Sustainable designer Laura Ironside on season-less dressing

Sometimes less is more.   This is the approach of  designer Laura Ironside, who set-up her label with the aim of creating seasonless garments, thoughtfully, through sensitive and sustainable manufacturing.

For some, sustainable fashion is a contradiction in terms, and seasonless has only become part of the fashion vocab with the faster cycle encouraged by new shopping habits like see-now, buy-now.

Collections drop quicker than seasons transition.  Laura’s approach is more like season-less. With the first collection, Edit-01 under her belt, she is not in any rush to produce Edit-02, adamant to slow down the fashion cycle and let the first collection live.  If like me, you quickly fall for her edgy, womanly 1930s silhouettes, rest assured, when Edit-02 comes around it will fit just so, and Edit-01 won’t be pushed to the back of the wardrobe because it’s so identifiably last season.

Another move towards a time when the words sustainable and fashion can comfortably coexist is through garment leasing.  Laura is trialling this model to open her luxury pieces to more women.  I leased this copper crepe-backed satin silk dress for the price I could have paid for an occasion dress on the high street.   The difference is, once the occasion is over, it won’t sit in my wardrobe, but sooner get a lease of life from the next woman that wears it.

Here is my first leasing experience and interview with Laura Ironside.

Laura on the beginning of her label and consciously bringing products into the world. I had worked for some years in London for a number of fashion labels, but had always wanted to return to Scotland to set up my own label. When I first returned I was working with leather and found it very hard to get high-end leather pieces made in the UK. I spent a long time in product development, I met craftsmen and women from all over the UK and it was during this time that I developed a deeper understanding and respect for the craft that goes into making a single product. It also made me appreciate that if you’re deciding to bring new products into the world you need to be conscious of the impact these products are having. It made me re-evaluate my whole approach to designing and starting a brand.  Although I was unsuccessful in continuing the leather work, which was very difficult at the time, after I took some time out I slowly began developing the Edit-01 collection and the ethos of the brand was built through that seemingly unsuccessful experience.

Giving Edit-01 time to breathe. I think it’s easy in the industry to feel pressure to quickly create something new, I definitely feel that, especially as I love to create new work too. I have to remind myself to slow down! Obviously the whole ethos of the brand is slowing down and encouraging women to invest in long-lasting pieces so it’s important that I encourage this with how I approach the collections too. At the moment I want to keep focused on this collection and getting out there. It’s great to see the pieces on different body types and see women styling it in different ways. I’m also learning what works and what isn’t and taking that forward into the new collection. It’s important to me to get feedback from our existing audience and learn and grow from that, while also hopefully balancing it with exciting new and fresh ideas.

Those 1930s silhouettes.  I love the elegance of the 1930s. I love the idea of women’s clothes being sexy, but without showing off a lot of skin. I wanted the collection to celebrate femininity and the woman’s body, yet still be demure and elegant. I was aiming to give the 1930s silhouettes some edge, bringing them up-to-date whilst still maintaining their elegance.

It can be very challenging for consumers to track the journey of a garment and find out what it is made of, where, by who and under what conditions.  As a designer, Laura faces similar challenges seeking transparency from suppliers. It is so difficult. I can give you an example actually – when I was looking for fabrics for the collection I asked 6 different fabric suppliers for details about their manufacturing, ie. their compliance with EU regulations in respect of ecological and ethical procedures. 4/6 either didn’t know, didn’t respond or wouldn’t disclose. It’s a constant challenge, but I think the more we ask questions as designers, as retailers, as consumers, as anyone who wears clothes (!) the more likely it is for transparency to become the norm in supply chains.

How Laura defines seasonless fashion.  For me it is about good quality investment pieces, it’s something that’s made well that makes you feel good. I think you can be playful with how you style-up pieces no matter the season and no matter the cut/style or fabric of a garment. Seasonless fashion does not have to be dull either.

I am from Scotland, where the seasons all seem to merge together and you need to be dressed for all eventualities, so perhaps that’s really where my affinity for seasonless fashion comes from.

Why she chose an atelier in London to sample and produce her collection.  It was important to me that the collection was produced in the UK. After location, I was then guided by quality of finish and workmanship. I had tried a number of different places but already had a rapport with this particular atelier. I went to visit them in Greenwich and they were just so open and easy to work with. We began sampling with them from then on and now work with them on small batch production.

