People Tree Launch New Youthful Range ‘Aimee’

Ethical fashion lovers will be excited to see People Tree’s new SS12 collections. As well as their Fairtrade mainline and collaborations with Zakee Shariff and Orla Kiely, People Tree is launching a new youthful line called ‘Aimee’. Aimee, meaning beloved, features a summery colour palette of blue and coral, deckchair inspired stripes and vintage lace. Using organic cotton jersey, 100% Fairtrade certified, Aimee has all of the pieces you will need to build the perfect summer wardrobe. Dresses are cute and short, with side pockets and ruffles, whilst separates include button up vests, oversized tees and high waisted skirts.

The Aimee range will be sold through People Tree, ASOS.com, New Look and independent boutiques, in a welcome move to make ethical fashion more widely available.

Post to Twitter

What Does 2012 Hold for Ethical and Sustainable Fashion?

Fashion is a fast moving industry and no part of it is changing quicker than ethical fashion. Yes its still niche, but real momentum is there and change is starting to happen. Most of the major high street and supermarket brands have played with organic cotton and recycling, they’ve hired CSR professionals and put codes of conduct on their websites. More niche ethical brands have cropped up, founded by inspiring individuals that want to erase the dirty side of fashion, and longstanding companies have grown, most notably People Tree, and Ascension who I was delighted to hear announce a profit this Christmas. In 2011, Estethica, the ethical section at London Fashion Week, celebrated its 5th year, proving that sustainability can of course be stylish, innovative and desirable.

People are talking about ethical and sustainable fashion and there are many fantastic blogs on the subject. Two fabulous books were published in 2011. One was To Die For: Is fashion wearing out the world? by Lucy Siegle, and the other is Naked Fashion: The new sustainable fashion revolution, by People Tree founder Safia Minney. I have been asked to review Naked Fashion for my next Oxfam post so look out for that, but I would recommend both books to everyone interested in finding out more about sustainability in the fashion world. In fact, I defy you not to take an interest once you’ve read them.

2011 has seen increased cooperation across the fashion supply chain. Transparency within supply chains and the way in which this is communicated at point of sale was the focus of my MPhil work, and a huge amount changed during that 18 months. We now have retailers using RFID tags and QR codes, some small brands even let you track the provenance of your garment online using a code. There is still a lack of a universal sustainability labelling system, and in this way fashion is behind other industries such as food and timber, but retailers have become more conscious of the information they pass to consumers, in some instances.

The financial situation we have find ourselves in on entering 2012 could be seen as far from ideal in encouraging more ethical practices. Retailers are struggling and need to make profit; this hasn’t traditionally occurred by putting planet and producers first. This is why customers are vital in changing the industry, if you make a fuss and change your shopping habits, retailers will have to listen. However, ethical fashion supply chain consultancy Made By have this to say, “the economic volatility adds greater complexity to developing workable CSR. However, with the increase in the costs of raw materials driving up production costs due to scarcity, long-term investment strategies in green technologies and closed business models (greater recycling and re-usage of materials rather than virgin materials) will very likely make financial sense.”

Water scarcity is one issue that companies are currently focusing on. Greenpeace launched their successful Detox campaign in 2011, which received a lot of media attention and led to long-term sustainability commitments to the goals outlined by Greenpeace. Pepe Jeans are launching their Tru-Blu denim range this year, following in Levi’s footsteps who last year launched their WaterLess jeans. The Tru-Blu collection will avoid chemicals and have a lower water footprint, but crucially still cost the same as any other Pepe Jeans denim.

The trend towards vintage is great for ethical fashion. The taboo of buying second-hand has decreased thanks to the trend for customisation and crafts, the work of bloggers and magazines, and the image produced by charities such as Oxfam (see my interview with the Oxfam fashion team). I asked Ceri Heathcote, ethical fashion blogger, marketer and founder of the Ethical Fashion Bloggers network what her predictions were for 2012. “For 2012, I can see ethical fashion becoming more affordable and accessible to the masses” Ceri told me, “There are already plenty of exciting new ethical brands appearing and I think this will continue into 2012. I think these companies are definitely going to be giving the conventional online and high street retailers a run for their money. I also see ethical retailers becoming more creative and innovative with their marketing and using the internet as a cost effective way of gaining credibility and showcasing their products. I also see there being new solutions of accreditation and labeling pioneered within the ethical fashion industry and as a result of this I expect the conventional retailers will launch more ethical collections and introduce more transparency in their supply chains.”

