Saturday, 19 November 2011

Buy Nothing Day

Did anyone else know it was ‘Buy Nothing Day’? I had no idea, but I do remember reading about the campaign months ago in a book. I have to admit I went out this morning; brought some bits and even placed an order on HMV for Christmas presents. Ironically it was one of my buys that informed me! The Guide (The Guardian’s wonderful weekly guide) contains a humorous cartoon with a statement underneath:

You’ve brought the Guardian, now take a 24-hour holiday from consumerism for Buy Nothing Day

It’s a shame the campaign is not more widely advertised as I would have liked to try and take part. I have ultimately decided to try the challenge tomorrow, which should be easier as it’s Sunday – nice.

But, seriously I do think that Buy Nothing Day is a good effort to tackle consumerism. The underlying tactic is to make people think about what they need, over what they want. Generally what we want thus buy, we never actually need. Employing this method of thinking has certainly helped me to limit my spending over the last year. I urge you to give it a go, save your money for experiences. I promise you the feel good feeling will last much longer. Let’s roll out Buy Nothing Day to once a month, not a year.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Lets Clean Up Fashion 2011

Labour Behind the Label has released its 5th edition of The Let's Clean up Fashion 2011: The state of pay behind the UK high street. I remember reading the 1st edition (some years ago now) when I was studying for my BA Fashion degee. The report opened my eyes to the workings of the fashion industry and triggered something in me to research more.

The report focuses on the living wage and grades many UK fashion retailers from 0-5m for example 0=does not accept the principle of living wage and 5=sustained implementation of an effective living wage policy across entire supply base.

It's safe to say that no retailers researched for this study achieved a grade 5. M&S, Monsoon Accessorize and Next lead with a grade of 3.5, while reatailers such as French Connection, Gap, H&M and Levis Straus staddle behind with a grade 1. The most shocking results of the study are the reatilers graded 0: Hobbs, Paul Smith, Reiss and White Stuff all of which cover a higher price point within the market. However the flaw within this grading is obvious when looking at the Data collected for these retailers; all except one (I will let you read to discover who) states that the retailer 'did not respond to our request for information and makes no information available on their website'. I do not think this is sufficient evidence to tar these companies with a grade 0, but the argument for this could be they must be hiding something. However, hiding something does not mean they have to be hiding something bad. What do you think?

Friday, 4 November 2011

Future Fabrics Expo

I was so excited to receive an invite to the Future Fabrics Expo. It looks like a brilliant event and its free! Take a look:

The only problem, its on a working day. I printed the invite and presented it to my manager proudly, advertising it as a great opportunity to discover new developments for technologists and designers alike. 'Brilliant,' she said 'I'll send Mandy (name changed for legal reasons, but our fabric technologist).' I must admit I was miffed. I wanted to go. Everyone please wallow in my sadness, especially as I wont be able to cover it on my blog :(

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Wales vs. Plastic Bags (err… or disposable bags)

I do love – no wait, maybe love is too strong a word – I do like my reusable bags:
a) they are strong and don’t break
b) I can fit quite a lot of stuff in them
c) some are small enough to tie up and keep in my handbag
d) they display pretty pictures and don’t advertise huge multinational companies.

I first heard about the Welsh plastic bag ban proposals on BBC Breakfast some days ago and was instantly impressed. Finally, a decision on this island has been made to try and prevent people from engaging with disposable products. Hurrah! However I’m not sure if charging 5p for a bag will stop people from using them or simply mean that people will use them but pay for them instead. But an outright ban could be too totalitarian… I guess.

So what’s wrong with plastic bags? Why have Wales taken this stance?

The Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones as called plastic bags “a waste of natural resources” – agreed. Up to 273 bags per Welsh household were consumed last year from supermarkets alone, indicating a consumer reliance on the disposable carrier while also highlighting the major problem of waste. Ultimately the plastic bag is designed for single meaning that local authorities can spend up to £1m clearing them every year. By imposing this ban or charge Wales expect to reduce usage by 90%.

Source: The Guardian

So, any rules?

Well, firstly it’s not just plastic bags: paper and plant material bags are also included. They all waste energy is the argument – true. So the real ban is any form of disposable bag, something the headlines are missing out.