How Laura’s sustainable business ambitions extend to other personal areas of her life.  I am a real fan of second-hand/antique furniture and homeware like vases, kitchen crockery and tins. When I can it always feels better to use fresh produce for cooking and also to buy locally and buy natural products. I’ve enjoyed making some of my own cosmetics recently too. But as ever, it can be so difficult to remain diligent throughout all areas, at every moment, for one reason or another. I think everyone can do the best they can at the period of life they’re at and make positive changes, but I don’t give myself a hard time about it. In the past year or so I’ve got better at just owning less and really thinking about whether or not I need something, in all areas of my life.

Laura’s mission for garment leasing, is this the future for sustainable fashion?  I think one of the main things is accessibility, I know that higher price tags for sustainable products makes things so difficult for people who really do want to engage in a more ethical approach to their wardrobe, but don’t feel that they can afford it. Leasing clothes at a lower price opens this up to a wider audience, if garments are shared it reduces the risk of them hanging in a dark corner of someone’s wardrobe unused, or worse, in landfill. Higher price tags can make people feel like they have no alternative but to shop on the high street for their special occasion, even though they would prefer something different, something unique. It also allows people to try something before they potentially invest in a piece.

At the moment we are very much in the trialling stages, we want to listen to our early lease customers and learn, so we can make this service the best it can be. It would be amazing to think of more brands doing something similar in the future, absolutely.

I highly recommend leasing from Laura Ironside.  Luxuriously delivered to and collected from your door, it is a dream for those a custom to small space urban living.  Why should our experiences be confined by the extent of our storage space?  I didn’t need to buy the Laura Ironside Knight dress to own it that day.

Laura Ironside

Lease from Laura Ironside 

 

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

4 home fashions to note now for the cosy season

Whether you’re into antiques or not, Tallboy Interiors takes a new approach to old interiors that can inspire us all for the cosy season ahead.

On his 18th birthday, Matt Dixon of Tallboy Interiors was given £1000 from his parents to spend as he wanted.  Instead of blowing it, he decided to invest the money in various antique pieces and thus his addiction and business was born.

 Red or dead 

No, I am not referring to the controversial Brit shoe brand, but a desire for darker interiors, a new take on tapestry and rich reds.  Once upon a time wearing different tones of red, mismatching scarlet with crimson, gave the impression you got dressed in the dark.  Matt describes his style  as “mismatched but works.  I like to try different pieces, patterns, colours, ages.  Nothing needs to match for it to work necessarily.”  Now is the time to embrace mismatched.  Enjoy ebonised antique wood, dark interiors,  and dress yourself and your home in red.

 Lady boho 

This tapestry and velvet covered table sits on the edge between elegant and artsy.  Pom Poms are trending big time, but antique pom pom tassels will retain crafty charm.

 Inside out

An awareness for more thoughtful purchasing has produced an abundance of green living trends, from eco friendly antiques and natural materials to literally green coloured interiors.  Merging our environments by bringing the outside in and inside out is increasingly popular.  These Mid-20th-Century Willy Guhl planters are statement greenery that can work inside and out.

   Earthy velvet

Relaxed rose, terracotta, cinnamon, rust.  All great shades and even better in velvet, both grand, intimate and above all, cosy.

Shop Tallboy Interiors

©Photographs courtesy of Tallboy Interiors

Anna Skodbo on building her ethical London brand phannatiq

Part-time harpist, educator, occasional snowboarder, and driving force behind  phannatiq, Anna Skodbo takes a “clothes for people” attitude to designing.  Attracting people from the likes of musicians Kate Nash, Harper and the pavement population with her city inspired textiles.  Unique prints include fly tipping inspired by waste around Walthamstow, where the phannatiq design studio is based.

Committed to responsible employment, sustainable manufacture and dressing in a way that transcends the call for a seasonal wardrobe cull.  Phannatiq questions fashion’s status quo.

I am inspired by her respect for social and stylistic individualism, and now armed with her local guide to a good day in Walthamstow to share with you. Here is my interview with phannatiq Anna.

Anna Skodbo

It’s a shame that it’s even a talking point, but given the rarity with which they appear in fashion campaigns, I have to ask about your decision to cast women over the age of 40 and women of different race and size to model your collection? 

