Monday, 10 December 2012

Toxic Chemicals Exposed in High Street Fashion…and Greenpeace Textile Products

Image source: Ecouterre

Last month Greenpeace released a report entitled Toxic Threads: The Big Fashion Stitch Up which exposed numerous global fashion brands for using toxic chemicals during clothing production.

A selection of brands were chosen, clothing items brought and sent to labs for testing to identify any restricted substances. Brands highlighted to be selling clothing with high concentrations of NPEs (hormone distruptive), and/or with the presence of phthalates (hormone disruptive/carcinogenic), amines or azo dyes (can be carcinogenic) included Mango, C&A, M&S and Zara.

I do not agree with such chemicals being used during fibre/fabric/garment production, however I came across a rather interesting article in Ecotextile this afternoon: Toxic Chemicals Found in Greenpeace T-Shirts. Unfortunately a registration is required to read the Ecotextile article, but to sum up it appears that Greenpeace cannot practice what they preach.

Phthalates have been discovered in Greenpeace t-shirts and APE’s in Greenpeace headgear. The article states that Greenpeace has removed the textile products from sale along with suspending other textile merchandise sales. It appears that Greenpeace are none the wiser about what is within their textile products, much like the rest of the industry. The organisation has committed to ‘only be able to sell textiles again when the industry can produce toxic-free fashion.’

Greenpeace are encouraging customers to keep their wears as garment durability is as much a part of their strategy: 

The wearing of our textile products do not pose a health risk. The best way to be environmentally friendly is to make it last as long as possible, so that it stays in your wardrobe and not end up in landfill.

I have tried searching the Greenpeace website for such words, but I cannot find this.

It is interesting how Greenpeace are willing to condemn fashion brands for slip-ups in the incredibly complex global textile supply chain. Will the report be re-issued with their own textile products highlighted within?

Also what will become of the rejected stock they no longer plan to sell. Within the Greenpeace statement they make it clear they do not believe in land filling textile products that have not fulfilled their life. I will be very interested to find out what their solution is with this stock.

In light of the report, Zara has committed to go 'Toxic-Free' and M&S are currently working with Greenpeace to develop new chemical commitments.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Ecovered Up

I was recently given the opportunity, via a work project, to visit the Ecover factory and labs in Belguim. As a keen user of their products along with having a, much higher than normal, interest in all things detergents and the use of clothing I simply couldn’t miss out on this opportunity. 

The visit was a swift one; a day rail trip from London to Antwerp involving an insanely early rise at 5am and an arrival home at 9pm. Oddly I felt refreshed and excited at both 5am and 9pm. 

In case you are not aware of Ecover, let me enlighten you: the company was founded over 30 years ago in Belgium with an aim to produce washing powder without phosphates (linked to eutrophication), instead opting for plant based ingredients to provide the cleaning power. Since those humble beginnings in 1980 Ecover is still committed to using plant based ingredients along with no additional chemicals and now produces over 35 cleaning products in 2 European factories to 40 countries. 

Not only does Ecover aim to reduce the environmental impact of detergents they even built the world’s first eco factory. The factory is made from a pine wood structure, uses no heating or air conditioning and boasts a 6000m2 sedum covered roof (a grass lawn simply grew too quickly!).

It was this factory that I visited and boy was I impressed. At present I have not visited many factories, but the ones I have include a mill in Leeds and that floor tile factory in Coventry my Father used to work in. Both of these factories possessed a rather grim, dark appearance along with a certain musty and dusty smell I only associated with factories. Not now, the Ecover factory simply smelt of…..nothing and the pine structure with roof windows allowed natural light to flood in giving the impression of almost being outside (or at least not in a factory). The spongy, sedum roof was certainly a change to the usual factory along with the insect homes encouraging biodiversity. 

I was given an insight into the R&D department receiving a tour of the labs where an in-house fermenter brews the surfactants for the detergents, new developments are tried and tested, and experiments are undertaken to test the oxygen level/toxicity of the waste water along with competitor like for like performance research. 

