Brand Watch: Naturally Selina Scott Mohair Socks

It seems everyone has been a bit ill recently, including me, so it really cheered me up when I received a gift from Naturally Selina Scott. What better for winter than some cosy luxury socks, they have been worn many, many times already I can tell you. Knitted from a mohair/nylon blend, these socks are sustainably produced and ethically sourced and most importantly will keep my feet warm even on the coldest of days.

SelinaScott Socks

Famed as a BBC journalist and presenter, Selina Scott was one of the first female newsreaders in the 80s. It was whilst filming a documentary in Scotland twenty years ago that she came across and subsequently adopted 6 Angora goats! Back at her 200 acre farm in North Yorkshire, Selina decided to start selling beautiful Mohair socks, using the lustrous Mohair fibre from these gentle animals.

The business has gone from strength to strength and as her own goats have hit retirement (I’ve been assured they still live happily on the farm!), the Mohair is now sourced from selected farms in South Africa where the socks are also made. The brand also sells cashmere shawls and scarves from Outer Mongolia and hat, glove and scarf cashmere sets sourced from Afghanistan.

Mohair makes a great choice for socks. Sheared from Angora goats in ‘long glamorous ringlets’ twice a year, Mohair is a strong, sustainable fibre. It washes well, not that you’ll need to wash them every wear, the anti-bacterial properties of the fibre keep your feet smelling fresh for days! Providing warmth when you need it, but still being breathable, these are the most comfortable socks I’ve ever worn.

Ankle socks start at £9.95, Kids day socks are £14.95 and long walking socks are £17.95.

You can also buy their superfine cashmere shawls and support the Born Free Foundation. In super glam leopard and snow leopard prints, £25 is donated to the wildlife foundation for each £149 shawl. Cost per wear, I don’t think that works out too bad as I’d want to wear it every day.

https://www.selinascott.com/

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SWAGS World do Christmas with Sustainable Artisan Crafts

SWAGS World

Christmas is fully upon us. I know this because my weekly Sunday paper has doubled in size under the weight of branded gift guides, the Christmas market has opened in town and television adverts are united in a singular voice – buy our stuff for your best Christmas ever. We don’t have to partake in this commercialised view of Christmas though, should we want to do it differently. When it comes to buying gifts and decorating the home in the lead up to the big day, there are ways to give a gift that goes further than simply that received by the recipient.

Take SWAGS World for example. Buy one of their products – bags, sandals and dolls – and you are helping to empower a woman in South East Asia to earn her own income through her artisan craft. Joanne White founded SWAGS World (Simply Women and Girls Sustainable World) as a social enterprise offering affordable, accessible products for socially responsible shoppers, all handmade by women in South East Asia. The artisan women involved receive a fair price for their products through sustainable employment that will accommodate their family life and other commitments. SWAGS World pay 50% of the price of each item to the producers upfront, and the SWAGS Academy programme helps by providing training and support in creating a long-term artisan trade.

You can check out their products online. Their fabric covered Christmas tree decorations (£6) are absolutely gorgeous and are great stocking fillers. Each one has a special meaning, the globe symbolises celebration with family and friends. The recycled newspaper print shopper is practical, fun and classically designed, but my favourite product has to be the Harmony Dolls. Designed to spark curiosity in children, and an acceptance of diversity in the world, they are made by a co-operative of women on the island of Atauro, East Timor and are totally delightful.

SWAGS World christmas globe
SWAGS world recycled Handbag Newsprint

SWAGS World are based locally to me in Hampshire, so I got to ask the team about their future plans:

1. Where can we buy your stuff?

Our exclusive handmade products are currently available in our online store at swagsworld.com. We share the stories of the artisans we work with, so our customers can connect with the women who have created the products they are buying.

2. What’s the SWAGS Worldwide marketplace?

Our dream has always been to make ethical products desirable, accessible and affordable. With our Marketplace, we hope to offer a global collection of products for socially responsible consumers; an alternative to mass-produced, throwaway fashion, poor working conditions and undervalued labour. We will provide an online platform for consumers to purchase handmade items from artisans all around the world, with the knowledge that they are having a positive impact on people who really need it.

3. What would a real SWAGS world look like?

We believe a true SWAGS World would be positive, honest, educational, supportive and sustainable. We hope that with the continuing growth of ethical, sustainable brands and increasing choice for consumers, we are getting closer to this vision!

