Ethical Clothes – Part 2

Dolly & Dotty – another UK based vintage repro brand, with design based in Brighton, and again nothing on the website about manufacturing or ethical policy. And like Collectif, I couldn’t find anything else online and the clothing labels state “Made in China”. I contacted the brand on 22nd September and although I received acknowledgement I have yet to receive an actual answer to my questions.
Rating: 0/10 With zero information on their website, “Made in China” on the clothing labels and a very poor lack of response to a customer enquiry, it can only be nul points.

Wallis – this brand is part of the Arcadia Group and as such follows their “Fashion Footprint” programme. There’s a lot of structure to this programme, with “pillars” and “stakeholders”, but I’m not sure there’s as much substance to it. Reading the ethical trading pages I get the impression they’re saying all the rights things but the level of what is being achieved is perhaps underwhelming. CleanClothes.org in a recent report rated Arcadia Group as “Dragging their Feet” – scant effort to tackle worker’s rights and have not participated in collaborative efforts to develop best practice, in particular the Ethical Trading Initiative.
Rating: 4/10 Arcadia Group don’t have a great reputation overall, and in this regard they don’t come across as working hard to change that. At least they have some information on their site and have responded to campaign surveys.

Roman Originals – Another brand with nothing on their website about their policy. A google search threw up this Independent article from 2015 (among others) alleging child labour in some factories with Roman Originals contracts. The brand’s reaction was to denounce the practice and sever their contracts with the factories in question, but beyond that they don’t seem to have done much to clean up their image or their practices. Neither CleanClothes.org or RankABrand.org has any up to date info, and neither does EthicalConsumer.org.
Rating: 0/10 No up to date information and investigative journalism from a year ago suggesting highly dubious ethical practices.

Camaïeu – A French brand that I often shop at when abroad, as it’s in most of Europe now. It seems that a French organisation “l’Ethique sur l’Etiquette” (Ethics on the Label) did a lot of campaigning and staged protests against the brand in 2013 following the Rana Plaza disaster, since the brand had had a large order in place with one of the factories, but after the disaster blamed a supplier for unauthorised subcontracting. As a result of the protests, the brand acknowledged responsibility by saying that they would contribute to the compensation fund for victims. If you can read French, this Libération article has a good report. They also mention an “Accord Sécurité” being drafted by some of the big labels, designed to make brand carry responsibility for ensuring the structural security of the factories they use and instill fire prevention measures. Camaïeu was supposed to be signing this but I can’t find any more recent reports than 2013.
Rating: 4/10 Although they did seemingly engage in 2013, given they were involved in such a high profile disaster in the clothing sector, it surprises me that there aren’t more recent press statements or anything on their website shouting about their latest ethical endeavors.

Promod – Another French/European brand I make a beeline for when on holiday. Although they have a lot about their ethos and style in the About section, once again a total lack of ethical policy information available to the customer. RankABrand.org gives them an E for lack of information. They responded to a CleanClothes.org survey, but very briefly and answered “no” to several points. In other instances they appeared to be setting a low bar on what they considered reasonable/possible for them to achieve based on their market share and avoiding increased cost to the consumer.
Rating: 5/10 A mediocre score for what seems to be a mediocre response and attitude to the problem at hand.


I have to say that doing this research into the labels in my wardrobe has been really depressing. With the exception of Seasalt, which is a relatively small and still family owned-and-run business, the majority of the brands have little or no information readily available to consumers and have had minimal response to NGO campaigns and surveys. Even when they are seemingly making the right noises, there’s the sense that consumers really have to take their word for it.

This has all led to me feel even more strongly that I should be making as much as possible and otherwise buying in vintage or charity shops. I’m even going so far as to ask my family (my mum especially) to stop buying me clothes as presents unless it’s a brand like Seasalt which I can trust.

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Ethical Clothes – Part 1

One of the reasons I decided to start sewing my own clothes was for better fit and so that I could get the styles I wanted with the fabric and finishes I wanted. The high street just wasn’t offering what I wanted.

