Monday, 25 November 2013

One Colour is Creating Positive Change Through Fashion

It's almost impossible not to feel uplifted after hearing the story behind ethical brand One Colour! Recently bestowed with a "Highly Commended" at the Green Awards 2013 for their darling woven creatures, this exciting Australian-based label has now launched a new women’s wear brand, ethically produced in Kenya.

Most of the fabrics used by this ecochic label are 100% rain-fed cotton grown in East Africa, which helps support small-scale farmers. It was such a privilege to interview Di Stitt - Founding Director of One Colour - for Kindness by Design!

Q. What inspired you to create ethical brand One Colour?

One Colour had its inception back in 2004 when I was reading a biography of Bono, U2 front man (yes, I am a U2 tragic from way back). He mentioned that his wife, Ali Hewson, was founding a clothing label, EDUN, with the aim of supporting sustainable trade with Africa. 

At the same time I discovered the extent of extreme poverty in the world – a global catastrophe where 1.4 billion were living on no more than $2 a day and as if I had been waiting for my cue, I decided that I would “do something” about it. It look a little longer to work out what that “something” might be, but the move from the Hunter Valley to Brisbane in 2006 provided me with an opportunity to start the venture. One Colour as evolved since then into a sustainable social enterprise dedicated to ethical trade with businesses and individuals in Africa. 

We work with Viva Africa in Nakuru, the Kenana Knitters in Njoro and 3 other Nairobi based suppliers, Mikono Knits, Sammy Semat with his own jewellery line and Zawadi, founded by Angela, an Australian friend living in Nairobi. Ensuring that One Colour is authentic in the way we approach people, and relevant in the way we approach design, keeps me energised and focused.

Q. How would you describe One Colour in 10 words or less?

Creating positive change through fashion

Q. What makes One Colour a great choice for environmentally and socially conscious shoppers? 

Our 2 major pillars in this regard are the use of African sourced cotton for 99.9% of the range and partnering with local Kenyan businesses for production.

By producing our range in Kenya from African cotton the value of the raw product (cotton) can be magnified, bringing employment opportunities to more people. The cotton is grown sustainably by small scale farmers using crop rotation methods, seasonal rain and generally around 30% less pesticides.

I personally visit the Kenyan businesses I partner with annually and throughout the year via internet we have the opportunity to share our lives to a certain extent. A part from the business emails, we ask after each other’s families and discuss every day happenings. Little by little we are building something far more valuable than a fashion brand.

Q. Which ethical designers are inspiring you right now?

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about how One Colour is empowering women in Africa?

The garment industry globally is a huge employer of women and Kenya is no different. The majority of tailors and garment workers who make the One Colour range are strong, amazing Kenyan women. Our modest contribution towards empowering African women is by ensuring that we work with suppliers who adhere to certain principles; paying the minimum wage plus entitlements, providing a safe, clean workplace, opportunity for advancement and access to healthy living information with regard to HIV/AIDS, which is still a major issue. The flow on effect when one person has ongoing employment is such that the family can afford to pay for food, schooling and generally contribute to the local economy. 

We also work with the Kenana Knitters in Njoro, handling the distribution of their beautiful hand knit toys in Australia and New Zealand. Kenana Knitters is a grass roots organization bringing employment to rural Kenyan women. The women are paid per piece, work in a family friendly environment and have access to a monthly health clinic. They hand knit either homespun woollen or organic cotton animals. The wool is dyed with either vegetables or plants and they use non-toxic dyes for the organic cotton yarn. Being able to see with my own eyes the difference that work with the Kenana Knitters has made to the women and their families is such a privilege. 

Q. Do you have a favourite item in store right now?

The Rebecca Vest Dress – I’m wearing this garment often and everywhere.

Q. If you could change just one thing about the fashion industry, what would it be?

Anyone who has made their own clothes knows the time it takes to make a quality garment. So I want to encourage people to make the connection between the garment and the maker. I also believe that the work the farmers do to grow crops, the machine operators who spin the yarn, the dyers who are involved in dyeing the thread, the garment workers, the quality checkers and the packers should all be acknowledged in the process.

