Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Loft Market, Dublin

This week I visited the bright and beautiful Loft Market at Powerscourt shopping centre in the heart of Dublin city. The Loft Market is an Irish design and fashion collective providing a space for up-coming Irish designers to show-case their work. The collective was set up in 2006 by the fashion editor of THREAD magazine, Aisling Faranella, and is currently under the creative direction of Kate Nolan. Having faced many ups and downs in its almost 7 years, the Loft market is still going strong and has firmly established itself as the place to find new and exciting Irish fashion design.

I met with Kate on Sunday and over a cup of coffee we had a good long chat about the Loft, its impact, legacy and future.

Kate Nolan, creative director of the Loft Market
As Kate explains, the vision of the Loft had always been to provide an affordable retail space for young, inexperienced Irish designers where they could get their work out into the world, make some of their first steps, gain experience and learn without having to make a huge investment. As Kate recalls:
"Back then, there was no space for ethical fashion and small Irish Design. It was all too expensive. The Loft is a starting point for designers who want to set up their own label."
The Loft supports Irish design and ethically made fashion and would prioritize items "made in Ireland". Kate is adamant that they would not allow any mass-produced garments to be sold there. It's about the one-off piece, the statement design.
The Loft Market was established in conjunction with Powerscourt Towncentre. With its focus on high quality Irish design, it fitted in with the vision of the shopping centre and so Powerscourt allowed for it to be established as a collective. The designers share the rent for the space and are obligated to staff the boutique for one day per week. Occurring no staffing cost and the low rent makes it possible for the designers to make a profit from selling their work at the Loft. Being a collective also means that most decisions are taken collectively. Kate admits that this can be difficult sometimes, as with 20 different designers involved, there are many voices to be heard. However, Kate sees it as the right way to run the Loft, as it is as much the designers' space as it is hers.

When I ask her, whether the designers can make a living and be successful out of selling their creations at the Loft, Kate replies: "Make a living? Absolutely. Success, that depends on how you define it." The Loft designers can support themselves and produce their work without being dependent on the state or other sources of funding. "Having been around for a while, we know what we can offer designers. We can give them a space, a certain amount of kudos maybe, a community and a knowledge base, but we can't guarantee success in the sense of living a champagne-and-caviar-lifestyle." Although Kate has seen designers move from the Loft straight into places such as Brown Thomas.

The Loft Market recently - and quite unexpectedly - moved into a new venue within the Powerscourt centre. Whereas the old space was bigger and had more of a real atmosphere, the new venue has more of a boutique feel about it. While Kate admits that they are still "trying to find their feet" with the new location, she sees it as progress and an interesting development for the Loft.

What I love about the Loft is how versatile it is. From cutting-edge and rather experimental design to more affordable, conventional pieces, there is literally something here for everyone (or every girl, maybe).

Designer Jane Hayden for instance hand-makes these beautiful and unique silk tops, some of which feature large digital prints.

I also adore the cute and feminine designs by independent fashion label tokiki. From her Dublin studio, tokiki designer Carolyn Moore creates comfortable and flattering dresses, often mixing jersey fabric with prints and lace trims. Tokiki's limited edition garments have even been featured in Topshop.

Set up in 2007, label Aliquo makes fashionable and affordable jewellery pieces. Their designs are very accessible and have a whimsical and girly flair. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I know many a girl who would love to wear one of these delicate pieces.
"The Aliquo jewellery collection is all about vintage charm combined with clean, contemporary lines." 
 -Aliquo website

However, if you are not looking for delicate, but for something that shouts a little louder, then maybe these statement necklaces by artist Ina Suliak are the thing for you. Ina's bespoke collections are created by hand in a highly laborious and skillful process that combines bead embroidery with semi-precious stones. Ina's pieces are reminiscent of her background in art and sculpture. 

I hope I have given you a taste for all the lovely things available at the Loft Market Dublin. Make sure to visit it on your next trip. The Loft is open seven days a week! You can find out more on their website or by following them on twitter and facebook.

Have you visited the Loft before or do you know any other great spots for Irish design & ethical fashion? What was your experience? Feel free to share...

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Scouting the Highstreet: Urban Outfitters

This week I'm starting a little series called Scouting the Highstreet, which will crop up every now and again on the blog. This basically involves me and my magnifying glass going out to explore the Highstreet to try and find fairtrade, sustainable or ethically made clothing in our every-day shops...

For my first try, I had a look around Urban Outfitters. This wouldn't have been one of my usual shops as everything in there is super hip and seems mainly aimed at teenagers and young college students. Also, all the shopping assistants look like they either stepped straight of the catwalk or just waltzed in from a night out. Needless to say, I feel a bit like a frumpy spinster in there. Anyways, I got over myself and asked a shop assistant, who turned out to be very friendly and helpful, whether they sold any fairtrade clothing. She informed me that Urban Outfitters used to have some fairtrade items, but that was a long time ago and there hasn't been any since. However, they did sell some vintage garments, she told me and pointed me in the direction of the vintage section. 

