Monday, June 20, 2011

We Are What We Wear - 1st published on Eco Age Blog

Junky Styling
To celebrate their 50th anniversary, UK based- charity Find Your Feet held ‘We Are What We Wear’, a charity auction and ethical fashion show at the wonderful Indian restaurant Mint Leaf just off Trafalgar Square. I had the exciting task of styling the show which meant researching and sourcing the perfect designers and outfits for this very special event. I was thrilled to be working with such an inspirational charity but my determination to put on a good show and help them raise as much as possible did mean the pressure was on!

The brief was to produce an uplifting, entertaining show with an Indian theme and I took care to select a wonderful range of inspirational designers both established and emerging, many with links to India or Malawi where the charity works. They included up-cycling innovators From Somewhere and Junky Styling whose designs have graced the red carpet, as well as exciting new jewellery brand Kumvana Gomani who creates simply beautiful pieces from plastic that would otherwise go into landfill.

We had some wonderful auction prizes including a dress from Outsider, jewellery from Joanna Cave and a signed copy of Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration ( We were very happy to be supported by pioneering brand People Tree ( gave us gorgeous goody bags!) as well as the elegant day-to-evening wear brand Outsider who produce in India using organic fabrics. Crucially all the designers who took part have a few very important things in common – they each succeed in creating beautiful,  long-lasting fashion that is produced with a respect for the environment and the people making it.

We were also incredibly lucky to also have an amazing backstage team lead by choreographer Shaun Fernandes from Big Chief Productions, make-up artist Lou Dartford (who
specialises in natural beauty), plus the brilliant celebrity hairstylist Lara Zee. And now to the models. Right from the start I was keen to work with a diverse group of models and with the help of Models 1 and Close Models we found just that, with ages ranging from 16 up to 60s, sizes 6 up to 12. The audience loved seeing more mature models on the catwalk, in fact the feedback we received on the designers, models and overall event was extremely positive...not surprising then that the evening raised £10,000 for Find Your Feet.

To find out more about Find Your Feet and their projects please visit their site. Have a look at the Think Style facebook page to browse the image gallery of the event

Miss India UK Worldwide wearing People Tree dress,
Leju bracelet, Kumvana Gomani necklace and Meher Kakalia shoes

All photos credited to Sanjay D Gohil

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Find Your Feet - 1st published on

2011 marks the 50th anniversary of international development charity Find Your Feet.  For five decades they have been working with communities in India and Malawi helping them develop sustainable solutions to poverty – they don’t give hand outs, instead they work with artisans and marginalised people in rural and deprived areas, helping them earn a living wage.
Earlier this spring I had the pleasure of helping them celebrate and raise furthers fund by styling an ethical fashion show.  The event was a great success and Find Your Feet have told me ‘the evening raised £10,000 which will support our work in rural India and Malawi enabling us to reach a further 10,000 families to make hunger and poverty history.  By providing communities with training, equipment and access to basic services the money raised will help every family on the path to self-reliance.’

Next week I’ll post a second blog about the show itself about the designers I worked with (plus photos of their amazing clothes on the catwalk) but for now, I want to give a little more background to the truly life-changing work that Find Your Feet carries out.  Ongoing commitments include helping to empower marginalised groups such as women and tribal people, enabling them to have their human rights recognised by Government and Society, and educating farmers in organic processes so they can achieve a sustainable income in a safe and healthy working environment.

Find Your Feet also work with a group of handloom weavers in Varanasi who expertly produce traditional silk Banarsi wedding Saris worn by centuries of stylish Indian brides – until recently 700,000 weavers around Varanasi earned their living this way.  However in recent years cheap mass-produced Chinese ‘fake’ saris have flooded the market and the traditional artisan weavers of Varanasi have faced discrimination resulting in a daily wage of as little as 60p.  They are subsequently living in extreme poverty and have little way of changing this situation on their own.

"My husband Ganesh and I are weavers.  We had to borrow from moneylenders to purchase raw materials or to pay for any repairs to our loom. Because we'd borrowed from them, we were also obliged to sell our saris to them, for whatever price they were prepared to pay." Sukha Devi, India

Find Your Feet have worked with Sukha, her husband Ganesh and many others like them to help find a solution which I hope will be far reaching and perhaps have a knock on effect in the wider textiles and clothing industry:

“In 2009 our work supporting the weavers of Varanasi to achieve a Geographical Indicator bore fruit. The GI is expected to bring a number of benefits: it will protect consumers, who will be sure they are getting a genuine, quality Benarsi sari; it will protect the weavers, by conferring legal protection against unfair competition (i.e. cheap imitation saris); it will add value to Benarsi saris, helping to secure a premium price in the market; and it will help to preserve local knowledge and traditions among rural weaving communities.

