Thursday, 28 March 2013

A Brief Encounter

My challenge to buy only fair trade, second-hand or vintage has been going well so far, apart from one thing: underwear. If there is one area where the words "second-hand" or "used" sound most unappealing, it's this one. In fact, most second-hand shops don't sell underwear to begin with. So far I also haven't encountered any "vintage lingerie", so my solution has been just not to buy any... Unfortunately my underwear drawer is starting to look rather desolate. I need me some funky new panties!

Pants to Poverty
Pants to Poverty make fun and comfy looking fair trade underpants from organic cotton. The production of these pants supports over 5000 farmers in India as well as their local communities. The materials are grown on organic farms, which means no pesticides and chemicals. The pants are manufactured in carbon neutral faculties that pay their workers a real living wage, which means the pants are overall much more eco-friendly, sustainable and much fairer! Yet they are still affordable with prices starting from £13.

Petits Secrets
Petits Secrets Lingerie turns waste into beauty by selling environmentally friendly knickers that are hand crafted in the UK using up-cycled fabrics. Their designs are very girly and cute and they even have some bras and tops on offer. Petits Secrets lingerie can be purchased here or on their website. Their prices are in the region of £20 for a pair of knickers, so still good value!

R.A.W. Textiles

Textile artist Rio hand-dies natural fabrics, such as silks and organic bamboo, using natural dies including iron and pomegranate. Her fascination with historical undergarments has inspired her to create a number of sustainable underwear collections. Her creations are incredibly delicate and ethereal in their beauty.
Due to the amount of work going into them and they're one off nature, they are rather more expensive.

Do You Green are a French company that offer gorgeous luxury lingerie made from pine-trees! The renewable raw material is transformed into soft fabric and, according to the brand, has the "touch of cashmere". Apart from having a low ecological footprint, the material is also breathable and easy to care for. Do You Green's fabrics are mad and died in France and their varied range includes lingerie, nightwear and loungewear. They even have a men's section! The prices are surprisingly low, with bras from €37.

Nico Underwear
Based in Australia, Nico Underwear are the first underwear brand to achieve accreditation with Ethical Clothing Australia. Their pants and bras are made in Australia under ethical conditions and they aim to minimize their impact on the environment. The design aesthetic is funky, fresh and colourful. Pants sell from £17, bras from £35. They have some items on sale at the moment!

Life's not Fair but my Knickers are
The key to this one's in the name really... the brand sell cute and girly fair trade underwear at very affordable prices with underpants starting from £14. You can purchase pieces of their fairly dotty range here. I could not find a website for them and their facebook page seems to be long inactive. You can find out more about them on the blog DomesticSluttery (safe for work, trust me!). I just hope they're still around....

And last but not least... there is:

This is probably one of my favourites out of the bunch. Not only is WhoMadeYourPants? underwear made in Southampton, UK, but it is made by women who have had little opportunity in life. At WhoMadeYourPants the women can acquire skills, like making panties, marketing or finance, which will equip and benefit them in the long-term. Moreover the brand uses end of roll fabrics which reduces waist and makes the panties more sustainable. The pants sell for about £25 but all the profits are re-invested into the company.

As you can see there many different options for buying ethical and sustainable underwear and the ones I've listed here are only a taster of all the ethical underwear brands out there... Is your head spinning a bit? If you don't want to look in a million places for knickers that might suit you, then try this place. Saumarez is an ethical lingerie boutique that stocks some of the designers and labels mentioned here and many besides. Knowing that what you're going to buy from them is either ethical or sustainable makes life so much easier!

Do you know any other ethical or sustainable underwear brands? Where do you get yours?

Thursday, 21 March 2013

With Kindness in Mind

Kendall Benton with rescue cat Teddy
I'm very excited to be sharing this week's blog with you. For my first ever blog interview, I'm talking to Kendall Benton, creator of Kindness by Design, an awesome blog that champions fair and ethical design. Read all about Kendall's work and be inspired by Kindness!

Sarah: Kendall thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog... Could you tell me a little more about yourself?