Because we make clothes for people and people come in all ages, shapes, ethnic origins and sizes, not to mention having different clothing needs. There’s no point trying to sell to them using only one example over and over again. We still only use about 6 models so it’s still not ideal, but hopefully it helps a bit towards people being able to see themselves in the clothes.

On our online shop, we try to have as many examples of different shapes in our clothes as possible along the bottom of the garment page so people can see for themselves too.

Oeko-Tex 100 certified bamboo silk dress in London print

organic cotton & bamboo mix dress in London print

Did you always produce clothes in sizes 6 to 20?  Why do you think more designers don’t make clothes in sizes above a 16?

I really can’t speak for other brands as I have no idea what they are going through. We have evolved over time. In the beginning we thought we had to conform to fit in and then a few seasons in I was like, “fuck this shit!” and started putting my fingers up at the whole thing bit by bit. Starting with banning photo retouching of any of our photographs- what you see is what you get- and then becoming more diverse with our model choices. This inspired our sizings.

What is it about London that inspires you?

Everything really, its vibrancy, its diversity, its unashamedness and of course the shit bits 😜

fly tipping print inspired by waste around Walthamstow

Where would you send someone looking for a day in Walthamstow?

Oooo there are so many awesome things in Walthamstow! If you like drinking there is Ravenswood Estate up by Shernhall street. In what is essentially an industrial estate you’ll find Wild Card Brewery who brew the most excellent beers, and often have some really great musical acts and DJs; opposite them is Gods Own Junkyard, a museum of neon light and bar, Mother’s Ruin, a gin palace, not to mention a host of street food. You practically don’t need to leave for the weekend.

Otherwise I love walking around Lloyd Park and visiting the William Morris Gallery, The Marshes are beautiful, as is Hollow Pond if you want to pretend you’re not in a city.

How did your Steiner school education and growing up with adults with learning disabilities influence your approach?

I think in some ways growing up with adults with learning disabilities, I’m more aware of how unique everyone is and that it’s ok. I feel very privileged to have spent such a large part of my childhood with people who make you see the world in a different way, who may have struggles with some things we take for granted but equally bring so much to the world in other ways we won’t have considered. It’s humbling. It has in some cases even made me question the status quo. As in who are we to decide what is the correct way to experience something/react to something/achieve something?

Oeko-Tex 100 certified bamboo silk top with fly tipping print skirt

How would you advise people looking to make more sustainable wardrobe choices? 

Buy mindfully. Ask yourself, do you really need this? The biggest eco friendly thing you can do is reduce everything you consume. This makes a much bigger difference than anything else. I realise this goes against capitalism and having a business, so oops.

Which is your favourite phrase of your 3D printed necklaces?  

That really depends on my mood, however I have actually been called a Leftoid Sanctimonious Cunt on Twitter, so probably that one.

What do you have coming up for fashion weeks and beyond? 

We are working on a really exciting project for fashion week so definitely keep an eye out! As for beyond, who knows….

Shop Phannatiq

©Photographs courtesy of Phannatiq

Designing my Reclaimed Kitchen – Practical Vs Pretty

Ever practical, I chose a glazed 1940s staff noticeboard reclaimed from London’s Kings Cross station from SalvoWEB to style as my kitchen cabinet.   Not that I was intending to consume as many tubes of tortilla chip Pringles as the decorators, but soon only pretty foods fitting my colour scheme will be allowed in my kitchen cabinet. Ha. Don’t you just love the unrealistic goals one sets oneself in the middle of a renovation.

When I started designing my kitchen, I envisaged a glamorous throwback, a bit of Disco Deco and pretty brass accents.  I bought glass Art Deco lampshades from The Architectural Forum and had my eye on these Jazz Moderne glass panels salvaged from a French apothecary to finish the sides of my noticeboard cabinet.  I lost them to another bidder, but in hindsight it was a good thing as it forced me into more practical open shelves that show off the reclaimed wood from Pine Supplies and my ’40s noticeboard in full glory.

Art Deco lampshades in The Architectural Forum

Jazz Moderne glass panels

my kitchen (before)

It breaks my heart to see kitchens ripped out with no regard for materials that could have been saved, so I challenged myself to reuse as much of my original kitchen as possible – starting with the white appliances.