I didn't have high hopes for the clothes to be anything different from regular vintage fashion, but as it turns out, all of Urban Outfitter's "vintage" clothes belong to the Urban Renewal range. Urban Renewal pieces are created either by upcycling vintage garments or by using end of roll fabrics to create trendy modern fashion. The pieces are hand-made in Philadelphia or the UK and Urban Outfitters promise that they are one-of-a-kind, so you may not receive exactly what you see on their website. Cool!

The Urban Renewal range is very casual, so you're not going to find your office clothes there, but it's perfect if you are looking for a funky top to wear out, a cool bag or some casual (very short!) shorts. I particularly liked their sequined tops and the cosy knitted cardigans.

However, I fell in love with their little print dresses. Here's the one I chose to take home with me:

 It's a very simple cut, with an elasticated waste so it fits many different figures. I love the colour of the floral pattern and the length is perfect for me. (For someone a bit taller, it may be more of a top than a dress...)
To spice it up, it's got a cheeky slit down the back.

You can find Urban Renewal clothes in most Urban Outfitters or you can order them online. All in all my first Highstreet Scout was a great deal more successful than anticipated. Christmas Dress - sorted!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Shopping Experience at the Fashion Souk

On Sunday I visited the fabulous Belfast Fashion Souk - a vintage and second-hand market with a twist.
Hosted in the luxurious RBG Bar and Grill, entering the Fashion Souk felt like walking into a treasure trove. Stalls packed with gorgeous jewellery and extravagant dresses were tucked away between eating booths, where tired shoppers could enjoy sumptuous food or a cold drink. Models, fully styled and dressed in vintage finery were mingling with visitors, occasionally posing for spontaneous live photo shoots. 

As Alyson, one of the organisers, explains to me, the Fashion Souk is more than just a vintage market: 
"The aim of the Fashion Souk is to destigmatize second hand shopping by creating a stylish shopping experience. A lot of women don't like shopping in charity shops and not everyone can pull off wearing only vintage."
 At the fashion souk you find so-called "catwalk cast-offs", high fashion pieces for reasonable prices, mixed with creations by local designers, quality second-hand clothes and beautiful vintage pieces. The idea behind this is that introducing shoppers to quality clothes at affordable prices, will eventually reduce what Alyson calls "throw away shopping". Once women experience how great they can feel in a well tailored dress, they may think twice about buying cheap off-the-rail garments from the likes of Primark or New Look.
The Fashion Souk promotes a holistic approach to shopping, making it a more sustainable and guilt-free activity. And one that makes women feel good about themselves! This is why at the Fashion Souk they are careful to use "real" women models ranging in size from a 6 to a 16.
"At the Fashion Souk we want to promote an image of women that is natural. Women come in all different shapes and sizes and they are all beautiful."                                                                                            Alyson 

So let's have a closer look at some of the treasures to be found at the Souk. I particularly liked these fabulous beaded vintage pieces available from Vintage Gladrags:

I'm not even quite sure what you would call them, is it a collar? a vest? a shawl? All I know is they're dead handy if you want to spice up that old black top or need to turn a beach dress into a cocktail frock. I just had to snap one up myself!

I also fell in love with some of the jewellery made by local designers.

Elephant Juice designer Lizzie Rooney is based in Belfast and creates beautiful jewellery out of 1850's to 1940's silver cutlery. If you ask her nicely, she will also create a bespoke piece just for you! You can find out more about that here.

 RuaRose is another great local designer based in Newry. She creates whimsical, vintage-inspired pendants and other jewellery using collected keepsakes. Apart from being beautiful, her pieces are also very affordable and would make an ideal Christmas gift.

The Fashion Souk takes place every second month and the next one is happening on February 23rd. To make sure you don't miss it, like Fashion Souk on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @FashionSouk.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Introducing People Tree!

One of my first discoveries when looking into buying fairtrade clothes was You may have already heard of them... Safia Minney has been making her fairtrade fashion business a huge success and names such as Orla Kiely, Vivienne Westwood and Emma Watson have all designed for the brand.

Peopletree have been selling faitrade fashion and accessories in the UK since 2001 and their clothes are stylish, fashionable and great quality. Here are some of my current favourites:

Marie Cream Dot Dress
Orla Kiely Cardi
They also have...


To Peopletree, faitrade means more than just paying a fair price. It is about a radically different business model, where profit is not the only aim. Peopletree tries to support and help disadvantaged communities to reach sustainability. 
Alongside its fashion business, Peopletree has set up the Peopletree Foundation, an independent charity that works to provide farmers, artisans and communities with training, education and practical support and raises awareness for fair and sustainable fashion.            
Peopletree try to produce their products as environmentally friendly as possible, using organically grown cotton and avoiding damaging chemicals. To reduce the carbon-footprint, a great number of their garments are hand-made. 
And they don't want to keep it to themselves! As part of their mission statement, Peopletree aims to:
"set an example to business and the government of a Fair Trade model of business based on partnership, people-centred values and sustainability."
Imagine, if every business did this! The world would look different, for sure... but enough talking! Want to see an example? Watch how Peopletree works with Bombolulu Workshops, a program for people with physical disabilities in Mombasa.