But another factor was the ethics of the current “fast fashion” trend, and this has become more important to me over time. I recently watched the documentary The True Cost on Netflix and while much of it wasn’t a surprise, it was still shocking and spurred me to make yet more effort to buy consciously.

Because I do still buy, or get bought clothing as presents. I want to make every effort to ensure the brands I do still choose to buy from are promoting a more ethical approach to fashion. My survey is based on information provided on the brands’ own websites and may therefore be considered biased or unreliable but you can still tell a lot just by the depth and type of information they give, I believe. I also found a couple of independent organizations surveying and collating information on the big brands.

The below is a list of brands currently most common in my wardrobe (aside from second hand, handmade or vintage items), with a summary of the info I found plus my rating. 

Seasalt – a family-owned company originating in Cornwall, they make a strong statement of ethical and environmental responsibility. They have a policy of local or artisan purchasing through their supply chain, and were the first fashion company to have their clothing Soil Association certified as organic, in 2005. They also seem strong about passing their standards down through the supply chain, whether that’s ethical or environmental. Eg. Where organic or fair trade certification is specified by us as a condition of supply, follow the relevant certification organisation’s rules and guidelines. And when that’s not the case, still use eco friendly, fair trade or recyclable materials wherever possible. They also require suppliers to sign various statements of ethical practice, and to join SEDEX and report annually on ethical practices.

Rating: 10/10 Seasalt’s policies seem pretty robust and tick all the boxes for me. They also seem to have a strong methodology for making sure that their policy is also their suppliers’ policy. I also like the depth of documentation they have made available on their website

Desigual – Now a global fashion brand originating in Barcelona, Spain, known for very distinctive clothing which often features bright multi colored prints, decoration and complex patterns, most commonly on dresses, skirts and tops in jersey fabric. To my dismay there is nothing on their website about ethical policies, not even in the Spanish language site. Through a Google search, I found two useful websites which rated Desigual very badly:

Rankabrand.org rated them E – Don’t Buy, with the following statement:

Desigual has achieved the E-label. This is our lowest possible sustainability score, and Desigual has earned it by communicating nothing concrete about the policies for environment, carbon emissions or labor conditions in low-wages countries. For us as consumers, it is unclear whether Desigual is committed to sustainability or not.

The Clean Clothes Campaign also cited a lack of information and only a basic response in terms of company action to ensure ethical working conditions in their supply chain. 

My older Desigual garments state Made in China, but more recent ones have Made in Spain or Portugal.

Rating: 4/10 The lack of openness and information means I can’t rank Desigual any higher, but the fact that more recent garments indicate a shift in manufacturing back to Europe shows that Desigual might be more aware of the issues than they first seem, and have even chosen to support some of the European economies which have struggled in recent years.

Collectif – a rapidly growing London based vintage repro clothing company, Collectif make much of the small team who oversee every aspect of the design, production and sales process. However, there is nothing on their websit about manufacturing, ethical or environmental policies and I couldn’t find anything from a Google search either. The labels in the clothes say Made in China. 

I contacted the brand to see what they had to say. Within a couple of hours I had a reply, which in addition to clarifying that they manufacture in Vietnam, Bangladesh, Romania, Armenia and London and the majority in China, said the following:

All our fabrics are sourced in China, where we have our own facility and office, run by our own staff, who are in constant contact with our team in London. Having our own facility, means we are very aware of everything that happens throughout our production process. Our London design & production team regularly visit China to personally source our fabrics and ensure they are of an acceptable quality and ethical standard. These team members, as well as members of senior management, also make regular visits to our production facility and offices.

Rating: 6/10 I am a bit disappointed that the clothes are mostly made in China, and not having openly available information for consumers is not best practice. However, I was impressed with the speed of response to my enquiry, and based on what they’ve said they seem to have closer ties to their suppliers than many retailers might have, and they are aware of the issues.

