Six Items Challenge : Day 4

My days are all messed up.  It’s the second day of fashion week, but it is in fact the weekend, so Saturday feels like Tuesday, but it’s also masquerading  as Thursday – on this, the forth day of my challenge.

Despite setting my alarm for 7am on a Saturday, I knew exactly what I was wearing so I felt good this morning; the kind of good where your street feels like a catwalk.  Casually strutting off to the showrooms, little did I know a day of wardrobe malfunctions would follow.  First my tights laddered less than 30 minutes in, then I bent over and a designer politely informed me that this raincoat I’m wearing as a dress has a rather high vent.   So I’m down to five (appropriate) items to get me through the next six weeks…at least I’m prepared with a rainproof option if March brings spring showers.

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©Photograph Reclaimed Woman

 

Six Items Challenge : Day 3

It may be day three of my challenge for Labour Behind the Label, but it really only got challenging today on the first day of London Fashion Week.

For some reason it felt like my first day at school.  Perhaps it’s because when you’re a kid you get away with wearing your favourite green dress again and again, but as adults, and particularly women, we are encouraged to reinvent ourselves on the regular.   Perhaps it felt like school because this task is teaching me about my approach to fashion and encouraging me to question: “What do I want my wardrobe to be when I graduate in six weeks time?”

I chose both the ’50s dress from Gabriele Vintage (pictured above) and the Gap raincoat that doubles as a dress as my 5th and 6th items – editing out another dress instead.  The rules state that you are allowed one coat on top of your six items, so mine is this pre-loved Celine jacket from Vestiaire Collective. Boots are from my local Trinity Hospice.

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©Photograph Reclaimed Woman

 

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

 

Six Items Challenge : Day 1


©IWM (D 14826)

Lent hasn’t fallen on Valentine’s Day since 1945.  Today shiny heart shaped gifts and ash crosses collide, as I start my Six Items Challenge.

I pledged to only wear six items of clothing for the next six weeks in support of Labour Behind the Label, a not-for-profit workers’ cooperative that supports garment workers around the world.  Somewhat ironic me thinks, as in 1945 Britain was facing clothes rationing to reduce consumption and save raw materials for the war effort.

Although dubbed a fashion fast to fight fast fashion, this is no war. I am not about boycotting brands, but I do want to buy less and buy better.

Here’s some tips I’m taking from the Imperial War Museum archive to see me through the fashion ration.


© IWM (Art.IWM PST 8564)

Plan Ahead.  Sadly I’m past the age of growth spurts (which just shy of 5 ft 7 kills me) but I do need to plan ahead, and allow for spilling something down the front of my white Frederica dress from Reformation – one of my six items.


©IWM (Art.IWM PST 8293)

Which can you do without?  The challenge may have started, but I’m not 100% certain about all of my six pieces.  I have a few days yet to choose my 6th item, so will it be the emerald green 50s dress I just got in Brussels from Gabriele Vintage  or my Gap check waterproof raincoat that doubles as a dress?

I’ll keep you posted.

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©Photographs Reclaimed Woman & courtesy of Imperial War Museum

 

 

My fashion fast to fight fast fashion

I have pledged to only wear six items of clothing for six weeks – starting just before London Fashion Week

 

If it takes a collective to make a fashion, it takes collective action to end fashion abuse.

The Six Items Challenge is a campaign created by Labour Behind the Label to raise money for a not-for-profit workers’ cooperative that supports garment workers to improve their working conditions.   

 

Labour Behind the Label do not advocate boycotting brands as this can have a negative impact on workers, but they do want fashion consumption to slow down to ease the constant pressure to produce more.  The Six Items Challenge is designed to highlight the speed of fashion, where it is common for brands to change their stock every four to six weeks.  The event takes place from 14th February till 29th March 2018 – covering Valentines Day, London Fashion Week, and Lent. Ethics are an increasingly fashionable issue, but no matter what fashion means to you, these dates resonate for many of us and encourage reflection on a consumer society.

We often know nothing about a garment’s origin, however a garment has many stories sewn into it throughout an often complex chain of activities.  From secret labels protesting unpaid labour stitched into clothing by workers at the Bravo Tekstil factory in Istanbul to less visible stories of people fuelling the fashion industry earning poverty wages, each item has its own story.  A small positive change can have a big impact that lasts beyond the 40 days of my Six Items Challenge and will no doubt help me appreciate the abundance in my life.  
 

It is easier than you think, as the Six Items Challenge allows for an unlimited number of shoes and accessories, socks, underwear and pyjamas.  Good news for shoe people, aka me, but bad news for those looking for an excuse to let the new year gym membership lapse, aka me, as the challenge even allows performance clothes to maintain a fitness regime.  The rules also permit me to pick one coat as an extra item because it is winter.  Those that are good with a sewing machine, aka not me, can make the most of even more choices through customisation.  I personally welcome the freedom from too many choices and that common feeling of a wardrobe full of clothes, yet nothing to wear.

So, which six items will substitute for an entire wardrobe?  My diary events during the 6 weeks and advice from capsule wardrobe advocators are running through my mind. Even Caroline Rector behind the blog Unfancy allowed herself 37 items during a 3 month capsule experiment to curb her shopping habit.  Sadly strategising ways to maximise my outfit options, I realise that if I choose a suit (which counts for 2 items) I will not, shock horror have enough combinations to avoid repeating an outfit during the five days of London Fashion Week.  That is, unless I go shirtless under my suit and stick to dresses and jumpsuits for my remaining 4 items. 

Okay, enough about my trivial dilemma, when this challenge supports the belief that no-one should live in poverty for the price of a cheap t-shirt.  

Founded in 2001, Labour Behind the Label is the only UK campaign group that focuses exclusively on labour rights in the global garment industry.  Researching and lobbying in support of workers, it campaigns for people across the world that face the daily grind without basic human rights – ranging from the lack of a living wage to working in fear for their life. Labour Behind the Label is instrumental in pushing UK retailers to sign agreements such as the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which ensures Rana Plaza victims receive long-term compensation. Beyond the fatalities that make headlines, it campaigns against the systemic exploitation in fashion. 

It is not too late to join the fashion fast, and whether you are taking part or supporting, Labour Behind the Label encourages all of us to think about the story we want our clothes to tell.  How we consume shapes our connection with clothes and with faster, cheaper fashion it is unsurprising that garments have lost their value.   Disposable fashion not only puts pressure on manufacturing and the planet, but also on the consumer to constantly change their look.

Before the emergence of trendy teen shops in the sixties and seventies, people often made their own clothes. My mum still describes the genuine pleasure she got from, one – her going out top, two – her jeans, three – her maxi dress, four – the cheesecloth shirt she found at Kensington market, five – her brown velvet jacket, and six – the silk blouse hand-me-down from her mother.

This is of course a new time, and six items is very different in the age of Instagram, but if garment workers had as many eyes on their stories, it would surely bring about a lasting change in fashion.

 

Sign up for your own Six Items Challenge  before 14th February 2018

© Photographs Reclaimed Woman and courtesy of Labour Behind the Labour

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

Defining sustainable fashion with Stella McCartney’s Dessert Island Discs

Aside from the fact I love a bit of Radio 4’s Dessert Island Discs (where presenter Kirsty Young asks famous guests to pick eight records to take if they were to be stranded on a dessert island), Stella McCartney’s Dessert Island Discs seemed a good excuse to define sustainable fashion in eight dresses.  

 The local dress

It’s not always the case that made on your doorstep is more ethical, but shopping in local boutiques makes it easier to enquire about the designers and makers.

Stella McCartney  –  “I’ve also thought it takes a lot to buy something made well, that is mindful in design and manufacture. You have to make those decisions based on who you are and have them bring something else to your life, make your life better, but not make your life not your life.”  

 

 The ethical dress

Eco-friendly designers and eco-collections support fair wages and working conditions, use eco-friendly fabrics and are mindful of animal rights, energy, water use and toxic pesticides.  Look for certifications like Fairtrade and GOTS  aka Global Organic Textile Standard and self-enforced codes, which you will find on the brand’s website.  They will be easy to find if they advocate transparency.

Stella’s Winter 2017 campaign explores waste & overconsumption

 

 The charity shop dress

A great way to shop guilt free.  I’ve been shopping in charity shops since I was a teenager when my mum did a stint volunteering at an alzheimer’s charity shop, so it comes naturally to me.  They are often the most local option for clothes and occupy what could otherwise be empty shops on your high street.  Most of us are guilty of buying something we never get around to wearing.  What’s one woman’s afterthought is another’s treasure, and these untouched gems regularly end up in charity shops.  Dresses with the tags still on, designer  and homemade dresses, I’ve discovered them all in charity shops.

 

 The vintage dress

The antithesis of fast fashion, true vintage appreciates value with time. Vintage is an overused term, too often used to describe pre-worn clothing from any era, but real vintage is at least 10, more likely 20 years old.  My personal favourite form of sustainable fashion, vintage shopping comes with an appreciation for an item’s unique journey.

Kirsty Young  –  “If you go out and about and see somebody wearing a jacket or a pair of trousers that you designed 10 years ago, do you think that’s a triumph then if she is still wearing them 10 years later?”

Stella McCartney  –  “Yes, Definitely…and actually it was funny, there was was somebody I saw in the street, only yesterday that had a bag of mine that was about 10 years old and she looked at me and I looked at her and I thought, this is awkward and I was really chuffed. For me it’s a real achievement.”

 

 The make do mended dress

We live in a disposable era. Cheap fashion discourages the need to develop basic mending skills.  I’ve read many articles telling people to save the planet by learning to make their own clothes.  If you have that skill, creative urge, and time, amazing.  If not, get to know a good tailor who cannot only extend the life of the clothes in your wardrobe by mending and altering them, but also help when you find one-of-a-kind wonders in charity shops or vintage shops that need tailoring to your size.

Stella McCartney  –  “I’m not interested in landfill, I’m interested in reuse and continuous design, I think staying power in every sense of the word is really important.”      

 

 The leased dress

Online rent-a-dress options have been growing, which is good news for party dresses that get worn once and then left for landfill.  Imagine – one dress provides multiple women with happiness! That’s now a sustainable business plan for sites like Chic by Choice, Dream Wardrobe and Girl Meets Dress.  I have yet to try it, but I suspect it will become increasingly popular as emerging brands like Laura Ironside (above) slow down the fashion cycle and lease their collections.

 

 The swapped dress

You’ve heard of the phrase, go shopping in your wardrobe?  Well, how about shopping in your friend’s wardrobe?  Obviously ask first.

 

 The Stella McCartney dress

Saving up for an expensive dress, even if it’s the dress of the season like this Spring 2011 Stella dress, is slow fashion because I’m still enjoying it today.  When you genuinely invest in clothes, you reduce the amount of clothes you need to shop for.

Stella McCartney  – “I definitely understand the idea of being yourself and not trying too hard through what you’re wearing.” 

Kirsty Young – “That seems like a contradiction to say not trying too hard from what you are wearing because surely buying expensive clothes is about trying hard.”

Stella – “No, I think you have to wear the clothes, not let the clothes wear you.  It’s really important for you to take control of your wardrobe.”

Listen to Stella McCartney’s Dessert Island Discs 

Shop Stella McCartney

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman and courtesy of Stella McCartney & Laura Ironside