Kendall: Thanks so much for having me Sarah! I grew up as an only child in the Far North Queensland region of Australia, right between the rain forest and the Great Barrier Reef. After graduating high school I moved south to study at the University of Sydney, majoring in Environmental Politics and Archaeology, which was such candy for my brain! I started working for WWF-Australia while writing my honours thesis on tiger conservation and continued to work there for more than ten years! My roles with WWF have taken me all around Australia and my partner (who also worked for WWF at the time) and I were based in the Fiji Islands for three years working for WWF-South Pacific. About a year ago we moved back to Australia and I now work as for myself as an environmental consultant, Co-Founder and Director of Strategy for ScienceRewired, as well as Creator of Kindness by Design. I adore reading, writing, scuba diving, and playing with our little one-eyed rescue cat Teddy, who we brought to Australia from Fiji.  Teddy has an extremely well-developed vocabulary, so we have many an enlightening chat.

Sarah: What's your favourite thing in the world?
Kendall: Kindness!!! In all its forms.
Actually I always struggle with “name your favourite x” questions. Even in primary school when I was asked what my favourite colour was I would answer “multi-colour”. I love so many things (including love). I have many many favourites!

Sarah: What's your least favourite?
Kendall: Cruelty. It makes me feel physically and emotionally ill. The world needs to utterly reject it.

Sarah: Tell me a little more about Kindness by Design, what is the blog about?
Kendall: Kindness by Design – both the blog and associated social media accounts – is my platform for championing ethical and sustainable designers, brands and retailers. My goal is to show how amazing, stylish and fashion-forward ethical products can be! I am also committed to helping emerging designers and brands to reach a wider audience.

Sarah: You have been writing Kindness by Design for over two years now, why did you start it? What are you hoping Kindness by Design to become?
Kendall: The name “Kindness by Design” has a two-fold meaning for me: one is of course about designing items that are created in kind ways i.e. socially and environmentally ethical; and the second meaning is about deliberately choosing to live your life with kindness at the core. I truly believe in the power positive messages and I want Kindness by Design to be somewhere that people can go to feel empowered by the good being done in the world. I hope for Kindness by Design to become a catalyst contributing to the greater good. I want to continue to connect with and support designers both on and offline. I also would love to use my experience in working on issues such as: sustainable livelihoods, marine protection, threatened species conservation, climate change adaptation, and fresh water ecosystems to help create a better fashion future.

Sarah: What was your best "Kindness by Design blog moment"?
Kendall: Oh another “best” question! I’ve been very fortunate to have met some astounding people thanks to Kindness by Design. One of the best moments was being the Official Blogger for Fiji Fashion Week 2011. It was such a great experience getting to go behind the scenes and helping to promote a fledgling but overwhelmingly talented pool of designers. In October 2012 Kindness by Design was named by the International Fashion and Beauty Bloggers Organization as one of their 50International Bloggers to Watch & Learn From which was such an amazing surprise! And in January 2013 I was honoured when Kindness by Design was accepted into the Ethical Fashion Forum’s Fellowship 500

Sarah: What do you find most difficult?
Kendall: Working for yourself and starting projects from scratch is so exciting and incredibly rewarding from a creative standpoint. However, it’s also a really hard slog and you don’t have the benefits you get when you’re part of an established organisation. It’s been a real learning curve!

Sarah: Do you think a revolution in the fashion industry towards a more sustainable and ethical business model is possible? Have you seen signs of this happening?
Kendall: I’ve absolutely seen an increase in the depth and breadth of ethical fashion options and green-minded businesses. However, it still appears that fast fashion is firmly entrenched within the industry. I do think it’s possible for a sustainable fashion revolution to succeed but it won’t happen without support from designers, retailers, policy makers and consumers. Everyone has a part to play in creating a fair and ethical standard of doing business.

Sarah: What do you think would that look like?
Kendall: Every business would adhere to strict social and environmental guidelines and legislation while ensuring that their entire supply chain was transparent. Ideally all businesses would be certified Fair Trade, use cruelty-free, recycled and certified organic materials, operate in a zero-waste and carbon neutral environment, and somehow benefit the wider community.

