” Anthony touches on how things have changed and how the TV show Frasier affected the market in the ‘90s with the apartment filled with tribal objects and the “decorator influence.”

Sometimes it feels like the respectful line that art or comedy must tread has become more complex, but for me, Anthony simplifies it beautifully as “professionalism.” It is not about ‘get the look’ it’s about the feeling of truly Tribal Art.

See Tribal Arts & Textiles and Anthony Hepworth Fine Art at the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair. Get your tickets here

Bath Decorative Antiques Fair
Date: 1-3 April 2022
TRADE PREVIEW Thursday 31 March
Venue: The Pavilion, North Parade Road, Bath, BA2 4EU

Let’s get physical

©Simon Wharton Antiques

As the leaves start to fall, it’s time to feel again with a plethora of physical decorative antiques fairs in the diary. 

The last eighteen months have been challenging, but thanks to an unwavering business drive, digital community (and sales!) the architectural salvage and decorative antiques industries will emerge stronger. Bath Decorative Antiques Fair will be an opportunity to see familiar faces, and new faces with more and more people on the lookout for personality pieces. If you are new to the antiques fair scene then Bath is a great one as it is both fiercely stylish and friendly. 

©Simon Wharton Antiques

Bath Decorative Antiques Fair has a special buzz about it, as returning exhibitor, Simon Wharton Antiques describes it, and the holiday atmosphere that charms anyone exhibiting or visiting the event. Here, Simon Wharton and Geraint Jones, co-founder of Greencore Design which is showing at Bath Decorative for the first time, share reasons to get excited for the next instalment. 

“Digital saved me during Covid,” says Simon, with antiques at a hand’s reach as people shopped from smartphones on their sofas, but “there’s no substitution for meeting people in the flesh.” People are excited to be handling things face to face again, and nothing awakens our senses like feeling the character and hearing the stories from the people that discovered these one-off pieces. Anecdotes include unforgettable fireplace rescue missions, where Simon recalls one particularly hilarious time, with the benefit of hindsight. “We had to let it down a ladder from the window” he describes, having survived being at the bottom as two guys with a combined age of 160 lowered the ropes on a fireplace travelling towards him. 

©Simon Wharton Antiques

Moving magnificent chimneypieces goes with the territory, as Simon’s signature is architectural antiques, stone fireplaces, and boy does he know how to dress them – with decorative and garden delights that complete his collection. The setting of Bath Decorative lends itself to some serious stand decoration, so even just walking around will give you ideas and good connections. I’ll never forget seeing one of Simon’s displays at Bath for the first time. 

Despite the changes that Brexit brought about, nothing has changed business like the pandemic. Simon saw his best August for fireplaces yet, and there is an increasing demand from customers in the countryside in France, as people everywhere opt for a life outside of the city. As well as a strong customer base both sides of the channel, they continue to come from as far as Australia and America. If a desire for eco-friendly design is partly driving your visit to Bath Decorative then you might be interested to know that even Simon’s heaviest antiques could be shipped to America and still save more energy than the embodied carbon cost of making a new fireplace. We know because me and Salvo have been doing tonnes of work on carbon and reclamation this year.

Antique French oak table ©Greencore Design

The attraction to antiques and the urge to design with tactile treasures is also influencing restoration trends with interior designers and other customers seeking unrestored or a lighter touch and less polish. But as Geraint of Greencore Design explains, that doesn’t equal less attention to detail. “Each piece is ‘house ready’ whether it be an old industrial piece or a high end designer piece, we pride ourselves on each item being clean, sound and ready to enjoy. ‘Patina’ does not equal dirt and ‘character’ does not equal a wobbly leg or a broken drawer.”

If you are looking for quality, craftsmanship and a design mash-up that mixes an 18th-century country house piece with a sixties leather chair then you’ll enjoy seeing Greencore Design’s first showing at Bath.

Mid-century modern armchairs by Pieff of Worcester ©Greencore Design
Primitive farmhouse bench seat ©Greencore Design

The company has been trading since 2005, having had a career in architectural cast iron and restoration work on historic buildings, they were initially involved in architectural salvage. “The one great thing in this business is that you never quite know where you will be next,” says Geraint, who rebranded and launched Greencore Design in 2019 with a focus on decorative antiques and vintage furniture. 

