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Beading Beautiful

5 Dec

Fashion Editor Zoe Robinson delves into the world of decorative hand-work and asks how a high street bag can possibly be cheaper than a sarnie.

Azuni fair trade beaded bracelet, £56

The new fair trade jewellery collection from Azuni got me thinking about the beaded skeletons in my closet.

Ten years ago, I bought a beaded evening bag from Primark.  I loved the colours, pattern and the price tag (£2) seemed too good to be true.

Fast forward ten years and I am now a far more conscious shopper. Whereas in my teens and early 20s I used to fuel my shopping addiction regularly and blindly, I now stop to consider the provenance of what I spend my money on.  Now I vote with my wallet.  If something seems too good – or too cheap – to be true, it probably is.

Back then it didn’t occur to me to think “how can a bag, covered in thousands of tiny beads cost less than a sandwich from M&S?” I never wondered whether the beading was done by hand or a machine – even if it was the latter, when you consider the profits of the producers, middlemen and retailer, surely the machinist can’t have been paid enough for the time it must have taken them to produce.

I am reminded of Lucy Siegle’s book To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing out the World, where she questions the production methods of embellished fashion:

There are machines that can apply and attach sequins and other decorations in seemingly random patterns that look like handwork, but they require a considerable capital investment by a garment factory.  Ask yourself this: is it likely that the piece you are buying has been sourced from a production facility that has invested in that scale of equipment?  If it’s from a fast-fashion label, particularly from the value end, that is highly unlikely.  Industry estimates suggest that 20 to 60 per cent of garment production (particularly children’s and women’s clothing) is produced at home by informal workers.  They are most likely to be adding beading, embroidery and general embellishment.

People Tree Hairband

People Tree embroidered hairband, hand-made in India, £22

And clearly working from home “in some of the poorest regions on earth” doesn’t bring an improved quality of life (associated with cutting down on that pesky commute) that many of us hanker after in the developed world. Siegle goes on to explain, “Millions of workers, hunched over, stitching and embroidering the contents of the global wardrobe in their own living spaces in slums where a whole family can live in a single room…they are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to rights and remuneration.”

People Tree Folk dress, hand-woven and hand cross-stitched in Bangladesh, £70

Uncovering the production methods of embellished garments and accessories may feel like a guessing-game, and in many cases avoidance might seem like the safest strategy.  However, some brands are transparent and do recognise the necessity to treat workers with respect, offering them a fair wage, training and community development.

Fair Trade pioneers People Tree create work for artisans by designing garments requiring detailed hand-work.  The embellishments on one garment might provide a decorative worker with three day’s paid employment.

This feather-inspired collection by Azuni (below) which launches this month, is hand-made by Mayan Indians using traditional, specialist beading techniques from Central America.

Long Tasselled earrings, £30

Beaded bracelet, £56

Ethical fashion runs riot with colour this London Fashion Week

29 Sep

London Fashion Week can be very exciting – seeing the first collection from a promising new designer, looking through new collections from established designers, going to shows and presentations.  So you can imagine my spirits were high when I tripped along there the first morning, looking forward to the week ahead. However, when I turned into the Courtyard at Somerset House I was met with a sea of fashionistas in black, white, grey, beige and various bland tones in between – barely a splash of colour in sight.

Had I missed some LFW uniform memo? ‘This season, you will mostly be wearing neutral tones. More than one colourful accessory will result in your immediate expulsion from London Fashion Week’. I started to feel a little glum (and somewhat out-of-place my 70s floral frock).

By the time I reached Estethica, the ethical initiative of London Fashion week, I realised I may have somewhat over-reacted and was thrilled to see so many playful designs amongst the SS12 collections. It is always wonderful chatting with the designers who are showcased in Estethica – I never fail to be excited by their innovations, whether that’s through developing genius new ways of up-cycling or in their use of amazing new eco fibres. This season didn’t disappoint and what really stuck out for me were the vibrant colours and sense of humour in so many of the collections. Quite simply, they cheered me up.

Christopher Raeburn once again demonstrates how design excellence can be applied to up-cycling to produce an uber-cool, sustainable and award-winning collection

Henrietta Ludgate’s witty 60s inspired collection utilises eco fabrics and fine tailoring – the resulting garments are designed to last over the generations


From Somewhere continued with their Speedo collaboration for ss12 and what a collection!  Formerly dull swimming costumes re-worked into cute frilly bikinis and cocktail dresses perfect for a pool party.

Also at LFW, but not part of Estethica, were a few brilliant designers whose aesthetic and ethical policies are right up my street.

Esther Porter produces accessories for men and women in London using veg-tanned leather and up-cycled materials such as discarded tents.

