Ethical & vintage finds for sustainable shopping in the San Francisco Bay Area

Had I not already left my heart in San Francisco in 2015 when I met the man I would marry seven months later, Love Street Vintage would have stolen it.  Sustainable gems are dotted in many neighbourhoods, but High on a hill, Haight Street calls if you are after a single destination to explore vintage and pre-loved fashion.  Berkeley is a must for Ohmega Salvage if you’re into reclaimed interiors.  If time allows, I thoroughly recommend crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County for giant redwood trees and environmentally conscious communities.  I had the vegan sausage of my life at Gestalt Haus in the town of Fairfax. But enough about my love life. Here’s some ethical and vintage finds to start your own love affair with the SF Bay Area.  

Amour Vert

Marina District – 2110 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123, USA. Plus more Amour Vert stores to explore in numerous neighbourhoods in the Bay Area…

photograph courtesy of Amour Vert

Starting with green love. These sustainable staples are what you would expect to find if you raided the wardrobe of a chic French woman: classic tees, great silk blouses, a boyfriend blazer, relaxed sweaters, a slinky jumpsuit. AND then added free-spirited prints; this is after all San Francisco, where 97% of Amour Vert’s clothing is made (within just a few miles of the brand’s head office).  Natural, quality fabrics are arguably the building blocks behind both French and Californian style, which Amour Vert translates beautifully with eco-friendly materials like GOTS certified organic cotton, Mulberry silk and modal. 

 

Love Street Vintage

Haight & Ashbury neighbourhood – 1506 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA

Visit the kaleidoscopic corner of Haight and Ashbury and absorb the setting of 1967’s Summer of Love and then explore bohemian sixties and seventies fashion at Love Street Vintage.  From paper-doll-making childhood days spent cutting out Sears catalogs to setting up this dress-up heaven, the owner edits beautiful clothing for women and men alongside accessories that date back to the twenties.  Discover new jewellery made in California and antique Native American turquoise pieces.  

 

Static Vintage

Haight & Ashbury neighbourhood – 1764 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA

Caution: one may leave Static Vintage wanting to paint one’s walls a ‘90s shade of lime green.  There is a lot to look at with painted walls decorated with women’s and men’s fashion. Stock ranges from reasonably priced rare pieces to cabinets reserved for vintage Vuitton luggage, designer jewellery and bags by the likes of Gucci and Chanel.  Other accessories include lots of ties and shoes, which range from secondhand so-wrong-they’re-right to vintage Yves Saint Laurent. Rails are packed so it’s a good place if you are in the mood for a rummage. Take intermittent breaks in the brown teddybear chair. 

 

Decades of Fashion 

Haight & Ashbury neighbourhood – 1653 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA

As the name suggests, here you can shop by the decade of fashion that takes your fancy. Most pieces fall between the thirties to the eighties, but the collection spans 100 years from the 1890s.  I’ve shopped everyday attire, but it’s particularly good for party-wear.  Sadly I don’t drink champagne everyday like the late Cilla Black was said to, but on my last visit I was tempted by a pair of ‘80s champagne bottle and coupe earrings (that would be a perfect blind-date identifier). Don’t worry if you’re not reading this from the UK or you were born after 1995 and these Blind Date jokes are lost on you because if you’re into vintage then Decades of Fashion definitely won’t be.

 

Wasteland 

Haight & Ashbury neighbourhood – 1660 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA

There’s nothing like a good window display to make you appreciate the pleasure that is unique to visiting a shop built with bricks instead of clicks.  In fact the whole store front of Wasteland’s San Francisco location is worthy of a minute or two before you dive past Art Deco tiles to discover pre-loved fashion peppered with vintage.  Expect high-end and contemporary designers, and when I last visited there was practically a cabinet dedicated to collectable Prada accessories.  Of course stock changes quickly, but men’s clothes and accessories always maintain a healthy share of the space.

