Sophie Caldecott trawls the city to unearth London’s most stylish ethical fashion boutiques and gift shops.
By Sophie Caldecott, Style and Then Some
11:12AM GMT 16 Dec 2011
It’s hard to find shops that are both stylish and ethical, especially in a big city like London, with so many places vying for your attention and not enough time to explore all the options. And when it comes down to it, what does ‘ethical’ actually mean? The Ethical Fashion Forum defines ethical fashion as “an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximises benefits to people and communities while minimising impact on the environment.” It can be difficult for small businesses to cover all the bases, and most ethical shops will have a particular focus, whether that’s sustainability, supporting local talent and skills, or social justice in developing countries. Luckily, there are plenty of options across London – if you know where to look. Here’s our pick of London’s best ethical clothes and gift shops.
In Bloom London, Portobello Road
Best for: sexy, beautiful underwear and womenswear with more than a touch of French chic
In Bloom London’s cool and chic interior. Image: In Bloom London
On Portobello Road, Emily Huc’s pretty boutique In Bloom Londonshowcases her range of underwear alongside other ethical womenswear labels. Other brands stocked in the shop include Goodone, who specialise in stylish upcycled jumpers, Beaumont Organic, Bibico’s Fairtrade-certified knitwear, and EKO, producers of stylish Yoga wear in a sustainable bamboo fabric. Prices range from £9 to £150. Upcycled jewellery by Caipora is also available, alongside homewear and locally produced art. Emily’s own line is just as covetable, and impressively innovative too: the underwear range interweaves organic cotton with the pioneering lyocell fibre, a sustainable fabric made from wood pulp in Austria.
In Bloom London, Unit 8, Portobello Green Designers, 281 Portobello Road, London W10 5TZ. Tel: 020 7565 0493
Opening hours: Mon-Wed open upon appointment (please call 07503190095 to arrange); Thurs-Fri 11-6; Sat 10:30-6
Danaqa, Westbourne Park
Best for: beautiful leather handbags and striking jewellery with a story to tell
Danaqa in Westbourne Park. Image: S&TS
Power couple David Thomas and Nadia Manning-Thomas openedDanaqa in 2011. Their combined experience working in micro finance and agricultural development abroad gave them the know-how to source their products in a responsible way and to maximise the positive impact their business makes for small-scale producers. Beaded necklaces were made by a group of women who suffered domestic abuse in Nepal, and all the leather bags are made from off-cuts from the food industry that would have otherwise been wasted. To those who might question how ethical it is to stock leather products at all, David points out that around 85 per cent of families in Ethiopia keep livestock for food, and paying them for their leftover skins is another valuable way of helping improve their quality of life.
Danaqa, 282 Westbourne Park Road, London W11 1EH. Tel: 020 7792 3466
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10:30-6:30; Sat 9:30-7; Sun 11-5
Best for: quirky gifts and homewear, and a large range of traditional textiles from around the world
Ganesha’s vibrant shop front. Image: Ganesha
Founded in 1995, Ganesha is one of the most well-established fair trade shops around. Stocking reclaimed silk scarves by Coral Seed, vegetarian soap by One Village, party plates made from 100 per cent biodegradable leaves, bags made from rice sacks, as well as colourful bunting made from old silk saris, Ganesha is a goldmine for unique gifts. Providing an eclectic mix of homeware and accessories, it is everything you would expect from a fair trade shop, packaged in a fun and accessible way.
Ganesha, 3 + 4 Gabriel’s Wharf London SE1 9PP. Tel: 020 7928 3444
Opening hours: Tues-Fri 11:30-6; Sat-Sun 12-6
123 Bethnal Green Road, Bethnal Green
Best for: East End cool and up-and-coming British talent, irreverent and unusual gifts, recycled textiles
123 Bethnal Green Road champions local designers. Image: LMB & Co.
Owned by textile recycling company LMB & Co,east London boutique that champions local artists and designers. The in-house brand, 123, is made entirely from off-cuts and recycled fabrics at LMB & Co’s recycling faculty in Canning Town. A collaboration between the company and local designers mean various capsule collections will be launched throughout 2012, with recycled fabrics being used to create unique and sustainable pieces. A local bookbinder, for example, has been commissioned to cover notebooks and diaries with vintage maps, newspapers and recycled fabric. Ethical Fashion Forum Innovation Award winner Ada Zanditon’s jewellery is also available, as is honey produced by a local bee keeper.
123 Bethnal Green Road, 123 Bethnal Green Road E2 7DG. Tel: 020 7729 8050
Opening hours: Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat 12-7; Thurs 12-8; Sun 11-6
Komodo, Covent Garden
Best for: funky knitwear and handmade jewellery
If you like high street brands such as Fat Face and French Connection, you’ll love Komodo, a fair trade clothing brand for men and women which was established in 1988. Located a few streets away from Covent Garden Tube station, this little shop is crammed full of good quality, ethical and contemporary designs in such bright colours that it’s hard to believe they’re all made using natural dyes. Komodo’s factory in Kathmandu, Nepal, champions human rights and shows the rest of the fashion industry how it should be done. Nunu, who runs the shop, buys semi-precious stones and other materials from her travels in Nepal, Tibet and India, and makes jewellery on site. My favourite finds were an elegantly fitting woolen work-wear dress with a graphic print, and a snug bright turquoise patterned gilet with a fake fur-trimmed hood. Prices range from around £20 for t-shirts to around £130 for coats and jackets.
50a Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LA. Tel: 020 7836 5445
Opening hours: Mon & Wed-Sat 12-7; Sun 12-6; Tues closed
Sophie Caldecott is one of the team at the Style and Then Some blog. Written by four London-dwelling girls, it covers fashion and culture, with a focus on what’s going on in the capital. You can follow S&TS on Twitter@Style_thensome