Here are some outfits and looks with our Autumn/Winter collection – as worn by us, our lovely customers, and friends
Carolina wears Amogh embroidered coat
Working in wonderful an ethical fashion boutique in York I became more adventurous in my style. I began to see the advantages of wearing clothes I loved every single day. I was always telling customers in the shop just to wear the dresses they bought for special occasions every day – wearing velvet for example – it just makes the day seem special and more luxurious.
My dear friend Rosie Dean, who is an incredible artist, came for supper last week and I showed her a lovely preloved Whistles coat we had to sell. She absolutely loved it and commented that it would have to be for best. Just wear it! I said – it looked fabulous on her – the dark forest green was such an unusual colour and suited her perfectly. The style and fit were gorgeous. Why would anyone not want to wear such a great looking coat and keep it hanging in a wardrobe?
As I reflected on wearing clothes that were for best everyday I remembered a lady who I used to treat when I worked at the Hoxton Health Group. – a complementary health project for the over 60s. This lovely lady was 97. She would appear in a leopardskin print coat, underneath it she would be wearing cut off evening dresses. She looked amazing!
If we are going to get up to 30 wears per item, which is what we are told we should be doing to make an item of clothing worth purchasing – we better be more like my Hoxton lady and Just Wear It! I don’t have a problem with this at all. I am pleased to report that Rosie is wearing the coat!
We’re often (try always!) being told that ethical and sustainable clothing is too expensive. It IS expensive, but only compared with certain high street brands. If an item costs practically nothing, you can guarantee it’s costing the Earth, environment and the quality of life of the producer. Not the seller, not the high street, which is making profits, literally on the back of someone else and the environment.
We are choosing to source garments that pay a sustainable wage to workers and that use ethical work practices, such as breaks and medical care. Even without that aspect of a decent wage, the techniques used themselves are painstaking.
As the name suggests, this is done by…hand! All aspects of it!
It has been practiced in Rajasthan for around 500 years and was originally introduced by the Chhipa Community, now famous for its vegetable dyes and mud resist block prints. The tradition is passed down through generations, with the ‘recipes’ for the traditional dyes kept within families. Colours depend on the plants, water and the experience of the printing masters.
The process begins with the design, drawn first on paper and then carved into wood blocks, which are around 18-25cm across. These are done meticulously by hand.
These blocks are then stamped across the fabric. Each colour in the design in carved on a separate block. The outline block is usually the most elaborate and intricate and is stamped first. Then this is filled in with possibly the ground colour block. The carving itself requires years of apprenticeship . Once these are carved, the dyes are prepared, which are poured into wooden trays and the blocks are stamped into the colour each time; then stamped across the fabric in a repeat pattern, with the printing master carefully aligning each block as he prints.
We stock Nila Rubia designs, these are stunning hand block printed clothes for summer and winter – printing on a range of lovely textiles: organic cotton, chiffon and bamboo silk.
Some of the garments that we source use Kantha work, a form of embroidery often practised by women in rural areas. It is considered one of the most important textile arts in Eastern India.
It began 500 centuries ago in West Bengal and Orissa as a method of reusing and recycling dhotis, sarees and other pieces of clothing that people were reluctant to throw away (perfect upcycling!). Yarn salvaged from worn clothing was used to embroider large repeating motifs and designs across whole pieces of fabric. Kantha extensively uses running stitch across the whole fabric design, normally in a single colour but there are various standard styles for stitching this. Usually, the stitch under the fabric is shorter than the one on top, which causes the distinctive wavy look to the fabric.
Currently we stock beautiful kantha work jackets by Yavi, an award winning Indian design label
So, is ethical fashion expensive? Not when you consider the work behind it, the history and traditions and also the fact that the dyes are ethically sourced, as well as the fabrics. Buying this type of fashion not only helps the garment makers and their families but is also kinder to the environment – as azo free dyes are used!
Yesterday Sylvia mentioned the ‘sack’ and how I’ve now been converted. The absolute truth of the moment is that I’ve had a revelation. I’ve noticed that women of a certain age, especially if they are….more curvaceous, become invisible, to everyone. Especially if self-esteem goes down and they feel irrelevant. For years, I’ve skulked about in, tbh, boring clothes that didn’t draw attention to myself at all; even though I yearned to burst out of the self-made cocoon and wear the joyous clothes that I wanted. This became even worse when I became aware of the environmental and ethical issues revolving around fashion. What was a self-conscious, curvaceous woman with ethical dilemmas to do, except stay with what she’d worn for years, at least that way not adding to the fast fashion?
The ridiculous thing is that I tell my own daughter to not obsess with how she looks, to enjoy life, not wait for the mythical figure to arrive on the scales and have life suddenly be perfect. I look back at photos of myself and I’m appalled at the waste of time I spent agonising over the fact that I wasn’t a size 10. I was lovely! And then…Lo! The arrival of Sylvia, fashion guru and style queen. I saw the Roshan, aka ‘the sack’ and thought….hell,no. Well. Try and prise me out of it now. I’ve worn it on numerous occasions and love it. What’s even more amazing is the comments I get. I walk down the street and people – of both sexes – say ‘morning’, ‘hello’, ‘nice, isn’t it?’ Some have commented on the dress. I am not so shallow as to say it’s the dress, but more like that I’ve discovered ethical fashion, I am doing something that makes me feel better, that I am doing something worthwhile and that I am back to being relevant (as I always felt as a teacher). I feel happy, I am way more confident and I want to wear the clothes that I like, that are more interesting, that are helping towards my own personal campaign for more ethical and environmental friendly. I want to no longer be invisible! And this attitude, is, I think coming through. So it might only be a dress, but it has definitely helped me to redefine myself back to how I used to be. Go, the ‘sack’! Oh and curvaceous ladies….this is a s/m and I’m definitely not that size!