Constantly striving to achieve the “right look and feel”, Greencore Design always has some Welsh staples. Geraint explains Wales has it all, from large manor houses to farmhouses, to industrial, which explains why so many of us are falling for Welsh antiques.

“A lot of traditional Welsh furniture has a simplicity and naivety to it which makes them versatile. Very often made from local wood, especially oak so it lasts forever. Interior designers have really embraced antique and vintage furniture and increasingly using new and old alongside each other, which is great to see, both from design viewpoint and the environment.”

Antique Welsh blanket ©Greencore Design

Green to the core, Geraint shows me how they incorporated elements of reclaimed stone into their new build. This got me excited as a sign of where our built environments could expand on what the antiques industry is doing so brilliantly in breaking down the barriers of what eras should sit with what. 

Rules certainly went out of the window in Geraint’s recent rescue of a pair of aesthetic hall lanterns. 

Lanterns before restoration ©Greencore Design

“They were in a sorry state but working with Jolene Farmer Studio, we managed to bring them back to life. The glass proved tricky, I was keen to use some 19th-century glass we had in stock, previously salvaged from a Welsh Church dating to 1860. The glass was a large single pane with a beautiful cross pattern, and the restoration work required us to precisely cut the glazed panel into smaller pieces to fit the faceted lantern sides. Enlisting the expertise of Jolene Farmer we set about finding someone to cut the glass, Jolene had tried all her contacts in London but they all refused on the ground that they could not guarantee that the glass could be cut due to the age and complexity of the glass. In the end, we found someone in Dorset, who worked on old churches and was confident in cutting the glass. The skill and effort that goes into the restoration cannot be underestimated, the cost is also high but it’s an important part of the industry and is essential to save pieces from being lost forever.”

Welsh Church glass cut by Jamie Clark for the restoration ©Greencore Design
Lanterns after restoration ©Greencore Design

See Simon Wharton Antiques and Greencore Design at Bath Decorative Antiques Fair. Here are the details you need to know: 

Bath Decorative Antiques Fair
Date: 22-24 October 2021. Open 11am – 5pm
TRADE PREVIEW Thursday 21 October. Open 12noon – 5pm
Venue: The Pavilion, North Parade Road, Bath, BA2 4EU

Get your tickets here

Aware, thoughtful and deliberate with Wolf & Gypsy, ethical jewellery by Tori Shay

Comfortable clothes continue to rule, and it’s hard to imagine what could come along to convince us otherwise, but that doesn’t come at the sacrifice of decoration. 

Speaking to friends, jewellery has been the mood lifter, and yes an opportunity to shine on conference calls, but particularly if you have gone a while without wearing it, the deliberate act of adding jewellery can positively impact your day. Tori Shay, the founder of Wolf & Gypsy reflects on her journey and creating a brand that gives back to the environment rather than taking away.

I love the expression ‘life can turn on a sixpence’ and often share one of my life’s turning points as an example of how quickly life can change. In short, on the first night of a six day trip to San Francisco, at a restaurant reservation that me and my friend almost cancelled, I met the man that three months and three dates later became my fiancé.  Wolf & Gypsy’s Sixpence pendant pictured below was designed using an original sixpence coin, dated 1914.

One of Tori’s sixpence turns came when she started her brand…

“It was so very important that Wolf & Gypsy was a responsible brand.  When finding a manufacturer, I travelled to India to see the workshops so that I could make sure that they had the same values” 

Anyone can speak of sustainability, and at the moment it feels like anyone is! But Wolf & Gypsy’s commitment as a member of 1% For The Planet not only talks, it walks the walk with a minimum of 1% of annual sales to support environmental non-profit organisations. Wolf & Gypsy jewellery is realised in recycled silver and gold with ethically sourced conflict-free gemstones.

“I think it’s really important in this day and age to be very aware of the choices you make and how that impacts our world… Be aware, thoughtful and deliberate.  I try to stay positive and upbeat in every situation, which has been especially important this year”

Whilst raising her young family, Tori retrained under a talented goldsmith, whose designs were snapped-up by Liberty and Harvey Nichols in the seventies. Swapping a career in event design, she began to create jewellery and practise the art of ear curation, adding professional ear piercing to her new skills before launching Wolf & Gypsy in 2018.

Tori’s journey into jewellery gives the Wolf & Gypsy collection artful earrings designed for different piercings. Rediscovered vintage pieces come re-furbished ‘as-new’ and compliment the rest of the range, which is also designed to last. Necklaces, rings, bracelets and bangles are made for experimenting, layering, mixing and matching. It feels like she’s sharing her personal treasure trove of pieces collected over time.