In order to support the weavers to make sure that the benefits of the GI reach the weavers we will be supporting them to market and diversify their product, among other things.” Find Your Feet

Whilst many of us may not have heard of this GI mark, if you are partial to a glass of French fizz or British blue cheese you will certainly have come across it in other recognised products.  In the same way that Champagne, Stilton and Parma ham (possibly even Cornish pasties too, though don’t quote me on that!) are recognised for quality and geographical origin, this ‘mark of quality with a reputation’ will mean the handloom silk weavers of Varanasi will be renowned once again for their exquisite Banarsi Saris.
To find out more about the weavers of Varanasi and Find Your Feet’s many other inspirational projects please visit their site

All photos courtesy of Peter Caton

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ethique Ecoluxe Day

I recently teamed up with some marvellous women who like me, think that sustainable style can (and should) look fabulous, and not all tie-die hemp or crocheted raffia, as is the common misperception. Some time ago I met up with Pimmi Pande-Jones, founder of Ethique as well as Elina and Angeliki Grigoriou of Grigoriou Interiors to discuss how we could work together, and last month had the first of what we hope will be a series of events celebrating ethical luxury.
Pimmi with her WeWood watch

The inaugural Ethique Ecoluxe Day was held in the delicious Tibits restaurant in Heddon Street (if you haven't been I highly recommend it, the food is scrumptious and really pretty healthy too). One of the invited guests was the lovely Dotty from Eco Age (if you have been sitting under a rock for the past couple of years, Eco Age is the Chiswick boutique owned by Colin and Livia Firth, both of whom are huge supporters of sustainable style). Dotty posted a wonderful blog about the event which she described as  ‘a fantastic and inspiring day all round, very impressed by what each consultant had to offer and by Ethique’s outstanding service - a brilliant concept and a day I would love to attend again.’ Here’s a snippet of what else Dotty had to say:
‘Greeted by Zoe Robinson and Pimmi Pande-Jones, the organisers of the event who were looking far more stylish than my quite bedraggled self, I was handed my day’s itinerary in an official looking A4 brown envelope. This included a map of the day’s various locations on and around Regent Street and a list of the consultations Pimmi had kindly lined up for me: hair and make-up, interior design, wellness and styling  – all very exciting!

The day was put on by Pimmi’s own company Ethique
, an ethical concierge service that specialises in organising your home and leisure life to provide you with ultimate luxury that is also sustainable. Pimmi had created this day for women to undertake consultations in all areas of their life, with specialists from ethical luxury brands giving one to one appointments. But, before my consultations began, a manicure at The Organic Pharmacy. How did Pimmi know that, above all, I would probably be in need of that first?’.

The Frockettes
On the day, I was on hand to give ethical style consultations, Elina was talking guests though stylishly sustainable interior design, plus we had a whole host of other wonderful event partners including the brilliant Gina Conway, Creative Director of Gina Conway Aveda salons and Natalia Debreu founder of Fluid Body. Please do have a look at Dotty’s review as she gives a great overview of the day and all those involved, plus some great photos too. You can read in full here.

Thanks also to the National Geographic Store, Organic Pharmacy, Stelios (Designer Vintage at Liberty)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Home-grown gifts

Living in South London (as far South as I do) has it's downsides - long travel times into central London being one of them. But having so much outdoor space make's that worthwhile, in the summertime at least (very easy to forget in the dreary winter months).

Yesterday I discovered the joys of working in my garden. I had a couple of dealines which sadly meant I couldn't make it to various events in town last night. But spending a few hours typing away in my lovely garden nearly made-up for it. A glass of white wine while watching a couple of baby field mice frolicking in the evening sun was the icing on the cake.

So, instead of photos direct from the launch of the new EJF pop-up shop, Bobelle's new Covent Garden boutique or Maggie Semple's Secret event with Louise Chunn, here I am hard at work in my garden last night.

Whilst we don't have veggies growing yet, we do have loads of lovely flowers, a herb garden and two fruit trees and it's wonderful this year to see all the hard work of previous summers paying off. And I mean really hard - before we even had the pleasure of trying to grow things we had  so much clearing up to do. The back section (where you see me sitting), formerly an ivy jungle was so overgrown that we discovered not only a seven foot metal park bench circa 1983 and a twelve foot pear tree that were previously hidden, but also two Victorian water tanks burried into the ground. It took us nearly a week to remove them.

But now it's a peaceful corner of South London with an abundance of things growing in it. When I had a client for a style consultation earlier this week I excitedly picked some flowers from the garden and arranged with home-grown fennel leaves. Every time I pass them in the flat I can't help feeling a bit of a warm glow knowing that I grew them (plus they are really pretty and they didn't cost anything).


It occurred to me that we now have a great gift resource too - instead of buying mass produced chocolates or flowers when we visit family this weekend, I can to take a bunch of flowers, or perhaps some fresh or dried herbs as a gift. (Think I might also have a go at making some chocolate truffles on Friday as I'm not one for going without chocolate at Easter.)

Another lovely homemade gift idea is gathering some fabric off-cuts and making lavender bags - I made some for Christmas with lavender and rose, but you can add all sorts of things like mint or orange peel.