Secondly, plastic bags, or should I say disposable bags, can be freely given out for food products that are not already packaged.

Are they really that bad?

In the grand scale of things, perhaps not: according to George Monbiot in today’s Guardian carrier bags account for 3.2% of domestic waste – not a lot really. But this one small step for man could be the giant leap to protect the environment and other species with share this planet with. I have to admit; after hearing that oestrogen is released into the oceans when the bags breakdown ultimately entering the food chain I immediately felt ill. No-one wants to be fat, infertile or cause cancer. That should be an indicator for everyone that plastic bags should be phased out.

Now go and dig out that reusable bag you promised to use.

Source: Bag It Don't Bin It

Source: Eco Green Bags

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Plenty more Fashion Articles, Please

Back in Janurary I emailed The Ecologist firstly to invite them to MA Fashion and the Environment's graduate showcase (2011) and secondly to encourage them to write more sustainable fashion articles along with possible stories. I received a lovely email back saying that the new editor was keen to cover more fashion and beauty stories on the website. I didnt see much for a while, but success: lots of fashion related articles have been posted on The Ecologist's website. Hurray I hear you cry (or I do anyway).

There are some really interesting articles that I think are worth a good read:

Safia Minney: fashion's impact on the earth - The People Tree founder discusses the environmental damage caused by fasion.

Inside the London College of Fashion's eco-hub - Celebrating the wonderful Centre for Sustainable Fashion.

The ecological guide to Estethica - celebrating it's fifth year at London Fashion Week.

Source: The Ecologist

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Carbon Emissions - The Use Phase

I have struggled to write recently due to starting a new job, which I am excited to say subscribe to Ecotextile. Score.

This is a quick post to share a quote from an article I have read (Issue 44, page 66) about carbon emitted as a result of the global consumption of clothing:

'The report, International Carbon Flows - Clothing, says that the global consumption of clothing results is around 330MtCO2 of emissions, with emissions from the use phase resulting in an additional 550MTCO2 per year, primarily from washing and drying but including ironing and dry cleaning, - equivalent to around 2% of total global CO2 emissions.' (Ecotextile, 2011)

Isn't the use phase just insane!? Almost double that of production, shipping and retail.

This pinpoints yet again that designers and innovators really need to explore methods to reduce the impact during the use phase.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

EJFs Pop-up DIY Party with Neil’s Yard

Yesterday I visited the Ethical Justice Foundation’s (EJF) latest pop-up shop on Earlham Street that focused on encouraging people to be active and creative through do it yourself projects. I have volunteered for EJF a few times so understood the format of the shop: to essentially promote and sell ethical/organic clothing, inform customers about their campaigns while also fundraising through the selling of the brilliant EJF organic tees designed by the fashion industries leading designers. The last time I volunteered in one of EJF’s shops there was a bag making session which engaged with customers incredibly effectively that people stayed for over an hour perfecting their creations. EJF know how to combine a shop format with activities that capture people’s imagination. They did it again with Neil’s Yard yesterday.

I dragged two friends to the shop yesterday just in time to see a ‘make your own lip balm’ demonstration by Neil’s Yard. It was unusual to see a camp stove and beakers in a shop and immediately caught people’s attention. The demonstration appeared incredibly simple; heating and combining coconut butter, beeswax with essential oils (don’t hold me to this..!). Once combined the mixture was poured into little containers and cooled within minutes: up to ten containers must have been filled. We were each handed one out as souvenirs. I was incredibly satisfied as I desperately needed a new lip balm and I also have an obsession with peppermint, which the balm contained making my lips tingle when applied. I was delighted to hear my friend utter, ‘its amazing it was made right in front of us’ (or something along those lines) as the demonstration had connected with her highlighting that products, be it cosmetics or clothing down just appear on the shop shelf, someone has to make them.

Neil’s Yard were essentially promoting their Bee lovely and help save the bees campaign. We were given information booklets and some cream samples.