Styles and fashions change but my favorite dress at the moment is the Roshan dress by Nila Rubia. I have three – and I wake up in the morning and wonder which one I should wear. I remember these dresses first coming in when I used to work in Maude and Tommy, a fantastic ethical fashion boutique in York where I learned so much about ethical fashion. I remember thinking they looked a bit shapeless at first. But when I tried one on I realised how clever Nila had been with the design. They don’t look great on the hanger – but they do look great on. And they have pockets!! Fabulous big pockets. I love a dress with pockets.
The first one I bought was made of bamboo linen – it has a lovely silky sheen and is quite heavy so it drapes really well. It looks special and sophisticated, without being over the top dressy. It is an unusual colour and dip dyed so it’s quite striking – especially with a scarf that tones in with the colours – I am afraid I have a bit of a scarf addiction – and this dress looks great with a scarf! I wore this dress to present at a conference last year and it was perfect. I felt confident and relaxed.
I bought an indigo dyed organic cotton Roshan dress last summer – I literally wore it every day.
This year, when I tried on the yellow rose print, it had to be mine. It’s so summery – and even though we haven’t had much of a summer I feel summery in this dress – wearing it with leggings and a cami or Tee underneath to brave the British summer. On the beach this dress came into its own – it was a perfect throwover come changing tent!
When Karin came to see me in York to talk about working with me I showed her the dress and she called it the sack – but when I managed to get her to try it on, she bought two! It looks lovely on her too – its so easy to wear, and looks great on so many different women. So if you want a dress that is incredibly comfortable and stylish in an understated way – I really recommend the Roshan dress.
They feel so generous and easy to wear. Here is Karin in the lilac bouquet – looking pretty fabulous wafting around the garden!
We have had these dresses made up exclusively for our Curvacious Apparel collection to fit up to size 24 – so do have a look. The ‘Sack’ is a great style whatever your size or shape.
For a special occasion a shawl can be the perfect accessory. A cosy wool shawl will keep the winds at bay and also look fabulous. Nila Rubia’s jacquard weave shawls, with their vibrant colours and striking motifs, can make a real style statement. Here the leaf and jungle bird motif shawls are shown with hand block print Farah and bamboo linen Roshan dresses from the Autumn Winter 18 collection.
A shawl is also a great way to update your wardrobe and create a look that is totally unique.
For products and prices for the Nila Rubia collection click on this link here
It has never been more important to start make more ethical choices in terms of what you wear. Here are five choices everyone can start making.
My passion for ethical fashion started in 2011. An inspiring speaker had just opened a boutique in my local city and organised a fashion show for my WI. I was bowled over by the clothes and style. Gorgeous textiles and clothes that looked different from the same brands on every UK high street. But it was the idea of buying ethically that appealed to me most. I realised I simply did not want to wear clothes that had been made in ways that exploited people, or that harmed the planet any more. I did not want to look good at the expense of others, or this precious earth. I would far rather have less clothes, love the clothes I have more, and feel great wearing them. I also realised I wanted to be involved with the ethical fashion movement in some way.
Fashion was in my blood. My mother, Irmgard Chapman, owned several boutiques in Kensington. She started in street markets like Portobello Road making ‘Happy Coats’ – a sort of bright kimono style jacket, graduating to Kensington Market and eventually to shops in Gloucester Road and Earls Court where she imported from India, Morocco, Turkey and Peru. Bohemian and beautiful, my mothers style, and the trends she started, were all her own. She never achieved the recognition of contemporaries like Zandra Rhodes. I rebelled against my mum by wearing jeans. I lived in jeans for decades when I wasn’t working or needing to look professional. Learning more about ethical fashion has totally changed the way I dress. I am much more colourful for a start! And now I wake up every morning looking forward to putting an outfit together – a dress, a scarf – an interesting coat or jacket. Colours and fabrics that feel great and styles that don’t date – they are just beautiful clothes and always will be.
My mother, who passed away just before my journey with ethical fashion began, is by my side now, and smiling to herself as I write this blog, of this I am sure…for my dearest mother hated the jeans! Seeing what our appetite for jeans has done to the Aral Sea on Stacey Dooley’s recent brilliant fashion expose for the BBC, should make everyone re-think their fashion choices.
Here is a picture of my mum in Peru – I miss her so much! She always said it like it was and lived life to the full.
Its important to understand that there is not just one way to be ethical when it comes to fashion – there are many – here are some of them – a simplified list list of ethical fashion ‘dos’ and choices. And it really is a case of small steps – just one choice can make a big difference.
Thanks for reading this blog and I hope you enjoy being a little more ethical in your fashion choices – even half as much as I do! It is so lovely and one of the joys of life to be able to wear wonderful clothes that are made with love and care for the planet and its people.