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!