I ask Tori the impossible, to name her favourite piece. Failing a single favourite, today she is wearing the Pear Rainbow Moonstone ring with diamond halo, the Snake bangle and a personalised necklace with her name on it.

Tori’s high jewellery Pear Rainbow Moonstone ring is available by pre-order

For many, this moment and stagnant lockdown life feels ripe for a sixpence turn and a change of luck. The brand’s name was inspired by her young son Rafe, whose name means ‘wolf,’ and ‘gypsy’ is derived from Tori’s love of travel and adventure. So how does she soothe her adventurous spirit in these unique circumstances? 

“I’m finding happiness from the little things in life and enjoying the beautiful countryside that we have to offer in this country with my children.”

It may seem self centred to think about self-adornment in the middle of a pandemic, but sometimes simply putting on a piece of deliberate design can help you get up in the morning. And jewellery particularly can connect us to people that we may not have the privilege of seeing at the moment. 

One of Tori’s memories of jewellery impacting her day was the first day she went through her Grandmother’s jewellery box: “It was then that I fell in love with jewellery.” 

I think most of us would enjoy reliving childhood moments, where dress up wasn’t about going anywhere, it was simply for the fun of play.

See the complete Wolf & Gypsy collection

© Photographs Reclaimed Woman and most courtesy of Wolf & Gypsy

Is fashion self-care? Revelations for Fashion Revolution Week with Ilk + Ernie

This is Fashion Revolution Week, where we ask #whomademyclothes to coincide with and commemorate the Rana Plaza factory, which collapsed seven years ago today. This is the day Fashion Revolution was born. 

A month in lockdown has likely resulted in more time for self-care for some, and forced self-care for others. Sometimes it takes getting sick to remember the importance of taking better care of our bodies and minds because we shy away from acts that soothe the self.  Me-time is usually last on the list. Self Care is the name of the new collection from ethical fashion label, Ilk + Ernie, which has me contemplating is fashion self-care?

Arguably fashion is moving towards pillars of self-care practice with the emergence of kinder, comfortable shoe styles and athleisure that makes it easier to go from office mode to exercise mode.  On a deeper level, I truly believe clothes have the power to transform our mental state, and the emergence of ethical fashion labels like Ilk + Ernie can make buying fashion a happy thing – both for yourself and the people that made it.  If fashion is to find its meaning again then it will surely come from a pivot towards kindness to ourselves, others and the planet. 

Jessica McCleave, the woman behind Ilk + Ernie took some time this Fashion Rev Week to share her journey into the sustainability scene. 

What did you do before you started Ilk + Ernie?

Much like you, I began my career working in the fashion industry. I started out as a visual merchandiser for Topshop HO and later moved into styling and PR. If I’m honest I really struggled with it, I found fashion to be a cruel, cut throat and at times very unkind industry. I once got told by a manager of mine that I was “too nice to work in fashion” which as you can imagine was very unmotivating! I think what I struggled with most is why we weren’t celebrating each other’s creativity instead of squandering it.

So I left! After some time working as a PA I became miserable enough to want to go back, but on my own terms. Working in high street fashion made me realise how wasteful the industry could be. I grew up designing and decided I wanted to give it another shot. I’d heard good things about textiles in India, so I booked a one way flight, packed up my life and went. I spent 4 months looking for ethical production and eventually found Sam. His father opened their factory 30 years ago and have been working with start-ups like mine ever since. Their business is Sedex certified, which means they’re on the map for doing things ethically. 

Sam made your clothes if you shop with Ilk + Ernie

What is the inspiration behind the name?

Ilk + Ernie was not the businesses first name. Back in the day it went by the name KIN LDN. Named so because I wanted to start a business that celebrated kinship amongst women. I was tired of the negativity I’d experienced in the industry and I wanted something positive; a sisterhood to buy from and be a part of. The name felt perfect. However after a feature in Vogue and some other mags my business got noticed by John Lewis, who was in the middle of launching a collection in their department store called KIN. They slapped me with a cease and desist and that was that, a classic case of the struggles of a small business against the big guys. I took a year out to restart and rebrand my business and in SS18 Ilk + Ernie was born. The name is unusual haha, but I learnt my generic naming lesson! Ilk was my follow on from KIN, I loved the name and meaning so much that I wanted to hold onto it in another form. Ernie is from my Irish dad. The first born son of every generation of his family was called Ernist. I was the first girl. The name means a lot to me and I wanted to carry it on. So in sum, the name is for family and community!