M&S – a British institution, although they sell a huge range of products I’m thinking mostly of clothing in my research. The website does carry a statement on Modern Slavery, which make clear that M&S are aware of the risk they carry in their supply chain and sets out what they do to mitigate this. They say they require their suppliers to :

  • Participate in ethical trading audits assessments; 
  • Provide employees with good working conditions, fair treatment and reasonable rates of pay; 
  • Respect workers’ human rights and comply fully with all applicable laws. 

The Clean Clothing Campaign also has a report on M&S which seems fairly positive about the policies and more importantly action the company is taking.

Rating: 7/10 the statement and independent assessment make it clear M&S are actively trying to improve the situation & ensure their supply chain is ethical, but given the volume of manufacture and the size of the retail chain, I can’t honestly rate it much higher.

Next – another British high street staple, and long a favourite of mine for workwear. They have several statements on ethical and environmental policy under the Corporate Responsibility section of the website, but here are their stated priorities:

  • Develop and improve workers’ conditions, including safety and human rights
  • Communicate and support the achievement of compliance to our ethical standards with all our suppliers
  • Support our suppliers to achieve continuous improvement through partnership
  • Implement sustainable programmes and initiatives with suppliers to improve their capacity and ability to deliver to our ethical requirements
  • Continue to develop opportunities to work in collaboration with other Brands and retailers, Governments, trade unions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to pursue solutions for some of the more complex and systemic problems within the global supply chain that we cannot resolve alone and to help achieve lasting change

From an environmental perspective, a standout statistic is that they claim to have diverted 91% of operational waste away from landfill. 

RankaBrand has given them a D rating, or “first milestones recognized, can do better”. 

Rating: 7/10 I think Next seem on par with M&S on policy and at the end of the day they are another large fast fashion retailer.

This post is turning in to a bit of an essay so I’ve decided to split it into two. More brands coming up…

#TheWardrobeChallenge

Ok, so over the last few weeks I’ve been mulling over some ideas, and I’ve now decided to set myself a challenge.

1) To make a garment a month from now on, until I run out of ideas/budget/wardrobe space

2) To not buy any new high street clothes unless it’s unavoidable (eg. bridesmaid dress which I don’t have the skills to make)

3) To gradually sell off pieces from my existing wardrobe that I replace or no longer wear

For quite some time now I have struggled to buy high street. Either I don’t like the fit, the style, the quality or the material, or all of the above, and that stays my hand at the till. The only new clothes in my wardrobe have been bought for me (Christmas, birthday) and although I do love and wear them, that doesn’t change my outlook.

Aside from the serious manufacturing practice ethics in play, I am also a great advocate of reuse and recycle. I genuinely love vintage fashion but even if I didn’t, I think I would be an advocate of vintage and second-hand shopping (whether that’s Brick Lane or eBay). We waste far too much as consumers and I very much disagree with “fast fashion”.

So it’s either make or buy second-hand from now on!

All of these ideals and ideas have culminated in my challenge above. I know it’s possible, but it will take determination.

I’m going to be blogging my challenge and posting youtube videos of my makes, but I’ll start out with a couple of intro posts. The next one will be on my new sewing machine, an investment that should enable me to make clothes with more finesse than my clunky Brother machine would have, and the follow-up will be a capsule summary of my current vintage / handmade wardrobe.

Wish me luck!

Foyles of Charing Cross

I’ve been meaning to visit some of the big bookshops of London for a while now. A few months ago I went to Oxford and visited Blackwells – mum and I both came out well weighted down with books!

I’d heard a lot about Foyles recently since they’ve just moved to a new premises, next door to their old shop on Charing Cross Road. It’s dead easy to get to – Exit 4 from Tottenham Court Road tube, turn right and follow the hoardings of the Centrepoint building site round onto Charing Cross road itself, then you’ll walk past the old Foyles shop on the right before reaching the new one.