SWAGS World Harmony Dolls

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Shop Traidcraft for the UK’s Widest Range of Fair Trade Products

Do we buy fair trade goods to make a political statement, because we want to help others or because we believe it’s morally just? It’s a question that circles debates on ethical consumption, but whether consumers seek out fair trade goods or just stumble across them, sales are up and we have more choice of fair trade goods than ever. You’ve probably heard of Traidcraft, they’ve been around since 1979 when they started as a Christian response to poverty. Traidcraft is now a combined trading company and development charity selling a wide range of great fairly traded goods.

Traidcraft stock clothing, food, gifts and cards, toys, household and homewares so they are a great first-stop for your Christmas shopping list. Always looking out for traditional toys for my niece and nephew, I recently took delivery of the Traidcraft wooden pull-along dog. It’s a really sweet gift for young children and certain to be loved by all. In this case, my sister had just got an 8-week old real puppy who seemed to relish not being the smallest thing in the house anymore, dragging the wooden dog around when the kids turned their backs!

Traidcraft have an extensive range of groceries – toiletries, jams, cereals, biscuits, fruit juices and more! My personal favourite, Divine chocolate is also available on their website in more flavours than you could ever imagine! Made with the finest quality Fairtrade cocoa beans from Kuapa Kokoo, Divine comes from a co-operative of smallholder farmers in Ghana. Traidcraft also stock clean and fair eco-friendly Fairtrade household cleaning products and soaps, made with natural, plant-based ingredients. They have gorgeous handmade cards and notepads and plenty of Christmas things, cards, decorations and gifts. The Divine advent calendar is just £3.99.

Traidcraft pull-along puppy
Traidcraft fairtrade wooden puppy

Check out their special offers for sale items. I love this ceramic blue bowl/planter made by Mai Handicrafts, a social enterprise based in Vietnam which aims to find work for neglected families by selling handicraft products to local and export markets. You can find out more about all their producers online – every product has a story.

You can request a Traidcraft catalogue here, or perhaps you’d like to be a fair trader yourself and sell to others?

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Bored of Shopping? Christmas and Stuff

johnlewischristmas

Having now studied shopping for a few years, I think I’m finally well and truly bored of it – the act that is, not the research. It’s something that I’ve particularly noticed this year, as I wander round shops alone or with friends, my thought process is entirely different to how it was pre-PhD.

Although I’ve had an interest in ethical fashion for at least five years, ever since my undergraduate dissertation, it’s only in the last two years that I would say my shopping practices have radically changed. When I first started blogging about ethical fashion, I was still shopping quite a lot, buying the odd bit of fair trade fashion to supplement my normal clothing. It’s only in the last two years where I’ve delved deeper into the theory of consumption, the links to material culture and identity, the reasons behind why we shop, that I’ve been able to step back and look at my consumption decisions more subjectively. And it has taken the fun out of shopping.

I was lucky enough to win some John Lewis vouchers so I did much of my Christmas shopping there. It was a Thursday evening two weeks before Christmas, I had a list and wanted to get in and out pretty quickly. Back home, I put the shopping bags down in my living room, sat on the sofa and literally just stared at them for a while. I was trying to remember the last time I’d bought so much stuff. I’d also bought a couple of things for myself – new shoes and a duvet set from M&S. I felt like I had to make the most of being in a shopping mood and buy myself something whilst I had the chance.

Clothing wise, I don’t think I’ve bought anything more than a couple of t-shirts from ‘normal’ shops for myself this year. Oh, wait, I remember buying a dress from Monsoon! But I like Monsoon. I bought a couple of things online from People Tree, a couple of second-hand pieces on eBay, and a lot from charity shops. I’ve done really well with charity shops. The funny thing is I used to spend hundreds of pounds a year on clothes and this year without even trying, I clearly haven’t. I tried to buy myself a new dress for the Christmas parties but as I wandered the shops I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Everything I liked was £150+ and I’d rather spend that money on doing something fun (or a bread maker – perhaps it’s an age thing!), not on something I’ll only wear a few times if I’m lucky. The cheaper dresses, I just didn’t like them/don’t trust where they came from. All those sequins, how did they get there?

Every time I spot a new skirt I like in the shops, I just remember that in a couple of weeks’ time it will just be another skirt in my wardrobe. And in a couple of years’ time it will be just another skirt in the pile to go to the charity shop. I think about where it’s been made, where my money’s going and what I could spend that money on instead. I think about the branding and whether I want to give that company the satisfaction of buying into their brand. Essentially, I think far too much.

