Ethical Spring Fashions by Deborah Campbell Atelier

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I met Deborah, of Deborah Campbell Atelier, in Winchester Discovery Centre a couple of months ago; a fitting place to hear about the designer’s innovative use of sustainable fibres and abstract art inspired prints. A wealth of experience in clothes manufacturing and trend forecasting led to the formation of Deborah Campbell Atelier as a women’s ethical fashion brand, with Deborah now working towards her third collection. The pieces, which are vibrant yet classic enough to wear season after season, are all made in Britain using sustainable materials such as recycled fabric from plastic bottles and British wool. Deborah’s SS16 collection is the largest yet, offering a complete capsule wardrobe for work and play.

Deborah started her fashion career working for a manufacturing company at a time when much of the production industry remained based in the UK. She went on to establish her own manufacturing company and with business partners supplied the likes of high street favourites Miss Selfridge and Oasis. From here, she shifted focus to branding and consultancy, establishing another business called Style Industries London. Through Style Industries London Deborah offers forecasting, design and sourcing consultancy to other fashion brands that want to adopt a sustainable approach, “gently nodding toward key trends that have longevity”.

Deborah founded her own ethical fashion brand because she “didn’t enjoy the endless spiral of consumption”. She knew that some high street brands and retailers were becoming more responsible, but that it wasn’t enough without working under a totally different system. For Deborah, sustainability isn’t a trend, but something that must become part of how we live. With her background it’s no surprise that Deborah’s managed to create a fashion product that’s both desirable and sustainable.

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The dress shown here is made from recycled plastic bottles. Processed through a mechanical rather than chemical process in Italy by textile manufacturer Saluzzo Yarns (formerly Filature Miroglio), the fibre known as ‘Newlife’ was also used by Georgio Armani to create an eco-friendly gown for Livia Firth at the 2012 Golden Globe Awards. The fabric is then digitally printed, far better for the environment than the dirtier screen-printing process. The result is a beautiful, top quality fabric that holds its shape for Deborah’s shift dresses and smart box blouses. In addition, Deborah sources British wool from Ireland and Scotland to produce classic chunky jumpers made in Leicester.

Lifestyle & Family Photography

The SS16 collection has just launched on the website ready for pre-order. Although you’ll have to wait until next year for dresses, you can cosy up in one of the classic fisherman’s sweaters right now. The Guernsey Jumper (£99) is a heritage piece inspired by the original Guernsey, first designed for the channel Island fisherman to help brave the elements back in the 1500. Shoppers also have the chance to support the Phoenix Foundation by buying the ‘Bee the Change’ organic cotton tee. 20% of the profit from the sale of this t-shirt goes to The Phoenix Foundation who provide much needed burns equipment to children caught up in war zones.

Deborah Campbell Atelier is a label to watch and you can get a slice of the action with an exclusive discount code – 20% off all products using code EMW15DCA until the 31st December. Browse and buy online www.deborahcampbellatelier.com

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Balu: The ethical shopping assistant app

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Friends often ask me where to go for ethical jeans/workwear/shoes etc and I’ve had my online directory for years signposting consumers to ethical and sustainable brands. Now though, it seems my work here is done because I’ve recently learnt about a great new app that acts as an ethical shopping assistant – meet Balu.

Balu pops up when its user is shopping online and presents ethical alternatives to the products they’re searching for. You can download it on Google Chrome and I’ve been playing with it for a couple of weeks now. For example, if I head to ASOS dresses page, Balu immediately drops down from the Google toolbar with 21 ethical alternatives from the likes of Braintree Clothing, People Tree and Kuyichi (I have in actual fact recently bought two gorgeous new dresses from Nomads!). It’s a brilliant way to learn about the range of ethical options out there and cheeky reminder if you get carried away Christmas shopping. The app is completely free to use and new items are being added every day so it’s only going to get better and better.

I asked the team why they felt the need to create Balu and they said:

“Though many people want to shop in a way that doesn’t harm people or planet, finding sustainable and ethical products still takes extra effort over and above “normal” online shopping. When we are required to look beyond mass marketing and leading high street brands, and cannot rely on the most powerful search engines and online stores that we’re most used to, this acts as a barrier to more ethical habits.

Balu changes this by requiring that you change nothing: while you shop like you always have, using the same tools, shops and searches that you’ve always used, Balu shows you ethical alternatives. It acts as an ethical filter over the sometimes damaging retail industry, taking the best that the internet has to offer and making it better.”

The beta release of Balu for Chrome is now live and the team are working on expanding Balu’s reach to more consumers by releasing Firefox and Safari versions, as well as making it mobile compatible. Why not give it a try?