Sadly mine didn’t come as cool as the above, but this could be considered another tick in the practical box compared with stainless steel, which is hard to keep finger smudge free.  But white appliances are fashioning an impressive come-back.  When designing a kitchen, you rarely go wrong with classic white.  It is clean and cleverly works with both modern and period interiors and can look more retro according to the style of appliances you choose.  White also tends to change with the light from other colours around it.   I am aiming for warm white, surrounded by reclaimed wood cabinetry.  But avoiding rustic country vibes with black and primary coloured markings that come with choosing floorboards salvaged from a school gymnasium.

I may have diverted from my disco Art Deco design, but I’m feeling the ’80s school disco I ended up at.

Reclaimed gymnasium floorboards from Historischen Bauelemente designed as doors to refresh my original kitchen carcasses.

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

12 discoveries from Salvo Fair for a sustainable luxury life

Dip into Deco bathrooms 

Resurfaced roll top baths, Deco bathroom suites, Belfast and Butler sinks.  With so much salvaged sanitary ware out there, it is not necessary to buy new.  Look to salvage dealers like Mongers that supply reconditioned taps too.

Mongers Architectural Salvage

 Period old things from playful young things 

  

Standing tall, Matt Dixon of Tallboy Interiors and Buster below, part of the Vagabond Antiques family.  Both businesses won a free Salvo stand in the Antiques Young Guns competition – a support network for people under 39 working in the antiques industry.

These dealers are changing the stuffy image of antiques and getting playful with period pieces. What could be more sustainable than buying furniture built to last, and reused over-and-over again?

Tallboy Interiors  /  Vagabond Antiques

 Ethical eating and drinking at Silo with Old Tree Brewery 

Zero waste restaurant, Silo chef Douglas McMaster’s mission is always the first thing critics note. The taste however, is just as mind-blowing.  V for veggie, I ordered the contemporary calzone filled with curried plant-based goodness in the Silo at Salvo pop up.  Washed down with Kombucha from Old Tree Brewery, a social enterprise that combines brewing and gardening to make nourishing, delicious drinks.

They supply ethical restaurants like Silo in Brighton, where Old Tree also run their Brewhouse Café.  And if you’re nowhere near Brighton, you can buy their drinks online.

I sampled their Sencha green tea Kombucha, which is both earthy and energising and packed with probiotics.

Silo  /  Old Tree Brewery

 Time for change with Clock Props

I haven’t worn a watch since I was a teenager. Perhaps because I grew up with a phone to tell me the time, but I fell for this Salvo Fair stand of clocks.

With a collection of over 500 clocks, a visit to Clock Props’ showroom back in London is high on my to-see list.   Buy or hire. They probably have the largest selection of clocks in the UK, and they are a go-to for interior and set designers.

Clock Props

  Mahala and Roomi Apparel 

I’ve been banging on about ethical homeware and accessories brand Mahala for a while and I finally got my hands on one of the signature bags made of old military canvas and British saddlery leather.  I must however leave room to mention Roomi Apparel.  Designed by the talented husband of Emily Griffin, the woman behind Mahala, Roomi Apparel is a new unisex brand made in East London.  Colourful coats on the left hand rail below suited both the tall men and petite women that tried them.   One sustainable size fits all.

Stocked at Mahala, follow Roomi Apparel on Instagram  here

  The real deal in retro arm candy 

I’m a shoe woman, but exhibitors in my Fair Fashion pop up converted me into a bag lady.  I rarely buy bags, but Salvo Fair had me spending on salvaged and vintage arm candy including this ’50s Corde bag with rare lucite handles.

Bag from Mary Jones Vintage worn with my ’70s jumpsuit from Snooper’s Attic, Snooper’s Paradise, 7-8 Kensington Gardens, Brighton. 

 Conscious shopping with Chris Holmes Antiques 

Also a bag of sorts… this French antique hod from Avignon was worn on grape pickers’ backs in the ’20s.  Hand painted with Chateau Neuf Du-Pape – until the 14th Century the Pope resided in Avignon and this is the crest representing his vineyard.

We thought it would make a special statement piece in our patio that could double as an ice bucket for parties!  I’ll be revealing more of my flat and the reclaimed renovation project soon.