In conflict with this, I think shops are amazing places. So much goes on in the space of a shopping centre. Friendships are solidified or stretched, we learn a lot from our surroundings, we interact with others, we create or break down our desired image and display our identities through where we shop and what we buy. It’s because I know all this that part of the fun is taken away, but it doesn’t mean I’m exempt. Give me the choice of a Cath Kidston tablecloth or a floral one from Sainsbury’s and I’ll take the Kidston. I don’t even mind spending more money on it because whilst there are many clubs I don’t wish to belong to, the middle-class, British homely club is one I’ll happily be part of. So maybe, I’m not some kind of eco-warrior but actually just a snob?? I actually own no more than a keyring by Cath Kidston, but I’m just saying – if I had the choice.

I still like stuff; I just don’t like unnecessary consumption. This year my first port of call for shopping has been second-hand – this goes for anything from an on-trend tartan skirt (wool Aquascutum found in Winchester charity shop) to a glass chopping board (found in Horsham charity shop). It’s a politicised form of shopping, allowing me to meet my material needs without adding to my carbon footprint or to the profits of corporate companies who think they know me. It draws on cultural capital as much as financial capital – it’s alternative consumption, about being ‘in the know’. Christmas has been a good time to reflect on this, I still enjoy being given stuff and I enjoy giving gifts in return. I find material culture fascinating and I think I’ll be studying it for many years to come, although if I can’t quite put my finger on my own motivations I don’t know what hope I have of tracing other people’s.

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Twenties Night at the Candlelight Club: My free outfit

The Candlelight Club host 1920s nights across London – a “clandestine pop-up cocktail bar in a secret London venue, a stunning, tucked-away den with a 1920s speakeasy flavour, completely lit by candles.”

I went to their Christmas extravaganza last night, it was beautiful. It was in a wood panelled ballroom near Paddington; there was jazz music, Charleston dancing and amazing Christmas-themed cocktails. Of course, a 1920s night called for a 1920s outfit and half the fun of the night came from people watching. It amazed me just how many different and beautiful outfits there were. My own outfit was very cheap and chic, in fact most of it didn’t cost me anything. I had looked around the high street but the only dresses I liked were super expensive (this one by Ted Baker was quite nice), plus it seemed a shame to buy something new when I knew I could find the real deal in a vintage shop. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time or money either to find a great vintage dress but with a little bit of thought I put together an outfit which didn’t cost me a penny (apart from the shoes which I wanted to buy anyway).

twenties

I wore a Zara dress borrowed from a friend who had bought it herself from a charity shop for a similar 1920s themed party. I teamed it with a necklace that I picked up from the last University of Southampton Swap Shop and a bag I already owned. Around my head I tied a piece of ribbon/trim that came in a bag of textile knick-knacks bought from an antique shop in Brighton. The gloves were borrowed on the night. I wondered how other guests had pulled their outfits together. I know one of my friends had found a dress in a charity shop, another had bought one new. Charity shops are the perfect starting point for themed nights like this – they are treasure troves of random pieces. And don’t forget to ask around and borrow from friends too, just be prepared to repay the favour!

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Sustainable Wrapping Paper Alternatives


At Christmas last year I searched high and low for recycled wrapping paper and eventually settled on buying some from Oxfam (although I’m not sure whether it was made from recycled paper). Along with Christmas cards, gift wrapping is a tricky tradition that I really want to keep but worry it is unnecessary from a sustainability perspective. In the UK, Defra estimates that enough paper is used each year to gift-wrap the island of Guernsey. They also estimate that each year, 83 sq km of wrapping paper ends up in UK rubbish bins and some authorities can’t recycle it. Approximately 50,000 trees are used to make the 8,250 tonnes of wrapping consumed at Christmas. That’s a lot of trees to use for one day of the year.

A couple of years ago I came across the Japanese tradition of Furoshiki, the reusable wrapping cloth. It is thought that this tradition could date as far back as the Nara period (AD 710) when pieces of fabric were used to transport clothes and gifts. The tradition has been partly lost in the Japanese culture but is coming back as the eco-friendly way to wrap presents. When I came across Furoshiki I thought it was a fabulous idea and could make a lovely business. Of course two lovely ladies beat me to it and started Wrag Wrap, a product design and manufacturing company based in the South Hams, Devon.

Wrag Wraps are made using fabric rather than paper and are therefore reusable time and time again. Each product has been designed to overcome the limitations of paper, wrapping a whole range of different shapes and sizes of gift – with no fuss or waste. No need for sellotape or safety pins, wrapping has never been easier. Each wrap comes in a range of sizes to cover almost any gift, with a choice of patterns. They launched a range of five Christmas designs with sweet reindeers and winter trees in festive reds and greens. Why not give it a go?

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