I was aware of the decline in bee numbers within the UK and understand it to affect pollination therefore decreasing our food production. The booklet beautifully illustrated the problems which I have tried to sum up with the following quotes:

  • Bees and wild pollinators are responsible for the pollination of one third of our shopping basket.
  • Experts have warned that honeybees could disappear entirely from Britain by 2018.
  • Pesticides are poisoning bees, while loss of habitat and wild flowers is starving them to death.
  • ..mono-crops have converted our countryside into an arable desert.
  • Paris declared itself pesticide-free ten years ago – today Paris bees provide more honey than their rural cousins.
  • Neonicotinoids (pesticide) are 7,000 times more toxic than DDT, which was banned in Britain in 1984.
  • Modern beekeeping practices put the emphasis on honey production. This coupled with toxic industrial agriculture, has resulted in stressed bees that are vulnerable to diseases and parasites.

Pesticides are a huge problem not just to bees, they affect all wildlife and even enter us! They leak into the water table, therefore into the water system which we drink and are sprayed all over food that we eat and cotton which we wear next to our skin. An incredibly scary thought which should drive us all towards organic, but financially can we all afford organic?

At the end of the booklet was a petition type card to sign and post to Caroline Spelman MP, Secretary of State for Environmental Food and Rural Affairs to ban the use of neonicotinoids. People are lazy; they may not fill it in especially as you have to pay the postage. This would be real shame, but to show my support I have filled in the card and attached my stamp. It really is a cause for paying 42p for (is that the price of a 1st class stamp now?).

For more info visit Neal Yard’s facebook group.

Also on offer was a Behind the Label booklet in collaboration with The Ecologist which I picked up and read this morning. It details the ingredients found in many high street groceries that the brands never tell you about for example the leading cereal bar containing little nutrients but plenty of bulk ingredients, fluoride in leading toothpaste brands having the ability to poison its customers or the leading cosmetics brand using numerous parabens that trigger cancerous cells along with synthetic fragrances that irritate skin and cause breathing problems. I thought brands care about us! For more info, names to the above and alternatives visit The Ecologist Behind the Brand.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Superficial Face of Fashion


An article by Lucy Siegle in today’s Observer Why fast fashion is slow death for the planet explores the problems of fast fashion: overflowing wardrobes, reduced league times, overworked and underpaid factory workers, stellar fiscal achievements and the fashion consumers lust for more fore less and disregard. I make a point of mentioning this article as there was a particular reference I had not come across before:

Perhaps that mindset explains why a fashion industry commentator watched in horror as she saw one satisfied customer emerge from Primark's flagship Oxford Circus store with six or seven brown paper bags full of clothes. It was raining heavily, and as the young woman proceeded down Oxford Street one of them broke around the handles and folded cotton flopped on to the pavement. Naturally the journalist expected the girl to bend down and collect the clothes, but no. She just walked on. Fashion was apparently so expendable it had turned into litter.


On my many trips via Oxford Circus to university or even through Coventry city town centre (my home town with the largest Primark store in the UK when it was built in around 2008) I see a countless number of women, both young and old, carrying at least two large brown paper bags. My reaction is always the same: being overcome with shivers. I feel the same when entering a Primark store, yet combined with a glazed sense of attending a farm or cattle market; clothes strewn across their displays taking the form of a laundry pile, miserable staff shuffling about not even attempting to clean up, escalators that herd you around the store in order to get up or down and customers trailblazing around grabbing, dropping and eventually chucking in those oversized baskets that resemble buckets. On top of this the queues are horrendous, almost robotic and airport like. I repeat the same question to myself when leaving; ‘Do people enjoy this?’ Perhaps this experience is ultimately part of the fashion procedure for many, likened to the frustrating process of separating egg whites in order to produce the ultimate meringue.


After reading the above paragraph that shiver again possessed my body, however much deeper: I felt sad. A newly brought fashion piece means so little to its owner they are willing to dispose of it before even consuming it. It begs the question: ‘has fashion or clothing in general become superficial?’

Lets not kid ourselves, the fashion industry has always been a little shallow quick to snipe an others in out of date wears, but it always seem to connect to us emotionally. Perhaps with reference to the girl mentioned above we no longer desire or need this emotional connection.