It’s really well laid out – they’ve crammed in as much as they can whilst still having nice display points, and the floors are alternating with stairs and lift shafts in the centre. So you come in at ground level at the front of the shop, then 1st floor is half a level up at the back of the shop, 2nd floor another half level up at the front and so on. This means you always feel like you have a view across the full width of the shop and despite the rows upon row of shelves, it has a open feel.

They also realise that it’s a nightmare if you’re looking for something in particular, so there’s lists of departments everywhere, plenty of staff on hand to help and they even have a shop search on the free WiFi network, which is supposed to guide you to a specific title. Unfortunately when I tried to use this, although the title was in stock, it didn’t know the location!

There’s also a cafe and art gallery on the top floor, with comfy seats, low tables and bench seating. Even at 6pm on a Saturday, it was full of people reading, note-making, and tapping away on ipads or laptops. It seems like a great communal space and will definitely be going in my little black book of hideaways in London.

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So in the course of collecting the above, I visited pretty much the whole store, added to browsing the Fantasy/Sci Fi, Craft and Fashion sections.

From Foreign language study, I picked up the Chinese reader and Benny’s Fluent in 3  Months book. This is what I’m reading first and I don’t agree with everything he has to say, but there’s no doubt he’s enthusiastic about learning languages and has gathered some great resources.

The Circle is one from new fiction, it’s a dystopian genre book that seems to draw on 1984 themes, but we’ll see when I read it!

Flappers I spotted a few weeks ago – it’s from the history section and charts the lives of six ‘dangerous women’ who exemplified the 1920s.

Marc Levy’s ‘Sept Jours pour une éternité’ I’m hoping is another Guillaume Musso. I’ve read through the two recent Musso’s in quick succession so this could be another author to add to my list. I also think if my friend Emma who is currently obsessed with Supernatural could read French, she’d like this since it’s about God and Lucifer each sending an agent to earth with the aim of putting a final end to their feud. Lucas and Zofia have seven days to complete their mission…but of course neither God nor Lucifer remembered to ensure the angel and the demon would never meet…!

Finally, Superteams came from the Management section, I hope it will give me some inspiration in my new Team Leader role at work. It takes examples from some pretty high flying teams, but I think the principles should still apply and it’ll be a good read.

Brighton Lovelies

My friend Sophie (of discoveryfoyer) and I had a lovely long weekend in Brighton for the bank holiday. She’d been before so got to show me the sights, and we seemed to spend the weekend mooching from lanes to cafe to lanes to cafe… Not half bad!

On the Friday night we went to a ‘retro jazz electroswing speakeasy’ club night hosted by White Mink at The Old Market (TOM for short). Basically, think 1920s dress code, a mix of live performance and DJ, jazz/swing with a twist. A thoroughly enjoyable night I would highly recommend – they currently have no future dates posted but I suggest joining the mailing list and keeping an eye out.

Apart from that, we took it easy for the rest of the weekend and enjoyed some lovely food from classic cuisine at Hotel du Vin (although I did not get what I was expecting, it was very nice), vintage brunch at Blackbird tearooms, proper British fish n chips from The Daily Catch on St James’ Street, and impressive tapas at Bellota.

As for shopping, we dropped in at Collectif‘s opening bash of their new store on Bond street after I picked up a mailing list invite. Sadly I didn’t find any gems in my size but Sophie nabbed some shirts and a dress for her summer workwear.

However, I absolutely fell in love with the fabrics at Get Cutie and came out with the Bow skirt in Fantastic Mr Fox. I love their online shop – you pick the pattern, the fabric and the size and they make it! I also picked up a cute and versatile clutch purse from Ollie & Nic:

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A World Map glasses case for my new glasses (more on that later) – I think it was from Berts Homestore:

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A get-lost-in-it canvas block triptych from Zoing Image:

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And a Fragonard ‘Pois de Senteur’ perfume from Cologne & Cotton:

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Everything except the print was on sale as well!

