Oxfam Fashion at the London Mela

The London Mela was a free family festival held in Gunnersbury Park last weekend, on Sunday 1st September. ‘A celebration inspired by South Asian Culture’, there was plenty going on, including music, arts, dance and loads of food. BBC Asian Network partnered with London Mela for the 8th successive year hosting a spectacular line up on the Main Stage. Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation were the two charity partners. I went along with Oxfam Fashion who put on an amazing fashion show for the Mela crowds.

So much work went into prepping for the fashion show. The show was led by designer Neishaa Gharat with the aim of showcasing the amazing clothes that Oxfam has to offer and show how great outfits can be built with second-hand finds. Neishaa visited Oxfam’s Batley warehouse and picked the pieces she felt had the most potential, and the Oxfam team helped to prep garments at the sorting warehouse in Milton Keynes (check out the sneak peak of the sorting warehouse on I Want You to Know). She came up with about 100 outfits which had to be whittled down for the Mela show, plus she showcased her own gorgeous designs. Neishaa had some helpers too – see Catherine’s @DesignsInDenim guest post for Oxfam.

The show ran three times during the Mela, and each show had eight scenes or looks, so it was frantic backstage helping the models with their quick changes. I was put in charge of the ‘Fash Phone’ for the day and tweeting pics to Oxfam’s lovely followers. It was also great to catch up with Oxfam’s marketing co-ordinator Kelly, @crazyscissorgal Teresa, and to meet Oxfam’s fashion assistant Helen after many months of emailing and tweeting!

The Neishaa Gharat for Oxfam collection is available to buy online, do take a look. Here are a few pics of the day.

Running order for the show

Running order for the show

Outfits ready

Outfits ready

In make-up

In make-up

On the catwalk

On the catwalk

Did you know? Melas originate from the Indian sub-continent. The word Mela comes from the sanskrit “to meet” and is related to “milana” the verb to tune. It is commonly used to describe a large gathering of people celebrating artistic, religious or political events –like a festival!

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Reclaim Bags: Sophie Postma on Upcycing & Inner Tubes

Reclaim Bags was born in 2011 by British based designer, Sophie Postma whilst studying Fashion and Innovation at Leeds college of Art. She innovatively uses recycled rubber inner tubes to make her unique bags and purses. Sophie is passionate about upcycling and showing consumers that the most basic of materials can be used to produce something beautiful.

Large Envelope Clutch, £40

Large Envelope Clutch, £40

1. I read in another interview with you that Reclaim Bags started life as a university project, what pushed you to launch it as a real business?

I really enjoyed the project throughout the time I was working on it and really felt like the idea I had was something special. I had seen the idea emerge and grow into something that was real, a real brand – something that actually had the potential to grow further and achieve the concept behind it of changing peoples’ perceptions of recycled products. I also got a lot of great feedback from people so I think that made me more eager to pursue it.

2. How did your Fashion & Innovation degree differ from other fashion degrees?

I studied for three years. The first year was the basics in Fashion design. After that the course split into two separate pathways, one which focused more on concepts and the communication of that concept, the other much more design based. I decided on the concept and communication side of the course. This meant not only were we taught about design and manufacture, but also film, promotion, designing packaging and marketing. There was also the opportunity to move away from garments and design products, which is what I did. This side of the course I really believe gave me a more rounded skill set which has been a great help in setting up my own business.

3. You say on your website that the aim of the brand is to ‘change people’s perceptions of recycled products’. In your experience what are people’s general perceptions of recycled products? Do you think the stigma is waning?

I do still believe that there is a stigma surrounding recycled products, but yes it is waning. I generally think people worry about the quality of the product when they hear the word recycled. Being at Spitalfields I see customers directly and I do notice that some still have reservations when I explain that the material used is recycled rubber, however more people are interested and open to the idea. It’s a slow but steady progression in the right direction.

4. Is it easy to get hold of the raw materials you need, i.e. the inner tubes? What extra challenges do you face by using such an unusual material?

At the moment I have a few main suppliers that I rely on, so yes it is relatively easy to source my material. However, the rubber doesn’t come in ready to use rolls like you would buy fabric. I pick up the whole inner tubes, as they are, having just been taken off a lorry or tractor etc. So you can imagine what kind of state they are in. The washing and preparing of the material is the most difficult part of the whole making process.