@ilkandernie Instagram post of women that dedicated a rainy Sunday to filming the label’s Crowdfunding video

Do you have any self-care routines or recommendations?

Right now self-care is the biggest thing on my agenda. I think it’s something that all human beings can do more of. For such a long time people didn’t talk about their mental health, yet we’ve all suffered from poor mental health at some point in our lives. In this crazy time of uncertainty, self-care is the most important kindness we can give ourselves. We all need to find our own way to stay sane and healthy! For me right now that’s routine. I wake up at the same time every morning [apart from weekends!], do my friends live stream hiit class, finish up with some yoga, shower, eat a tasty breakfast and then sit down to work. I don’t work past 5pm because I really rely on my afternoon stroll these days. When I’m feeling crap and unmotivated I let myself. When I want to eat junk food I let myself. When I want to sleep I let myself. I try not to allow myself to feel guilty – being overwhelmed is normal, especially when you’re running a small business. I have an amazing boyfriend and I live in a guardianship community with lots of incredible people, and for that I am grateful. Basically I allow myself to think and feel what I need to think and feel. I find that helps me stay positive. 

What is your favourite thing to do in Brighton? And assuming it is something you can’t enjoy right now – what will you wear when you can do it again after lockdown?

GAAAD! I miss being out and about in Brighton soooo much. After 10 years of living in London, I was so bowled over by the kind, friendly people of this city. My favourite thing….being able to walk to the beach in 15 minutes. I love the Laines and the amazing community Brighton has. The food scene is insane! I’ll never tire of eating out here. I can’t wait to sit out on a cobbled street and sink a glass of wine haha, so English. 

After lockdown I will be parading around in Ilk + Ernie’s SS20 clobber! I am genuinely so excited about this collection. It’s colourful, fun and can be worn all year round. The green Mom Suit is my favourite 🙂

Ilk + Ernie’s Mom Suit

What does Fashion Revolution mean to you? 

Fashion Rev has created a much needed voice for an industry that was in such dire need of change. It has brought ethics and sustainability to the forefront and forced people to listen. There has been such a surge in people’s acknowledgment of how damaging fast fashion is. I honestly don’t think people considered the links between fast fashion and global warming. Over consumption of poor quality garments made by exploited garment workers wasn’t exactly a thing people wanted to admit to knowing, but on some level we all knew. How else could companies like Pretty Little Thing be producing £6 dresses? 

What Fashion Rev has done is amazing. They’ve created a passion in people to do the right thing, shop responsibly and care about where their clothes come from. It’s an exciting time to be part of the ethical fashion community as a small business. When I was starting out no one cared about the sustainability behind my business. It’s so great to finally see people take notice. 

I grew up in Brighton, where the brand is based, so like Jessica, I am keen to soothe my soul with the creativity and kindness in Bri-Town when we are allowed out and about again.  But until that time comes, enjoy some Self Care

We hope you stay safe, sane and well in these times of madness. 

© Photographs courtesy of Ilk + Ernie 

Clean cleaning with Norfolk Natural Living

“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.  

See Bella’s ‘how to clean silk’ guide

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.

Me and Norfolk Natural Living handling a 1940s silk

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.”

Shop Norfolk Natural Living

© Photographs courtesy of Norfolk Natural Living & Reclaimed Woman

The Great Indoors

 

Long gone are uninviting dark Dickensian cluttered shops. Antiques have entered a new (eco) friendly state where they have never been more desirable. 

If you are excited to step back inside now that the number of hot days have outweighed ideas for al fresco experiences, then October is the month for you. Save the dates 19-21 October 2018 – the weekend of Bruton Decorative Antiques Fair is a good time to be in Somerset.  

Nothing says let’s get cosy (with over fifty of the finest dealers in decorative antiques and Mid-century design to dress our homes for winter) like a bucolic weekend in the South West.

After a working summer in Suffolk interspersed with inspiration trips to Italy and France, Chris Randle of The Antique Partnership is handpicking stock ready to make a debut at Bruton this year. Taking the traditional with the trendy, Chris shares his secrets for fashioning friendly environments…

Twenty-five years of dealing and restoring antiques has earned Chris what’s referred to by insiders as the knowledge, an increasingly rare quality in today’s new market changed by the Internet and social media selling. 