Chris Holmes Antiques

 Grand Clearance Auctions

Fresh from the fair field, exhibitor Insitu is organising a clearance auction in Manchester on Saturday 8th – Sunday 9th July 2017.  Clearing stock ready for the final stage of renovations to their Italianate style Grade II listed Victorian building.  Auctions are a great place to pick up rare pieces at good prices.

Insitu  /  find future auctions on Salvo

 Vintage furniture house Metroretro  

Saxon of Metroretro dressed London’s Sky Garden with his bespoke collection of reclaimed furniture and this weekend he dressed the Silo at Salvo pop up restaurant.  Also a regular at Modern Shows, look out for Metroretro with mid-mod and industrial pieces at Midcentury East on Sunday 15th October 2017.

Metroretro  /  Midcentury East

 

  The all-electric pollution free supercar 

EVision Supercars is the first UK chauffeur-driven car hire service that chauffeur in London with a nationwide fleet that exclusively comprises of all-electric, Tesla.

A conscious alternative for a luxurious airport transfer or a special event (the white gullwing Model X is popular for weddings).

They also offer self-drive hire so you can experience electric as the new car era ushers in.

EVision

©photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

Jewellery from repurposed antique cutlery to mark National Upcycling Day

I know I am not the only one to have jewellery boxed-up in drawers, saving it for best.  The same goes for antique silverware, often passed down through family, brought out for special occasions when firstly, we remember it’s there, and secondly, we can digest more than the daily cutlery drawer by the time dinner is prepared.

Not that I am suggesting you consolidate your treasures into fewer drawers, but Joseph Bucsi created his brand Boochi & Co, crafting antique silver cutlery into jewellery.  A concept worth chewing on.

“In a world that is so transient and increasingly unstable, history is one thing that we can learn from and hold onto. All of my pieces have travelled through time and had many lives.  A spoon made in 1750 has seen more than we can imagine throughout its lifetime.”

Joseph was introduced to antiques by his girlfriend Charlie and her family.  Hard to believe he became a craftsman just 3 years ago, he immersed himself in the history of found items and began researching hallmarks and makers through auctions and fairs.  Joseph came across stories of servants appropriating silver cutlery to reshape them into wedding rings when they wanted to marry.

Dating back to the 1700s, hallmarks, initials and patterns throughout the sterling silver Boochi & Co collection tell stories of their provenance. Available to shop online and at The Vintage Look in Henley.  Boochi & Co is also joining my Fair Fashion pop-up at Salvo Fair on 23rd-25th June 2017.

I can’t think of a better way to mark national upcycling day (Saturday 24th June) than with a spoon ring, destined to be used everyday.

SALVO 2017 at a glance

Where: Icehouse Lane, Henley on Thames, RG9 3AP

When: Saturday 24 & Sunday 25 June 2017

Open: 10am to 5pm

Smart Works Charity Gala Preview and late night shopping with organic wine from Vintage Roots: Friday 23 June 2017, 5pm to 8pm

See salvofair.com for more details and to book tickets

©photographs courtesy of Boochi & Co

Woman, Reclaimed

One year ago I left my corporate fashion job to follow a more conscious life.

My job gave me pleasure and pain, and enabled me to buy my first home in west London. Like a secret diary, I started to blog under the name Style Salvo, following my journey into a more sustainable existence (shoe collection excluded), as head of PR for a shoe brand at the time…. I vowed to do-up my new home with as many old, reused and reclaimed things as possible.

One bedroom, one bathroom, one garden, one kitchen… now my walk-in wardrobe, and one woman taking her first steps into a salvage yard.

One foot in fashion, one foot in salvage, often up to my knees in reclaimed building materials, but refusing to part with my knee-high leather boots, whilst dancing in mud with reclaimed radiators from the roaring 20s.  I started to question, are these industries really so different? Both can be intimidating, but as soon as you cross the facade, you find the heart of great stories. The reason I fell for fashion PR in the first place.

Fashion at an unsustainable pace, ticking-off trends rather than expressing personal taste left me cold compared with the storied pieces of individuality I was dressing my home with.  This is when I decided that I not only needed to claim to love my fashionable life, but actually live it.

Designing my home with reclaimed materials was a style choice as well as an ethical, environmental one. Reclaimed Woman is my attempt to find fashion and home fashions that don’t compromise ethics. A space to retrieve yourself, be real, inspired and conscious, because the examined life is worth living.

Sara Morel