Lu flux creates the most colourful, original collections from locally sourced fabrics, often vintage or organic. Her LFW stand always looks magical and never fails to make me smile (and this year was such a nice antidote to all that beige!)

Kate Sheridan believes in using every last scrap and off-cut – this collection features veg tanned leather bags and jewellery imaginatively crafted from leather off-cuts (yep, those beads are made of leather!)


Another showroom which provides a platform for ethical fashion designers is Ecoluxe. Though relatively new and not officially connected to London Fashion Week, Ecoluxe takes place at the same time so the designers it showcases are exposed to as many press and buyers as possible.  I had so much fun playing with and photographing some of the designs but here’s an edited selection…

Plastic Seconds turns plastic waste into the most eye-catching accessories. A favourite of mine is the necklace fashioned from the little fish-shaped soy sauce bottles that come with sushi.

Inala’s ingenious designs are multi-functional – this jumpsuit can be worn at least four ways and is the perfect garment for anyone wishing to pack light. What’s more, the whole collection is made from eco-friendly fibre Tencel.

Bailey Tomlin’s accessories are truly exquisite (I don’t use that word often but it really does apply here). I feel in love with this gorgeous pea pod head-piece – what luck that it matched my vintage jacket perfectly!


Pure fashion

24 Aug

Zoe Robinson finds ethical fashion is really kicking off at Pure

Earlier this month I spent a day in the bizarre bubble that is London’s Olympia to visit the fashion trade show Pure.  This bi-annual event takes place for buyers and press to have a good old gander at what designers have created for us all for Spring / Summer 2012.

Over the last few seasons the ethical offering at Pure has grown, largely thanks to the Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF), ‘the industry body dedicated to a sustainable future for fashion’, who also runs seminars at the show.  Primarily geared towards buyers, their must-see seminars focus on how to put together a great ethical fashion collection in store, and with sales of eco clothing having grown by 72% in 2010, retailers really have an incentive (and in my opinion a responsibility) to source their stock ethically.

At Pure, EFF also present the winners of the EFF Innovation Award which recognises excellence in design, quality of product and ethical credentials.  Here are just some of my favourites from this season’s Pure, starting with one of the Innovation winners Chichia…

This exciting new collaboration between Made By Africa and Chichia is produced in a fair-trade certified factory in Tanzania. The colourful and highly wearable designs combine jersey with African prints in organic cotton (see above).

Nancy Dee now produce their entire collection in the UK using eco friendly fabrics suchs as organic cotton and bamboo. In addition to their wonderful and much-loved printed jersey dresses (above), they have some great tailored pieces for SS12.

If you are a regular reader of EggMag you’ll know we do love London-based brand Lowie so I was very excited to see this 50s style dress (above) in a cute boat print – the first print they have had designed exclusively for them.

This image doesn’t do justice to this ultra feminine dress by Komodo (above) – it’s a  really beautiful print and such a versatile style.

There is so much to like about this sublimely simple, versatile and very soft organic cotton dress (above) from Stewart+Brown. How can I style thee? Oh let me count the ways…

It was great to discover this very exciting new Colombian brand Cyclus at Pure. Crafted from highly durable inner tubes these these bags are a triumph of expert design, upcycling and local production. Loathed as I am to recommend a new ‘it’ bag – or utter the words ‘must buy’ – but if you invest in one hot new accessorise brand next season, let it be this one!

I have my eye on this new style from Makki (above) which would go with just about anything. Made from eel skins that are a by-product of the food industry it’s sustainable and stylish, just what we like.

Beautifully feminine bag from Coco Barclay (above) – the vintage gloves can be removed for a more casual look and if it’s cold outside they will keep your fingers cosy.

The brilliant Beyond Skin are a vegan brand who make efforts to be as sustainable as possible. Some of these stunning (and surprisingly comfortable) shoes are produced using a super soft fabric made from recycled plastic (see above).

Meher Kakalia’s amazing footwear and bags are produced in Karachi often using ‘found’ materials (some weaving embellishments are done with thin strips or ‘threads’ of plastic bags), utilising tradtitional techniques and supporting local, highly-skilled artisans. I love them so much I took extra photos, which are below for your shoe-ogling pleasure.


See Zoe’s website www.think-style.co.uk
Twitter @zoerobinson1
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Could this book be the unravelling of our fashion industry?

