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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Crafted Leather Bags and Accessories: Review and Q&A with Gusti Leather

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Gusti Leather produce beautiful leather bags and accessories in Germany and have recently launched on ASOS Marketplace. I’ve been lusting after a satchel bag for quite some time now so I was thrilled when I saw the range they offer, and at half the price of another well-known UK satchel company! Gusti kindly sent me a bag to review and answered my concerns on ethics and sustainability. I am definitely a fan of leather, but when I recently learnt that the water footprint of leather is huge, however otherwise ethically it is produced and processed, I started to have second thoughts. I’m confident that Gusti Leather is as ethical as it gets and I will be proudly using my bag as much as possible. I strongly believe that the most sustainable thing to do is to consume less, and with my Gusti bag I don’t plan on buying a new bag for a very long time indeed. If you want a well designed, beautifully crafted bag that will last for years to come I’d strongly recommend checking out their products.

The M7 satchel arrived with a small pot of leather polish to treat the material and keep it clean and supple. The leather is gorgeously soft and has a vintage look I love. Beautifully hand-crafted, this is a top quality bag and the perfect size for daily use (it fits A4 paper inside, has separate compartments and a zipped section). Gusti have a wide range of products from rucksacks and travel bags to laptop bags and jewellery. They also have a workshop in Germany offering an efficient repair service, and the opportunity to customise your own unique bag. For more information on Gusti check out the interview below.

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1. When was Gusti Leather established and what prompted the launch of the business?

Karys: The original German business, Gusti Leder was established in 2011 by my current boss, Mr. Christian Pietsch. He studied Business Studies here at the University of Rostock and opened his first small shop towards the end of his studies. The reason behind choosing to sell leather products stems from simply noticing leather products on his short holidays to India and Morocco. He began meeting with family-run production firms and created working relations which led to the direct delivery of leather bags to us here in Rostock.

Christian regularly sends new designs and ideas to the producers, in addition to making spontaneous visits to keep check that they are following regulations on fair working conditions and fair payment- this is something that we really are very strict on.

2. What’s the difference between goat hide and cow hide?

The initial difference is the animal from which the hide, or the coat, originates. However, when the leather is worked into an end-product, such as a handbag or purse for example, you can really tell the difference from the thickness of the leather. Goatskin is slightly thinner and therefore a more flexible material. Cowhide is thicker and because it doesn´t wrinkle or fold/bend so easily, it is a lot smoother.

3. How do you ensure the production process is as environmentally friendly as possible?

The vast majority of our products are tanned and dyed with vegetable based solutions- completely without the use of chemicals. The leather is dunked in a form of water-based solution containing various tree barks (for example, Mimosa bark), indigo, saffron, and poppy and left for around two weeks; it is then sun-dried to give it a lovely golden brown tone. This also adds to the natural look of each item, and makes each one unique- no two pieces of leather look the same.

4. How can you claim that your products are ethical and sustainable, when they are made of leather?

Many people will probably think that “leather” and “sustainable” or “ethical” don´t belong in the same sentence, which is completely understandable. We try to assert that our products are sustainable because we believe in the high quality of them. Even though all of our products are unique and individual- as is always the case with leather- we are proud that they are all created to the highest standards possible. When a customer purchases an item from us, we offer the guarantee that that item is well crafted and will therefore last a lifetime: this is reflected in our prices. Our items are one-off purchases and can also be seen as investments. We do not expect that our products will need to be thrown away after one-year of use, and for this reason we consider ourselves to be able to offer sustainable products.

Regarding the issue of “ethics”, all of our leather is a by-product from meat slaughter. We in no way support nor advocate the slaughter of animals purely for their fur or skin. We use the hides from animals which are slaughtered for Halal meat production, which, when you consider the amount of useable meat and the bones/innards from each one, amounts to only around 4% of the total animal.

5. What’s the best way to care for our lovely Gusti leather?

Each and every one of our products is delivered with a small pot of colourless leather balsam derived from plants, such as castor oil and rice bran. We recommend that this balm be applied to the leather product as often as required in order to boost its shine, or simply to cover any scuffs or scratches.

6. What are your plans for the future?

We are currently expanding our business into the UK, France, Spain and Italy. We already sell via eBay and Amazon to these countries, but our new website is designed to be a lot more user friendly, and the option to change between languages will make buying from us a whole lot easier, particularly for those with little German knowledge!

We are also really proud to offer Custom Made bags- the customer can choose any bag from our range and send us a sketch or photo of a design that they would like to have incorporated onto the bag. We have a team of seamstresses here in Rostock that is responsible for creating these unique, individual items. And this is something that we definitely want to push as a unique selling point in the near future.