Efficiency and knowledge are key to the Ecover operation, which became more evident while chatting with the R&D team who were completely ‘on the button’ and taught me more than a thing or two about washing and detergents (of which I immediately passed onto my Mother upon my return home).
I have always encouraged others to try Ecover for themselves ever since my eczema prone brother brought it home when I was about 14. However I can hand on heart promote the products from this first hand experience and seeing the results against their competitors. I know people struggle to change their cleaning habits, especially when it comes to the change in fragrance (Ecover do not use synthetic chemical fragrances), but please go on give it a go. 

For more information, please visit the Ecover website. 
For more Ecover customer focused fun, visit their online magazine The Splash.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Future Fabrics Expo 2012

‘Tis the season (tomorrow through to Friday to be exact) for another Future Fabrics Expo held at London College of Fashion. The fabric trade show is brought to you by The Sustainable Angle in collaboration with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, with the focus on encouraging intelligent and creative sourcing decisions in order to reduce the negative impacts that clothing have on the environment, animals and human welfare. 

You may remember my previous post for 2011 and my disappointment as I was unable to attend (my boss’ decision). Well I am happy to announce that this year I have registered and will be attending with another colleague. See you there. 

Monday, 15 October 2012

Shed Me Clothes October Press

I am proud to announce that Shed Me Clothes has received some more press attention this month. Speciality Fabrics Reviews, an American based fabric magazine, has published an article about the project within their Swatches section. 

Click on the below image link to take you to the article on the magazine’s website.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Stripes are back

I've completed my latest knitted creation: a zebra. It does not boast to be sustainable in any way (acrylic yarn stuffed with polyester wadding), however it does have the ability to bring a smile to a face. Or in the case of my brother, a light chuckle.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Friday Late at the V&A

Last Friday's of the month at the V&A are a party. I had a truely enjoyable, cultural and different (well at least it started differently) Friday night yesterday evening.

On offer was sensational knitwear inspired by amour (Juliana Sissons), glowing neon installations (Chris Bracey) and to bring out the child in us all: billowing cloud caves (Jason Hackenwerth). Make sure your there next month.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Trousers to Shorts – A Quick Guide

I recently moved house and upon packing up my wardrobe contents I discovered a pair of (forgotten about) velvet trousers at the bottom of my trouser pile. ‘Success’, I thought until I realised that in supporting the other trousers the wire cage draw had left an imprint on the pile of the trousers on the back left thigh. This was difficult to capture in a photograph, but in real life the cross-hatch was very noticeable. 

Determined not to throw the trousers away, I grabbed my favourite denim shorts and measured them against the velvet trousers. I could chop the trousers down and re-create my favourite pair of shorts into a velvet version. 

Step 1 
Using tailors chalk mark out the length required on one leg. Keep in mind that the leg opening will require hemming so leave at least 4cm on the end for this for my fold method (or 1.5-2cm for overlocking then lockstitch hemming). 

Step 2 
Using fabric shears cut along the line with long, smooth strokes of the shears to ensure a clean, straight cut. 

Step 3 
Fold trousers in half. Using the cut leg as a guide cut the other leg at the same length. 

Step 4 
I chose to hem my shorts using the same method as my denim pair: folding up twice and tacking at the side seams (also the lazier way – using no sewing machine). If you have an overlocker (I don’t) it would be worth overlocking the raw edge prior to doing this to prevent further fraying. 



Alternatively you could hem on the inside: overlock edge, fold edge up (by at least 1.5cm) and lockstitch. 

Step 5 
Voila: your new pair of shorts. 

Step 6 
What to do with the legs is up to you. Any ideas?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Fur Real?

I have completed Lucy Siegle’s To Die For which I must say I thought was a well researched and easily accessible introduction to sustainable fashion and becoming a more intelligent and informed fashion consumer. The leather and fur industries associated with fashion are areas I have not researched prior to opening this book. The chapter ‘Animal Prints’ drew to my attention these industries, in particular the fur industry.