 

Paris Beauty Haul

So I popped over to Paris on the Eurostar the other week for a long weekend – as you do!

Overall I was quite restrained with the shopping but I did pick up some things from my favourite European beauty store, Sephora. I am still gutted that they have no stores in the UK, I’m sure they would be really popular. They stock a lot of the same brands as the high street department stores in terms of makeup, perfume and skincare ranges, but they also have their own range which is really good quality and good value.

First up, Mavala Cuticle cream.

Mavala cuticle creamYou can get Mavala online and from select department stores (I’ve found it in the larger House of Fraser sometimes, and in Selfridges) but generally it’s hard to track down in the UK. I have used a number of their products in the past including nail strengtheners, but this time it was the cuticle cream I nabbed.

It’s quite a gel-like cream, and doesn’t smell all that marvellous – a little bit medicinal. But it soaks in nicely and doesn’t leave too much residue, and seems to be doing the job for me so far.

My cuticles were getting quite dry and were prone to peeling, and this seems to be happening less now I’ve been using this cream.

€9.50 [£7.80] / 15ml

Sephora nail polish

Now I’m not one to pass up a good nail polish, and Sephora had three for two on their cute little ‘Colour Hit’ bottles, and a great range of colours. In the end I went for ‘Have u Ever‘ (matte pink), ‘Be a Millionaire‘ (matte teal) and ‘Flash Me!‘ (acid gold). The pink nail polish was the first I tried and I loved the colour and cover, but was disappointed in the wear, as it needed retouching after just 24 hours. However, Flash Me! seemed to have much more durability and lasted several days without any noticeable chipping or fading. I haven’t tried Be a Millionaire yet, that’s next!

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€4.95 [£4.06] / 5ml bottle – 3 for 2 offer

Finally, Sephora Blemish-fighting roll-on gel

image_4I’ve been prone to a few breakouts recently so decided to pick up this handy looking product. It’s got a metal rollerball applicator and is actually more of a liquid than a gel.

It feels cool and fresh when you apply it over the blemish area and it seems to be working. I applied it over the area where I’d recently had a spot and it noticeably reduced the redness.Even better, I applied it when I felt a spot coming up on my cheek and it cleared that up before it got a chance to break. This product definitely gets my thumbs up!

€9.95 [£8.17] / 10ml

 

Biker jackets

I’ve been pondering a biker jacket for a while now, there have been some nice ones recently in the shops and while looking around online I also found some good coloured ones as well as the classic black/tan. But I’m also quite keen on the neutral cream/stone….

Well I suppose the answer is just to get all of them! If only I was a millionairess and had an entire room for clothes.

I may well have missed the boat on some of these now, since I put this shortlist together around a month ago, but here were my pick of the bunch:

Six Favourites : Biker jackets

 

Clockwise from top left:

Oasis – Black zip front, faux leather. Was around £50 if I remember rightly, now seems to be sold out.

UKLeatherJackets.co.uk – Heidi purple asymmetric leather. Love the colour and the style, but at £159 this was really thrown in as a fantasy piece!

H&M – Imitation suede in cream. At £29.99, this one’s really tempting but is that slightly too cheap to go the distance…?

Oasis – Sienna tan faux leather. Nice quilt detail, and still in stock at £58. Strikes me as a bit pricey for faux leather and also very similar to a jacket my mum has.

Nairaland – Ok so this one I can’t find to buy, it’s on a retro fashion forum but the colour!! It had to go in.

UKLeatherJackets.co.uk – Juliet yellow leather. Love the mustardy yellow colour, that would be really striking and it looks like it has a nice texture. Not sure about the straight zip though, that’s not so flattering and at £155, it’s also a blowout piece again.

So of all of them, the H&M piece might be worth hunting down. I think I’d want to feel it and try it though rather than taking a punt online, and with the sales in full swing I can’t imagine trying to find a specific piece in any of the big H&M stores!