5. What do you envisage for Reclaim Bags over the next year?

I would like to think that within the next year, I would have my own studio to work from and that the business was growing at a steady rate. I will continue to raise awareness of the brand in turn to raise awareness of the concept. I would also love to think that I will be able to notice more of a change in people’s attitudes towards recycled products. I am currently working on a new collection and men’s products so lots of exciting things ahead for the brand.

You can catch Reclaim Bags at Spitalfields Market every Friday.

IPad Case, £40

IPad Case, £40

Large PVC and Rubber Clutch, £60

Large PVC and Rubber Clutch, £60

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Elephant Branded: Bags to Give School Children the Chance they Deserve

Elephant Branded, run by uni friends James and Tim, is an accessories brand fronting a beautiful story. Put simply, for every ethically made, recycled bag or similar product they give one school bag and kit to a child in Africa or Asia. James set up Elephant Branded when, after working in these continents, he was shocked by the basic lack of school equipment available to children and wanted to make a positive difference.

Elephant Branded joins a new breed of ethical fashion enterprise who strive not just to neutralise the detrimental effects of the fashion industry, but whose existence actually has a positive effect. They pay a fair, competitive wage to local villagers who make the products from locally sourced, recycled materials and then sell them to the likes of us (at a very reasonable price!).

bag

Featured by the BBC, Glamour magazine and The Sunday Times, Elephant Branded currently create covetable bags, laptop cases, iPad cases and wallets. Their big break came when John Lewis started selling their wares. I love the large Clipper bag (£45), a roomy holdall style bag perfect for travelling, the gym or the beach. It is hand-crafted from recycled cement bags by villagers in Cambodia and of course, for every one sold Elephant Branded delivers a school kit to a child in Africa or Asia. Whilst the clutch purse, £18, makes a great gift

Take a look at some of their projects in Cambodia, Uganda and Sierra Leone and meet their suppliers. Buy direct online or from John Lewis.

brandedele1

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Oxfam Haberdashery for Sewing Sorts


Yesterday we had an Oxfam fashion bloggers meet up at their PR agency in London. It was a great chance to meet the other Oxfam fashion bloggers and discuss ideas and features for the fashion blog. I am a bit different in that I don’t keep a personal style blog – my personal blog here is more academically research related or linked to ethical fashion and consumption, and the ClothesUK blog is general fashion news and style advice. The other bloggers do lots of exciting posts about upcycling and charity shop finds. Having said that, I did recently have a go at making a machine embroidered Valentine’s Day card for a blog post for tinygreenmom.com.

It is always nice to get the sewing machine out when I have time and if you are the creative sewing sort you should be aware of Oxfam’s growing haberdashery range. I got to see some of the new spring products at yesterday’s meeting which you can see in the photograph. For Christmas I actually got a couple of bits from Oxfam, a retro themed tin of pins, a collection of patchwork fabric swatches and a cute needle book. You can delve into Oxfam’s haberdashery range online or in stores. They have needle books, bags of buttons, transfers, applique patches and more.

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Lost Property of London

I got this fabulous Lost Property of London bag for my birthday. I wanted a rucksack to use on a daily basis for uni (thank god rucksacks are cool again . . . they are cool again aren’t they?). The bag is made from an old coffee bean sack, it doesn’t even faintly smell of coffee now mind you, with the softest leather straps and Liberty print lining.

Lost Property of London takes abandoned fabrics and transforms them into upcycled bags. The label was started by Saint Martin’s graduate Katy Bell in 2009. Find out more here.

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BIC Pen Dress

Here’s an idea – next time the ink in your pen runs out, don’t chuck it in the bin, get creative with all of those tubes of plastic. Take inspiration from Annette Carey who has designed this dress made from the humble BIC ball point pen barrels. To celebrate BIC Cristal pen’s 60th anniversary, the dress was designed to appear in an exhibition at the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising for one month from 1st April.

The dress is made from 1,200 BIC barrels, 2000 Swarovski crystals, and weighs 8lbs. Talk about upcycling! Basic pen to stunning dress in just 640 man hours. . .

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