Many sustainable fashion writers and designers discuss the need to maintain and encourage this emotional connection. But are we missing the point before us, perhaps people want fashion that they can consume without a care? Perhaps designers and writers should explore sustainable methods of creating clothing to allow for this change in the consumer.

What are you views? Are both areas of research viable?

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Fashion to Die for?

Dialogue between Fashion and Death: a chapter in the book of the same name by poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi I found to be a fascinating text that draws upon the similarities between Fashion and Death, here personified as two sisters. The passage is a short, humorous conversation where Fashion convinces Death that they fall from the same tree, so to speak:

Fashion: …you and I together keep undoing and changing things down here on earth…

Fashion: I’m saying that it is our nature and our custom to keep renovating the world. But right from the start you threw yourself on people and on blood, whereas I’m generally satisfied with beards, hair, clothes, furnishings, buildings, and the like.

cause pain:

Fashion: I persuade and force all genteel men to endure daily a thousand hardships and a thousand discomforts and often pain and torment and I even get some of them to die gloriously for love of me.

Fashion: …doing everything my way, no matter how much it hurts them…

move at a different pace:

Fashion: …for whereas you run, I can go faster than a gallop, and whereas you faint by standing still in one place, I waste away.

Fashion ultimately concludes that she is one with Death:

Fashion: …some of my doings that are of great assistance to you.

Fashion: …I have caused the neglect and the elimination of the exertion and those exercises which favour physical well-being, and I have introduced innumerable others that weaken the body in a thousand ways and shorten life and have caused them to be valued highly.

Fashion: …I have put in the world such orders and such customs that life itself, both of the body and of the soul, is more dead than alive…

The work is not dated; however it can be assumed that Leopardi wrote it in the early 19th Century. You cannot deny that Fashion’s arguments still seem relevant today. The rich/poor divide must have been considerably wider during the era it was written indicating that fashion played a more important role in determining status or class, therefore sort after. Yet fashion is still incredibly important nowadays perhaps because it is more accessible. Fashion changes much more frequently in order to keep people interested, maybe even to remind us its there.

This increased speed has quite literally sucked the life out of us and the planet:

  • The Aral Sea was almost completely drained in order to provide water for the ever increasing demand for cotton for the changing fashion garments.

  • Poor working conditions and long hours of those who make fashion garments are struggling to live their lives.

  • Chemicals from dying and laundry detergents, along with pesticides build up in our environment. They can cause disfigurements and even death.

  • Not only this, but the fashion consumer has become robotic; buying, wearing, throwing, buying, wearing, throwing… Fashion has simply become monotonous and only seems to satisfy for shorter and shorter periods of time. Talk about soul destroying.

With fashion being identified with a close likeness to death, is there any way we can change this?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

New Materials for Fashion

I’ve been both a little slow in reading Shaping Sustainable Fashion as well as blogging recently. However, a forty-five minute bus journey recently gave me plenty of time to delve into the text. So far I have not come across anything overly new or innovative, mostly upcycling and fibres, which is another reason why I have not blogged.

A case study that did catch my attention was New Materials for Fashion (page 39), which discussed the potential to explore and develop new materials as possible sustainable solutions for fashion. I know exactly why I was drawn to this text; my MA Final Project was in many ways an exploration of this. Another reason would be that this research is ‘little explored in the fashion industry’. The unknown always fascinates me.

Jennifer Shellard is a textile designer who combines technology with traditional craft skills to create textiles with a colour strip that changes colour. The colour change is ‘slow and measured’ to create an ‘intriguing and meditative’ viewing experience. Her work fits into the new body of research exploring methods of engaging with consumers through transformation. Adaptive clothing has the potential to encourage a relationship or emotional response with the owner, thus reducing the need for the owner to further consume.

Shellard’s work is interesting and appears well thought out; however I feel that consumers need something more than colour change to feel connected to their clothing.

‘A central problem with fashion is that often a garment is disregarded before it ceases to function’. I totally agree. The text continues to promote the need for emotional attachment to sustain interest with the owner as being the ultimate challenge. True, but another method could be explored: to create garments that engage for a short period of time, for example the length of a trend and be safely disposed.