Although barely out of my Ellesse tracksuit during the mid-nineties and below the age of 10, I strongly remember images of the PETA ‘We’d rather go naked than wear fur’ backed by the supermodels of the era. I wouldn’t start flexing my fashion muscles until at least 2002 when I swapped my tracksuit for flared jeans and a bright pink jacket. Another purchase during this period was a denim jacket with a detachable faux fur collar and faux fur poking out of the cuffs.

I believe this must have been the start of the infiltration of fur back into the wardrobe, or at least the playground. Eskimo coats with fur (definitely fake in my hometown of Coventry) trimmed hoods and pompoms along with jackets similar to my denim variety were a staple for the teenage schoolgirl during the colder months.

Looking back at this period I do not recall considering the PETA fur campaign while sporting my jacket. However I do remember removing the collar due to hating the scratching, cheap quality of the faux fur against my neck. I couldn’t remove the fur at the cuffs as this was sewn in, which frustrated me as the fur clumped together and matted. Several brushing attempts could not revive the fur back to its previous glory.

I can safely say that jacket didn’t last beyond that season; however I do believe it is still at my parent’s house hidden in the depth of the cupboard under the stairs.

Since 2009, fur has officially been back on trend and being used as the main fabric for gilets, jackets and coats. The main focus on this fur trend was the real kind which all the celebs were wearing and could be easily picked up by your average consumer in the trendy vintage shops.

During my 6 month (over the winter of 2010-11) stint at working in a vintage shop in Camden I certainly saw the consumer interest in fur sky rocket. We sold both real and faux and in order to maintain my minimum wage job I had to pull in as many sales as possible. The fur always seemed to do this job well and I kept telling myself and the customers ‘vintage is better, faux is better’.

But is vintage really better? Is it justified that an animal was skinned (potentially still conscious) many decades ago to make it ok to were that pelt now?

And what of faux fur? Animal welfare is maintained, but is it still ok to plummet resources into recreating a product that already exists?

Faux Vs. Real

Here I have tried to compare real and faux fur with the help of Lucy Siegle by evaluating the pros and cons of both (I hope you can read my scrawl):

Personally I struggle to evaluate where my opinion swings on this subject as I find both to be just as bad as each other. The shear amount of chemicals used for both faux and real fur makes my skin crawl (this phrase is probably more literal for the workers processing the material).

I have always struggled to develop an opinion on whether fur (faux or real) actually looks good to wear. Our species spent thousands of years shedding our fur as it was completely unnecessary for our survival. It is however now acceptable to throw fur from another animal onto our hair-less frames for fashion’s sake. Cool, eh?

I believe I have developed my opinion: fur is…. pointless.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Kate Fletcher Book Launch and Copenhagen Fashion Summit News

Last night I attended the launch of Kate Fletcher (& Lynda Grose)’s new book, Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change. The event was held in The Carnaby Book Exchange in Kingly Court and included free refreshments, which were much needed as temperatures soared.

Firstly, the location was brilliant. I entered a little bemused, unaware what Carnaby Book Exchange was, but delighted with it’s ceiling high shelves of books and book wallpaper. In fact Carnaby Book Exchange is just what it says it is: a book exchange. LCF students have organised the project so that people can swap books for free, while leaving recommendations for others at the same time. If only I knew before hand, there were some pretty good titles available ranging from classic literature to obscure fashion and photography publications.


Location aside, Fletcher and Lucy Orta (also launching her book Clouds/Nuages) took to being interviewed by Patrick Laine (WWF) after an event introduction from Dilys Williams (Centre for Sustainable Fashion). The interviews offered an insight into the two books. I particularly liked the sound of the new models for sustainable fashion on offer in Fletcher’s book along with the idea of offering the word ‘citizens’ instead of ‘consumers’ to emphasise the opportunity/need for people to take responsibility of their purchasing power.

At half price the RRP I snapped up a copy of Fletcher’s book, while my friend opted for Orta’s (artistic approach to recycling plastic bottles). 



During the evening I caught up with Dilys, who told me I was name-checked for Shed me Clothes by WGSN during Copenhagen Fashion Week last week. I wanted to find out more, however she was whisked away to speak to someone else.