 

Eden & Eden

North Beach neighbourhood – 560 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

Not everything in Eden & Eden is sustainable, but the store and staff exhibit such respect for both new and vintage that it is truly a place to shop forever pieces. Eden & Eden’s vintage clothes and jewellery is so well-edited that it could even convert people that don’t usually do vintage. They also exhibit in A Current Affair, an event for premier vintage retailers and private dealers that comes to the Bay twice a year.

 

Seedstore 

Inner Richmond neighbourhood – 212 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA

Step inside Seedstore and you feel a flowering spectrum of the sustainable fashion scene – ranging from local labels with collections made in California to independent brands from around the globe that nurture traditional in-country techniques. A pop-up of ‘80s and ‘90s vintage by WRN FRSH, a local SF label that also sells their own non-binary cut and sewn collection made of recycled denim sits well in this store of mainly new wardrobe staples for women and men and gifty goods. 

 

Gravel & Gold 

Mission District – 3266 21st St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA

Let’s just say they had me at the doormat welcome message.

Gravel & Gold is home to an independent, woman-owned design collective and is mainly stocked with things the women make themselves including clothing, accessories and gifts featuring their handmade prints.  Joyfully crafted items for your own home dome include stained glass shaka signs and unusual sculptures and ceramics. Expect a multi-sensory experience with warm, cruelty-free Californian scents from the likes of Fiele Fragrances.

 

Reformation 

Mission District – 914 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA. One of Ref’s two locations in SF.

It is increasingly rare to find a brand that you can’t get on home ground, so if you’re not based in San Francisco, New York or LA, Reformation calls for some revelling. Tech-savvy stores invite shoppers to add items to the fitting room from a monitor, but as a Brit usually restricted to viewing Reformation’s sexy strand of sustainable from behind a screen, I preferred to cruise the gallery-like display.  Save your upper-arm workout for another time because unlike stores with jam-packed rails, Reformation dresses theirs with just one of each item.  Then you can test sizes across bottoms, dresses and tops ready for future screen-shopping.

 

Ohmega Salvage 

Berkeley – 2400 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702, USA 

Exploring Ohmega Salvage is a happy excursion to inspire interestingly dressed interiors. This place is a staple of community for reuse with unusual objects that fit a need and tell a story.  It’s a given that you will eye-up salvage bigger than your suitcase could carry; which in my case was a trough sink circa 1960, but there are smaller shoppable items too (like the glass pendant light shades pictured).   It’s also fun to look at different architectural elements and furniture that you don’t find back home.  

 

Mystic Rose 

Fairfax in Marin County – 9 Bolinas Rd, Fairfax, CA 94930, USA

Mystic Rose is a new jewel to the treasure town that is Fairfax.  Stepping inside is like entering a fortune tellers cabin with vintage clothes and ‘90s iridescent Moschino boots waiting to tell you about the life you could have if you choose them. This store has trinkets galore, gifts and great American vintage accessories for women and men.  I saw mostly one-offs on my visit, apart from this trolley out front holding deadstock handbags from the seventies. It’s well worth crossing the Golden Gate Bridge for a taste of intentional living here. 

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

Seasonal vegging & voguing

This edit sums up my mood for the month ahead. It’s that time of year when your pinkie ring should give you super powers and you can cloak your face and your body in pillows [when not showing off that you’re capable of dancing in white whilst eating cranberry canapés].

Repurposed men’s cuff link Super Hero ring Pushkie 

Hero high-waisted trousers & Aegis drape top  Laura Ironside
[also available at The Maiyet Collective Concept Store in London. See Maiyet Collective for their next event]

Cushions & quilts Mother of Pearl 

Eye Pillow by Blasta Henriet from The Keep Boutique

Vintage floral jacket from Lime Green Bow

Eko collection BomBom bag made from decommissioned seatbelts From Belo

Dancing Queen socks Birdsong London

Monica trousers 31 Chapel Lane

©Photographs courtesy of the brands featured

 

 

Designing a happy wardrobe

I didn’t see myself squeezing into another capsule challenge so soon – having spent 6 of the coldest weeks in just 6 items of clothes for Labour Behind the Label at the start of the year – but this was too good to resist… 10 items, 10 days, easy right? Ah, but this time the count includes shoes. And this challenge calls for the most out there, fun, fashiony pieces, hence the name #GlamCapsule to show that our wildest eco-glitter filled dream where fashion and sustainability hold hands and skip into the sunset can be a reality. 