See www.gusti-leather.co.uk or buy at ASOS Marketplace

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A Week in the Life of Ethical Dressing

Dear people who ask me what ethical fashion is,

To coincide with London Fashion Week I decided to do a week in the life of ethical dressing to show that there are many ways to take part in ethical fashion. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it can be fashionable (even if you might not approve of my personal style). London Fashion Week showcases the next season trends but the most sustainable thing to do is dress true to yourself. Buy things that you love and will wear again and again. There are lots of ways to dress ethically, for example:

• Buying second-hand or vintage clothes
• Buying fair trade, ethically made clothes from ethical brands
• Buying organic cotton clothing
• Buying locally produced clothing
• Making your own clothes
• Upcycling/recycling
• You can still shop on the high street, but buy good quality that you will keep for years.

AVOID CHEAP, FAST FASHION.

I signed up to What I Wore Today to post my outfits last week and will continue to do so! Here’s the round-up. There’s no fancy photography here, I do apologise.

The particularly observant amongst you will notice I got my hair cut :-)

Day 1: No Nasties organic cotton tee and upcycled denim shorts (jeans given to me by my sister which were too tight so I chopped the legs off)
Day 1

Day 2: Vintage M&S dress bought from Oxfam, Urban Outfitters Urban Renewal upcycled man’s shirt (taken from other sister who didn’t wear it), charity shop belt
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m&s vintage label

Day 3: Organic cotton Edun dress. Had it for years and just keep wearing it.
Edun dress

Day 4: John Smedley organic cotton, undyed, made in England sweater, charity shop Topshop trouser
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Day 5: Vintage Chelsea Girl dress (altered to fit), Banana Republic charity shop wool cardigan (had a small hole in it I stitched up, make-do-and-mend!)
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Day 6: People Tree fair trade, organic cotton Peter Jensen Bear Sweatshirt, Monkee Genes organic cotton, fair trade skinny jeans
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I wore these for a couple of days too. Shoes in the pictures are Clarks and Barratts – buy quality shoes which last. iPhone – yeah that’s not so ethical, but allows me to work!

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Big Event Coming Up? Rent a Dress for a Sustainable Solution

I love a pretty dress as much as the next girl, probably more in fact, but I have become quite aware of how many pretty dresses I have and how rarely they get worn. I’ve never been one of those girls who can only wear a dress once, that’s ridiculous! However, no one wants to wear the same dress over and over again (especially with the amount of photos which pop up on Facebook).

One of my best friends got married last week at a beautiful venue in West Sussex and I had quite a ‘mare deciding what to wear! Weddings don’t come round very often (although I’m getting to the age where they are more common) so I wanted to look amazing and enjoy the process of getting dressed up. A few months ago if someone suggested I go and hire a dress I would have immediately thought of a shabby shop on the edge of a town, stocked full of OTT prom dresses and mother-of-the-bride two-piece suits. In fact, the dress hire market has seen a whole new Hollywood style makeover – you can now browse hundreds of designer dresses online and have one shipped to your door for a big event, which is exactly what I did.

Hiring a dress allowed me to have something new (to me) to wear without spending an extortionate amount of money on something I might not wear again in the foreseeable future. It also meant I could be quite confident I wouldn’t turn up and find someone in the same high-street dress as me. Dresses for special events are absolutely perfect for the rental market, if I had my way we’d never buy a dress again, just share them around!

There are a few websites providing this service. I opted for Girl Meets Dress, co-founded by Anna Bance and Xavier de Lecaros-Aquise in 2008. Prior to founding the online dress hire platform Anna spent three years with luxury brand Hermes as UK PR manager. It took me a few weeks to decide on the right dress, I think it helps if you know what suits you and how a dress might fit your body shape (remembering that designer dresses come up quite small). You can order dresses to try on prior to your event for a small charge but I just went for it and ordered two dresses to arrive the day before the wedding. I could then see which fitted best and I only paid for the one I wore, both dresses were then sent back the next day (you can do three or seven day hire).

I wore the Nicole Miller Eva Dress in watermelon, which retails at £300 and I hired for £49. I teamed it with Jones nude leather peep-toe wedges which I’ve had for years and an ASOS feather clutch which I bought second-hand on eBay. I will definitely use their service again. Look out for introductory offers and discount codes.

Wearing my rented Nicole Miller dress

Wearing my rented Nicole Miller dress

Dress Hire sites:

girlmeetsdress.com
wishwantwear.com
mycelebritydress.com
that-dress.net
myredcarpetdress.co.uk

Poser (just because I could)

Poser (just because I could)

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