Thursday, 7 October 2010

Ethical Fashion Forum Source Expo 2010

On 06.10.2010 I attended the Ethical Fashion Forum Source Expo at Westminster City Hall. The event was in connection with the RITE conference which was taking place in the same building (of which I was too low on funds to attend).

To be honest, I hadn’t researched as to what the Expo was about; buying my ticket as student prices were a bargain at £5! Saying that I had a vague idea what the event would involve: various ethical and sustainable fashion companies promoting their products and ethics. This was pretty much the case, albeit with a seminar programme throughout the day.

Up to 64 designers, suppliers and charity/organisations were exhibiting at the event and I was impressed by my knowledge of a great deal of them.

I was keen to explore the various ethical and sustainable suppliers. I spoke to and collected information from Vericotton, Jacobs Well Oasis, The Natural Fibre Company, Mumo and One World Button Supply Company. The Vericotton representative was lovely and told me about the production of their cotton textiles, explaining that the jersey is the only jersey on the market finished with aloe vera. The jersey was incredibly soft to the touch and beautiful to look at, however when I was told the finish would wash off I wondered: ‘What’s the point?’ It suddenly became obvious that the aloe vera was a marketing ploy rather than a lifelong improvement to the durability and feel of the textile.

I was excited to see fish leather at the Mumo stand as I had previously researched the product within a project. They looked amazing and were dyed in such fabulous colours; lime green, ruby red, tangerine orange and so on. It was great to be informed that the dying process does not use chrome, instead tree bark extract. I would say the appearance is very similar to that of snake skin, however inverted (does that make sense?).

Offset Warehouse I discovered is an online directory that covers all areas of the design process to assist designers to design both ethically and sustainably. I plan to research this website further. (see to explore yourself)

I collected information about the Norman paper hangers which looked really funky and were a clearly more sustainable option that the plastic hanger. They are clearly based upon the Cradle to Cradle design approach, however were not certified Cradle to Cradle. As great as these hangers look (and believe me I want them in my wardrobe), what will become of its predecessor? I personally feel that the plastic hanger is actually rather a sustainable item as they have an incredibly long life; I must have the same hangers from my infancy (well almost)! The real issue is that when they break I have no alternative but to bin them. Surely a more sustainable alternative to creating a new product would be to create a service that will repair/recycle the existing one, i.e close the loop of the plastic hanger?

I also met and had a fantastic conversation with the designer Ada Zanditon. I am aware that Ada uses and is inspired by nature within her design work therefore was keen to chat. She told me that through patterns and shape she tries to imitate nature. A keen believer in conservation, she tries to promote this through fashion and in the meantime make people aware of the great work and lengths that people go through to conserve threatened ecosystems. We discussed biomimetic applications and she expressed an interest in my project ( Ada recommended that I contact Phillips Dream Lab for funding and keep up to date with TED (which I must say I try to; its fascinating!). I was incredibly inspired by my chat with her, it made my day at the event.

I was keen to attend the ‘INNOVATION: The latest inspirational products and processes in the sustainable sourcing sector’ seminar, however found it somewhat disappointing. To be honest I didn’t think the ‘innovations’ presented were particularly innovative, expect Suzanne Lee’s Biocouture which I was already aware of. My personal definition of ‘innovation’ is ‘ground-breaking and pushing the boundaries beyond people’s perceptions’, not so much developing beads out of paper, redesigning a shoe box, fish leather, nettle and banana yarn, eco bags and paper hangers. These are just advances or ultimately the redesigning of already established products. Sure, the companies presenting offered different approaches and focused on developing communities in the process, however this is not innovation this is a human-centred or community-centred approach to business (something not limited to the fashion industry).

The Expo provided a great opportunity to discover new suppliers and designers promoting ethical and sustainable approaches to fashion as well as a platform to speak directly to potential partners. On this front I thought the event proved its purpose, however I cannot express my utter disappointment in the Ethical Fashion Forum’s interpretation of ‘innovation’ is. Innovation should amaze and excite people, ultimately making people want to explore and find out more. I felt nothing during that seminar which is a real shame.

A quick footnote of links to the companies I have mentioned:

Jacobs Well Oasis
The Natural Fibre Company
One World Button Supply Company
Offset Warehouse
Norman Paper Hangers

A company that I did not mention, however was highly excited about are Toto Knits. They produce hand-made, organic cotton knitwear for children. I am desperately seeking someone I know with a child so I can buy this amazing crocodile cardigan:

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Nuclear Power: The Debate

I have to admit; I am afraid of nuclear power! As you can tell from my blog I am somewhat of an environmentalist, therefore my energy of choice would be one of the renewables (wind, solar or hydro). Yes, yes, yes I am aware that there are issues around collecting and distributing these forms of energy, but I would much rather further R&D be focused around improving this than throwing our efforts into an energy that produces damaging waste which we have very little knowledge of the impact it can cause!

The reason I am rambling about this topic is because I have recently had minor debates with both my brothers who appear to be pro-nuclear power. I'm totally for people having their own opinions (sort of), but I must admit that I was frustrated when one of them said: 'well, we need energy from somewhere'. Grrrr.

Nevertheless my other brother informed me that little waste is produced in relation to the amount of energy produced. Which does make the idea of nuclear power easier to swallow......I guess.

Following on from our conversations, I was reading a book about biomimetics yesterday that touched upon the 'disastrous' technologies of the twentieth century. Would you believe it, the book mentioned nuclear power:

'...nuclear energy has both concentrated and spread radioactivity and virtually indestructable toxic waste into living systems worldwide. It's a kind of technological terrorism that will haunt life on earth for tens of thousands of year to come.(xv)'

As much as I shouldn't have, I smiled upon reading this short paragraph. I took great pleasure in texting the statement to my brothers (regardless if one of them is on honeymoon!). I quickly received replies where one of them profoundly writes: 'There are always two sides to every story.'

Undoubtedly this is true, but I felt I had achieved some sort of victory.

P.S The book I was reading was Nature's Operating Insructions: The True Biotechnologies, Edited by Kenny Ausubel with J.P Harpignies (2004).

Friday, 23 July 2010

Shed me Clothes Survey added to Internet

For my MA project; Shed me Clothes: Fashion inspired by nature for a more sustainable industry I have uploaded a survey to discover the features and characterists of garments that are never laundered (washed, can also include drying and ironing) and those that are frequently laundered.

Through asking specific questions about garments I am to develop a formula to create 'no wash' garments, tha the textile I aim to produce will enhance.

Click here to take the Online Survey

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Trash Fashion at the Science Museum

Last week I visited the Trash Fashion exhibition at the Science Museum. Although small the exhibition was great and offered a variety of science (ish) Vs fashion methods of creating a more sustainable industry, with efforts focused around reducing waste. I personally didn’t learn anything new from this exhibition, however being placed next to a children’s play zone it was fantastic to see younger people engaging and therefore learning from the exhibition.

I was keen to visit the exhibition after reading that Suzanne Lee’s Biocouture project was to be shown. I had researched this project when writing my proposal for my MA final project, therefore was keen to see one of the garments with my own eyes. I was not disappointed; it looked fantastic, plus there was a supporting video with imagery showing exactly how the culture is grown and formed into garments. My only issue was that I couldn’t get a decent photograph of the garment; the lighting seemed deliberately low and the little light there was reflected off the glass cabinet.

There was also a biomimicry example on offer; morphotex. This again was something that I had researched. I was unsure what this had to do with combating waste within the fashion industry, because from what I knew this fabric was about replicating the changing colours seen on a butterfly’s wing. Regardless this was interesting to see in the flesh.

Other items on show were zero waste pattern cutting, modular garments, upcycling, biodegradable fabrics (there was an interesting experiment where a garment with polyester and hemp had been buried to test the biodegradability), recycling, seamless knitting and natural fibres.

I noticed one mannequin wore a tshirt bearing the print ‘mystery garment’. There were a number of upcycled garments (from various websites/ or entries) that people could vote for on computer screen; the winner would adorn the mannequin. I flicked through the images and was shocked to see such awful examples of upcycled clothing. Seeing these garments being upcycled so poorly that they clearly should have been termed ‘downcycled’ as I cant imagine anyone wanted to wear them! There was an overall lack of style about these garments, which I think is why I struggle to appreciate upcycling. I generally feel that if these garments (in their previous state) were simply passed on, energy, resources and the garment itself would be saved.

That said, I do not want to bad mouth all upcycling. I think there is a high level of skill in remaking a garment into something of higher value than it was previously. That is it; I simply feel that an upcycled garment must become a garment of higher value not of lesser value.

Overall I was impressed to see sustainable fashion ideas being pushed forward, especially in the Science Museum.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Katie Ledger Fashion & Shed Me Clothes

I thought i would post links to my websites:

Katie Ledger Fashion
This site contains project that have focused mainly around sustainable fashion. The work presented dates from the second year of my BA Fashion at Coventry (2008) till now.

Shed Me Clothes
This site was set up to support my MA Major Project; it explains the concept of my project and contains a blog which is updated to show the process and development of the project. My project is based around biomimicry; being inspired by nature to solve design problems. I am looking to develop a fabric that sheds like a snake sheds their skin to reduce the impact of laundering.

Check them out! :)

Saturday, 17 April 2010

TK Maxx want your Clothes. But what for?

What are TK maxx up to? I can’t really understand their new campaign ‘Give up your clothes, for good which runs from 5th to 25th April. The website says very little, simply to donate your clothes in your local TK Maxx store. There are also links to Cancer Research and Enable Ireland as well as a sultry picture of Jade Jagger along with a quote from her. There is really little information, which I must say bugs me. Why should you donate through TK Maxx? What will happen to the clothes? Will they be sold in charity shops? Or upcycled to be sold in store and charity shops?

With such a lack of information I wouldn’t want to donate my clothes to TK Maxx, what’s so difficult about donating your clothes straight to the charity anyway? Why do you need a middle man? Especially a middle man that is a corporate retailer.

Cassette Tapes: The Revival

I read this article some time ago in G2 (The weekday Guardian supplement) about the renaissance of the cassette tape. I found it fascinating how this music format is slowly growing in popularity again.

The article reports on Bands like Deerhunter releasing albums on cassette tapes, underground labels specialising in the format and the tributes seen on t-shirts and i-pod cases. Cassette tapes are noted for sounding different depending on the decks used and because of this are ‘cherished for their imperfections’, providing a unique sound in turn breathing ‘extra vibrancy’ into the music. This unique-ness mentioned, with its ability to sound different as well as the unspooling of the tape within leading to you nurturing back to its correct form reminded me of something I’d read in a emotional design book. The book: Emotionally Durable Design by Jonathan Chapmen discusses that objects with free will along with a touch of disobedience can stimulate a relationship with the user. Also the idea of the object being dependant on the user can develop a relationship between the two. This relationship will create an emotional response from the user towards the object, which in turn may prolong the life expectancy of the object. This certainly appears to have happened with the cassette tape with a select group of individuals.

The mix tape is mentioned, describing it as a ‘labour of love’. This reminded me of a lecture I attended by Otto Van Busch who also brought up the ‘love’ involved, as well as personal touch of creating a mix tape. Hearing and reading about mix tapes struck a chord within me, taking me back to forwarding, rewinding, stopping and eventually pushing the little red button. I feel I actually miss this about music now. Creating mix tapes was definitely an experience which will never be forgotten, but I have to admit having an mp3 player with 16GB of music is much simpler than carrying a walkman with 20 cassette tapes in my bag.

Just to finish I’d like to mention the mix tape that will stick with me forever. My brother was tentatively creating me a mix tape full of his music to force on me in 1999 when Manchester Utd won the European Cup. Upon my first listen to the tape (and even now when I dig it out) I crack up to hear ‘Schmeichel’s in the penalty box…..The Bayern Munich players are on their knees, they don’t know what’s hit them; Manchester’s hit them’. Such simple joys.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Prick Your Finger “Murder at the Wool Hall”

On the evening of 18th March at the Stanley Picker Gallery, Prick Your Finger held a spinning workshop/disco. Entering the event was a sight unseen before; an eclectic bunch of people jumping around, knitting, dancing, riding a bike, DJ-ing and spinning yarn. Who wouldn't feel a little intimidated at first?

