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   

 

 

 

House Museums & The Hippie House in Córdoba

The upside to taking a train to Córdoba on a Monday and realising many of the monuments and markets are closed is you get to really enjoy the neighbourhoods. 

We still got to explore the western world’s most stunning example of Moorish art, the Mezquita and the Roman bridge, which due to reconstruction most of what you can see today is also Moorish – not bad for a Monday morning’s work.  

We were also able to see two house museums that often don’t make the to-do list for a one day visit.  We loved the old Jewish quarter and although the synagogue is closed on Mondays, the Casa de Sefarad and La Casa Andalusí are open.  The respectfully restored houses are an intimate way of understanding life at that time. 

Casa de Sefarad traces Sephardic (Jewish-Spanish) history before and during the Spanish Inquisition.  It features food, music and traditional crafts with a small but perfectly formed collection of clothes and accessories with examples of gilt-metal thread embroidery.  There is also a room dedicated to women from Al-Andalus who made an important impact, but were nearly forgotten.  If like me, you like to exit through the gift shop, Casa de Sefarad will not disappoint.  Here you can find genuine handicrafts from Córdoba, Seville, Granada and places where Sephardic communities settled such as Fez, Istanbul and Jerusalem.       

After Sephardic lunch at Casa Mazal Tomás Conde, 3, Córdoba we went to La Casa Andalusí. I read complaints about it being small, but I found it to be a sanctuary.  I took my time as music mixed with the trickling fountain provided an off-the-clock soundtrack.  A history of papermaking in medieval Córdoba,  Islamic furnishings, beautiful books and a Roman mosaic in the cellar didn’t seem a bad offering for one 12th-century house.

Less than 15 minutes walk form the old town you’ll find The Hippie House.  This friendly place is worth a visit if you like a rummage through secondhand clothes with some vintage gems and retro sportswear. Good for both women and men, and perhaps even better for men.  My husband had a good selection of preloved Levis to look through and left with a pair of green 501s.

Wearing a seventies dress, Luna bag Cult Gaia, sandals The poet sandal maker of Athens, jewellery The Sablon Antiques Market in Brussels, leopard print sunglasses I bought in California when I was twelve! Proving that even loved sunglasses do last, but I know that’s not helpful so check out these sixties styles from Klasik Vintage Eyewear if you’re after something unique.

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Sustainability in the City

I know Sex in the City has been relegated to box-set territory but sometimes I refer to my flat as sustainability in the city, because like Carrie Bradshaw, I keep sweaters where my stove would have been.

Reflecting on the moment I decided to turn my kitchen into my wardrobe and started the journey towards a more sustainable life, I am getting ready to join Friends of the Earth, Salvo and Edward Bulmer Natural Paint for a Grand Designs Live talk on sustainable sourcing tomorrow.

Designing my home with sustainable materials inspired me to dress differently, but now that I’m trying to live more consciously I feel guilt for a wardrobe full of clothes accumulated over a decade working in the fashion industry.  And of course anything I “Toss” gets donated, sold, given to friends or recycled, but as you educate yourself about sustainability, guilt inevitably follows.  

When you really look at the manmade change we’re creating in the world, it is scary and to quote the SATC film scene above, “a lot of s**t went down here, attention must be paid.”  However, the awakening that is brewing won’t be achieved through sustainability shaming.

I experienced a refreshing moment for the sustainability movement when  I met designer Masato Jones the other week.

Masato was speaking on a panel for Fashion Revolution and reminded the audience of a SATC episode where Carrie skipped dinner out to buy something she really wanted.  He joked that’s the kind of feeling you have to have when you buy something because then you will truly treasure it.  Like working with salvaged materials, where pieces are often hard won, it is polar opposite to the immediacy we’re used to where we can have things so quickly – often before we’ve had time to think if we really liked something or even needed it.

That’s a long winded way of saying that Masato gave me the excuse to dust off my SATC box set and my guilt (wearing one of his organic fair trade t-shirts as a dress). 

Join me at Grand Designs Live  in the Grand Theatre at 12noon Saturday 12th May 2018.

Reclaimed wardrobe above made of wood salvaged from 100 year old industrial buildings in the north of England and a mix of vintage, ethical and sustainable sweaters.

Lips above credited to Ilia’s brilliant pigments and organic ingredients.

©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

 

 

 

The Ned and TED Talks

The respectfully renovated Portland Stone building on Poultry Street, The Ned was the perfect setting to speak about how my reclaimed renovation resulted in me wearing the same six items of clothes for six weeks.

There’s been a bit of friendly competition in our household because the last few days have seen my husband speak at TEDxWarwick about Net Nuetrality and me speak about sustainable fashion at The Ned.

I haven’t posted in the last few days so this (us backstage at TED) is proof that I only packed clothes from my six items challenge wardrobe for snowy Warwick.

I’ve been wearing this M-24 backpack a lot lately.  It’s made of repurposed truck tarpaulin and it’s as durable as my jumpsuit, which is close to reaching 30 wears.

22 days in, I am feeling quite liberated by my fashion fast.  Let’s see how the last half of the challenge treats me.

Support and share my page here 📣

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

Six Items Challenge : Two weeks in

Two weeks into six weeks wearing the same six items of clothes, I am tongue twisting and definitely compensating with shoes.

On a side note, these 1940s pigeon holes make perfect shoe storage   (complete with drawn-on letters, this piece was reclaimed from the post room at Kings Cross Station).

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman