Tag Archives: Primark

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

Advertisements

Could the backlash we’ve all been waiting for against mass-produced fashion finally be happening? Plus: the first Ethique EcoLuxe Day

2 Apr

It occurred to me today that there’s an under-current of ‘bespokeness’ rippling around the UK streets. This thought sprang to me as I left my final appointment at Ethique‘s first and fabulous EcoLuxe Day.

savile row fabricsEarlier this week I had been out shopping with The Boy for a proper suit (for him). We scoured every price range from Savile Row to Zara and what struck me was the choice that has now appeared on the high-street. To add to the personal shopping service many high-street shops have been offering for a while, it seems that some now have alterations services as well – and you can even get your own suit personally made to measure from Reiss.  This may partly down to the Mad Men craze that has swept and swept the nation, and left in its wake a load of people wanting to wear properly fitting, quality clothing, but stick with me though…

Back to Ethique (and eventually to the point). The luxury ethical concierge service is now offering relaxed days filled with consultations, talks and ethical lifestyle inspiration. Choose from personalised fashion tips, make-up advice, interiors ideas and plenty more: good, girlie, high-end fun. The event that I attended began at Tibits (a particular favourite of mine, and an EggMag stockist) where I was given a personal itinerary. This took me to The Organic Pharmacy for an efficient and effective make-over, and then to The National Geographic Store for a chat with the sustainable interior designer Elina Grigoriou who opened my eyes to how The Boy and I can maximise the use of our lovely, but really not-very-thought-out living space. Both appointments were genuinely interesting and I came away feeling that becoming a member would make my life a little easier – and a lot more luxurious.

frazer parfumThere are more and more companies now that tailor-make products for your personal style, be they cheap as chips or bucks-a-plenty. And they are on the up. Have a bespoke perfume made to excite your sense of smell at Frazer Parfum, get salads to suit you at Tossed and order your name in a necklace from Tatty Divine. Choose any object and I reckon you’ll be able to find it, somewhere, personalised for you. And, check out any fashion magazine on the news stand. The inspiration for current trends are broader than they’ve ever been. This summer be a boho babe, be pale and interesting or be nuts, angular and bright. You can be whatever you want to be.

tatty devine name necklaceSo. Here lies my proof of a gradual and building backlash against the mass-produced. People maybe still want That Dress but they want to wear it Their Way. Men want suits, but they want it tweaked to fit their individual style. Some wish to join a concierge service, like Ethique, in order to customise their life.

Maybe it’s because the public are no longer fooled by simple ‘buy this’ advertising. Maybe it’s inspired by the wonderful vintage trend that’s coloured everything from fashion to architecture over our recent years. Maybe it’s down to the recession, which highlighted the importance of buying quality products that last. I’m not saying Primark is dead (although I wish it were) and I’m not saying tailoring is the future (although that would be nice, if a little pricey) I am saying that people, now, like to be unique.

Nice, I say. And about time.