16 Aug

To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World by Lucy SiegleI am currently just over halfway through Lucy Siegle’s book To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? and already I feel the need to tell everyone about it. Written in easily managed bite-sized-chunks, the book is a thorough and shocking dissection of our fashion industry. Having thought I was pretty much up to speed on its pitfalls To Die For is proving that there’s far more to the business of being ‘on-trend’ than I initially thought. Siegle presents evidence of distressing unethical practices and serious environmental damage that our Western fast-fashion culture has (not always unwittingly) encouraged. Although this book isn’t a particularly light read, it is well written, accessible and gripping at times. It swings wide the glittering doors of one of the West’s biggest commercial machines that most do not usually see behind, and will almost certainly make you think twice about picking up a so-called ‘bargain’ next time you’re on the high-street.

Click here buy To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle

Vintage at Southbank

4 Aug

What a brilliant, inspirational festival this is.

The Vintage Festival celebrates everything from the forties to the eighties, from live music to old films, art to fashion. It takes the best of each of these decades and looks to the year ahead with the suggestion of a ‘future vintage’. Genius.

Check out some of our snaps below and make sure you sign up to their mailing list so you can get the heads up for tickets next year: vintage website

The Vintage Issue on show on the Plastic Seconds stand

The Vintage Issue on show on the Plastic Seconds stand

Vintage Radios

Vintage Radios

The 60s Lounge

The 60s Lounge

The 80s Rave

The 80s Rave

Vintage People

Vintage People

Wall coverings at the Bad Art Bar

Wall coverings at the Bad Art Bar

Zoe Robinson

Fashion editor Zoe Robinson in THAT dress

Beach Hut on Southbank

Beach Hut on Southbank

‘Tis the season…

12 Jul

EggMag’s fashion editor Zoe Robinson explains how to do nuptials, naturally

The royal wedding may be a distant memory, but for many of us, wedding season is in full swing. For the perfect wedding accessories look no further than the sublime creations of A Alicia who crafts beautiful pieces from vintage, organic and fair trade fabrics.  There is something for everyone, from blue vintage satin garters for the bride (something old, new and blue), stunning and simple fascinators for bridesmaids or wedding guests, and pinholes for the groom and ushers.

Oh, and she also runs workshops too – perfect for some stylish hen afternoon fun (and you get to come away with something beautiful, rather than just a hangover and hazy memories of drunken hen night exploits you’d really rather forget)

If you don’t happen to have any wedding invites this year, and listening to music in a muddy field is more your thing, A Alicia has got festival season covered too with a gorgeous array of colourful pieces that would stylishly accessorise a straw Trilby and wellingtons.

If you’re going to Lovebox next weekend, have a look for A Alicia’s stall where you’ll be lucky enough to get a sneaky peak of her A/W collection which doesn’t launch officially until September.

Tiny Blossoms Boutonniere / Button-hole in fair trade organic cotton £10

Fascinator

Large Camellia with Vintage Net Fascinator in Fairtrade Organic Cotton

Bangle earings

Bangle Earrings in vintage kimono fabric £30

Crow necklace

Crow Necklace in organic fair trade cotton £60

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Zoe’s blog here and website here

Stuff to do in June

7 Jun LOST ART

As always, we’ve had our ears flapping busily, and have heard news of some smart goings on in the next couple of weeks. We thought we’d share some of them with you:

LOST ART3-30 June: The Lost Collection at KK Outlet

See around 60 accidental works of art on show for the first time ever. The art spans from graphic doodles to full-on Impressionistic landscapes – all of which have been lost or dropped on trains, the tube, in buses and black cabs. If ever there was a reason to use a sketchbook, this is it…

 

8-11 June: TASTE MUSWELL HILL FESTIVAL

Visit the first ever Taste Festival for Muswell Hillians and enjoy all sorts of fun stuff from music and poetry to food and drinks and more. Our old favourites, Planet Organic will be putting on tastings, demos, an artisan bread market (Fri & Sat only) and, to top it of, giving shoppers £3 off, when you spend over £15. Simply email  mh@planetorganic.com to get your special voucher.

Open Farms Sunday12 June: Open Farm Sunday

Spend a day in your wellies – that’s not at a festival! At this annual event visitors can meet our good British farmers to learn how they grow our food and care for the countryside. Many will offer trailer rides, self-guided or hosted walks and, of course, you can have a real root around some lovely farm shops.

 

Two Degrees 201112-18 June: Two Degrees 2011

Rally together and make your voice heard in this festival combining climate change action and art. Try your hand at bingo bike-riding, sit back and enjoy some stories, or simply have a rant.

Sundays throughout June: Creative Summer Sundays at Here Today Here Tomorrow

Join the Dalston-based sustainable fashion foursome for a choice of workshops from making your own zipped purse from vintage materials to learning how to dye and batik fabrics and more. Prices are between £30-40 and the team promise that tea, cake and refreshments will be provided. Crafty fingers at the ready…