Sarah: As you have been doing this for a while, you must have encountered a lot of great ethical and eco-friendly design initiatives, could you highlight your two for us?
Kendall: Oh my goodness. I am head over heels for all of the designers and brands featured on Kindness by Design! Two amazing initiatives include:

    Peace Cords by ARZU STUDIO HOPE are bracelets hand-woven by women in Afghanistan from authentic U.S. military parachute cord and fatigue or dress uniform buttons. This amazing fair trade fashion initiative has created employment for over 1,000 Afghans (95% of whom are women) and is providing the wider community with access to education and healthcare. Find out more here
Peace Cords bracelets
      Hearts is an ethical fashion brand founded on the idea that conscious minds create change. Their vision is to “create a legacy through which people understand that they need not sacrifice quality of life for beauty, and that true beauty emerges when we hold the vision of the highest good of all”. Their online store is amazing and allows you to shop via a number of categories including: materials; world causes; process; style; and how the product gives back to the community.
ethical fashion by heats

Sarah: Alright, last question: what are the top three things people can do to make this world a better place?
      1. Be kind to YOU! It might sound saccharine but I am learning that it’s a vital step in making the world a better place.
      2. Practice empathy as much as possible towards both humans and other living creatures. It’s an old adage but a vital one – treat others as you would wish to be treated.
      3. See something or someone that inspires you? Share it with the world…or at least with your loved ones. Spread the good stuff around :D.

I     Is there anyone that you find particularly inspiring? Who is it? Share it with us!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Something Old, Something New...

Image from the vintage  singer
It's officially wedding season! the first flowers are blooming and so are the wedding fairs. They're popping up everywhere, trying to lure brides-to-be in and sell them lots of "essential" products for their weddings. But why always buy everything new when it has been done so many times before and with so much style?! Why not try a Vintage wedding? It's beautiful, it's in and it's much more sustainable.
Last week, I went along to the Frock Around the Clock  Bridal Vintage Fair in the beautiful surroundings of Malone House to give you a taste of some of the gorgeous vintage and local design products out there. Believe me, I wanted to get married all over again!

Decadence Vintage  make sure their Frock Around the Clock Vintage Fairs are a real experience. Usually set in gorgeous venues, they not only showcase vintage but recycled and local design wares as well, while retro entertainment and music create a glamorous shopping atmosphere.

"Exhibitors at Decadence events are either vintage dealers who source unique items from across the globe, or local creative designers who produce beautiful handcrafted fashion and jewellery pieces from recycled textiles. Therefore buyers can be confident that they are supporting eco-friendly and local small businesses..."
Becky from Decadence Vintage

Let's start out with the best bit, shall we? Dresses!

1930's silk wedding dress from Archive 12 

Archive 12
sells the most stunning original vintage dresses. Hand-picked by fashion stylist Claire Leese, the dresses span decades from the 1920's to the 1970's. Each dress is restored by Claire herself and brought to a bespoke finish. I fell in love with this cute 1960's dress, what a stylish bride this must have been!

1960's cream lace button front dress by Archive 12
Now that we have the vintage dress of our dreams, we can think about Accessories. One thing I love about attending weddings in Ireland is the hair accessories. Be it a veil for the bride, a hat for the mother-in-law, a fascinator for the bridesmaid or a simple hairband for the girlfriend: everyone gets to wear something in their hair. And hair pieces at Irish weddings come in all the colours of the rainbow with sparkles, feathers and lots of glitter!

If you're looking for a real eye-catcher, a true one-off design, have a look at the beautiful creations of Irish milliner Marie Claire Ferguson.

Left: Marie's stall at the fair. Right: Some of the beautiful headpieces from: Marie Claire Ferguson
Delicate, airy and gravity-defying, Marie hand-makes each of her pieces and tailors it completely to your wishes. Working with her and benefiting from her expert advice, you will end up with a stunning, bespoke design that matches your outfit perfectly.

As a bride you may want to go a bit more traditional with a beautiful vintage-style veil or beaded headband. My friend, the lovely Niamh, and I fell in love with this intricately hand-beaded headband by English designer Donna CrainNiamh, who is getting married in October, was kind enough to model the piece for the blog. I think it looks amazing on her dark hair.

Left: Niamh wearing headband by Donna Crain, Right: Vintage Veils by Visionary veils

Donna Crain's pieces are hand-beaded so you have to allow up to four weeks for delivery... I think we can understand why! In Ireland her pieces are sold by Visionary VeilsRebekah McCann-Williams, owner and designer of Visionary Veils, has created a special range of simple veils that go with the Donna Crain hairbands. Visionary Veil is the only bespoke wedding veil designer in Ireland. Rebekah hand-makes all of the veils in her collection. Her vintage range is inspired by iconic shapes and styles of the past. Have a closer look at her gorgeous designs here.