Chris uses the Internet to his advantage – not having a shop helps him keep prices keen. But hashtag searches only get you so far and his clients are not one-click wonders. He has built a genuine reputation by splitting his time between antique dealing, interior decorating, and through real face time with buyers at high calibre events.

So how does one attain the knowledge? Chris is modest.

“Take on challenges and overcome the mistakes made… never be afraid to ask those who know more than you,” he says. Chris happily returns the favour by sharing his knowledge with those who ask.

The new season is about touchy feely interiors. “Attractive, difficult to find talking pieces often with a rustic country touch…nothing over perfect but with a warm feel,” says Chris.  

An appreciation for old things comfortably coexists with fashion.  Buying antiques can be your fastest route to trends with quality iterations that add individuality which never dates. Chris says fashion is getting louder with “brighter colours than of late” and no room – no matter how small – is devoid of a talking point or two.  

Try bold geometric designs in primary colours and Victorian pub signs like this scoreboard (probably made for indoor excitements such as a game of skittles).

Bruton is brought to us by Sue Ede, the woman behind the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair, which is celebrating its 30th next year.  This October is only the 3rd edition of Bruton, but it has already created a buzz. Stands are artfully curated and highly personal, filled with objects that exhibitors truly love. From immediate wows to settings that show the potential of even the humblest pieces, beauty is everywhere to be found for all manner of tastes.      

I dressed this corner of my home with pieces collected from regular exhibitors at Bath and Bruton.

Step inside The Antique Partnership’s stand at Bruton this year and you will get a taste for rustic 19th Century French and English pieces. Your eyes will meet the glass eyes of a polychrome rocking horse and rest on pairs of upholstered French armchairs. The modern home is not museum-like, beautifully upholstered chairs are actually bought to sit in. 

Chris is a fan of the “practical but strikingly nice to look at.” A flight of painted Georgian drawers, a lime waxed pine dresser base, and a rare walnut topped centre table fit the bill for Bruton.     

The months when the great indoors beckons is a natural time for living green to resonate. The choices we make for our own homes effect that place we all call home, planet earth.  Chris believes the green angle will translate over time, but it has not hit the right spot yet. “A huge effort needs to be made to bring this concept back into the publics mind,” he says.

Choosing antiques over new is surely one of the most pleasurable ways to sustain our planet.  But who needs preaching when the beauty found at Bruton Decorative Antiques Fair can inspire change without words.

Bruton Decorative Antiques Fair

19 – 21 October 2018
Haynes International Motor Museum
Sparkford, Somerset, BA22 7LH

Entry is £5 or get your Free Ticket here

The Antique Partnership

©Photographs courtesy of Reclaimed Woman & The Antique Partnership 

Do you believe in magic? Interview with Anne-Sophie Planet, founder of Kimaya  

If you’re looking for proof that magic exists then Kimaya’s ethical elegance will suit you. 

After more than a decade working on fashion planet aka Paris, Anne-Sophie Planet swapped city life for southern India to realise her dreams as a designer.

Following her intuition, she landed in the international sustainable township of Auroville and created her eco-conscious fashion brand Kimaya.

Sitting somewhere between the forest and the ocean, Anne-Sophie writes to me – sitting somewhere between London’s Holland Park and Portobello Road – and through the wizardry of the web we realise that we both believe in magic.

Anne-Sophie Planet 

“I just followed my heart. It was maybe the first and only time of my life where I had almost no expectations. I was really in the moment. Discovering, meeting new people, resting, enjoying life, taking care of myself.”

The first collection has the carefree kindness of a globe-trotting woman that is as interested in others as she is independent. Anne-Sophie wants Kimaya to bring out the best in you: the authentic. Naturally cool in organic cotton, banana silk and tencel with respect for ancient print techniques, handloom, dyes from roots, nuts, flowers and fruits, and for mother earth herself.

UNESCO has protected the township of Auroville since its birth in 1968 and today over forty nations from all age groups, social classes and cultures make up around 2500 residents.  It is recognised as the first and only ongoing experiment in human unity and transformation of consciousness.

Sometimes, without realising it, we live life like we’re stuck on repeat, so what advice would she give herself on arrival in India, knowing what she knows now?