So why not fill someone's stockings with gorgeous goodies that make everyone feel great about themselves?

Yes the prices are higher than what we are used from the Highstreet, but they have frequent sales on. My suggestion: sign up to their email newsletter and you'll always be informed of the latest promotions. Peopletree do deliver to almost everywhere, however, their delivery charges to outside of the UK are a bit of a hindrance and have caused me to back away from purchases before.
Not to despair! Check out their stockists, you may well be able to buy Peopletree clothes conveniently in a shop near you. In Dublin for instance, you can get them at the lovely Bow and Pearl in Ranelagh.

Have you ordered anything from Peopletree? What were your experiences? Or do you know of any other great fairtrade fashion houses?

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Untiques Roadshow: Fashion Extravaganza at the Black Box Belfast

Did you know that last week was European Waste Reduction Week? Well neither did I. It's a Europe wide initiative to encourage people to reduce waste and support their local environment. As part of it, Belfast City Council organized a whole host of events all to do with waste reduction, entitled the "Untiques Roadshow".
Why the name? It is obviously a play on the name of the well-known TV programme "Antiques Roadshow", but what is meant by Untique? As Jill O'Neill of Refound (an awesome local initiative - Blog to follow!) explains in this little video here, Untique describes the stuff we own that we feel is worthless. So unlike Antiques, which are very valuable, Untiques are the things that are collecting dust in our attic. Yet, as Jill points out, these may be exactly the things that mean something to someone else or that can be made brand spanking new by giving them a little revamp. This is in a nutshell what the Untiques Roadshow was all about, to "unveil the hidden value of unloved and unwanted things".
So on Saturday I headed along to the Untiques Roadshow Fashion Show-case at the Black Box, a cool Belfast arts venue. Here, fashion experts were ready and all geared up with sowing machines, sequins, beads, buttons and more to revamp, or upcycle as it is called, your last season's clothes and make them good as new.
Rosie McReynolds showing off her work

Among them was local designer Rosie McReynolds, who sells her creations at PinUp Belfast. I've captured Rosie adding some bling to a plain charity shop jumper. She also told me that she has always had a love of recycling fashion and is inspired by high fashion designs of the likes of Maison Martin Margelia.
 Rosie also created this gorgeous bag. It is made out of an old men's tweed jacket. If you look closely, you can see the three sleeve buttons on the side!

The Jacket Bag by Rosie McReynolds
The event culminated in a Fashion Show of the designers' works. They were either entirely new creations or upcycled Vintage and Second-hand garments. The show included everything from ballgowns to patchwork Jeans and was accompanied by dark and groovy live music of the Sons and Robert Mitchum.

To start out the catwalk the models showed off some of the funky designs by Belfast Rain.

These creations are made from recycled tents. How cool is that! Belfast Rain produce skirts, hats and bags
and you can check them out here. (Apologies for the rather awful pictures. I had a small camera malfunction: smoke coming out of your flash - NOT a good sign!) 

Here are some more of the excellent pieces on display:
Design by Marie Nancarrow & Unify Studio, Photograph by Michael Kerr
The scarves in this design are made from jersey tops and the old jeans were revamped by fraying away and adding patches designer Marie Nancarrow found around the house. 

Design by Anna-Marie Henderson, Photograph by Michael Kerr
Design by That Vintage Vibe, Photograph by Michael Kerr
Both of the above designs are by Anna-Marie Henderson, owner of Pin.Up Boutique.

Design by Deborah Berne, Pin.Up, Photograph by Michael Kerr

This men's shirt was restyled using leather panels on the shoulders. Also, I don't know if you can see them, but all the female models were wearing gorgeous head-pieces created by My Little Hat Box.
Altogether the event was a great success and very inspiring! Sewing machine is definitely going on the Christmas Wish list!

Monday, 12 November 2012

My Challenge

Welcome to my very first post on FairEnough. Let me begin by explaining why I started this blog...

Well, at the beginning there was a challenge!
I love clothes and shopping, but over the last while the unjust and unethical circumstances under which most of our clothes are made started to weigh heavily on my mind. I became increasingly interested in fairtrade fashion and started to toy with the idea of no longer buying and supporting unethically produced clothes.

After my recent move and fresh start into a new job, I finally decided to make a commitment. I have set myself the challenge to only buy fairtrade and sustainable clothing for a year. This started at the beginning of October 2012, so I am already a good month in. So far so good.

But why the blog?
On FairEnough I will up-date on how my little experiment is going. I hope that this blog will be encouraging and inspiring to readers who may feel similarly about the clothing industry. My aim is not make anyone feel bad or guilty and FairEnough is as much to support and motivate myself as anybody else.

Beyond this, FairEnough is here to highlight, show-case and support everything to do with fairtrade and sustainable fashion, from shops and designers to events and even life-style choices. As I go through my year, I will share with you all my faitrade discoveries from Belfast, Dublin and the whole Island of Ireland.

Have fun and I hope you enjoy the blog!