The Millennials’ Guide to The Working Wardrobe
Sarah Mower MBE Ethical Luxury e-Commerce According to
Journalism & Fashion
Africa Latin America
Akojo Market 85˚Paris
CONTENTS EDITOR’S LETTER Pp. 6-7
Foreword I’ll Be Ok, Just Give Me a Minute Pp. 8-10
#WORKINFASHION PRESENTS... Akojo Market
Pp. 12-17 85, Paris
Interview In Conversation with Sarah Mower MBE Pp. 23-25
The Millennials’ Guide to The Working Wardrobe Pp. 26-29
Events Fashion Revolution Week London Craft Week Pp. 30-37
#WLookBook(S19) Pp. 38-50
©2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED URBAN FLOW DESIGNS LTD
@WorkinFashino.me was built upon the central belief that fashion is art. As a result, it sits comfortably within any conversation about design, engineering and craftsmanship. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s synopsis of the current environmental crisis the world is facing summarises where we’re at perfectly:
“Waste is a design flaw.” While much of the blame for the state of pollution, plastic waste and the depletion of the world’s water supply has been apportioned to the fashion industry, many of the solutions to these problems can also be found within the same sector. Faber Futures is an example of this, bringing together design and science to create design solutions. Away from the culture that brought us over consumption and mass production, is a growing movement, a renaissance of the bespoke. Artisans are trending... Not because they’re trendy, but because increasingly consumers and conglomerate’s alike, are beginning to appreciate that size, really isn’t everything. At a time where the world is changing at an alarming rate, it will be the smaller, more agile enterprises that will win the day as they are able to adapt faster and achieve greater economies of scale. Akojo Market the new and exciting luxury e-commerce platform for African designers is an example of this. Founded by entrepreneurs Natasha Buchler and Annie Rudnick, the new platform caters to a market that has been over looked by the big players. But, as China’s economic growth slows down, and the US is busy implanting trade tariffs, Africa, as a continent, is waking up to realisation that their aesthetic, their artisans, are one of their greatest assets.
Akojo Market also represents the next phase of commerce: Ethical capitalism or ‘Social Enterprise’ — if you will, where the terms of trade are of mutual benefit, and the proceeds are directed back to the communities that produce these bespoke pieces. Many of the artisans
are women, which means access to a global ecommerce platform that enables them to reach a wider customer base, ensures their ability to achieve financial independence and a substantial source of revenue enabling them to provide for their families. But what provoked me to feature Akojo Market in the Summer edition ahead of their launch (4th June, 2019) was the steps they had taken to ensure full transparency within the supply chain of all of their products. So much of the sustainability movement is tainted by greenwashing and firms not doing due diligence, but I genuinely believe Akojo Market, and the influence they will eventually wield within that sector, have the capacity to encourage other retailers to do more to ensure the well being of the artisans who supply their capital. 85˚ Paris, the new e-commerce platform that brings ethical luxury Latin American design to European markets works in a similar vein. The founders Amaya Ducru Clothier and Ines Oleachea are hands on, visiting the workshops and studios of the designers they source. With socially conscious brands such as Zii Ropa (Mexico) and Ayni (Peru), Europe now has the ability to engage, invest and help to sustain a movement in Latin America, that is again, helping to support communities of predominantly female artisans, working to provide for their families. With special thanks to Sarah Mower, for permitting me to interrogate her on all things relating to journalism and fashion. It’s a recommended read for any student or budding journalist looking to get into this business. Throughout her career, Sarah has mentored many creatives within this industry and continues to do so in her capacity has Ambassador for the British Fashion Council. Last but not least we have ‘The Millennials’ Guide to the Working Wardrobe’ , where the first instalment of this new series explored the key staples needed to win within the world of work. My hope is that while we’re busy reforming lifestyle and business practices that have been harmful to the environment, we should also be permitted to have some fun with our own personal branding while building a sustainable wardrobe. Happy Readage!
Yasmin Jones-Henry Editor-in-Chief
Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll Be O.K Just Give Me a Minute By Yasmin Jones-Henry
#Foreword As the future of the UK swings like a pendulum in the wake of the debacle that has been Brexit negotiations, I thought I’d write something to remind you all: it’s OK if you feel overwhelmed. The key, is to acknowledge – and admit it. We’ve been conditioned to mask and maintain a persona of 24/7 success that is both disingenuous and unsustainable. Our motto #WeDress, #WeWork, #WeWin, is preempted by the everyday grit and resilience that is required to get up and get on with life even during times of adversity. But if you need to take a moment to process your thoughts, pause and reflect, please do not hesitate to do so. Catching up with a friend this week in one of London’s members club, we both shared our woes over a strong drink. For the first time, as a grown up, I had a greater appreciation for these little velveted safe spaces, where you can temporarily escape from the troubles of the outside world. Working in completely different industries, in totally different jobs, we both seemed to be singing from the same hymn sheet. “It’s exhausting being all things to all people – all of the time”, she concluded. I smiled, because I was too tired to speak. But her assessment was spot on. We are not fragile, but we are being pressed, pushed, patronised and sometimes picked on by an older generation, still caught in their own lie – that age old lie that ‘We can have it all’. Some of the mental health problems my generation faces – are not to be ridiculed as being symptomatic of being ‘a snowflake’. Just because we acknowledge there’s a problem, does not mean we are incapable of finding a solution. We were, however, naive in believing the grown-ups around us, that if we worked hard, got the right grades, went to the right university, studied the right subjects and graduated with a ‘can do’ attitude, that the world would be our oyster. I also believed that this worklife balance thing would sort itself out, and as long as I hit my targets, met my deadlines, I’d be free and clear. It’s the inability to cope with the weight of external expectations and sometimes the weight of our own, that creates the perfect storm for a meltdown. “You sound like you’ve got imposter’s syndrome,” my friend said to me, as I sat down. I had walked in making excuses for the reasons why my commissioning editor still hadn’t paid me (after three months). “Maybe it’s because I’m young, they think this stuff isn’t urgent or that it doesn’t matter,”
I suggested –but before I could continue my friend stopped me, by highlighting the folly of trying to rationalise what is blatant exploitation. The freelance world is rife with liberty takers, safe within the confines of the big corporate machines, they condescend to commission work from you – then withhold payment until a time of their convenience. In my scenario – my refusal to speak up for myself – meant that this pattern of late-payment/lapsed remuneration was a recurring incident. It’s a tricky dance this freelance game – you’re permanently walking on eggshells, balancing on the tightrope of approval – wanting to be easy to work with and efficient, but also not wanting to be taken advantage of. The huffy tone of the editor’s emails, suggested if I pressed the matter any further I would be declared a ‘nuisance’. The biggest shock to my system (after beginning my career in sales and advertising – a predominantly male setting) was that the culprits in this particular vortex of exploitation were in fact women. Older women. Women I respected. Women I had trusted. I’ve been robbed by my male sales directors before – pulling stunts like ‘accidentally forgetting to put your name on the sales tracker’ when sorting commission. But those men were pretty upfront about their lack of character. For some reason the betrayal stings more, when it’s coming from the very women who preach feminism and sisterhood. I began this year – oscillating between chaos and confusion as numerous episodes reoccurred where I would open a page to a publication – or be sent a link (via a concerned friend) with what had essentially been my pitches – under someone else’s name. Now what do you do about that? How do you speak up for yourself, your ideas and your intellectual property – when the people you are sending those pitches to, behave as though they were doing you a favour? Is there a union for independent artisans and freelancers? Perhaps the existence of a public forum would deter the stakeholders from engaging in this practice for fear of being named and shamed. [Comt.]
#Foreword Fairtrade, Sometimes? This is entirely about ethics. I don’t talk about ethical fashion in isolation. It’s not a trend, neither is it a fad. It’s an extension of a lifestyle choice that I try to make every day: Treating people fairly. Treating people with respect. Why is this too much to ask? As a millennial – mindful of that dreaded ‘snowflake’ slur, I try not to complain. I try to be mindful of my own privilege and the numerous ways I can leverage it to help those around me. I try, like many of my friends, to be all things to all people: reliable, efficient, respectful, resourceful and generous, but these traits are not free. It costs me something to be that woman – something unquantifiable by HMRC or GDP. Until today, I myself did not fully appreciate the fact that this is a resource I can no longer afford to squander. lives. This extended rant – is not just about the freelance life. It’s about the way people choose to treat each other in both a professional setting and in life. This is no different to consumers wanting all the benefits of fast fashion but not wanting to pay the environmental and human cost that comes with it. We need to adopt a language that is less divisive. My generation did not appear in a vacuum.
Some of our problems – our parents faced them too. What we are lacking, is a dialogue that is built around frank honesty. We did not create the problems within the housing market. My generation were still infants when subprime loans were being handed out like candy. We weren’t responsible for the fact that most of the consumer debt in the build up to the 2008 crisis was driven by the pursuit of a lifestyle that the average person couldn’t afford. Neither are we to blame for chronic problems within the job market, the environment or the economy. The current uncertainty and instability brought about by a wave of xenophobia – didn’t come from my peers. We have merely inherited all of these these problems, alongside the legacies of corrupt, devious and cowardly politicians. Meanwhile the generation who elected them look to their left and their right for someone else to blame. No, we’re not ‘snowflakes’, but we have been left alone to pick up the bill, so excuse us if we need a minute to make sense of this mess.