Left: Lavender and Rose bags made from part of an old top I'd cut the bottom off (as it was too long) and kept the fabric. Right: off-cuts from fabric I had used to make my Mum a scarf years ago, trimmed with lace that had been attached to a friend's wedding invite two years ago. (yes, I am a hoarder and I have a lovely box full of ribbons and things). The lavender wasn't from our garden as we don't have quit enough yet...maybe next year.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Sew fine

Instead of writing about the crazy pace of the ever-frenetic fashion week I'm opting for something a little bit slower...

I LOVE charity shops and not long ago found this little gem of a vintage sewing machine in a local one. I suspect the way I admire this baby is in much the same way as a biker might view his harley. It is a beautiful piece of machinery.

Who wears the trousers?
The man of the house insists on wearing his old trousers until they wear out - this is a great ethos but means that unless I intervene they are quite literally rags by the time he reluctantly bids them farewell (luckily he only wears them around the house in the final stages of their life). I've taken to hiding away the offending items until I fix them - he's under strict instructions not to wear them until I have made the necessary repairs.

(The first rule of mending, 'a stitch in time saves nine' should be cited here - get the needle and thread out at the first sign of damage, if garments are worn un-mended they will rip, by which point they are so much harder to fix.)

One pair of his old brown cords are now sporting a fetching black patch on the knee - not at all glamourous but they are only worn indoors (expect yesterday when he managed to distract me on our way out and it was only when we were sipping latte in our new local gastropub that I noticed, but in a strange way I felt quite proud seeing that little knee patch out in public). Another pair, this time grey cords (yes, my man loves a good pair of cords!), I decided to use as a guinea-pig for my first stab at darning.

Sew Slow
Now, I've always been pretty good at mending stuff - I'm patient, have a little bit of skill and am a perfectionist, all of which conspire to make my attempts at repair fairly decent. But, I never learnt to darn properly like they did 'back in the day'. Having recently read John-Paul Flintoff's 'Sew Your Own', I pounced on his recommendation to get hold of the book 'Make Do and Mend' which is a compilation of the official WW2 instructions on how to care for your clothes and extend their life for decades. John-Paul taught himself to darn with this book and as a skill I always thought I should learn, I too planned to add darning to my sewing arsenal.

I carefully read the darning instructions and after spending a tricky hour stitching away, I realised with more than a little disappointment  that I bodged it somewhat. In my naivety I'd used thread that was far too fine (I now know it should be the same width as the thread in the weave), plus to make things worse, I darned too far apart. The results were pitiful. I cut my losses and made a small navy patch (which actually looks quite good). Taking one final look at the dear old grey cords, I noticed with a sinking heart that they had not one, but two more previously unseen holes...

Success at last

A far more successful sewing project of mine was the alteration I carried out on a recent vintage purchase from the Traid charity shop in Brixton. Here it is before (when it was four sizes too big and looked like a sack) and after (below, much less like a sack) at the LFW Estethica Brunch with the brilliant Ameila Gregory founder of Amelia's Magazine. You can't really see it as it's hidden by my coat, badge, pass and tomato juice but you get the idea. And ok, I kind of included fashion week in a round about way...

Photo: Amisha Ghadiali
Oh, and if you fancy doing a bit more sewing yourself but don't have a machine (or an amazing local charity shop in which to find one) then why not get a copy of latest issue of EggMag where you can win yourself one worth over £250!! For stockists In the mag you can also read my fashion news, find out more about John-Paul Flintoff and win a copy of his inspirational book 'Sew Your Own'.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sustainable style goes mainstream

It’s been a rather fab few weeks for ethical fashion, so it seems as good a time as any to start my blog where I’ll be thinking and writing about sustainable style, whether that’s made-to-last, socially or environmentally friendly, bespoke, vintage, up-cycled, re-cycled or foraged in a good old charity shop (a personal favourite of mine).
Sustainable goes mainstream...
Following her successful collaboration with People Tree, I heard the good news that Emma Watson with be working with designer Alberta Ferretti on an organic collection. The the young actress and style icon in the making made quite an impressive offer to all those fashion designers and brands out there by stating ‘“I will put it out there that I will work for anyone for free if they are prepared to make their clothing fair-trade organic.” Great to see she's truly aware of what an impact her celebrity can have and I really admire her for doing so much to highlight and promote social issue in the industry. 

I popped along to the London College of Fashion recently to see the launch of their new make-up collaboration with The Body Shop, ‘Brush with Fashion’, supported by another ethically minded designer.  WGSN winner and LCF alumni William Tempest was the star of the catwalk with stunning pieces from his SS11 collection. Though perhaps not known for it, Tempest is committed to producing fashion that’s fair; he uses biodegradable materials and works with suppliers / producers who adhere to fair trade principles (his clothes are manufactured in ethical factories.) Lets hope his commitment to ethical production will rub off on other designers (and consumers) who don’t think fashion can look stunning and be ethical.
(Image Morgan O'Donnovan)
Also happy to see that once again LCF had a good diversity amongst their models – girls in their teens up to women in their 60s or 70s, as well as a healthy range of sizes. Though I wish it were more commonplace now and not something I even noticed or felt the need to comment on!
Next time...Christmas shopping (and maybe a bit of sewing too if I have time!)