Apart from what you could put in your hair, let's have a look at what you could hold in your hands. A flower bouquet is usually the way to go... but they are not the most durable (Mine fell apart while walking out of the church!). So if you're looking for something a bit more sturdy and quirky, but still delicate and girly, these brooch bouquets by Innocent Chaos might be the thing for you.

Brooch bouquets by Innocent Chaos

Hand-crafted from various trinkets and ornaments, such as vintage and modern brooches, pins, buttons, and earrings, each bouquet has a story to tell. I love that they look as if taken straight out of a fairy-tale  Textile artist Sharon Hay, the face behind Innocent Chaos, will also create bespoke pieces according to your wishes.

Last but not least: Rings. Due to their value, vintage wedding rings are probably the most common vintage "wedding item". I don't need to convince you of their beauty. I thought I'd just show you one of my favourites. This is my friend Emma's sparkler. It's almost a hundred years old, dating from around 1915. Emma is getting married this summer... sure with a ring like that, how could you have said no?

Did you wear anything vintage or second-hand at your wedding? 
Do you know of any great vintage wedding places? 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Make Do and Mend: How to revamp your old clothes

Original cover of the "Make do and Mend" 
booklet first published in 1943 by His 
Majesty's stationery office
This week on the blog we are trying our hand at some DIY clothes altering! If you're like me, then you have lots of clothes clogging up your wardrobe that never see the light of day... but rather than throw them away the next time you clean our your wardrobe or move house, why not turn them into something useful and wearable? It's all part of a more sustainable way of living, and it also saves money! So for this blog I was inspired by the old war time slogan to Make do and Mend.
I didn't quite do it on my own though, I have to admit. Luckily, the lovely Emma from Recycle Boutique NI was hosting a pop up shop and DIY fashion workshop in Cafe Wah in Belfast. So apart from getting expert advice, I was also fueled with excellent and incredibly cheap coffee!
Recycle Boutique Northern Ireland is a great initiative that helps to reduce waist by re-selling and re-cycling your old clothes. Emma will take on your once-loved garments and sell them on at her pop up shop events or recycle them into something new and exciting. And here's the best bit: 50% of the profits from your clothes go directly into your pocket!

Here's the dress I decided to upcycle. I bought this dress a few years ago in Dunnes, but I very rarely wore it. It was just too much powder pink all at once. So I decided to turn it into a skirt.

What I used:

All I needed for this revamp was:
- elastic band
- white thread & needle
- pins
- scissors
- use of a sowing machine
- cream elastic lace

What I did:

I simply cut off the top half of the dress above the waist line, making sure to leave enough room for a hem. I then measured and cut off a strap of elastic band to be fit inside the new top hem and pinned it in place. Next I sowed on the elastic band (not having the hem folded over yet). Big thanks to Emma for letting me use her sewing machine! Unfortunately my sewing skills proved a little rusty and the stitching turned out rather wonky... I then pulled the rest of the fabric over the elastic, pinned it and stitched it to form the hem. 

To cover up the wonky stitching on the hem I got some elastic cream lace and hand stitched it over the hem. And voila: one dress turned into a skirt with elastic waistband, that I can now combine with a variety of different tops and colours! Like this white blouse for instance:

To link in with creativity month Recycle Boutique NI are hosting some more free DIY fashion workshop throughout March. Check their facebook or follow them on twitter to find out more.

But let's not stop there. Here are some more great recycle and DIY fashion tips...
Don't know what to do with that pair of white pants you never wear? My beautiful and very creative friend Emily decided to give hers some funk by printing diamond shaped polka dots on them. Go over to Emily's Blog From China Village to find out how she did it!

Emily wearing her funky polka dot pants
Got a bunch of old T-shirts lying around? Head over to Brit + Co to learn how to turn them into these awesome tote bags:

And if you really just have unusable clothes and scraps of fabric left over, why not try and make them into a cute heart shape garland? It's dead easy, check out this article to find out everything you need to know.

DIY garland by Kirstie Allsopp
Do you feel inspired? I certainly do! I had a great time at the recycle workshop... Although I doubt that mending and making do was as much fun during World War II as it is today... in case you're interested, you can find some fascinating memories of what it was like on BBC's website.