I designed @WorkinFashion.Me to be a lifestyle platform where people can share their trials and their triumphs. The truth is, it doesn’t always feel like I’m winning everyday, but I’ll be ok just give, me a minute.
BIRDSONG, LONDON 11
WEAR YOUR MASK Founded in 2015 by Diana Ejaita, ethical fashion brand Wear Your Mask mixes African textiles with minimalistic design. With a background in illustrating and textile design, the designer applies her experience to the brand, relying on a repetitive series of symbols as its iconic motif. Born in Italy to an Italian mother and a Nigerian father, Ejaita studied in France before moving to Germany, where Wear Your Mask is based. Just like the designer herself, the brand is a mix of European and African roots, and each piece works to create a dialogue between tradition and modernism; and between the east and west. https://akojomarket.com/designer/wear-your-mask/
Akojo Market: Ethics and Artisans by Yasmin Jones-Henry For the longest time, African designers and artisans have watched their patterns and ideas reappear on the catwalks of New York, London, Paris and Milan, with little or no recognition. It’s virtually impossible to combat cultural appropriation, if there is a severe lack in the availability of platforms that can allow these artisans to sell to an international market. We’ve had Net-a-Porter – bringing luxury to our doorsteps for well over a decade. Far-fetch wasn’t far behind. But while these luxury ecommerce platforms cater to the predominantly mainstream market of luxury retail, what about the emerging markets? What about Africa? Allow me to introduce you to Akojo Market. Founded by Natasha Buchler and Annie Rudnick, Akojo Market is the new e-commerce platform that is putting African, sustainable luxury lifestyle brands on the map. Whether it’s fashion, jewellery or interior design, whatever ethically sourced treasures you are after, Akojo Market is a great place to start.
As a social enterprise, Natasha and Annie have created a business that is designed to financially empower the female and male artisans they collaborate with, thus supporting local communities. They curate brands that promote African culture and are committed to transparency as the foundation of their business practices. Their downloadable ‘Due Diligence Pack’ is a two page step by step guide as to the questions they ask, and the processes they undertake to ensure that the products they are selling are genuinely ethical, and genuinely sustainable. One of the upsides to the backlash surrounding the unethical homogenous entity that is fast-fashion, is that increasingly, consumers are gravitating to the bespoke. Produced at a smaller scale, often in communities that benefit exponentially from the revenues generated, the market for African luxury goods is on the verge of a Renaissance. Ahead of their launch next month (4th June) I decided to ask the founders a few questions… [Cont.]
#WorkinFashionPresents 1. What was the motivation for starting Akojo Market?
3. Your launch date is set for June 4th, what are your plans for the future?
Our co-founder Natasha traveled frequently to Ghana and always returned with beautiful products and amazing stories of basket weaving women’s collectives in the Volta region, recycled glass bracelet initiatives in Accra and the female founders inspiring positive change within artisanal businesses. She wanted to bring these products to a UK audience and champion the makers by creating a platform and a community where brands can draw on her knowledge, particularly in supply chain compliance, to grow internationally whilst improving the transparency and sustainability of their operations. Partnering with Annie, our co-founder and Creative Director’s skills in marketing, curating and digital communications, was a natural fit!
Our core objective is to generate sales for our brands and support their needs as they grow. With increased profits, these brands’ ability to do good in their local communities are endless. So, expanding our customer base in the UK to become a well known platform for beautifully curated, unique African inspired/made products is our immediate goal. We will then expand to the EU, US and Rest of World, tackling two primary challenges: meeting customer demand without compromising on quality and sound work practices; and managing a seamless shipping and logistics operation, carrying this out in the least environmentally polluting way possible. [End]
2. There has definitely been a gap in the market for creating an ethical luxury ecommerce platform for artisans in Africa. How has it been received? The platform has been received extremely well by customers, potential investors and our brands. We have had many sales in the first month and interest from the industry. At present, there are many “buzz words” around ethics, transparency and sustainability in retail, and this can confuse customers. We break this down as simply as possible, using clear criteria that determines at a high level a company’s ethos and accountability in business. Anyone can download our free guidance on vetting business partners and suppliers from our website’s APPROACH page. Most importantly, through our conversations and due diligence processes, our brands and artisans are understanding what they need to implement and achieve to be “ethical”, and that is the driver to real change – change that enables women to be financially independent, to send their children to school and to be in business in five years time with a growing workforce.
Don’t just take my word for it – check them out for yourself! https://akojomarket.com/
COPPER DUST (£90-£130) Copper Dust was created by Founder and Designer Vanessa Agyemang out of the need for something unique. While shopping with a friend she recognised a gap in the market for luxury African home décor that was handmade and bespoke. Backed with her Bachelor’s Honours degree in Interior Architecture and Design and an eye for capturing the finer details, it was only right for Vanessa to take this challenge upon herself, to create limited edition products to inspire conscious led homes. Copper Dust is a luxury home decor brand specialising in bespoke handmade lampshades, accessories and limited edition illustrations. It’s inspired by eclectic British and African culture infused together, giving a taste of the exotic, whilst remaining quintessentially unique. https://akojomarket.com/designer/copper-dust/
RACHIDA Lālla £600.00 Boucherouite rugs are handwoven by Berber artisans using recycled cotton and wool fabric. This method produces truly unique pieces of contemporary art that exude energy and character. The explosions of colour and pattern make the Boucherouite rugs truly irresistible. The vibrant abstract designs provide a striking contrast to the traditional Berber rugs, and demonstrates how the inspired weavers have redesigned an element of their craft. Lālla London’s Boucherouite rugs are sustainably sourced and environmentally friendly. Perfect for bringing colour and life into your interior. Price includes shipping (standard shipping 3-5 days). Currently only shipping to the UK. https://akojomarket.com/product/lalla-rachida/ 17
85˚ Paris By Yasmin Jones-Henry
Craftsmanship and Entrepreneurialism I don’t love fashion: I love people and I admire the works of art they create. When it comes to fashion, there are two things that interest me: craftsmanship and entrepreneurialism. What is it? Where was it made? How was it made? It’s not the item that interests me, but the stories of the lives, the hands that mould, meld, stitch and complete these works of wonder. I have often pleaded with friends who have been seduced by the high street’s offering of fast fashion to consider the hands and hearts of the people who make these clothes. ‘If you buy cheap you buy twice’. Plagiarism isn’t cool. Exploitation will never be chic. It has taken a long time for the industry to gravitate towards a dialogue about sustainability and ethically sourced materials. For so long phrases like ‘eco-fashion’ and ‘ethical fashion’ and ‘fairtrade’ were treated as mere buzzwords. Thankfully, along this quest to
redefine fashion, what it means and how it ought to operate, I have found some new collaborators. As it happens – if you search you will find a growing community of like minded individuals working behind the scenes to change the game. 85˚ Paris is business that champions both craftsmanship and entrepreneurialism. Founded by Amaya Ducru Clouthier and Ines Oleachea, 85˚ Paris is the epitome of cool. They offer a multifaceted service of consultancy, e-commerce and promotion for ethical lifestyle brands made in South America. Earlier this year I met with Ines in London. As she walked me through some of their sample pieces, I found myself feeling extremely grateful. Grateful to meet someone who shares a similar world view about the direction that fashion ought to be heading in. For a long time, ethical fashion – for those who have championed it, has been a lonely wilderness. A few voices carrying the message of fairness in commerce, have often fallen on deaf ears in the face of fast fashion’s ill gotten profits.
#WorkinFashionPresents Fashion and economics go hand in hand. I have always maintained this argument – because it’s factually correct. In its purest form – fashion represents the sum of manufacturing, human labour and craft (skill, dexterity, ingenuity, innovation etc); taking resources and making them into something accessible and affordable that the consumer can purchase with their disposable income. Consumers’ demand drives supply, which drives employment opportunities providing jobs and thereby facilitating agency in some of the world’s most deprived areas. This, in theory – when applied under ethical conditions is the beauty of fashion. Its beauty lies not only in the aesthetic of a particular item, but also in its potential to sew a self multiplying seed of independence and social mobility across the world. In the tapestry of humanity, the item you purchase will contribute to clothing, feeding and providing for people that you may never meet. This mindfulness of the wider community infiltrates everything 85˚ Paris represents. “Creating a cultural syncretism through design” is the headline under their brochure. They too share in my desire to change the culture that surrounds the artisan and the consumer in the world of fashion. Shifting focus away from cutting costs, cutting corners, exploitation and deceit, they bring with them a refreshing selection of new, groundbreaking and most importantly, ethical designers. They have created a platform through which artisans in South America are able to bring their products to the European markets that have previously been saturated with produce manufactured in the Far East. 85˚ is the mean degree of latitude and longitude that covers the Latin American territories, Amaya explains. Their aim is to remain focused on a particular region, a particular market, and a particular type of clientele. Too often luxury lifestyle brands lose their way trying to be all things to all people.
These entrepreneurs have spotted a gap in the market. By prioritising South American designers – they have found their niche. They have understood early on that there are many advantages to being exclusive. In their pursuit of the clean aesthetic, untainted by fastfashion, they have automatically created a filter for the products they market. At 85˚ Paris the prices are reasonable and affordable, sitting in between the high street and high fashion. With a wide selection ranging from women’s daywear to interiors and accessories for the home, each piece, is an investment. They offer their clients in South America access to both their ecommerce store and their showroom in Paris, they appreciate that not all of their customers exist solely in the digital realm. With their new store opening to the public from 7th May 2018, they have provided one more excuse for me to hop on the Eurostar to pay them a visit.
Sarah Mower MBE YJH: What made you choose a career in journalism? SM: It’s funny – fashion journalism just became what I was able to do. It drew me to it – I didn’t actively set out for it, but I had always been interested in clothes, costume history and art since I was a child and that sort of made a parallel education out of school. When first had to do a history project on The Elizabethan Age at secondary school the history teacher didn’t know what to do when it came back fully illustrated with drawings of Elizabethan portraits and architecture and made me embarrassed about it. So anyway much later I went in for the Vogue Talent Contest while doing my finals in English and History of Art at Leeds. I was a finalist. The job – work experience – was (strangely!) given to the daughter of a cabinet minister,
but being a runner up was more than I ever dreamed possible and it was good being given a tour of Vogue to see how it worked which at 22 was invaluable. Anyway I was lucky not to get the job because it got me an interview at Ms London, a weekly giveaway mag and was plunged in deep end producing my own page of art and shopping stuff – from there to the amazing Honey magazine where I became features co-ordinator in charge of my own section. From there to opening The Guardian to see the job of Fashion Editor advertised (!!!) and getting it! Then headhunted for the Inde and finally Vogue asked for me back! Had wonderful years working for Liz Tilberis in the late 80s and then when she went to New York to edit Harpers Bazaar, she asked me to come with her. Interview with Sarah Mower featured in the #Workinfashion50 (Photograph courtesy of the British Fashion Council)
I’d already had my first baby and said I couldn’t- but she said “Oh well, you can – I’ll fly you over a week a month” She did. it was fantastic. Then she tragically died and Anna Wintour asked me over to Vogue when the internet was just starting up (2000) as far as fashion was concerned. They had this new thing called Style.com. A humble thing nobody Vogue really wanted to work for… ! They needed someone who knew fashion, designers, the history and could work fast .. so there I was, lucky again!
I am really satisfied when I see designers in London who have made their way with the network of mentors we have in place now.One of the most exciting things is to see the growth of a whole culture of mentorship and friendly co-operation which has grown up in London, between designers and professionals in many walks of the business. People think that’s what London IS – but I remember when it was NOT. The days of being difficult and outspoken at those BFC meetings paid off.. eventually!
YJH: What are the things you enjoy most about the mentoring that you do?
YJH: You are widely regarded as the go to journalist for break-out designers, from your own perspective – what’s your take on the current UK fashion scene? Do you think the current ethical fashion movement is here to stay?
SM: My interest in new designers stemmed from always needing to know where the next ideas are coming from. A journalistic curiosity which started right at the beginning of when I was at Ms London – linking club style with St Martin’s designers. It organically changed into more of an active role in the late 90s when I saw how a British generation had fallen – either out of business – or were leaving London. I was always invited onto BFC panels and would continually rant at them about their not doing anything to help young designers. It was a sclerotic organisation run along old boys and Ab Fab lines at the time – I think I became such a nuisance to them they just turned round and said “Well YOU do it then!” I also had made friends with the very lamented Professor Louise Wilson at CSM MA who allowed me in to see what was going on, to understand excellent teaching in action and to get to know the students. That’s how I knew Chris Kane was a genius before he graduated. The rewards are immense for me – I really love having my ears open to new ideas . It’s hearing the
SM: I would be lying if I didn’t say I am petrified about the risk to this whole precious culture from Brexit. Everything has shifted in the industry and a 10 year cycle seems to be at an end. However – the thing I am excited about is all the kids who are rebelling against the ills of the system by being sustainability separatists. Especially the ones who are working on frontier of fashion, science and bio-tech. The hope for change is that young people have power as consumers and if they turn away from corporations which pollute – then those companies are going to have to change, fast, in order to survive. I feel like I’m the gobetween who sees the potential for both sides. That’s the reason I started #sarahslist – to connect the industry with people they should hire or consult with. I seem to have followers who are 50% students and young creatives and 50% industry executives. So it’s working!
International Fashion Showcase 2019 was curated by Sarah Mower
#SarahsList (2017) at Libertyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s London, was curated by Sarah Mower
The Millennials Guide to The Working Wardrobe (Episode:001)
Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s In a White Shirt? By Yasmin Jones-Henry
Introduction While working in internal recruitment I can recall making a very difficult phone call to a candidate explaining that although he had the ‘right’ degree, his relevant work experience was suitable and in his interview he had performed well, the director in question had decided against hiring him, due to the fact he had shown up to the interview with a Japanese style shirt. The director was affronted by the absence of a tie and conventional collar. Yes. Really. It was a major firm in the City of London – so the lack of research in suitable attire was interpreted by the prospective employer as evidence of a laissez-fair attitude that the prospective employer did not want to subsidise. That incident gave me the early motivation to build @workinfashion.me. I realised my generation in particular were woefully unprepared and under-dressed for the world of work, they would show up to interviews with their degrees and little else. That moment was also critical in my own development as I was able to see what my mother meant when she would send me back upstairs to change in the mornings before school when I was in the sixth form. “You are a brand” – she would say, “what standard do you represent?” – Questions that at 16 seemed cryptic were crystal clear at 22 as I was able to see in real time that viewers made life changing decisions based on a person’s appearance. Is it right? Well that’s for you to decide, but for the present – it’s just the way our society is configured. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the saying: ‘Don’t hate the player, hate the game’ – Well I would alter it to – ‘Don’t hate the game – just win!’ I realised that creating a platform where secrets could be exchanged in surviving the workplace Serengeti was essential. Why should a perfectly capable candidate lose out on a job? Working in a hostile environment I quickly realised as a young female, it was impractical to exert oneself all the time. My wardrobe became a type of armour. It’s called ‘Power dressing’ for a reason. Your wardrobe will speak for you, if you let it. subjective. But like all artists know – just as there are primary colours that form the
basis of all compositions, The Power Dresser’s wardrobe contains some key staples that always make an impact.So, consider this the first in a series of features outlining the key pieces everyone should have in their wardrobe if they have any intention of winning the style game. I believe fashion is whatever you make it. The magazines lied: there is no particular trend that you must follow. Your style is entirely Part 1: What’s in A White Shirt? The White Shirt is pure and simple. For an individual who has nothing to prove, the white shirt can be a trusted weapon and reliable staple. In the heat of the summer – a crisp white 100% organic cotton shirt delivers crucial ventilation as well as resolving the eternal summertime dilemma of “How do I look smart and stay cool”. Puff ball or straight sleeved, you can pop your collar and roll up the sleeves – the White Shirt is one of the most interchangeable pieces in any collection. Worn with a suit, pencil skirt, under a shift dress, with Capri pants or with jeans – this item gives diamonds some fierce competition for the position of a ‘girl’s best friend’. [Cont.]
My relationship with the shirt has evolved as I have gotten older. At first – I viewed them with a level of disgust. School shirts, stiff collars. Starch. Uniforms. I didn’t think the shirt would ever be my friend. During my teenage years I avoided it when out of school uniform. T-shirts, slim fit, cap sleeved were my preference in all shades. By the age of 16, as sixth form beckoned I was glad to be rid of shirts, irons and starch. Until one day, I came home from school and a new freshly pressed William Hunt shirt hung on the front of my wardrobe. It had been bought by father as a gift for my new sixth form wardrobe. We were allowed to wear our own clothes to school – so more items were acquired to be put in rotation. For anyone unfamiliar with shirts, William Hunt is a household name. The Hunt signature is the chunky Puritan style collar with large cuffs. You can’t miss them. Only strong characters can wear his shirts. I was being challenged. The following Monday I wore it under a v-neck black jumper dress, paired with black tights and my patent black riding boots. Challenge accepted. My mother, a graphics designer, swears by the white shirt. You can overlay a photograph of her at 29 in a white shirt with another at 45 – in another. Nicole Farhi, Joseph, Hawes and Curtis were a handful of the labels I familiarised myself with in her wardrobe. Asymmetrical, chunky cuffs, peasant-shirt or pussy blouse, the diversity and flexibility with making a bold statement or an ode to minimalism was evidently part of the fun.
months and hand measures the soldiers to provide free of charge a bespoke shirt worth £245. The project, entitled Shirts for Soldiers, is being underwritten by the British Forces Foundation, whose aim is to boost the morale of service personnel.
Emma Willis London I would like to introduce you to two ethical luxury brands that have catered to this need. Shirtmaker extraordinaire Emma Willis MBE (who was featured in our #WorkinFashion50) has built an empire from her shop in Jermyn Street, London (opened in 1999) that has grown into a social enterprise movement, that is providing skills and employment for young people, refugees and artisans. Her sewing school and workshop in Gloucester is a testament to British entrepreneurs investing in transparency and sustainable supply chains long before it was a trend in the industry. Bespoke shirt maker Emma Willis visits Headley Court military rehabilitation hospital for convalescing soldiers of whom most are veterans of Afghanistan. Emma visits the unit every 2
Top to Bottom: Style for Soldiers is Emma’s bespoke shirt fitting service for ex-service men and women. The Emma Willis factory in Gloucester. Behind the scenes at the Emma Wills Factory.
“Remember you are the ambassador of your own personal brand. Whatever your values maybe, ensure there is consistency in the message that is delivered. Take care of your composition. (‘Functionality vs The Aesthetic” YJH, 2016)
Alice Early, a new sustainable luxury lifestyle brand, is another one on my radar. “All my pieces are designed with longevity in mind, in a utilitarian and minimalist style, constructed in London using 100% GOTS certified organic cotton and sustainably sourced and durable components and I ship to my customers in recyclable packaging” Alice assured me during our first conversation. With over 10 years of experience working in the industry for brands including Paul Smith, Sophie Hulme and couture designer Deborah Milner, Alice decided to start her own collection to focus on sustainable design and clothing that would “buck the trend for throw away fashion”. In the new era of sustainability and conscious consumption, consider ‘the white shirt’ as a motif, or better yet, an area for potential investment. The best ones will be made out of organic, fair-trade cotton, reducing the strain that conventional cotton creates on the environment with its man -made irrigation systems. Organic cotton is rain fed, and with fair-trade certifications, you’re less likely to be engaging with a product that has emerged out of a supply chain tainted with child/slave labour. The thing about the white shirt is that it is understated – but it is a statement piece nonetheless. As with all statements – you better believe in what you are saying or you will look foolish. Ill-fitted shirts, that crinkle and roll in all the wrong places, shirts with collars that have lost their shape, shirts with stained cuffs… all serve to signal some degree of inadequacy be it in preparation or in consideration of overall presentation. The next big indicator is brand transparency. The ultimate sign of premium quality is the brand or designer who is transparent about where/how/who makes their clothes. While making your statement with the working wardrobe, ensure it isn’t undermined by a tainted supply chain, or reports of unethical working conditions.
The Bethan Shirt by Alice Early https://aliceearly.co.uk/collections/all/products/whiteorganic-cotton-shirt
#Events A Sustainable Revolution By Yasmin Jones-Henry
April 22nd-28th sees the annual #WhoMadeMyClothes campaign spearheaded by Fashion Revolution, a non profit organisation founded in response to the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013 which saw over a thousand textiles workers lose their lives as a result of unsafe working conditions. The events, hashtags and reposts on social media, and the general fervour for revolution will give the movement welcomed exposure. Fashion Revolution’s co-founder Orsola de Castro was featured in 2018’s #TheCollective, filed under the category for #Trailblazers. Orsola is a cherished – real life influencer and agitator for change. But, in order for this campaign to be successful in the long term, we need to progress from the initial shock at the level of exploitation, inefficiencies and pollution, towards maintained pressure, ensuring these brands (high street and luxury alike) do not revert to old unethical habits.
Fashion Revolution co-founder Orsola De Castro
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (2015), featured in their 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, has proven to be an effective accessory in forcing major textiles producing conglomerates to reconsider their laissez fair attitude towards methods of production.
In fact, you could go further to say the SDG’s have forced the fashion world in particular to pause and reflect on the very essence of its business model. It’s not enough to manufacture and say you are creating jobs. Are the employees being paid a living wage? Are the methods of production harmful to the environment? – We’ve already heard about plastics, and the reality that fashion is in the top five shortlist for worst industry polluters. So, in many ways, having a global conversation – with governments and CEO’s at the table, is the only way to push this movement– into government policy, and standard business practice.
For those of you unfamiliar with the UN’s Sustainable Development goals, please see below for full list: 1. NO Poverty 2. ZERO hunger 3. Good Health and wellbeing 4. Quality Education 5. Gender Equality 6. Clean Water and Sanitation 7. Affordable and Clean Energy 8. Decent work and Economic growth 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 10. Reduced Inequalities 11. Sustainable cities and communities 12. Responsible consumption and Production 13. Climate Action 14. Life Below Water 15. Life on Land 16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions 17. Partnerships for the goals In case you’re wondering, *12: Responsible consumption and production* is a goal that we can all contribute towards on a daily basis. Responsible consumption means asking the question both internally and publicly “Who Made My Clothes?”. [Cont.]
In ‘You Buy Cheap You Buy Twice”(2016) I shared my Father’s instruction to consider the ‘hands and the hearts of the people’ who made my clothes. Manufacturing and big business has a way of dehumanising labour. Slavery didn’t end in the 1830’s. It didn’t end with the American Civil War… Economic slavery is still one of the biggest stains on modern society. Fashion, is one of the biggest drivers of modern slavery. This is what we, as consumers have a responsibility to ensure is no longer the case. Brands who indulge in fast fashion, and luxury brands who secretly invest in exploitation, deserve to be exposed, to be publicly scrutinized, because they rely on the cover of darkness to thrive. Campaigns led by the likes of Fashion Revolution are key in making that initial contact with the consumer but what next? After you’ve watched Blue Planet, after you’ve seen the Stacey Dooley documentary on clothes, what do you do with your righteous indignation? For revolution to be effective – it can’t simply be about the protest, it must also involve dialogue about the solution. Changing lifestyle patterns is where this revolution truly begins. In order for the UN target of ‘Responsible consumption’ to be achieved, consumers need to be more responsible in ‘what’ and ‘how’ they consume. Under the laws of commerce, retailers and designers are serving consumer demand.
a low environmental impact, manufactured by a labour force who are well paid, in a community that is properly sustained… then the brands (for the sake of their own profits and survival) will be obliged to cater to this cultural shift. Fashion is a form of self advertising. So there’s no use decrying political corruption and oppression, if the garments that touch your skin are sewn together by economic slaves. There’s no use saying that you are absolved from responsibility because ‘you’re not into fashion’. If you wear clothes, if you buy clothes, then your purchasing power is either part of the problem, or part of the solution. I have always said fashion is political. It’s an economic game changer too. In the UK last year, the fashion industry generated £36 billion in GDP to the UK’s economy. It’s also one of the biggest employers globally (from the cotton fields to the shop floor). According to Mintel and the British Fashion Council, it’s a sector that is predicted to grow to an estimated worth of £70+billion over the next five years. Before you celebrate those figures, ask – who profits from this growth? Will this translate into higher wages? Is this growth the result of investment in infrastructure and supply side policies (training and workers’ well being) or is this growth calculated based on the current conditions that incorporate a level of exploitation further down the supply chain that is all too often overlooked? These are questions alongside: #WhoMadeMyClothes ? that the consumer has a responsibility to ask. Keep asking until you get an answer. Firms who refuse to adopt transparency and ethical business practices, are unworthy of your hard earned cash. If they don’t comply – keep it moving! [End]
The Sustainable Luxury Report Part II
Available via www.workinfasion.me September 2019
Where Do We Go From Here? By Yasmin Jones-Henry Image source: All Rights 33Reserved Cavan Jayne (2018)
Portrait by Lawrence Ellis
London Craft Week 2019 The design industry is worth £76.9 billion to the UK economy according to the Design Council (2018). As an industry, it is growing three times faster than banking and technology. London remains at the centre of this growth with it’s ability to attract and retain some of the world’s most innovative designers and artisans. From the Scorched Earth exhibit at the Fitzrovia Chapel to Sacha Lobe discussing Bauhaus at the Conran Shop, from Mayfair to Peckham to King’s Cross, the week was packed with the very best the design community in London had to offer.
“We’re not scientists — we’re designers. But we work with scientists to make something new.” Natsai Audurey Chieza
When Sabine Zetteler (founder of Zetteler PR) explained that one of her clients was developing new innovative textiles tech using algae and bacteria, I must confess I was a little perplexed to say the least... But almost a year later I had the privilege to listen to Natsai Audurey Chieza (founder of Faber Futures) explain her evolution from being a student of architecture at Edinburgh University to studying fashion and textiles at Central Saint Martin’s in London. The thing I found the most humbling was her curiosity. Most of the relatives I come across tend to be pretty consumed/ complacent/ enamoured with their own ability to create, spending little time or investment in interrogating the materials at their disposal... I mean, growing your own dye in a Petri dish? Innovation is one of the most important elements of sustainability. If water is scarce and conventional dyeing processes are toxic, what are the alternatives? Today I learned that ‘Streptomyces Coelicolar’ is a bacteria used in antibiotics, it lives in the soil, and produces pink, purple and blue pigment. I didn't know that this bacteria could ‘grow on’ and ‘dye’ a piece of material without using as much water or any of the toxins conventional processes used. Once you get over the initial shock that we’re speaking about fungi, algae and bacteria, the scale of untapped resources within the substances we discard is actually quite remarkable. Making the most of what we already have and designing new systems of production: It feels like the design world is in the early stages of a renaissance. The last decade was all about data, I suspect the next will be all about design.— YJH
SUMMER IS HERE...(Sort of)
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