Resolutions from Berlin Ethical Fashion Show

I packed learnings of balance in my suitcase back from Berlin (alongside this Resolution organic cotton tee by Cruba). 

I should have known it would be a knowledge excursion when I spotted my school history teacher on our flight over. Ms Hodson taught me everything I know about Berlin’s past, and I was about to learn about the future and significant hub the city has created for the international fashion crowd that likes their lewk sustainable. 

I could share spring summer 2019 trends from the Greenshowroom, now rebranded NEONYT – a combination of the old Greek and Swedish words for new,  but this isn’t a show that promotes out with the old, in with the new seasonal dressing. One could note hemp like you’ve never seen it; cullotes; the colours yellow, rose, summer black, and athleisure with a persuasion for tennis above all other sports, but the newness at NEONYT is more about optimism for a change in fashion for good. The designers showing here are about capsule wardrobes with considered additions and innovation like this clever cork bag by COSSAC. 

This bag will beautifully balance summer essentials – beach towel + big book, which brings me back to the dressing lesson I’m taking back from Berlin – balance.

Even though the city was sweltering, Berliners struck the balance in summer-wear they felt comfortable in that didn’t look like it belonged at the beach. Sometimes it is tough in the city to get the right harmony of skin-on-show, shoes that are pavement or even cobble friendly, but aren’t sweaty and Berlin handled the heat perfectly.

My strategy was a lotta linen, like this ’80s Oscar de la Renta dress (above) and Noumenon shirt (below) with trainers or a wedge. 

And a free and easy Etro wrap skirt from my local Mary’s Living and Giving Shop worn with a COSSAC t-shirt and a choker made from surplus furniture fabric by Noumenon, as before.  

The other resolution I made, actually just before Berlin was to give up gel nail varnish. I’m ashamed to say that despite making an effort to live green, my make-up bag has RSVP’d, but is yet to attend the party. I’ve swapped all lipsticks for organic Ilia shades, but I am still working through things, so next up it’s nails. People in the clean beauty scene talk in the number of chemicals a nail polish is free from – the starting point being 3-free – meaning formulas with no formaldehyde, toluene or dibutyl phthalate. I love having long nails and gel polishes kept them strong and long, albeit unnaturally, so I was thrilled to find vegan non-toxic 10-free formulas by Kure Bazaar. The nail polishes are nourishing with 85% of the formulation derived of natural origin, such as wood pulp and potato.

I’m wearing them shorter in Beige Milk whilst they repair, but the collection is full of awesome spring summer 19 ready colours like Sunset (above).  

*Content Beauty is currently  offering a free base coat when you buy two Kure Bazaar nail polishes, so it’s a good time to buy if you’re trying to cure a gel mani addiction.

The Fresh Therapies remover is designed to retain the natural oil in your nails and all of the ingredients are biodegradable, plus it actually smells good (as if you’ve just been squeezing limes).  

But as ever, when you commit to resolutions, there’s always more you can do. I’ve been a pescatarian since I was nine and in recent years I’ve removed more and more dairy from my diet. Agata, founder of COSSAC and Dena, founder of Noumenon invited me and my friend Rebecca for dinner with the team from Vegan Good Life magazine.  By chance, we sat by dietary group with the meat eaters on one end, vegans on the other and me in the middle.  There was no logic to our seating order as we were all sharing vegan plates at 1990 Vegan Living, which was, as billed, ‘hands down the best Vietnamese place.’

I’m not going vegan yet, but I’m thinking about it, and the Vegan Good Life special edition, Ethical Fashion Today is good fashion for thought.

Get your copy here

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman & courtesy of COSSAC   

 

 

 

Guilt Tripping

Having recently calculated that the renovation of my flat is 4x more sustainable than one planet living, I could be feeling smug, but with two flights in the pipeline next month I am less carbon footprint proud.  Let me explain…

One Planet Living is a framework created by Bioregional to help people understand their environmental impacts and enable us to do something about it. They calculated that we’re currently consuming resources and polluting the planet at a level of 40% higher than the earth can sustain.  

During my Grand Designs Live talk on sustainable interiors, presenter Kevin McCloud surprised the audience stating that “if everyone consumed as much as the average North American, we would need five planets to support us.”  

I glared at my American husband – oblivious – sweetly snapping my 45 minutes of fame, but I need not have been so quick to judge as the average western European consumes a similarly shocking amount, and even though my renovation was good, I am guilt tripping before we’ve even left London. 

Life and love requires us to travel sometimes.  Now that I’m cohabiting with my Californian husband I’ve been flying a lot less, but last year’s London summer lacked sun so we were inspired to book Seville, which will be followed by a business trip to Israel.  At least my husband is travelling to Jerusalem to advance the message about human rights in the digital realm – so his conscience is cleaner than mine.

This post doesn’t tie itself into a sustainably packaged, non air cargo delivered answer, I just wanted to acknowledge where I am.  There are of course ways I’ll reduce my environmental impact whilst travelling by walking lots, opting for locally purified water in recyclable glass bottles and ditching familiar flavours for restaurants with locally sourced ingredients.  What a sacrifice.  I’ll also be able to do the wild thing and actually wear my summer clothes, which Londoners rarely get to do. 

Until we sign-up to a life in nothing but bamboo Birdsong knickers, increasing the average number of times we wear things is the most direct way to increase value and reduce waste in our wardrobes.

And of course, the weather in London has been lovely lately.

Wearing eco-hot Jumpsuit by COSSAC worn with a Pachacuti hat from Ethical Collection, Abacá bag from Tidy Street general store [with Noumenon vegan pouch inside] and rope sandals by Nomadic State of Mind

Above, Birdsong bamboo knickers in collaboration with Clio Peppiatt

Californian album artwork The Grateful Dead

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

I 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