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

 

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 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

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