Fashion is and most certainly will always be fuelled by trends. We can either embrace this by searching for methods to sustain it, or turn anti-fashion and focus on maintenance and emotion. To be honest, I believe in both these methods: my own work explores the possibility of safe disposable garments that can be trend led yet there are items in my wardrobe that I have developed an emotional attachment to also. Perhaps the future will hold a happy medium for both. What do you think?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Pecha Kucha Presentation

The presentation on Monday night went really well, I didn’t stumble at all! I did however find the Q&A session after difficult due to the fact I’ve never done it before in front of a lecture hall full of people. One word: daunting, however experience can only make me better.

Unfortunately the presentations were not filmed (although audio may have been recorded), therefore I created a video with my audio commentary so that for the people who couldn’t make it can experience it! Enjoy.

BEWARE: this video contains images of snakes (shock). :)

Monday, 7 February 2011

MA Pecha Kucha TONIGHT!

Eek, the time has come: I will be presenting my project Shed me Clothes tonight at the MA Pecha Kucha session held at the RHS Space at London College of Fashion from 6pm. Another of my peers from MA Fashion and the Environment, Julia Roebuck will also be presenting along with students from MA History and Culture of Fashion, MA Fashion Journalism and MA Fashion Curation.

This type of presentation is timed, therefore no time to stumble. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Shaping Sustainable Fashion

I (pre)ordered Shaping Sustainable Fashion: changing the way we make and use clothes edited by Alison Gwilt and Timo Rissanen what feels like an age ago (actually last November). Success, it finally arrived yesterday. All in good time too, I have just finished my second leisure book since Christmas: an autobiography by a much admired musician, the first being the history of the fabulous Rough Trade.

After reading about the somewhat ludicrous, rampant and well hidden (by which I mean unpublicised by the press unlike his equally talented counterpart – Can you guess whose autobiography it is yet?) exploits of this artist I feel I need to roll over and exert my attention to another passion of mine: improving methods within the clothing lifecycle towards a more sustainable future. A come down perhaps, yet an enjoyable one.

I feel I have drifted from the original point in this post….

Ok back on track.

I haven’t as of yet started the text, however have had a quick flick through and settled the majority of my attention on the use phase chapter. People who know will surely not be surprised; I seriously cannot wait to read this chapter especially with subtitles including:

Laundering Frequency: Reducing Consumer’s Need to Clean
Laundry Detergents and Softeners: Effectiveness and Environmental Concerns
Sustainable Clothing Care by Design

And some figures that caught my eye:

Other pages that caught my eye were ‘New Materials for Fashion’ along with a profile of the fabulous Wonderland project by (my supervisor) Helen Storey where garments can be dissolved, offering a solution to the problem of waste.

Excuse me while I settle down with a cuppa to take my first tentative step into the text, I will do my best not to skip to the use phase….but no promises. Everyone has to be a geek about something…right?

I keep you posted on my journey through Shaping Sustainable Fashion, what I learn so will you.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

'Procrastination is the thief of time'

Seriously, what have I done today? Apart from post a letter........nothing!

Note to self: be constructive tomorrow.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

‘We’re all mad here…’

Have you ever dreamt of filling Alice’s shoes and attending a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party? Perhaps you want to play the Mad Hatter and stage your own tea party but don’t own enough eclectic tablewear and equipment? Well look no farther than Wonderland Tea Parties.

Ok, I’ll be honest Wonderland Tea Parties is ran by my brother and sister in law after their fabulously extravagant Alice and Wonderland inspired wedding that sent guests through the rabbit hole back to their childhood. During the build up to the big day, Mark and Belinda spent a vast amount of time trawling shops up and down the country to collect vintage crockery, glasswear, accessories and furniture to stage their own Mad Hatter’s Tea Party inspired reception. Collected they certainly did, they managed to find almost 200 crockery items along with potion bottles, numerous vintage alarm clocks, beautiful lanterns and various Victorian styled accessories. (Might I add, I found the most adorable miniature tea set in a charity shop in Kenilworth that was added to their collection)

Finishing touches and accessories really brought the tea party into Wonderland, for example Mad Hatter tea bags, ‘take one’ sweet jars, ‘drink me’ potions, oversized playing cards and hand made (by me, using recycled fabrics) bunting.