Designed to prove that sustainable fashion doesn’t just do neutrals, the Glam Capsule is the brainchild of fellow Ethical Writers & CreativesElizabeth L. Cline and Benita Robledo.

I’ve never been a capsule wardrobe kinda woman because a career in fashion has given me A LOT of clothes, but I am eager to make my wardrobe sustainable and one way of doing that is by giving more life to the things I already own. 

So at the start of #zerowasteweek, here’s to reuse and designing happy wardrobes by wearing all the beautiful things we usually save for best. Wear, don’t waste and put your clothes and accessories somewhere you can see them [like in this ex museum display cabinet below].

And if you reaaaallly want something happy and new [or new for you], here’s some reclaimed and ethical ideas to get those fashion juices flowing…

Slip dress made from upcycled vintage silks We-Resonate

Jacket made from surplus furniture fabric Noumenon

Rose gold plated recycled silver Millie Hoops Gung Ho x Chalk Designs      [£5 from every purchase goes to Friends of the Earth]

Vegan snake Lulu boots Beyond Skin

Reclaimed Museum display cabinet Retrouvius

Above, I am wearing an ’80s dress from Revivals 42 St Peter’s St, Canterbury, UK, Paul Andrew shoes, ’60s bag from Wolf & Gypsy Vintage and sunglasses from Klasik

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman & courtesy of the brands featured

 

 

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

 

 

 

Seville travel diary – A week on the tiles

Nobody wants to feel like a tourist. Who us? No no, we’re trailblazers – so you can imagine our surprise when we discovered our destination of choice is Lonely Planet’s No.1 city to visit in 2018.  

If like me you have to work through some guilt before enjoying your summer holiday then Seville is your sun blessed escape.  My pre-trip guilt stemmed from a) taking a holiday when I work for myself and b) taking flights when I’m also working on what it means to live green.  

Beyond sustainability shaming yourself, holiday stresses come from many things; your work to-do list is longer than your list of tapas bars to try; you splurged on that collab bikini between Tanja’s Crochet and Adornment Studios; your pet-sitter pulled out; you’re already anticipating the urge to Instagram whilst being present; you didn’t buy that cute collab bikini between Tanja’s Crochet and Adornment Studios; the reasons to stress continue… 

The most stressful thing about Seville is scaring yourself into thinking you might never experience that much joy again.  From the moment we arrived in the city we were soothed by purple flower blossoms on the jacaranda trees.  It’s like 2018’s city teamed-up with Pantone’s colour of the year to deliver the promise of intrigue for what was to come.  

Purple is also the colour of mindfulness, so it’s no surprise that the Andalucian capital has a captivating way of bringing your attention to the present moment.     

Eat & Drink 

Seville attracts Game of Thrones fans as scenes from the series were shot in the city’s Alcázar Palace – which is stunning and absolutely on the list of things to do – but for us the main game was tapas bar crawls. 

Seville is home to thousands of tapas bars so it’s good to do as the locals do and have a drink with one or two tapas and then move on to try another place.  Wine by the glass is really great value so you don’t get stuck in one bar with a bottle and you get to sample more and branch out into the local speciality – sherry.  My husband took to ordering deliciously dry manzanilla to mix things up. 

The food is incredible so it’s hard to go wrong, but here are my absolute favourites. 

You have to have breakfast at Bar El Comercio.  Take tips from the local old ladies on how to eat churros – dipped in coffee without spoiling your lipstick.

