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

 

Ethical Collection x Reclaimed Woman

Part free spirit, part dedicated fan of fashion, 10 years in the industry has ingrained particular months (before fashion weeks) when I feel the clothes in my wardrobe aren’t cutting it.  Coupled with 10 consecutive grey London days and counting, I know I am not alone with wardrobe woes in this transitional weather.

A lack of inspiration can lead to impulse buys for fast fashion pick-me-ups.  The disappointment is that they rarely satisfy our need for long, as research by McKinsey proved with the stat “nearly three-fifths of all clothing produced ends up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being made.”

A woman “ain’t what she wears but, what she knows.” Do you know that know that India Arie lyric? Well, this woman has been educating herself.  I just took a free online course by Future Learn with Fashion Revolution and Exeter University called Who Made My Clothes? Fashion Revolution is a global movement for transparency catalysed by the fatal Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh.  The course lifted the lid on issues facing the global fashion industry and made me even more conscious about materials and the things I consume.

To solve transitional weather dressing with sustainable choices, I collaborated with neighbouring business, Ethical Collection, an eco-luxury boutique.  Ethical Collection is a force for positive change, founded to enrich the lives of the women that shop with them as well as the lives of the people that make their products.

I fashioned a Mara Hoffman summer slip dress with this grey trench by Kowtow and they felt amazing.  Arms free, slips are so comfy and perfect for layering as the season changes, whilst the relaxed-fit trench felt like soft denim, which can be both cool and cosy.  I wore them with the knowledge that the dress was made of Birla Viscose – made from the pulp of sustainably harvested trees, and the trench was made with Fair Trade organic cotton, so you could say my test-wear was biased. Once you know, you can’t un-know and what is fashion, if not for making us feel good?

Shop Ethical Collection

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

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

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

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

 

Me and my home want to be dressed top to towel rail in Mahala

I’ve got my eyes on a pair of made in England clogs stocked at Mahala, an independent homewares and accessories shop selling handmade bags and handcrafted pieces by designer/maker Emily Griffin.  Emily’s East London shop is based in an old fishmonger, where a material sign waves you beyond the fish shopfront signage with the aroma of organic candles and wild pistachio soap.

Bags made from salvaged army surplus fabric and British saddlery leather first introduced me to Mahala when I interviewed Emily for London Design Festival last September.  I was thrilled when she agreed to swap East London for an eccentric Henley estate to exhibit at Salvo fair .  I am collaborating with Salvo, the original architectural salvage fair to incorporate zero waste food and fair fashion for this year’s Green Living Fest on 23rd-25th June 2017.  A showcase of salvage, reclaimed interiors and antiques, not simply for their beauty, but for their green value. The Green Living fest will celebrate salvage as a lifestyle choice.

There is no perfectly sustainable material, but getting to know the materials you dress your home and yourself with is a good place to start.  Upcycled and carefully sourced, materials at Mahala include antique and traditionally crafted modern Turkish towels.  Currently completing the renovation of my flat with reused and reclaimed materials, I visited to buy bathroom towels.

If you have yet to experience a hammam. Let me fill you in with my first experience in Morocco.  Wearing nothing, but the traditional towel around my waist, I was scrubbed with black soap made from olive pulp and vegetable soda.  My two friends got lucky with beds to rest on, whilst the kessa gloved women worked their magic, and I was left to be exfoliated in the shower room.  Suitable for all skin types, we were equally pleased with the soap’s purifying properties, I just left slightly more attached to the durable, yet soft Turkish cotton towel protecting my hips, whilst flat-out on the floor tiles.

I joke, but the experience is a ritual of relaxation that I was keen to replicate at home.

Back soon with inspiration for turning tiny bathrooms into tranquil spaces, and how I tackled my tiny bathroom renovation with reused and reclaimed materials.

Mahala

Join me and Mahala at SALVO 2017 

Salvo fair, Icehouse Lane, Henley on Thames, RG9 3AP

Book tickets for the zero waste Silo at Salvo lunch with a weekend fair pass

Follow Emily Griffin on the beautiful @Mahala_london Instagram

©photographs Reclaimed Woman