Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Green Room

In the summer of 2010, ASOSthe online fashion store that annihilates my overdraft every few months without fail - severely soared in my estimations when they unveiled The Green Room – a section solely dedicated to showcasing the hottest labels in sustainable fashion.

Sometimes, I think it’s extremely difficult not to view the fashion industry as jaded when looking at it as an outsider. Numerous cases of high street retailers’ sweatshop environments are continually presented to us, along with ever-alarming stats about what the effect of garment production is actually having on our planet (for those cynics out there who believe that global warming is just an urban myth: I DO NOT UNDERSTAND HOW YOU CAN BE SO MORONICALLY OBLIVIOUS! Last week we had two weeks straight of pouring rain, followed by two weeks of intense sunshine. It’s hot, then it’s cold, then it’s a damn sauna again. It worries me that one day I'll be walking down the road and the world might just explode). Rarely is the industry that I have chosen to immerse myself in depicted in a positive light, mainly because ultimately it centres entirely on image. Looking good is the most important thing, the only thing that seemingly matters, and more often than not, nothing else is even a consideration. So many people simply either do not care, or do not want to begin to think about how the clothes on their backs actually ended up there. But I think things are slowly beginning to change, and most certainly for the better. Because the truth is, that it really does matter. It all does. What we choose to sit back and accept, what we choose to stand up and fight for, what we as people succeed in changing - it all matters. Never underestimate the power that you and your choices have to truly make a difference.

So back to The Green Room – ASOS’s platform dedicated to collections with an ethical or eco-conscious story to tell. There is a mixed bag to be found of environmentally friendly textiles, and the supporting of fair trade principles and traditional craftsmanship; plus, a range of Made in the UK pieces supporting our local manufacturers. Labels include the likes of the fairly well-known People Tree, the ASOS Africa collection which is produced in Kenya, up-coming Sri Lankan lingerie brand Charini, and Ali Hewson & Bono’s contemporary & well-crafted line Edun. And let me tell you (more of a warning actually) there are sooooo many beautiful pieces to be found in The Green Room that you will fall head over heels for. Here’s a little of what’s rocking my little polka-dot socks right now:

Shop online right now here, and find out more about these lovely green labels too. 

The Green Room proudly stands for style with a heart.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Gifts that Give Back

Back when Joan Hornig was a spring chicken in college (Harvard in case you were interested – yep, smart cookie she certainly is), she made it her ultimate goal to have enough money in her pocket by the time she hit 50 to allow her to spend the rest of her days fulfilling her heart’s desire: giving back to the world. 

Having always admired the fancy (but unattainable) antiques found in luxury boutiques, Joan learned to design her own jewellery inspired by these pieces. And as it turns out, she had a bit of a knack for this beautiful craft. As fate would have it, six years ago a friend casually said to Joan, ‘I love your necklace,’ to which she replied, Thanks, I made it.’ How great is it a) being given this lovely compliment, topped off by b) being able to reply that that greatness being admired was made entirely by your very own hands? Pretty sweet. Part of me just wants to start making my own clothes (I don’t know why I don’t already because as you know I can do this fairly well – it’s kind of my career currently...) in the hope of being able to roll out one-liners like that. ‘What? This old thing? Hell yeah sister, I can make these in my sleep.’ Boom. This summer, I will make it happen... Anyway – back to Joan – her friend mentioned the exquisiteness of that necklace to another friend, who – get this – just happened to be a merchandise manager at none other than Bergdorf Goodman, and said to her: ‘I’m looking at something that should be in your store.’ Don’t you just love it when things fall right into place? No fight or struggle or pain makes a refreshing change. It restores your faith in the world once more; at least it does mine, and reaffirms the fact that good things do happen to good people, and they happen a lot!

So back in 2003, Joan gathered up all of her pieces from her New York City apartment and took them into the Fifth Avenue store.  ‘The Bergdorf people said, 'We like these things, but are you a business?' I said, 'I believe I can be a business.' They offered her a trial run, and witnessed her first ‘collection’ sell out in just five days.

But Joan did not embark on her jewellery design business to make money. Oh no. Her business model beats to its own drum: each lovely piece sold comes with a card explaining that she will donate 100% of the profits to the charity of the buyer’s choice. And so, two years ahead of schedule, Joan reached her goal, and gained her philanthropic heart’s desire.