I’m not a local lady so I also went for a cup of melted chocolate to dip my churros

We loved Bar Estrella for lunch. Away from the bustle, we stumbled across it when we lost our way trying to return to a tiny tapas bar we liked, but couldn’t remember the name of (which incidentally is La Taberna del Rey Calle Corral del Rey, 2, Sevilla).  It’s definitely a city to get lost in and we were glad we did.  We got chatting to a local guy that took us down the street from Bar Estrella to see Iglesia de San Isidoro, a church and a living example of how the building was once peacefully used by both jewish and muslim worshipers with the Star of David over one entrance and the muslim horseshoe arch decorating the other.  He pointed out Moorish tiles as we meandered back to Bar Estrella and helpfully warned us not to over order here as the tapas are generously portioned.

Casa Morales is a wonderful place to stand and eat by the wooden bar or pull up a chair surrounding the giant wine vats.  Originally opened as a winery in 1850, the family run place still attracts locals and is charming in a hectic kind of way with a printed menu that’s not worth ordering from as the dishes they actually have that day are all on the blackboards.  Definitely sample the sherry here. 

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the modern Maquilla Bar. Scrumptious croquettes, really friendly service and especially good if you like beer.  

Eslava is on every list you’ll read so there’s a lot of hype and you have to queue, but as this was the only time we did it was part of the experience, plus you get to people watch and sip sangria whilst you wait.  Expect interestingly arranged tapas. 

We chose Abaceria La Nina Bonita for our final dinner.  Situated in what was once a grocery opened in 1931, the setting and menu are full of character.  They deliver the food from their sister restaurant Bar Antojo,  but this is absolutely the best setting to enjoy it. 

The only evening we didn’t eat tapas and booked ahead was for slow food restaurant ConTenedor.  The menu is presented in alternating coloured chalk on a blackboard propped on mismatched chairs that the waiter kindly translates, explaining the fifteen or so daily dishes.  We loved everything about this place from the live music (on Tuesdays) to the unique wine list to the eclectic interior.  Definitely save space for dessert. 

When not taking in tiles and more traditional sights – such as the Alcázar and Iglesia de San Luis de los Franceses pictured below – here’s some other ideas to get your heart going.

Shop local 

I picked-up this silver pendant below in the Sunday morning market in Plaza del Cabildo. It’s mainly for coin lovers, but worth it just to see the local men trading stamps in this monumental square.

My best flamenco experience came in the form of a visit to local flamenco atelier, Aurora Gaviño.  The shop has two cabinets of earrings ranging from big to huge.  I got these hand-painted tiles for earrings. 

 

Vintage and preloved fashion can be found on Feria, the street that is transformed into a flea market every Thursday morning.  I noted Crispa2 Vintage for the cute preloved Fendi bag I saw in the window, but it wasn’t on Feria street so there’s ironically a second Crispa2 somewhere else in the city.    

Near the Metrosol Parasol, the giant controversial wooden mushroom structure that we thought was stunning, sits some good places for conscious shopping. Verde Moscú is a great little boutique selling eco-fashion for women and men with their own brand of clothing alongside other sustainable Spanish and European brands such as Thinking Mu, Tiralahilacha and Armedangels.  I also discovered the Barcelona backpack brand Urbanita here.  Isadora is another women’s boutique just in front of Verde Moscú that is more cutesy, but stocks some cool pieces by Skunkfunk.   

There are lots of shoe shops, and I couldn’t leave Spain without a pair of espadrilles. La MallorquinaCalle Córdoba, 7, Sevilla had the best classic styles in bold colours by brands that are part of the espadrille association from the town of Cervera del Río Alhama in Rioja.

Jazz 

There’s an intimate little club called Jazz Naima Sevilla in Alameda, which is the hip district with a beautiful square and lots of bars and restaurants.  It’s free so you can poke your head in to see if you like the vibe of the music which ranges from jazz to swing, blues to funk fusion from night to night.