Later that evening I searched the internet for some further info and came across the following LCF blog entry: LCF takes part in Copenhagen Fashion Summit. Take a look, I was ‘singled out’.

New book and name check. I had a very pleasant evening.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2012

I was recently emailed asking for my views on the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. At first I was excited: ‘Someone wants to know what I think and publish it’. I read further into the email and I realised it must have been for someone else (boo) as the email went on to ask for my opinions due to my attendance. Not for me then; I politely replied and told the sender I believed that they had contacted the wrong person as I did not attend. Should I have done this or should I have blagged my way through to get my name in an article? Who knows?

Not all bad, the email actually highlighted the conference to me so I researched further. I discovered the conference was organised by NICE (Nordic Initiative Clean and Ethical) whom I had previously come across during my studies.

In attendance were 1,043 key industry stakeholders of the fashion industry (yes, unfortunately I was not one of them) from 27 different countries with the focus on discussing ways on how to involve and engage consumers in sustainable consumption.  The summit unveiled 16 principles for establishing an ‘industry-wide common ground for ethical and fair business’:

Human Rights

1. Businesses must support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights.
2. Businesses must make sure that they are not complicit in human-rights abuses.


3. Businesses must uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
4. Businesses must eliminate all forms of forced and compulsory labour.

Child Labour

5. Businesses will not accept child labour and do their utmost to determine the correct age of the workers employed by them and their subcontractors.
6. Businesses must eliminate discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.


7. Businesses must support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges.
8. Business must undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility.
9. Businesses must encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.

Anti Corruption

10. Businesses must work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.


11. In businesses where animals are used for labour and/or production, such animals must be treated with dignity and respect. No animal must be deliberately harmed or exposed to pain.


12. Businesses and their designers must work actively to encourage and support sustainable design and design processes.


13. Businesses must through their choice and treatment of models promote a healthy lifestyle and healthy body ideals, and the models’ minimum age must be 16 during fashion weeks and other occasions where the workload is excessive.


14. Businesses must work towards transparency in their supply chains.


15. Businesses must work towards a stronger commitment between retailers, suppliers, and subcontractors to reinforce the development of a secure mining industry.

Monitoring and Evaluation

16. All businesses involved must at all times be open and accessible for announced, semi-announced, and unannounced audits for monitoring and evaluation of compliance with the code of conduct.

Please follow link to view the NICE Code of Conduct Manual in more detail. This is a 112 page pdf, not easy reading. I plan to start reading (or at least browsing) now, it may take a while.

If someone thought I went this year, I can only hope I’ll get an invite next year. It may just happen, you never know.

Image sources: Ecosalon

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


Love this. M&S, with the help of Joanna Lumley, have introduced 'Shwopping' to the UK, wanting to 'recycle as many clothes as they sell':

They have also filled the Truman Brewery in London's East End with nearly 10,000 garments, to signify the amount of clothing that winds up in the landfill every five minutes.

Image source: Ecouterre

After last weekend's weather those clothes must be pretty damp. I wonder what they are going to do with them after; that's a mighty amount of washing (energy, energy, energy!).

Sunday, 29 April 2012

‘Conscious’ Up Close

I’m over half way through the H&M Sustainability Report (yes a little slow, life is getting in the way perhaps) and on Tuesday evening found myself early meeting a friend in Oxford Circus. Like every girl with spare time on her hands I went shopping. However, unlike every other girl I tend to go ‘comp’ shopping to scrutinise what retailers are selling. Yes I am that cynical; I secretly tell myself ‘well informed’.

Of course I opted for H&M as I wanted to see as much of the Conscious Collection as possible: touch it, fibre comp it, try it, buy it (don’t be ridiculous! Although, I did rather like two pieces).

The window was inviting enough (but, I think I could only find about 3 of the garments displayed here in store):

I was expecting to be greeted as soon as I entered the store by the sustainable collection that H&M are so proud of, instead I found myself in the basement where the only way to distinguish the garments were by their green swing tickets. The garments were dispersed with the usual (is it wrong to say ‘unsustainable’?) collection, or at least the garments that you could/should style with the Conscious Collection.