Joan’s artistic and exquisite jewellery (all of which are either one of a kind, or very limited edition) has been worn and adored by the likes of Jessica Alba, Eva Mendes and Cameron Diaz; and all of her pieces stand out in the crowd, all the while carrying the important message that giving away what you don’t need and giving it to someone who does is a beautiful and selfless act that is very worthy of promoting. 

(a few of my favourite pieces, all available online, where these images are also from)

To date, the Joan B Hornig Foundation has been able to donate over one million dollars to over 700 non-profit organisations worldwide. And just think – all of this came from one woman with a goal. She says, ‘People ask, 'Why wouldn't you want to keep the money?' They think success is measured by what you put in your pocket. I get to create beautiful things that make a difference for people. There isn't anyone who's been made richer by this experience than me.’ 

I can’t put it any better than that. 
Philanthropy is Beautiful

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Girl with The White Balloon presents her very first collection

Today I got back the final edited images from my photoshoot which took place a couple of weeks ago! VERY exciting stuff! I decided to go outdoors (and pray that the rain stayed away, which it thankfully did) to showcase my collection of pretty dresses, and the Arboretum (Nottingham) was the perfect setting.

These are the dresses that I will be auctioning off (after they have been graded and given back to me!) and donating all of the money raised to charity. So - if you happen to like what you see, then get in touch!

All of the photography was done by my very talented friend Alice Crag Membrey, hair & make-up was done by the lovely Katie Knott, and my collection was modelled by the stunning Hope Orsborn.

I'm sure you'll agree that the talent of all of these ladies shines through in these beautiful images...

Hope you enjoy!

P.S please do not use any of these images without my permission! ALL are copyright Alice Craig Membrey 2012.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The Future of Fashion: eco-chic warrior Laura Siegel

Laura Siegel is a lady on an eco-chic mission: ‘To ethically handcraft easy-to-wear, textured designer pieces while enabling artisans in third world countries to continue their uniquely creative skills.’ And in case you don’t already know of her – she’s pretty darn good at it too. 

Intent on making her mark on the fashion industry an ethical one, Siegel’s design philosophies are strongly shaped by the people, journeys and stories that she has encountered whilst on many of her inspired globe-trotting adventures. To this day, she continues to work in harmony with skilled artisans that she met along that long and winding road who have had a significant influence on her soft textile collections.

While on her travels, Laura became besotted by an Indian embroidery technique used by the native women of the nomadic Rabari tribe, who came to the region of Kutch back in the 13th century. However, it was this very technique that was banned by tribe elders only 15 years ago, leaving the Rabari women heartbroken until, as fate would have it, they stumbled upon a loophole in the elders’ decree; which meant that by simply adding an extra appliqué step to their embroidery method they were able to once again pursue the work they love, without violating the law. The very special Rabari embroidery is characterised by explosive colour, and rich textures, combined with elaborate motifs reflecting their beautiful surroundings; and is used to identify communities, and even social statuses. Unsurprisingly, Laura fell head over heels for these ladies and their craft, and began working with many of them to create pieces for her designer collections. This on-going blossoming work relationship with Laura enables these women to support their families, and also gives them a sense of pride, accomplishment, community, and livelihood. Through being a part of something on this scale, they are finally able to feel important, valued, and worthy.

Again from the buzzing-with-talent region of Kutch (India), Laura began working with a local artisan named Ismail Khatri, whose family had been using a 7000 year-old craft called Ajrakh block-printing for a whopping ten generations. All of the designer’s block-printed fabrics are made (using only natural dyes I might add) in collaboration with the Khatri family; and the entire community benefits greatly from this collaboration, as they are still recuperating from an earthquake that devastated the region back in 2001. “The process of working with the artisans really shapes the collections,” Laura explains. “They created their own interpretation for this season’s themes. The result is a collection of the past dreams, future dreams and cultural values of everyone who worked on it.”

Some of you might already be aware of just how damaging the dyeing process is, especially how prevalent it is within the fashion industry, but being the eco-chic warrior she is, Laura only uses a natural dyeing process in her collection. Now granted, this is very labour-intensive, but the huge upside is it doesn’t incorporate any chemical treatments, which ensures the long-term health and safety of the artisans, while also maintaining a chemical-free community water system. Win win. This is where a community of natural dyers located outside the city of Munnar (Kerala) come in. These physically challenged young adults are educated and rehabilitated at a Vocational Training Centre, and take pride and joy in their trade; with the added bonus of being able to use their skills to support their families. 