Triana 

Check out the Triana neighbourhood across the river where the flamenco artists, bullfighters and gypsies used to reside. Triana looks a lot more ordinary than the other side, but when you explore there are some real gems like casual local bakeries and tapas bars where we sampled our first salmorejo soup (like gazpacho, but creamier). Note: If you’re veggie then it’s worth making sure they don’t garnish it with serrano ham. The indoor food market, Mercado de Triana is also worth a visit for genuinely great local food.  

Packing list with what I wore from the Indigo crop at the top 

Indigo crop top VIMPELOVA, preloved Balenciaga skirt, Luna bag Cult Gaia (also below), sandals The poet sandal maker of Athens, jewellery The Sablon Antiques Market in Brussels, ’60s sunglasses from Klasik

Black ’80s Katherine Hamnett dress from Wolf & Gypsy VintageGeorge basket bag by MUUN from LN-CC, rope sandals Nomadic State of Mind, antique cross necklace The Sablon Antiques Market

Loyalty 2 Gaia dress Vivienne Westwood

Hollyhock dyed silk slip Local Dialect, preloved Yves Saint Laurent jacket, bag Abacá worn with a Vegan pouch inside from Noumenon, earrings Aurora Gaviño

Organic cotton shirt MUJI, skirt, sandals and sunglasses as before, preloved Fendi bag from Isabelle Bajart

Dress Naya Rea,  preloved Fendi bag as before, shell earrings from Brighton

Old Stella McCartney dress that comes out every summer holiday or wedding since I bought it in a sample sale in 2011

And finally, How bad are bananas?  Mike Berners-Lee provided my reading material about the carbon footprint of EVERYTHING.

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

 

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

 

 

Seeking Victorian house with sustainable luxury label VIMPELOVA

Having spent a few days working away in Brighton – the town where I grew up – talk turned to where I might ultimately set-up home if my husband and I decide we have out-grown our little garden flat barely made for two.

Back home in London, I dropped-off my luggage to travel east to see the new collection by sustainable luxury label VIMPELOVA.  The event took place in a Victorian family home where designer, Veronika Vimpelova lives and works.  Mentally setting-up home and filling my wardrobe with Veronika’s chic pieces made of organic linen, organic cotton and peace silk, the period setting perfectly complimented traditional pleating and cording techniques.

I haven’t contemplated a crop-top for years, but VIMPELOVA nails them with sophisticated examples like this made of peace silk.

It’s surprising what shopping in a relaxed environment can do for your confidence.  I bought this crop-top in traditional  hand-block printed, hand-dyed Czech Indigo (Veronika is originally from the Czech Republic).

This piece is from Veronika’s first collection, which is available to shop on online.  You can also rent some pieces from Wear the Walk.

The new VIMPELOVA collection, which includes pieces for women and men is available to preview and pre-order from your own home now.

If you’re curious to know more, pay a visit to @vimpelova to hear about future events.

VIMPELOVA

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

Six Items Challenge : Day 33 is Green Day

My Six Items Challenge made packing simple for a last minute work trip to Madrid.  I got out the Gabriele Vintage green dress – a symbol of fresh starts and progress, as we think of the green light as go.

This Maison Bengal bag I got from Tidy Street general store in Brighton has become my go-to ethical biz bag as it is light to lug around a laptop.  I was on their online store yesterday and thought I’d share that they also stock ethical shoes by Rachel Comey.  See below for some of the greenest must-haves.

antique green light at LASSCO Brunswick House

Rachel Comey Bose clogs from Tidy Street general store 

Rachel Comey Lourde boots from Tidy Street general store

Nomadic State of Mind JC sandals – also available from Nomadics  if you are after easier shipping in Europe (made of partly reclaimed polypropylene cord – super durable and sustainable.  Less sustainable if like me, you want to order them in every colour…🙀)

Rafa The Simple Sandal.  I am dying to get my feet into a pair of these sandals made of vegan recycled textiles. Handmade in LA – Rafa has stockists throughout the US, one in Japan and they ship internationally.

©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