On second-hand fashion, Ceri said “I think people are valuing charity shop pieces more than they have in the past, perhaps because of the influence of fashion and street style blogs, marketing by charities like Oxfam and also because of economic and environmental factors. Charity shops offer a wealth of interesting and quality pieces and the challenge of combining them into an interesting outfit.”

I hope that we see a trend moving away from fast fashion. Everyone is talking about ‘buy less and buy better’ but how many people are actually doing it? Spending the same amount of money, but on higher quality pieces will help both the economy and the sustainability of the environment, plus it’s sure to be far more satisfying if you make the right choices.

Nicola Cupples, personal styling expert and founder of My Style Companion, agrees with me. She said, “The trend for cheap fashion needs to go! I’m seeing far too many women wearing cheap, unflattering fabrics that are making them look ‘cheap’ and usually a size bigger. Also the trend for buying quantity over quality needs to stop as I’m seeing more and more wardrobes stuffed full of clothes, but containing no real outfits. The recession hasn’t meant that people have stopped buying clothes – they’ve just started buying more CHEAP clothes because ‘it’s only a tenner’. In reality they end up spending more and wearing less. Plus they rarely feel good about themselves in the things they buy.”

Fast fashion rose to reign extremely quickly, and has already caused a lot of harm across the world. I hope that for 2012 we continue to see increased awareness by businesses and consumers, but I certainly can’t see fast fashion disappearing as quickly as it sprang up. Much beyond 2012 I wouldn’t want to make any predictions; all that we can really do is take responsibility for our own actions.

Post to Twitter

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012

Ideally I would have posted this before the New Year, however better late than never, here is my view on where I’m at. It is the first year in a few that I feel pretty content that I know what I’m doing and where I’ll be for the entire year. In Southampton, continuing to work towards my PhD in Retail Geography. I’m six months in to the doctorate, I think its going well but I do tend to live in la la land sometimes, but by the end of the year I should have some preliminary results to share. Some people wonder why I bother with the ethical fashion thing, seeing as I don’t get paid for it and its no longer directly related to my studies (I did an MPhil in ethical fashion). The thing is I cannot imagine not being involved with it, because I love fashion and always have but the current fast fashion industry is simply not sustainable and I can’t sit back and watch something as beautiful as fashion have such negative consequences on the world around us, people and planet. It is a dichotomy that I find fascinating.

I was able to make some great contacts in 2011 with other ethical fashion bloggers and business people. I’ve interviewed them for my blog, gone to conferences, lectures and tradeshows. I was thrilled to start guest blogging for the Oxfam fashion blog and work with them at the Clothes Show Live. I also had a fab time working with social enterprise WhoMadeYourPants? at Vintage at Southbank. Plus I ran a WWF stand at Ikea Southampton, and worked with the textile collection at Guildford Museum.

I started writing for www.clothes.org.uk in 2011 which has become far more of a commitment than I ever planned. I applied at the start of the year to write a few blogs a week, now I write a couple a day, plus guest blog to increase traffic. I believe there are plans to turn this into a far more dynamic fashion website/social network community so watch this space. Although, being a fashion writer was always my dream, dreams change and my stance on fashion has changed so I do sometimes feel like I’m ‘selling out’ as my blogs affectively encourage people to shop! That said, I try to feature ethical brands wherever I can, I write a lot about high fashion, and just on principle rather than anything else I don’t mention Primark. Maybe if I can save enough money from writing to start my own ethical fashion business I can realign my morals.

2011 was quite intense both personally and professionally and I’m hoping for a mellow 2012, but considering my inability to rein in my enthusiasm and slow down a notch, I fear that won’t be the case! I must say many thanks to all my friends and family for putting up with me babbling on about work stuff, it is much appreciated. If there’s one thing I would encourage people to do this year, its buy less and buy better (clothes, food, furniture whatever) and if your jeans only cost £15 from Primark*, please, please don’t tell me :-) .

