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.

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©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

 

Six Items Challenge : Day 11 and 12

On arrival in Brighton yesterday I was confronted by my ten year old self.  Two girls dressed almost identically were leaving the train station – one had a mini pink backpack (like the one I had from Tammy Girl) and both were wearing skater sneakers.  They linked arms as they disappeared into the crowd descending on the seaside city for the day and I smiled, excited to shortly be reunited with my Brightonian bestie.

I am on a journey to make my wardrobe ethical and more sustainable. However, ‘x’ marks the skate-shoe-wearing proof above that you can’t just decide you’re going to be a whole new you overnight.  Like when I was ten, I am still susceptible to sartorial peer pressure a.k.a fashion trends.

Despite having no desire to do a kickflip, I bought these Vans (preloved) from my local Mary’s Living & Giving Shop – which is arguably one step in the right direction.  The fashion fast I’m on is also progressing my journey through relentless practice of dressing with less.   And speaking of less, it’s laundry day…

©Ethical Consumer

Mountains of fast-fashion in landfill is just one side of the carbon footprint coin – the other side is how we wash our clothes.

The biggest environmental impact of a garment is most likely to come from how we care for it – wash it, dry it, dye it, iron it or dry clean it.

There is a fine balance between smelly clothes and a more sustainable washing cycle and (full disclosure) I have been getting away with washing less by airing clothes in the bathroom during a steamy shower. Before you write me off as a sandals and socks wearing eco-warrior, rest assured – socks and sandals are as fashion as skater shoes, so trust me and try the less is more rule on your laundry.

Dry cleaning is not always essential even if the label recommends it, but sometimes it is necessary.  One dress I chose for the Six Items Challenge recommends dry cleaning and I didn’t want to risk it, so I went to Blanc an eco-friendly dry cleaners.  They also stock a collection of natural detergents and organic soaps, so I picked-up this denim wash by TangentGC whilst I was there.

Like a cleanser for your jeans, it cleans without eating into the cotton fibres and doesn’t contain any corrosive alkalis.  This denim wash is even said to maintain the original cut and it smells like orange peel, which I like.

Reclaimed woman skater chic complete with hand knitted beanie.

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©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

Six Items Challenge : Day 10

Wearing a choker made of surplus sofa fabric on my sofa upholstered in surplus bus seat fabric, contemplating second life in my deadstock Persol specs from the 1980s.

Choker from beautiful inside and out PETA-approved Vegan brand Noumenon

Persol spectacles from Spex in the City

Reloved raincoat dress from Gap – one of my six items

1960s surplus bus fabric from LASSCO

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©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

Six Items Challenge : Day 7 and 8

I saw the Queen yesterday (the day I wore jeans).  More on that later as I didn’t have the energy to write last night.

This morning my friend made me chuckle with a link to an Inc. article – Why Successful People Wear the Same Thing Every Day

You see by wearing the same thing, or roughly the same thing, they increase productivity by reducing their daily decisions.  Take the likes of Dr. Dre (only wears Nike Air Force 1) Obama (only wears grey or blue suits) and Steve Jobs, who became known for his black turtleneck, jeans, and New Balance combo.  The entrepreneur/author of the article, Craig Bloem rarely strays from Levi’s 513 and Lululemon jackets himself.  I am, by total coincidence doing my American techie look in Patagonia and pre-loved Levis.

Here’s how Craig Bloem’s advice stacks-up for successful women and what I’ve learnt from the Six Items Challenge so far.  Intertwined with looks from the Richard Quinn show that the Queen (and I) attended. 

“You’ll waste less time.

I hate wasting time. Having a regular uniform makes it quick and easy to get dressed. Rather than deliberating for five or even ten minutes, I can grab my outfit, throw it on, and get started on the more important things on my to-do list.

A go-to outfit also saves loads of time shopping. You know what you’re looking for and can get right to your favorite store. Or better yet, if you know your size, style, and color, you can order everything online — without the annoyance of sending back returns.”

…Or the environmental impact of all those online shopping shipments.  Okay, I’m with him there and I’ve definitely saved time which is great on early mornings during a crazy-busy work schedule.  I don’t miss it yet, but the deliberating can also bring delight when you’re enjoying a try-on session for five, ten, or even 30 minutes.

“2. You’ll save brainpower.

As Obama said in an interview with Vanity Fair, “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

When you wear the same thing, you’re one step closer to avoiding the distraction of trivia. It takes no thought to get dressed in the morning. You can channel all that decision-making power directly into growing your business.”

It definitely depends what your business is.  I am sure Queen Elizabeth examined her skirt suit before the surprise stop at London Fashion Week.  However, it is true that many fashion icons have go-to shapes, styles and colours that they return to again and again – just like American Vogue Editor, Anna Wintour who was wearing her signature colourful prints, neutral boots – most likely Manolo and big sunglasses whilst sat next to the Queen at Richard Quinn’s show.

“3. You’ll always feel good in what you’re wearing.

If you choose your clothes for comfort, they’ll always feel good. If you choose them for style, you’ll always think they look good on you (even if others disagree). Either way, you’ll feel good about what you’re wearing. It’s an automatic confidence boost.

I constantly get made fun of by my friends and family for wearing the same thing, but it works. See if it could work for you.”

I don’t normally document my outfits, but I have to say it’s quite useful to see if an outfit is working the way you thought it was in the mirror.  If it’s true that on average we make 35,000 decisions a day then saving brain power with less sartorial decisions might be worth a try.

I don’t think you have to wear the same thing every day, but knowing your wardrobe, knowing go-to combinations and actually wearing everything in your wardrobe could arguably be the uniform for success.

Lady in lavender – the back of Fashion icon Erin O’Connor MBE

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman