New Ethical Brands at Berlin Fashion Week

Since it’s inception in 2007, Berlin Fashion Week has been a mecca for championing young designers and sustainable fashion. They run the Ethical Fashion Show and Green Showroom as a platform to promote some of the best ethical and green fashion brands. With an exhibition, a ‘Knowledge Lounge’ for green fashions, panel discussions and other activities, the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin is a genuine B2B fair for the professional fashion trade. Monday sees the start of Berlin Fashion Week 2015, which runs from 19th to 21st Jan. 165 international labels, including numerous new exhibitors, are set to present their progressive designs at these trade fairs, providing information about the future of sustainable production. That’s a lot of exciting new eco fashion!

Two fashion brands showing for the first time at the Ethical Fashion Show are Antiform and my friends at Here Today Here Tomorrow. Already well-loved in England, these proudly British brands are reaching out to Europe and the independent street style movement in Berlin sits happily alongside the high quality, responsibly sourced and produced collections.

Here Today Here Tomorrow is a fashion label that has been committed to social and environmental values from the very start. At the heart of their collections is the consideration of ethical production, beautiful materials and high quality contemporary design. Designed by the team in London, each product from the Autumn Winter collection is hand knitted by skilled Nepalese craftspeople, accredited by the World Fair Trade Organisation.

Antiform is a pioneering and experimental fashion label who is challenging the fashion world from the inside out. Each piece is hand crafted in their UK workshop by skilled makers, dedicated to using industry waste to create innovative fashion pieces combined with traditional craft.

Take a look at their collections below and say hello if you are heading to Berlin next week. The increase in brands to the ethical fashion showroom just goes to show that desire for, and interest in, ethical fashion business is increasing. It’s great that the event is being used to start a conversation too, with the inclusion of panel discussions and book launches, it’s about working together to build a better fashion future.

www.heretoday-heretomorrow.com
www.antiformonline.co.uk
Click here for a list of other exhibitors.

Antiform

Antiform

Antiform

Antiform

Here Today Here Tomorrow

Here Today Here Tomorrow

Here Today Here Tomorrow

Here Today Here Tomorrow

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The Corner Shop – Felt Groceries by Lucy Sparrow

I met Lucy Sparrow in Southampton last month and was really interested to hear about her forthcoming shop opening in London. She’d been busy planning the launch of The Corner Shop for months, but this was a shop with a difference; all of the groceries were to be made from felt!!

As a textile artist, Lucy mainly works with felt and wool creating over-sized soft versions of existing objects and major art works. The Corner Shop is her latest project and has received wide-spread media attention, and for good reason, it’s brilliant! Felt fruit and veg, newspapers, tins of soup, packets of biscuits and pick-and-mix sweets are just some of the goods you’ll find there. You can buy items online made to order or by filling out an order form in the ‘store’. Open until the end of the month, you can visit this cute corner shop in Bethnal Green at 19 Wellington Row E2 7BB. It will then be moved to Brighton in October 2014.

You can find Lucy at: sewyoursoul.co.uk/

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The British Library Eco Fashion Film & Business Resources

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I love Atelier Tammam. Founded by ex-Central St Martins graduate Lucy Tammam, the small traditional couture atelier (fashion studio and showroom) based in the heart of Bloomsbury, central London specialise in hand crafted, handmade, high quality bridal and evening wear. They produce stunning pieces, making use of sustainable materials including vegetarian peace silks and recycled vintage laces and fabrics.

The British Library, the world’s largest library, has unveiled a new online film which aims to inspire ethical fashion designers to use their resources to create something new. In the film, Lucy speaks about how the resources in the British Library provide inspiration for her creations and the support offered by the Library has enabled her to further her business. Check out the film to see how Lucy Tammam takes inspiration from The British Library’s Asian and African collection to create one of her dresses, and uses their Business and IP Centre to help run her business.

To coincide with the ‘Made with’ film series The British Library will unveil their Spring Festival 2014 giving emerging and established fashion designers the chance to get inspiration for their next collection. The festival is FREE and runs from 27-31 March. On 28th March 2014, Amber Jane Butchart, fashion historian, writer, and lecturer at London College of Fashion, will explore the glitz and glamour of Jazz Age Hollywood and the costumes that took London by storm (tickets available here). If you’re thinking of setting up your own fashion label The British Library’s Business & IP Centre in St Pancras, has an excellent track record in supporting entrepreneurs and SMEs. Free talks coming up include ‘Introducing Social Media for Small Business’ Wednesday 19th March and ‘Intellectual property for Creatives’ Thursday, 27th March.

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New Year Reflections 2014

Happy New Year! I hope you had a good Christmas. I certainly did, despite the fact that my parent’s house became a casualty in the storm that hit the South East. This was one end of my road when I was trying to get home on Christmas Eve, and when I did finally make it back I found the lounge under 8 inches of water and no power.
sussex flood
We spent Christmas at a house owned by the charity my mum works for – normally used as offices and a children’s centre – it accommodated us very well for two nights so we were the lucky ones. My thoughts were with all those who had nowhere else to go; the village next to ours were without power for days. Also very appreciative to all the engineers who worked hard over Christmas to get people reconnected.

Anyway, I was just reading back on the post I wrote this time last year. That’s the lovely thing about having a blog, it basically is a diary. You can read it too here. Work wise I’ve had a brilliant year. I’ve finished my fieldwork and had a very rough draft of one results chapter done before Christmas. Last year I wrote that my goal for 2013 was to get a journal paper published or in review and I’ve surpassed myself (if I may say that) by getting one empirical paper published, one commentary paper in press (due Jan/Feb) and being invited to write a book chapter. I travelled more this year than I have in a while – Amsterdam, Paris and Norway, Edinburgh twice, and for fieldwork I’ve travelled more than 4000 miles around the UK. Here is what else I did in 2013:

• In February I presented at the BSA Intimacies, Families and Practices of Consumption Conference in London. This was a lovely day and full of interesting talks. Following this the convenor’s Emma Casey and Yvette Taylor worked hard on developing a proposal for a book – “Intimacies, Critical Consumption & Diverse Economies” and before Christmas we found out this has the go-ahead from Palgrave Sociology so this is what I’ll be contributing a chapter too. I also wrote a commentary piece on “Second-hand consumption among middle-class mothers in the UK: thrift, distinction and risk” for Families, Relationships and Societies journal.
• I went back to Amsterdam in February to supervise the human geography undergrad fieldcourse. Being my second trip I felt a lot more comfortable and confident around the city and helping the students with their research projects.
• I co-organised the Ethical Fashion Futures workshop with fellow PhDer Ellie Tighe. It was a small but really successful event. We had great feedback on the day, giving people from a range of interdisciplinary backgrounds the chance to mingle and share ideas. It opened up more opportunities than I ever imagined, see below.
• After the workshop/conference day, Ellie and I were invited to give a talk on ethical fashion at the University of Southampton Multi-Disciplinary Week in March. This was recorded and is available to watch online (hence, it’s the most effort I’ve put into a presentation for a long time!). We also provided a brief interview and blog post.
• In July I was featured in the Guardian online, for my work on campus in promoting ethical fashion. This was really exciting, and mainly came about through the visibility of my blog and the coverage of the talks and events I’ve been involved with at Uni.
• In August I attended and presented at the Royal Geographical Society conference in South Kensington. I presented in the session “Economic Change and Children, Youth and Families: Current Experiences and Future Frontiers”. The RGS was really inspiring. I used to always call myself a ‘fake geographer’ but the RGS made me proud to say that I’m a geographer – I realised if I keep saying I’m a fake geographer people might start to believe me.
• I had the following peer reviewed paper published “Eco babies: reducing a parent’s ecological footprint with second-hand consumer goods”, International Journal of Green Economics.
• I launched Ethical High Street after months of consideration. Clearly the PhD is my priority for now but I’ll continue to add to EHS and hope that other people find it useful. I also had a bit of a brainwave today but I’ll mull over that for a while. The Christmas lull is good for developing thoughts!

2013 was the year I became surer of myself, academically. I’m never going to be the most intelligent but I’ve realised that within my niche I do know what I’m talking about. I’ve also realised that no academic knows everything within their subject – in fact, everyone is constantly learning and has to bluff their way through on occasions. A couple of months ago I attended a women in science and engineering professional development course. It was quite eye-opening, making me consider my goals, strengths and weaknesses and giving greater consideration to how I’m perceived. I think sometimes for self-preservation sake I play up to the fashion-girl image, I use the fact that I studied fashion for five years pre-PhD as an excuse. But as I’m leaving my department in a few months’ time, how do I want people to remember me? As the girl who sent round emails about tea and cake and wore leopard print jeans to work, or as a capable academic? I think I’d be happy with all of the above but not the former over the latter.

My PhD funding runs out in May! I hope to submit not long after and then move on to pastures new. When I started in 2011 I wasn’t planning for a career in academia but as the end gets nearer I find myself clinging on to that very option more and more. I really love research, I love learning, I love telling people about stuff and I love running my own schedule – where else can I do all that but as an academic? I’ve got a really busy six months coming up – thesis to write, book chapter to write, running seminars for two undergrad. modules (I had no teaching last semester) and I’m going to the Association of American Geographer’s conference in Florida!!

As for where I’ll be this time next year – well I could be sat at this same desk in Southampton or I could be half way around the world. Here’s to a great 2014 x

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Is Commercial Sensitivity Jeopardising Supply Chain Transparency? #BAD13

I wrote this post as part of the Human Friendly Fashion Consortium’s conversation for Blog Action Day 2013. Blog Action Day is a global event which since 2007 has brought together thousands of bloggers to talk about a particular issue. This year is human rights, a contentious issue in the fashion industry as I’m sure you will agree.

As part of Blog Action Day Fashion Mob founder, Esther Freeman, explains why it’s dangerous to point the finger of blame at consumers for human rights abuses by the fashion industry.

“Since the collapse of the Rama Plaza building in Bangladesh, the media has been full of discussions and head scratching about fashion. One comment that keeps coming up is the responsibility of consumers around fast fashion.

Quite frankly this is nonsense. Furthermore it is dangerous to suggest so.

All too often high street chains whine about how hard it is for them to improve human rights, and how they’d change but consumers don’t want it. It’s become their get out clause. And by saying consumers have some kind of responsibility, we reinforce that myth.”

I think consumers do have some responsibility, but it is difficult for consumers to do anything when they are given such little information to work with. Last month I tried to contact a high street retailer to ask where they sourced their leather from. I actually wanted to know as a consumer, not as an ethical fashion blogger. I really liked their leather skirts and I wanted to find out whether I could justify buying one. I guess I was making a point as well, that consumers should be offered more information. I don’t have a problem with wearing leather, as a by-product and only if it’s processed with the least possible human and environmental impact (leather processing can be very dirty and dangerous to human health).

I started by tweeting their helpline twitter account. They replied very quickly and said ‘that’s a good question. I don’t know but I’ll find out and get back to you.’ A few days later nothing so I tried again but was ignored. I then emailed their customer service (which states they will reply within 24 hours), still nothing. I tweeted again but more publically (I was a little aggrieved by this point), and then they replied. Again they said they would find out but I’ve heard nothing since. Perhaps even they couldn’t find out, such is the long and complex supply chains these retailers have.

This shouldn’t be so hard. A customer should be able to ask a question about a product and get an answer.

When I told a friend who happens to work in the head office of another major high street retailer she said that they might have thought I was a competitor or trying to find out commercially sensitive information. She said even giving me a country of origin could allow me to draw up a shortlist of suppliers and I might go and steal away their lovely leather. This hadn’t even occurred to me. I also noticed recently reading Lucy Siegle’s interviews with retailers in the Observer that they were all asked if they provide a public list of supplier factories and many said no because the information is ‘commercially sensitive’. I understand the retailer’s point of view but I also see this as a massive problem. How can consumers make an informed decision with such a woeful amount of information?

And this puts even more responsibility on the retailers. If they won’t allow us to make an informed decision, they morally have to ensure we aren’t inadvertently purchasing something we aren’t happy with. How can we show that we care about human rights if they don’t give us the facts?

Show that you care by badgering your favourite shops as much as possible. Ask their sales assistants where they source their garments from, ask how the material is processed, email them, tweet them, do whatever it takes to show that you are not a passive consumer.

You can also sign the 1% campaign. The campaign calls on the fashion industry to invest 1% of their profits in solving issues in their supply chain, especially around human rights. We need more time and investment in activities like better auditing, health and safety training and improved working with NGOs and trade unions at local level.

>> Sign the 1% Campaign petition and demand that multinationals take responsibility for what happens in their name.

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London’s First Pop Up Forest Comes to Seven Dials on International Car Free Day

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The Portas Review has been back in the spotlight recently as Mary faced MPs on the communities and local government select committee with an updated plan to save the British high street. With financial backing from the Department for Communities and Local Government, Portas helped to establish 27 “Portas Pilots” but now faces criticism that it was nothing more than a PR stunt for her television career and that little, if anything, has actually improved. High streets now fall on an extreme scale, where at one end we have empty towns with struggling shops and a total lack of investment and at the other end we have affluent market towns and pockets of London thriving on a culture of indies and coffee shops.

Covent Garden is in stark contrast to the Portas Pilot towns, yet the press release which landed in my inbox, and which I will now go on and tell you about, got me thinking about this extreme (North/South?) divide we have. So, 21st September is International Car Free Day and if you scurry along to Seven Dials on this day you will find a whole host of lovely things going on as Camden Council plays host to a one-of-a-kind pop-up forest to celebrate walking and cycling. Sixty trees will be temporarily plotted around the central dial monument in Covent Garden’s shopping village and the whole of Seven Dials will be transformed into a car-free haven. For one weekend only, you don’t have to choose shopping OR the great outdoors, you can do both. Shoppers – Camden Council are bringing the trees TO YOU.

Seven Dials

The initiative is to encourage people to walk and cycle more, using greener modes of travel to improve health and reduce pollution. No doubt the streets will be brought to life with face painting, floor art, and interactive activities. Camden Council will be showcasing their new “Air Quality Bubble Map” and Kings College London will be there with fun air quality activities and advice. It’s the perfect example of using the high street (if you can call Covent Garden that) in a different way, for fun, learning and social interaction.

Stores will also be offering one-off discounts and gifts. So who is this really for?
Once the day is over all trees will be moved and planted in new plots across the borough of Camden for people to enjoy on a permanent basis. All of this is good. I think I’m just hinting at something the Government really needs to consider their place on with initiatives like the Portas Review – is the economy of central importance over sustainability and wellbeing? Can we be using the high streets in different ways, ways which perhaps don’t generate revenue? Am I being idealist? Babbling? Probably.
You should go though, it sounds fun. I’ll be in the New Forest.

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