And last, but by no means least, all of Laura’s knits are created in collaboration with a group of lovely artisans in Bolivia. These women are MI5 trained in handmade production methods for knitting and hand machine knitting. Oh yeaaah. They can pearl jam the night away. So listen up y’all: by wearing a signature Laura Siegel knit piece, YOU (yes, I mean you) are empowering these women and enabling them to create a great life for their nearest and dearest. 

Ace. Now that is what you call a truly great business plan. If I am ever lucky enough to start up my own label, this is how I hope with all my heart it would be. 

Here are a few of my cherry-picked outfits from Laura’s s/s 2012 collection:

Friday, 11 May 2012

Global Girlfriend: online fashion boutique

Global Girlfriend, created by inspirational lady Stacey Edgar back in 2003, aims to help women across the world gain economic security in their lives, by providing all of you guys & dolls with a huge range of unique products to purchase from its online boutique.

All of the items on sale are women made, fair trade and eco-friendly, and have one sole purpose: to help women in need help themselves, through a fair living wage with healthy and safe working conditions. So whether you are looking for clothes, accessories or even gifts, Global Girlfriend has something special for you, along with the added bonus of knowing that you are changing someone’s life for the better. Not bad for a couple of clicks of the mouse right? There are some lovely bits and bobs that would make great gifts, so definitely spare a moment in your hectic schedule to have a nose around! When you click on an item that takes your fancy, you’ll get a background story about the women who made it, along with where, and just how your purchase will greatly impact their lives. It’s a refreshing change to know exactly where the clothes on your back are coming from, and how they made the journey to your appreciative hands.

Antique Sari Cosmetic Bag - crafted by a women's cooperative in New Delhi

Wakami Eight-Strand Earth Bracelet - handcrafted treasure, made in Guatemala and inspired by an earth-creation story

The Good News Gift Bag - handcrafted from recycled newspapers
Freeset Signature Tee
Wear with pride the signatures of the women rescued from human trafficking by Freeset in Kolkata, India

Handwoven bracelets are made by a group of women working in Nuevo Montecristo, Guatemala

Three Owl Tote - Handmade by women rescued from sex traffickers in Calcutta
Kenyan Away With Hunger Scarf

Dahlia Hand Block Printed Dress

Stacey is extremely passionate about providing women with a reliable income, so that they in turn can reinvest in themselves and their children’s health, education and nutrition; which will ultimately build stronger families and communities, and will help to break the vicious cycle of poverty, and hopefully bring the promise of a brighter future worldwide. 

Aside from creating jobs for many women, each item purchased from Global Girlfriend has a charity royalty which is directed to Camfed (Campaign for Female Education) – a non-profit organisation that is extremely dedicated to eradicating poverty in Africa by educating and empowering the nations’ girls and young women. Camfed works directly with people in rural areas of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana and Tanzania; and provides life changing educational and economic opportunities to girls who treasure the chance to create a sustainable life and future for themselves. More specifically, the money goes towards Camfed’s seed money micro-grant program – run by young women for women – where grants are given in order to embark upon a small business venture; which benefits not only them and their families, but their entire communities in the process. Camfed is another sparkling example of an organisation that isn’t dishing out aid, but rather the opportunity for young people to build a life and a future, without feeling constantly indebted to others, and the chance to experience a happy and content existence. After all, everybody should have the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness

It’s not much to ask for, is it? 

Monday, 7 May 2012

BAG it out

Earlier this week, a large cardboard parcel arrived at my doorstep containing 100 of my printed canvas bags from the kind souls at Bag it Don't Bin it.

The bags are all eco-friendly and are also fairly traded + the fabric bow additions that i handmade myself are put together using the off-cuts from making my graduate fashion collection, that would otherwise have gone in the bin. What can I say? These bags are just brimming with goodness.

Each bag is a very reasonable £10, and ALL of the profits made from every purchase will be going to our RAG charities.

All 5 designs can be seen on the new 'BAG it out' Page. There's certainly one to suit everyone, from witty banter to uplifting messages of positivity.

They will be on sale at various events this month, as well as from me personally, and I will put them up on eBay very soon.

Very exciting stuff. Grab one while you can.