Photography Copyright (c) 2010, PH Weddings

With such planning and articulation the wedding day went off without a hitch and received fabulous comments from the guests. This ultimately inspired the happy couple to help others hold a Wonderland inspired Tea Party, as Belinda says:

‘We had a great time planning our wedding. This inspired us to continue our love for all things vintage by deciding to hire out items from our large collection of crockery and accessories to people wanting to create a uniquely vintage event of their own.’

Wonderland Tea Parties are open for business hiring out their ever expanding collection of vintage crockery, accessories and furniture for any event; big or small. Hire now until 28th February 2011 and receive 10% off your total hire charge, there’s no better way to transport yourself to Wonderland.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Have you ever seen a garment constructed before?

I decided to set my self a challenge in November: to knit my brother a jumper for Christmas. It is now mid January and hurrah I have just completed it! Thankfully he is patient and wasn’t too disappointed (though rather confused) when opening his present of a knitted back panel.

I managed to complete the final pattern pieces (front, 2 x sleeves and a collar) in the following four weeks after Christmas; pretty good going I thought. On Tuesday (18th Jan) evening I texted him an update: ‘Just piecing your jumper together’. He immediately responded requesting I send a photo, to which I obliged via email.

‘Wow! It looks great. I’ve never seen a jumper opened out like that before!’

This made me think; there must be many people who have never seen garments in the process of construction. With clothing appearing on the high street at low prices, consumers rarely make their own clothing to understand the process of garment manufacture. This (I think) can lessen the value of clothing in the consumer’s eye; as they cannot relate or appreciate how things are made. Therefore I set about taking photographs of the stages during the construction of the jumper to evidence how a garment is put together.

Laid out flat, attaching right sleeve head:

Me wearing jumper with attached right sleeve head:

Laid out flat, attaching left sleeve head:

The mattress stitch – used for attached two pieces of knitting together:

Shoulder and sleeve head seam:

Fully constructed jumper:

Me wearing jumper:

The jumper appears somewhat too large for my brother’s skinny frame, I hope it fits! I’ll keep you posted as to whether it fits, fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Warning - The plastic bag is on the rise

I just read on The Guardian website that plastic bag use in Britain is once again rising after an initial fall in 2009. Figures released by the New Statesman (an official Government source) reveal that the number of bags used a month by each person in the UK fell from 11 in 2002 to 7.2 in 2009. Unfortunately this could not be sustained and figures rose to 7.7 in 2010. ‘That’s not a big rise,’ I hear you cry, however it is equivalent to 475m bags in total per month!

This has sparked the question of imposing tax on plastic bags, as seen in Ireland. In 2002 Ireland imposed a plastic bag tax resulting in a fall from 27 in 2002 to 2 on 2009. These are promising figures, but is forcing people to buy single use plastic bags the answer?

Supermarkets could simply not supply plastic bags, which could be one way of irradiating their use. Customers would have to bring their own or buy bags for life - yet supermarkets are unlikely to want to upset their customers with such drastic change.

Perhaps there should be a minimum purchase spend or minimum number of items to allow the customer to receive a free plastic bag. A huge pet hate of mine is seeing a customer carrying a sandwich or a packet of batteries in a plastic bag. Would the sandwich (already over packaged!) weigh you down if you carried it in your hand?

Customer incentives, for example extra points for reusing bags, are great methods of encouraging customers to re-use or use their own bags. I loved the idea of Tesco’s Green Clubcard points, until I realised on my receipt I was rarely rewarded. Tesco cannot expect customers to re-use bags when they cannot reward them with what they are entitled.

The bags for life on offer in supermarkets, may I put it….are somewhat… lame. I would just about remember to take them to the supermarket, but nowhere else. Maybe they should invest in designing prints that people really want to carry on their shoulders or sell bags by trendy eco-bag producers, for example Bag it Don’t Bin it. Here are a few from Bag it Don’t Bin it’s range:

To be honest, I think people have simply forgotten about the problem of plastic bags, perhaps we simply need to reinforce the issue: this video is a little weird, the plastic bag narrates the story.