There appeared to be only a limited number of styles available as to what is visible online, for example I saw none of the stunning evening dresses. Perhaps I had missed the boat and they had already been snapped up, but I expected more from H&M’s flagship store (is it their UK flagship? I assume it is as to the location).

Image source: H&M

I pulled 5 garments to try; all bar one used lace (I’m not sure if this says something about me, H&M or current trends). Lace I would consider to be a difficult fabric to consider sustainable as more often that not usually blends a natural fibre with a synthetic (difficult to recycle) and is energy intensive to produce.

Organic Cotton Lace Dress
Total winner in my eyes for style and cotton content (if I remember correctly the dress was lined in cotton too). Fit was a little off mind: armhole seemed a tad too small, perfect if you don’t want to move your arms much further than your bust point. However on a fit point of view, I could fit my size 12 rear into this size 10 dress! This is a brilliant dress if you feel comfortable and can move easily in, however beware: the back fastening requires someone else to secure you. I have no idea how inner buttons on one side and a side zip on the other is achievable by the wearer. I almost pulled a muscle before admitting defeat.

Organic Cotton/Polyester Lace Vest
This looked awful on me, hense I have not uploaded a photo wearing it. I truly hated the colour and the garish gold zip at the back. I personally didn’t like the feel of either the Organic Cotton/Polyester lace outer or the Recycled Polyester lining. My biggest issue with this vest is the pointless zip at the back neck, not only is the colour awful but its function is defunct: you can easily put this vest on without undoing the zip. This, I consider the most unsustainable design feature: a fastening that is not necessary for fastening the garment. Just think of the number of zips that were produced to fulfil this order (raw materials/energy), sewing them in (man hours/energy) and how many consumers will actually use it (nil).

Recycled Polyester Shirt
What a cool shirt. I did like this garment. The print is gorgeous, if not a little creepy and the fit was easy (cuffs a little tight mind). I do worry about the increase in body temperature from wearing a 100% polyester shirt but it would be easy to care for (low temp machine washable – less energy consumed during use phase). I did notice the H&M quality I am used to however on this shirt: wonky stitching and loose thread ends: but sheer fabric is always the hardest to sew together. Info on the printing method would have been inviting on the swing ticket, but that may just be me geeking out.

Recycled Polyester Dress
‘Meh’. I found this dress a little dull to be honest and felt the recycled polyester rather clingy. Beware lumps and bumps this dress is not going to show you in your best light. This I imagine is due to the garment not being lined (the buyers did well at snipping that out). There was some care label to swing ticket discrepancies: swing ticket states 82% recycled poly whereas care label states 100% recycled poly. That’s one way to confuse the consumer. The swing ticket failed to mention the lace inserts in the dress, therefore we are none the wiser is the cotton is organic in the lace.

That ORANGE Lace Jacket
I truly hated this garment on the hanger, but took it to the changing room for a laugh. Once on it went up in my expectations, but then I looked at the back and it went back down. It felt strangely like Michael Jackson ‘Thiller’ to me, but in orange. I cannot recall the fibre comp on this jacket; I would like to think the lace was organic cotton and assume the lining is recycled poly and the satin outer may also be recycled poly (please don’t hold me to this). The pointless design feature I noticed on this jacket was the functioning jetted front pockets. Don’t get me wrong I love pockets, but as a rule I like pockets I can actually put my hands or something useful in like my phone or oyster card. The depth of the pocket reached the first joint on my index finger (I later measured to be around 2.5cm). I guess the pockets are meant to hold your lipstick or spare change, but isn’t that what handbags and purses are for? I feel this pockets could be non-functional and some pocket bag fabric saved.


Another point I would like to make is I found the pricing structure confusing. I understand that due to large quantities H&M can get a better margin and offer a lower price than the standard organic/sustainable retailers, but retailing an organic lace dress, lined in cotton at the same price as a recycled polyester unlined dress at £24.99 baffles me. Seriously, how do they do that?

I was disappointed not to find any recycled wool, organic hemp, Tencel® lyocell on this visit. I shall have to make further plans to meet friends around said location and take another look see at another date.