“My advice would be to enjoy even more every minute of this time because living in the flow without thinking of tomorrow is precious.”

Revived with essential values: co-creation, respect for people, connection with nature and simplicity of life, she was ready to create her brand.  All of the fabrics are from India, and mostly from southern India as she is keen to keep Kimaya as local as possible.

“We are so lucky to have this cultural diversity here and so many skilled people,” says Anne-Sophie who collaborates with Aurovilian artisans from India, Germany, France, Switzerland, the US and the UK.  “Auroville is a laboratory, where we all experiment and learn how to grow individually and collectively. That’s unending education.”

   

She is aware of the part she plays as both designer and consumer. She spent the majority of her time in Paris working for small, humane designer labels, but also did a three year stint with a mass market brand. 

“I have been to factories in China, India, Bangladesh, North Africa, Turkey… Always more, faster and cheaper! I was part of the play. But in a way, we are all part of the play because we are all consumers. We often hear ‘shopping is voting’ and it is true because as the final consumer, we have the last word. If we become more conscious about the way we consume and what we consume, things will change. Not only regarding fashion.”

Kimaya is designed to challenge the idea of shopping as a mindless occupation, and to encourage us to re-evaluate the relationship society has with clothing. If shopping is voting then don’t we all have the right and duty to choose consciously and express the power of the purse?

“Of course sometimes it is challenging but it is worth the work for making a change and manifesting something. I feel grateful to be part of this adventure in constant progress, to have the possibility to do what I love most and to evolve with people from so many countries, cultures and backgrounds,” says Anne-Sophie.   

A real change in fashion may take more than one miracle – the meaning of Kimaya in Sanskrit – but I do believe in magic, do you? 

Not putting words in your mouth, but I do love this indigo batik ‘oui’ tee.

Shop Kimaya with worldwide shipping

[And don’t miss adorable accessories like the notebooks covered with misprints from the floor of a local screen-printing workshop]

©Photographs courtesy of Kimaya

 

 

 

I want an eco-hot relationship with my clothes – Interview with COSSAC

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

 

 

 

A Model Feminist – Interview with Paulina Porizkova

Straight talking feminist, and star in the #MeToo incarnation of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, model, actress and author, Paulina Porizkova will return to London for the first time in 35 years to walk at London Fashion Week for emerging ethical designer Jiri Kalfar. 

Czech-born Swedish supermodel, Porizkova found status in the 1980s from swimsuit front covers of Sports Illustrated to fronting campaigns for Estée Lauder.  Wearing designs by fellow Czech Jiri Kalfar in The National Arts Club in New York City – one of Porizkova’s favourite haunts, she says it wasn’t until moving to America that she found the need to assert her status as a feminist.  A status she strongly defends to any who say you can’t be both super feminist and supermodel.

“I would give them a very polite middle finger. Those people are the ones who apparently believe that a woman has no right to make choices with her body (but of course, men do and always have), and that if she uses her looks, she incites desire in men, and thus she is responsible for whatever happens to her.”

Porizkova started modelling at fifteen.  At the time she felt protected by what she calls “Swedish Woman Armor.” In Sweden, she learnt her body belonged to her and her choices were her own.

“With this attitude, I came into a business of rampant sexual abuse and just figured all those people were assholes. I never felt like a victim, because I was certain my choices were my own.  And I was very lucky never to have met Harvey Weinstein.”

Porizkova described her transition through cultural notions and attitudes to women as she moved from Czechoslovakia in the sixties and seventies to Sweden, France and finally America in her opinion piece “America Made Me a Feminist” published by The New York Times last year.  In it, she also described her former gynaecologist in the US, examining her as though she were a Victorian maiden “who’d rather not know” where all her bits were.  Little did she know that her reply to Jiri Kalfar’s direct message on Instagram would fashion her a Victorian again, although this time more Victorian queen than maiden in the designer’s upcoming Autumn Winter 2018 collection inspired by Queen Victoria.

It was during the reign of George V, Queen Victoria’s grandson when (some) British women won the right to vote.  This February marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, where women over the age of 30, who either owned property themselves or through marriage were given the right to vote.   This was a big step forward for the suffragette movement,  despite only benefiting land-owning women considered middle-aged for the time, and that the same act dropped the voting age for men from 30 to 21.  One could argue that suffragettes do not sit comfortably in an interview with a supermodel that just posed nude for Sports Illustrated, but the fact that a magazine designed for the male gaze is attempting to question attitudes to women is telling of the #TimesUp trending times.  Porizkova voices her part in the 2018 Swimsuit Issue released this week, which features In Her Own Words  – a black and white shoot of models wearing nothing but words.

