There are perhaps two types of shopping. The first leaves one carrying clothes in plastic bags with handles that leave grooves like giant lifelines in palms. The second, which can be more preferable (and yet extremely rare), involves unwrapping crackling layers of tissue paper to find some gorgeous item cocooned within. This was my slightly delicious experience when it came to buying from sustainable brand Goodone.
This label, with an ethos of “innovatively combining new British and sustainable fabrics with reclaimed textiles”, had come to my attention following twitter contact last year. To snip the thread of a rambling tale short, the result was a chance to borrow and style three items from the upcycled label for my blog, and following the success of the post, to buy the jumpsuit I had waxed lyrical about. Several emails and a set of measurements later, I received the much-awaited package – the contents of which I shall proudly wear at every possible opportunity.
The success of Goodone, alongside other brands including Henrietta Ludgate and Junky Styling (all three featured in the Estethica display space at the last London Fashion Week), demonstrates the success that sustainable brands can and continue to achieve. However, this relatively new and still-growing (but very green!) offshoot of the fashion industry has further challenges ahead. One such problem is the general perception of ‘ethical’ – a word that calls to mind nettle couture and hemp waistcoats faster than one can take a breath to dispute the judgment. Of course, the reality of ethical is as far is as far removed from dreadlocks and shapeless skirts as the North is from the South Pole.
Another issue is the need to reach a mainstream audience, so as to boost sales and raise awareness of these most worthy of businesses. Here I return to Goodone, who have produced lines for big high street and online stores, with their ‘basics’ line retailing at roughly the same prices as the outlets themselves. This approach – one of integrating rather than separating – is both canny and admirable. When horror stories emerge regularly about the working conditions of those in developing countries, or the environmental (and thus health) implications of the dyes used to achieve the perfect fabric shade, it is heartening to know of viable alternatives. But those alternatives must be both seen and heard by consumers if they are to make a difference.
One reaction to these revelations (and one that I practice as much as I preach) is to visit the local charity shop or vintage stall. To buy second hand clothes is a brilliant way to not only donate to charities who always appreciate extra funds, but also to continue the cycle of re-using and re-styling garments that might otherwise have ended up in landfill. The reasonable prices and wealth of possibility have resulted, for me, in a wardrobe that is 75% made up from various second hand sources. However, alongside harnessing the multitude of resources of the past through charity shops, it is likewise important to buy from sustainable brands and producers so as to ensure a socially and environmentally sounder future.
Thanks for the write up, the sample sale went really well!
How important is sustaining the environment to your label and do you think more could be done to encourage designers to use ethical techniques
Sustainable issues are very important to us. I think they are important to most people; it’s just that as a designer, you’re not taught how to design with sustainability in mind. I believe it’s more a matter of educating designers rather than encouraging them.
You are heavily involved in the education of young designers and entrepreneurs. What practical advice would you give to a designer trying to set up a label?
Just start and figure it out along the way, be prepared to be wrong and always listen to people with more experience than yourself. Try getting help and advice from pretty much anyone you can. Get good at funding applications and competitions.
Do you have any style tips for eco friendly wannabe fashionistas?
Try to buy straight from the designers. Personally we love to have contact with our customers and we will do anything to make you happy. Also to tie your shoes together when you put them in the textile recycling bins.
What do you say to those who turn their noses up at upcycled clothing?
Unless your garment has ‘new wool’ in the fabric description, you might as well be wearing recycled yarn anyway. Upcycling has been around for a long time and the industry in Italy has always been recycling wool by breaking it down back to the fibre and spinning it into new yarn. These recycling techniques are now expanding again and lots of companies like us are popping up everywhere. So either you already have a garment from recycled fabric, or you will one day soon!
What sets you apart from other ethical fashion designers?
We try to make clothes that don’t look ‘eco’ in any way. We are concerned with how clothes look and feel, as we are about what they are made from. I think this approach helps.
In your opinion, who is the best-dressed celebrity right now?
I’m a bit of a dunce when it comes to celebrities I’m afraid, but i do like Moon Dog because for better or worse, he used to make all his own clothes.
words: photography: Cleo Davis