Being immediately welcomed I settled in and received a lesson in hand spinning, which involves carding (in order words combing) wool and through pinching, teasing and spinning with assistance from a dradle like implement spinning the wool into yarn. Sounds simple, right? Looks simple too. Don't be fooled, it took me several attempts to produce a wildly lumpy and totally uneven ball of yarn. Yet I did feel a sense of achievement, thumbs up!

Another thumbs up to mention was the free beer and homemade cake received upon arrival. Perhaps the beer could be blamed for my poor attempt at spinning, however I was told it did take practice.

One of the Prick Your Finger girls talked about the project; collecting wool from farmers around the M25 that was destined for landfill and processing it themselves as well as offering workshops (like the one being held) to teach the public. Most of the wool collected is quite coarse which is commonly undesirable (amazing, as I thought it was lovely!). They also offer knitting and crochet classes at their shop in Bethnal Green on Thursdays and Saturdays. The bike in the centre of the room (which had puzzled me since arriving) was also explained to be powering the music as well and spinning yarn when cycled.

The process was intensely relaxing and teamed with the sound of The Smiths and Bob Dylan, some may disagree with this statement, was highly enjoyable. I realised I had witnessed an example of slow fashion (if yarn is knitted/crocheted into garments, anyway), which I have learn about through my MA. Slow fashion can be described as trans-seasonal as it does not follow trends, is local to a community (skills or materials) and usually connects people either through design and manufacture or emotionally.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Oxfam Posters

While waiting for the tube yesterday morning, some new advertisments caught my eye. In just two sentances they expressed in an ironic and somewhat poignant way the adverse effects of climate change to people. These 'people', whom we are so far removed from, contibute little to climate change yet suffer the most. I hope these posters reach millions of others forcing them to think and take action to slow down the rate of climate change.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

'Retrofitting', What's all that about?

‘Retrofitting’ is yet another new green term, but what on earth does it mean?

Well, retrofitting is all about improving the environmental efficiency of existing buildings by reducing harmful emissions, combating the effects of climate change and reducing energy bills. As well as this, it aims to bring nature back to big cities.

With the effects of climate change resulting in wetter winters and drier summers, our current buildings are said to be crumbling under the pressure of rain, wind and moisture. Not to mention leaking heat, energy and CO2, our buildings are highly inefficient. As I write, the windows in my London flat have had to be covered in plastic to reduce drafts and energy bills, not much good if I want some fresh air!

So, what does retrofitting involve?

There are various different ways to retrofit your home. Green roofs are one solution, which is planting vegetation and soil over a waterproof membrane on roofs. These green roofs help reduce urban heat, insulate buildings by up to 25% and helps surface water runoff. Green roofs can be seen near Canary Wharf and the West Ham Bus Garage. Keep your eyes peeled for more in London as major, Boris Johnson has backed this project.

Across the pond in New York City, rooftops are being painted white to reflect sunlight, reducing surface temperatures by up to 60° and air conditioning coasts by 20%.

Insulation, as you may already know, is key in reducing heat loss in building. Whether it be blown into cavities of walls, internal, external or under the roof, insulation can save a considerable amount of money, as well as energy. Having you roof insulated alone could save you £150 a year.

Up to £5 million of the London Green Fund has been promised to retrofit 1.8 million London houses by 2015. Not only will London save huge amounts of energy but also create skilled jobs.

Thumbs up!

After moving into my flat in London, I’ve become aware how badly insulated many properties are and completely back the retrofitting of the 1.8 million homes, perhaps they should even aim for more. In order for this to work, I feel that landlords of rented properties need to get on board, as I feel this project may stall without them. Plus, the prospect of having a green space on my roof is thrilling. Roll on summer.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Clean Clothes: The Issues

If you know me personally, I’m sure you have noticed my interest and concerns over the laundering of garments. The use phase of the lifecycle of a garment came to my attention when I discovered it to be the most energy intensive, accounting for up to 82% of its total energy requirements. Another concern is the use of harsh chemicals to wash clothes that are then placed next to your skin when you wear clothes, consequently being absorbed into your body through your skin. Furthermore, the problem of these chemicals entering aquatic environments causing eutrophication (starving fish and plant life of oxygen).