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Back to Basics Collection by FAUSTINE STEINMETZ Handwoven and Handmade

This season Steinmetz takes her collection “back to basics”, looking at the numerous ways in which a staple item can be reproduced, using illusions to create fabrics which are not what they seem at first glance. For SS16, the designer also acknowledges the artist that made her want to become a designer – Joseph Kosuth. After seeing “One and Three Chairs” in a book at the age of 14, Steinmetz believes her mind was opened to visual arts in a way that she still cannot explain today.

Faustine Steinmetz is the latest recipient of COTTON USA’s highly coveted sponsorship for SS16, an advocacy programme that helps up-and-coming designers to showcase their talent and creativity, bringing the vision for their collection to life through the versatility of U.S cotton.

Steinmetz puts her own twist on iconic pieces, and this includes weaving her own fabric using a traditional handloom in her London studio. This attention to detail to create quality, long-lasting garments is just one of the merits that made Steinmetz a great fit for the COTTON USA sponsorship.

The sponsorship programme has been a valuable platform for budding designers to elevate their work. Previous recipients of the sponsorship include Richard Nicholl, Meadham Kirchhoff, PPQ, Preen, Louise Gray and palmer//harding.

Steinmetz said: “I am thrilled to have been selected to receive the sponsorship for a second season. Support for young designers like myself provides a platform to express our creativity and showcase our vision.” She continued “What I love about U.S. cotton is not only the exceptional quality and versatility, but also knowing that the fibres I am using to hand make my designs have been responsibly produced – this is very important to me when sourcing my materials.”

The Parisian-born designer began her studies at Atelier Chardon Savard in Paris before moving to London to complete her Masters at Central Saint Martins, under the guidance of Professor OBE Louise Wilson. Having worked for the likes of Jeremy Scott and Henrik Vibskov, Faustine set up her label in early 2013 after acquiring her first handloom. All of Steinmetz’s pieces are made in accordance with her belief in craftsmanship over trend, designing staple pieces for the everyday woman.

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Cruelty-Free Bio-D Comes Top for Eco-Friendly Washing

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What we wash away down the plug hole has become an increasing concern of mine and has slowly but surely changed my cleaning habits considerably, both in terms of washing myself and washing things in my home. I’ve gone from a bleach lover to shamefaced occasional user; I clean my shower screen with vinegar and often bathe in plain hot water. The only time my clothes have smelt freshly fragranced in the last couple of years is when I happily discovered samples of everyday washing detergent in a holiday apartment and thought I may as well use them. And yes, the burst of ylang ylang sea breeze rose petal mountain fresh was LOVELY. But other than that I’ve tried a few environmentally-friendly alternatives – including nothing but water, which does work for the odd freshen-up.

First on the list we have Ecozone Ecoballs. A nice little discovery from a shop in Brighton, I genuinely think these are great. They are tennis-sized balls of eco goodness you can chuck straight into the drum again and again and by some science I don’t understand, your clothes come out clean with no harm done to the environment in the meantime. Because they are soap free you can cut the rinse cycle on your machine (if your machine has that function) thus saving extra water and energy. Although pricey to purchase upfront EcoZone then say that they cost just 8p per wash. After a few months you’re meant to replace the balls (that’s on my to-do list).

After my experimentation with EcoBalls I moved onto Ecover non-bio liquid, probably I should say, in search of something fragranced. Normally I’m a great fan of Ecover, not least because their range of cleaning products is extensive and easily available in the supermarket, but sadly I didn’t get on with their washing detergent. Whilst it did clean my clothes and made them smell clean too, something about it irritated my skin. I don’t have particularly sensitive skin so this was surprising and perhaps said more about my lack of contact with soapy detergents in general. Whatever it was, mum benefited from my cast-offs and I haven’t had any complaints about its effectiveness in dealing with dog blankets and mud-encrusted jeans.

And so we come to Bio-D who recently sent me some washing detergent and fabric conditioner to trial (they must think I’m posh – I can barely be bothered to condition my hair!). Bio-D is an independent, family owned, ethically motivated company producing environmentally responsible detergents that have minimal ecological impact both in their manufacture and use. Where possible ingredients are derived from plant-based, renewable sources. The concentrated laundry liquid is fragrance free and ideal for delicates and fine fabrics. I’ve found it washes my clothes perfectly and causes no irritation with wear. The fabric conditioners come fragranced with essential oils – juniper and seaweed, or lavender – or completely unfragranced.

Bio-D eco friendly washing

A further benefit of Bio-D is their disdain for animal testing. They ensure that none of their raw materials or finished products are tested on animals, and are therefore certified by the ‘Leaping Bunny’ logo. You’d probably recognise the Leaping Bunny logo, even if you’re not sure what the scheme is about. It’s coordinated by Cruelty Free International, the leading worldwide organisation working to end experimentation on animals. 100s of cleaning products, toiletries and beauty products are certified by the Bunny – you can request your own copy of their shopping guide to check yours. Cruelty Free International’s latest campaign asks consumers like you and me to sign the ‘Go Cruelty Free Pledge’ and only buy Leaping Bunny certified products. You can take the pledge here and receive monthly offers from Leaping Bunny brands, Bio-D being one of them.

So there we have it – three environmentally-friendly alternatives for washing your clothes tried and tested. I should say that although I don’t have kids or pets and therefore shouldn’t get particularly mucky – I do make a habit of rolling around the common on a weekday evening (for fitness training) and Bio-D coped fabulously with muddy knees and elbows.

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Chilpa: Handmade and fairly traded products from Mexico

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UK-based Mexican fashion brand Chilpa is producing a new range of contemporary products made with traditional Mexican scarves (known as rebozos). A rebozo is a long flat garment similar to a scarf, used since colonial times to cover up and carry babies, and for centuries they have been made in small-home based workshops on mechanical foot looms. The use of these weaving looms requires no fossil fuels or electricity so it has minimal environmental impact, and they are dyed by hand in small batches. Chilpa’s rebozos are made with a traditional ikat technique (where the cotton is tied together previous to dyeing then untied to reveal the pattern).

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Unlike other new brands, Chilpa’s products champion slow fashion – moving away from the reliance on globalised mass produced garments sold at low prices to favour close collaboration with the people they work with and reinvesting a percentage of the profits to train a new generation of artisans. Chilpa treats the artisans who make its products as its own internal employees, as they believe that the fashion business’ archaic model needs an upgrade – moving away from low wages and poor working conditions, fostered by many people’s belief that fashion is cheap and disposable. As a way of changing this mind-set, every one of Chilpa’s products celebrates the artisan who made it by including their name and portrait on the label attached to it.

“I set up Chilpa because I was tired of Mexican mis-representations in the media in so many negative ways. I had also seen how fashion designers became famous by using rebozo fabrics, without acknowledging the people who made it and I wanted to do the opposite”, explains Maru Rojas, Chilpa’s founder.

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Maru worked with a professional fashion designer and seamstress in London to produce a new range of practical yet beautiful bags incorporating the fabrics of the rebozos. Local seamstresses, working in small workshops rather than factories, manufacture all the bags in Mexico. Most of the bags use eco-friendly jute fabric as an alternative to cotton. Chilpa is committed to responsibly sourcing all their materials and ensuring the production process pays a fair wage to all those employed.

Chilpa is raising funds via a rewards-based crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to help produce this new range of products ranging from tote bags to exclusive silk rebozos. All items can be pre-ordered until October 7th, 2015. Check out the campaign here.

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Win a Scarf from Sancho’s Dress New Collection

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Sancho’s Dress is an ethical fashion and gift store in the beautiful city of Exeter. Earlier this year, the store’s owners Kalkidan Legesse and Vidmantas Markevicius, launched a Kickstarter campaign to set up a loom workshop in Northern Ethiopia in order to produce their own range of scarves and shawls. They wanted to create training opportunities and jobs for local women using back-to-basic wooden looms that require no electricity, fossil fuels, excessive water or heavy machinery, and have a minimal carbon footprint.

Happily, the Kickstarter was a success and they have just launched their winter collection! The organically-grown cotton is hand-picked and hand-spun to ensure it is made of the softest and most sustainable fabric. Each scarf is uniquely made with care and consideration. The colours are soft and perfect for autumn, with hints of burnt orange, sky blue and moss green. Each scarf takes three hours to make and in a transparency lost in most textile enterprises, both of the founders know exactly which seamster or seamstress made each piece. A range of ponchos (bang on trend right now) are new for AW15 and come in the same hand-woven cotton.

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Speaking about the collection, Kalkidan said:

“We set out to create a line of scarves that are stylish and contemporary, while also being cosy and comfortable for the winter months”. We believe business creates systems of empowerment, education and ownership. We will fight hard to work with marginalised women to show them their capacity to success.”

Sancho’s Dress won Sublime Magazine’s Best Social Enterprise Award 2015. They are offering one lucky reader the chance to have their own scarf from the award-winning workshop in an exclusive giveaway. Just email emma@ethicalhighstreet.co.uk by 30th September 2015 with the subject ‘SANCHOCOMP’ to be in with a chance to win! If you’re on twitter, tweet @Sanchosdresses to get a second entry into the prize draw!

Sanchos - Green and White Scarf

For more of the range see www.sanchosdress.com

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