Work hard, play hard.

Lots of love,
Em x

*Just to be clear, my problem with Primark (and I have shopped there myself as a student) is not necessarily about sweatshops or child labour. I don’t know enough about their supply chains, and certainly some brands that have been in the news for exploitative practices in the past (Nike and Gap for instance) now have some of the best codes of conduct in the business. I interviewed the ex-head buyer for Primark and she said that some of their clothes were made in the same factory as Armani. Primark will use hundreds of factories, and all this shows is that a name means very little. My problem is that for me they epitomise fast fashion, which isn’t sustainable, and it’s started to make me really, really angry. People go in and literally buy handfuls of clothes that they probably don’t really need, or that won’t last. And I know people argue that value retailers provide for those that can’t afford to shop elsewhere, but in terms of being able to get the essentials, that’s a minority. I am far from perfect when it comes to shopping but maybe this will be the year that I can put well-laid plans into action.

Post to Twitter

Oxfam Fashion Interview: The Future of Vintage Fashion

Whether or not you call it a trend, vintage fashion has clearly made a resurgence over the last few years. Of course there are the vintage trends on the high street, but more and more people are actually choosing to seek out the real thing second-hand. This is of course sustainable, encouraging the principles of recycle, make do and mend. Oxfam have done a fantastic job at making vintage fashions cool again, far more so than any other charity shop. They regularly take their second-hand pop-up shops to festivals and events, as I saw first hand when I went to the Clothes Show with them last December. To find out more I spoke to Thea of the Oxfam Fashion team:

1. Do you think vintage fashion is a passing trend or a permanent shift in people’s shopping habits?

The good thing about vintage is that it is effectively never out of style, although vintage trends can often change according with what is ‘in vogue’. For instance the collections of Gucci, Miu Miu, and Jonathan Saunders for A/W 11 heavily referenced the 1940′s and 1960′s. Go back a couple of years ago in 2006, however, and Alexander McQueen was referencing Nineteenth Century bodice jackets, whilst Marc by Marc Jacobs played with both twenties and sixties silhouettes.

Moving away from high design onto the high street, the pattern of consuming second-hand and vintage items is certainly widespread. Looking at vogue.co.uk’s street style section, a majority of those stopped wear a mix of high street and vintage or second-hand to create their unique looks.

In my opinion, fashion almost always plunders previous era’s for inspiration, but the high street also relies on vintage trends to create their collections and encourage buyers to invest in particular era’s according to the trends of the season.

Whilst popular vintage trends certainly affect people’s shopping habits and the acquisition of certain items, vintage clothes themselves retain a certain wearability, as they can be stored, passed down through generations, and re-worn at a later date. This is why I believe that vintage will not loose its desirability or its place in people’s shopping habits.

2. Do you think there has been a shift in consumer’s perceptions of charity shops and wearing second-hand pieces?

A recent survey produced by Charity finance which highlights that profits in the charity retail sector have risen by 12% (the third consecutive year charity shops have reported a rise in profit in this survey), suggests that consumer perceptions to charity shops are certainly changing. Whilst some may point to the recession to this rise, it is also my belief that it is not just austerity which drives people to charity shops. Charity shops are certainly upping the ante when it comes to changing the face of second-hand clothing, and I believe that the creativeness enacted by the charity sector in creating specialist stores, (such as the Oxfam and the Red Cross Boutiques, and the Oxfam shops at festivals) are examples of presenting second-hand clothing in an attractive way in order to persuade previously disinterested shoppers into charity shops.

3. Does Oxfam fashion have any exciting plans for 2012?

Oxfam Fashion is currently working on a number of exciting projects. We are also really looking forward to Oxfam’s Clothing Conference where we will hear talks from Frip Ethique, and learn more about what happens to our clothing beyond the charity shop. London Fashion week, International Women’s Day, and Fairtrade Fortnight, are also all things we will be involved in, and look forward to! To learn more see @oxfamfashion where we keep our followers updated on all our goings-on!

Follow the Oxfam Fashion blog: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/applications/blogs/fashion/

Post to Twitter