“I’d like to mention that in our society nudity is like a great big stop sign. It’s shocking to see a naked woman. If it’s not a flat-out coy, sexy, Penthouse or Playboy type thing then nudity is considered shocking. I wanted to use that shock to speak: to say the words I thought were important. My nudity forces you to stop for a moment, and that moment is long enough to read what I consider important.”

A fan of Great Britain’s ruling queens, Porizkova believes that in some ways the UK is ahead of the US when it comes to women’s empowerment.

“In the US, the hypocrisy of “you can do anything” that turns into “except this” is still rampant, and needs all the help anyone with a voice can give.”

Porizkova recently caught the headlines for saying sexual harassment was such an ingrained part of the business when she started, it was viewed as a “compliment.” Hindsight is a wonderful thing, although Queen Victoria was the Head of State, she held traditional views and opposed giving women the right to vote, but no doubt she would be pleased with what women have accomplished. One could say that like Queen Victoria, the stage was already set for Porizkova.

“It never dawned on me then that I was somehow complicit. It was obvious the stage had been set long ago to make little men feel big. In modelling, as in entertainment and athletics, careers start young and end young. When you are taught the rules as a child, you rarely question them. And the rules have always been:  Pretty women are more valuable women.”

100 years from now, how would Porizkova like to be remembered?

“I would love to be a part of this movement that I believe has already started, the one that empowers women to believe in their powers, their choices, their value being equal to those of a man.”

Like 100 years ago, middle-aged women are winning and in this case walking on the catwalk. At 52, Porizkova asks and why not people in “their Sixties? Seventies? Eighties? Ageism is something that still needs a lot of attention. Our society tells us we women are no longer all that valuable once our looks change from fresh to mature, although I believe we really come into our powers in our forties.”

I am old
and I am new
I am first
and I am last

reads the collection notes for Jiri Kalfar’s Autumn Winter 2018 collection.  It wasn’t the designer’s ethical approach that caught Paulina’s attention first.

“His designs are such that I would have overlooked his ethics (to a point, of course), but that he is as dedicated to the ethics of his manufacturing and making the world a better place makes me not just want to wear his clothing, it makes me want to be his friend.”

Paulina Porizkova will close the Jiri Kalfar show at London Fashion Week.

©Photographs of Paulina Porizkova in The National Arts Club courtesy of Jiri Kalfar

 

Planet friendly period pants from Modibodi

At the risk of sharing TMI, I just got back from a romantic trip to Bruges which perfectly coincided with my period.  I don’t normally write in acronyms, but having found a new solution to life’s unmentionables, I feel like my pre-teen self experiencing a period for the first time, so 4YEO FYEO (for your eyes only) here are my new period pants.

On the blob in Bruges, it was a good time to get brave and try something different, whilst doing my bit to minimise the flow of the sanitary pad footprint.  My weekend wash bag for Belgium was leaner and greener with no disposable pads or tampons, as I packed panties from Modibodi instead.  These Modibodi bamboo undies are reusable and sustainable – designed not only for women and girls, but for the benefit of all of the bodies on this planet.

Read my review and interview with Modibodi founder and CEO Kristy Chong, who (along with Belgium chocolate) helped me unlock the magic combination of comfort and confidence during that not-so-hot time of the month…

Kristy, the creator of Modibodi and I talk the same language.  She accumulated over 13 years experience in senior PR roles before making Modibodi, and the kind of products a PR professional dreams of.  The collections not only look cool, they also support causes worth shouting about, such as Days for Girls. This charity particularly struck a chord with me, as I was introduced to Days for Girls by a friend I lost to cancer last year.  You know the friend that makes you laugh so much you wet yourself?  Well, she was mine, so Modibodi’s leak-proof technology springs to mind as I start my questions for Kristy.

 

What ignited the motivation for you to own your own business?

From a young age I always knew I wanted to own my own business. The concept of Modibodi came when I was in Seattle, after the birth of my second child, I was doing a lot of running and traveling and came to the realisation that my underwear was failing to protect me from sweat and the occasional bladder weakness. I started to think about all the times as a woman underwear fails us.