I’m sure plenty of people have heard of Ariel’s campaign to wash at 30°C. This is a great way to save energy, as up to 90% of energy used in the washing process is taken up heating the water, so if the temperature is lower less energy is needed to reach it. The lowering of the washing temperature by just 10° reduced the amount of energy consumed by approximately 14%. This incentive is a positive to save energy, however the detergent companies have cleverly obscured the issue of the chemical ingredients within their products. More recently, Persil have developed a detergent that washes at 15°, which is all well and good, but who has a 15° setting on their washing machine?

Concentrated formulas have been developed to reduce packaging, space and energy when transported. Isn’t that wonderful? It’s a shame they forget to tell you that they pack these concentrated versions with fillers such as sodium sulphate. Also, consumers have difficulty measuring doses of the ‘normal’ detergents, which inevitably leads to overdosing with the concentrated formulas too. Standard detergents are also unlikely to biodegrade and contain phosphates, which consumers are currently paying for the removal of through their water bills.

So, any alternatives?

Eco detergents, for example Ecover or Bio D contain plant based surfactants and (usually) free of optical brighteners and phosphates. In using plant based surfactants, eco detergents have the ability to biodegrade in a matter of hours or days. These detergents can also wash at 30°C.

Avoid products with optical brighteners as these are made with the chemical stilabene, which can usually cause allergic reactions, effect hormones (nice!) and are toxic to fish.

Other, more unusual products exist in the form of Ecoballs or Soapods. Ecoballs are plastic balls that contain ceramic granules that ironises oxygen molecules in the water to wash clothes. They do not pollute water, fade or damage clothing; however can soften it (which my brother vouched for when he read!), are anti bacterial and can be used up to 1,000 washes! Soapods are a renewable resource that grows on sapindus trees. The shell of the fruit is placed in a canvas bag and into a normal wash. They are 100% biodegradable, allergy free and ensure colours stay bright and soft.

I also researched into care labelling (which if your reading this, I’m sure you read and follow the instructions, right?). It has been reported that over half of consumers (57%) always or usually read laundering instructions before washing a garment, a huge drop from 77% in 2003. There is generally a low to average level of understanding of garment care labels. Habit usually prevents consumers reading care labels, which are usually used as a guide rather than strict instructions.

The way in which garments are labelled, in relation to care, I find somewhat frustrating as they are incredibly vague yet ridiculously complicated at the same time. Though a mini investigation into my own wardrobe, I investigated the number of loads I was expected to separate my clothing into to achieve optimum washing results. In following the recommendations along with separation of colours, 21 loads were created! (There’s no way I’m spending my weekend doing that many loads!)

I also noted contradictions and errors within the labelling of my wardrobe; additional text not matching symbols, garments that can be machine washed as well as dry cleaned and dry clean and tumble dry symbols being mixed up.

The Home Laundering Consultative Council (HLCC) regulates the labelling system. Through research, I discovered that the 30° wash tub symbol is not a registered symbol by HLCC hence the additional text on care labels. I was shocked to discover this, especially with the increased coverage of washing at 30°. Also the only drying symbols within the HLCC are tumble dry or no tumble dry. Researching further, I discovered that within Japan and America there are a selection of drying symbols:

Japanese Natural Drying Symbols

American Natural Drying Symbols

This made me question the labelling system, to which I came to the conclusion that it is somewhat outdated. There is a definite case for further research into the application of symbols offered. Care labels also need to reflect the current situation and encourage consumers to re-think their laundering practice to save energy.

So, this is a summary of my first term on the course Fashion and the Environment. You may feel that this does not fit the design philosophy of the blog, but I think there are processes within garment laundering that definitely need a re-design.