For the 1 in 3 women with light incontinence and for every menstruating women, most can recall stories of that embarrassing situation in which her underwear failed to protect her from a leak, or they have endured years of using inconvenient, uncomfortable and eco-damaging disposable hygiene to stay protected. I wanted create a whole new product category for women that helps them better manage menstrual flow or incontinence, and to reduce the number of single-use products ending up in landfill and damaging our environment.  Modibodi is fashionable, sustainable, hi-tech, super comfortable underwear that totally replaces the need for disposable hygiene!

Can you tell me more about your support for Days for Girls?

As the issues of women’s health and rights are so close to my heart, I have made it a core pillar from the outset that Modibodi support women in need.

Days for Girls was one of the first organisations Modibodi supported which lead to us evolving our CSR globally. We have worked in partnership with initiatives such as Share the Dignity, the McGrath Foundation and School for Life and felt it was time to establish the ‘Give a Pair’ initiative to directly deliver product into the hands of women in need, and raise funds through direct sales of product.

Customers across the globe can ‘make a virtual donation’ on modibodi.com and Modibodi will donate a pair of Modibodi underwear to young girls & women in need. We also pledge to match all donations our customers make. Therefore, each time you purchase a GIVE A PAIR donation, you are essentially providing 2 women life changing underwear!

When you were setting up Modibodi, what was your most challenging moment?

Thankfully all of our failures have been relatively small, and not too costly. But when Modibodi has failed,  I let myself feel the disappointment and then I use that energy to put processes in place to prevent that from happening again or to pivot and look at other ways to do it. It’s important to take responsibility for those failures because it makes you stronger in the end.

 

Do you miss anything about your PR days?

The PR profession is made up of a majority of women, and I loved working with creative, super driven, high energy women. But I love the journey I am on now.

 

What advice would you give a woman with an idea looking to start her own business?

That you are like a rubber band, you will definitely feel stretched, but you won’t break, you will bounce back. And get comfortable with being uncomfortable because in business you will feel a lot of uncomfortable.

 

 

 

When women discover your designs do they share their embarrassing period stories? 

We are very fortunate to have amazing women who have joined the Modibodi Movement that share their stories and experiences with us and with our wider community. We are proud that through our blog, emails and social media we are able to converse and engage with our followers and customers. One of my personal favorites is this story from Helen:

Dear Modibodi,

I’m a little angry. I’m 26 years old. That’s a lot of period. Why weren’t you around when I was 12? I’m sure you know this but female sanitary products have a GST tax placed on them and condoms don’t?!? That is the first reason I was looking for an alternative to the nasty products which I have been using regardless of the slight allergic reaction I had to them, making that time of the month all the much worse. Since the age of 12 I have had to skip days of school (and since, work) because it was just that heavy, I was continuously worried about leakage and I couldn’t think through that and the pain. This month, I thought I would try Modibodi and my goodness IM IN LOVE. The bamboo undies are so soft and pretty too! I was thinking about posting a photo of my undies previously reserved only for those particularly heavy days, but I was too embarrassed. While your pretty undies can’t take away the pain they definitely make my bloated belly feel a lot sexier! I slept in them for the first-time last night and I didn’t have to worry about the undies being messed up in my sleep as I would a pad, there was absolutely no leakage and I woke up feeling like I didn’t have my period at all. In the past, the first thing I would do would be to go straight to the toilet and change my product but I didn’t feel gross one bit in Modibodi. I just really wanted to say thank you so much for creating these beautiful, useful, delightful undies. I really feel like they might change my period forever. Thank you!

As for my review…this is me, nappy free, galavanting about Bruges in my Modibodis with the kind of liquid love my husband and I could still enjoy on our weekend away – Belgium’s chocolatey stouts.

Another nice thing about the pants is that you don’t have to worry about nasties from plastic materials touching your skin.  I recently switched to organic pads, but with a glass door separating our hotel bedroom from our bathroom, it was wonderful not worrying about the less sexy stripping noise  of separating a pad from your panties.

Modibodi also unlocked the option of a sexy beige.

I started with the Classic Bikini, but I also like the look of the high waisted Sensual Full Brief.  They’ve also  got your backstroke ready for summer with leak-proof swimwear.   The first release is almost sold out, so keep an eye out for stock drops in the spring.

More on Modibodi.com

Learn about how you can help Days for Girls here

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman.  Inspirational graphics from @modibodiaustralia Instagram