When we acknowledge that our garment is not just a thing we buy and wear, it is something that can provide a decent wage to people, often living half way across the world, then I think it’s possible to see change occurring. Okay, it’s one big thing I’d change about the fashion industry! 

Q. What does the future hold for One Colour?

At the moment, 4 things come to mind:

1. Keep building the brand with integrity and respect, paying particular attention to our supplier and customer relationships.

2. Explore better ways to source our fabric from within Africa, with some interesting developments hopefully opening up in 2014.

3. Striving to stay alive to, and keep excited and challenged with what’s possible in design so that One Colour remains wearable well into the future.

4. Remember to laugh and be thankful. 

You can connect with One Colour via Facebook, Twitter and their Blog

Friday, 22 November 2013

Emi & Eve - Making Beauty from Bullets

Aaah look what arrived in the mail this week!!! My gorgeous gift for supporting Emi & Eve's #bullets4beauty campaign on Indiegogo

This stunning Peace bracelet has been handmade from recycled bullets and bombshell casing shrapnel found in Cambodian rice fields. 

The brainchild of Hong Kong-based fashion and textile designer Cassandra Postema, Emi & Eve roams the remote "and not so remote areas of Asia to find artisans who recycle, reclaim and create crafts that deserve to be seen, not only because of their beauty, but because of their stories of overcoming". 

You can see more stunning Emi & Eve pieces here!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Introducing Fabryan's Enchanted Garden SS14 Collection

If you're a long time reader of Kindness by Design, you'll know that I'm not afraid of a little COLOUR! ;-) Exhibit A

So you can imagine my sheer delight when I discovered Fabryan's SS14 Enchanted Garden collection!!! 

Pronounced (fa-bri-an), this ethical London-based label is the brainchild of Nigerian born designer Samantha-Jane Agbontaen. Samantha-Jane launched the brand in September 2010 during London Fashion Week.

I'm drawn to Fabryan's authentic philosophy of combining both high-end fashion and social development. Wherever possible, they source locally using peace silk and other eco-friendly fabrics.

If beautiful clothes, a commitment to social ethics and being ecochic aren't enough for you - Fabryan supports the Children of Haggai Foundation by donating a percentage of sales to sponsor orphans in Nigeria to get an education!

The SS14 Enchanted Garden collection is a celebration of the natural elegance of a woman’s body paired with luscious floral prints such as Bird of Paradise, Rosa chinensis, Cherry blossom, Daffodils and Daisies.

The AMAZING hand sequined dresses in the SS14 collection took twelve weeks to complete! Now that's dedication to exquisite tailoring!

I feel like there's such an interesting mix of playfulness, sophistication, ethereal beauty and approachability in this collection. 

You can discover even more Fabryan ecochic goodness via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Introducing an Ethical Boutique that's playing for Keeps!

In March 2013, Kate Richards launched The Keep - with the purpose of providing a curated selection of ethical fashion that is both environmentally sustainable and socially responsible. This thoughtfully beautiful boutique champions enduring styles that stand the test of time. I'm delighted to share with you my exclusive interview with Kate!

Q. What kept you motivated while you worked so hard to make your own way and start a brand new enterprise? 

Primarily the clothes. Every time I stumbled across another collection that was ethical, fashionable and beautiful, I got another huge surge of energy to battle on, and to create a space where others could also appreciate these great brands.
Also, the people around me who expressed their admiration for what I was doing, it’s amazing how powerful a few words of support can be.

Q. How would you describe the design aesthetic of The Keep in 10 words or less?

A carefully curated, rustic-chic, beautiful boutique.

Q. If you could change one thing about the fashion industry, what would it be and why?

The lightening passage of trends. As soon as you’ve bought the latest jacket, the next style hits the high street. What you’ve just bought becomes discarded, and you end up just wanting what’s coming next, rather than really loving what you’ve got. It creates an endless treadmill, and unique style gets lost on this exhausting runway of fast-fashion.

Q. Which ethical designers are inspiring you right now?

Partimi. I love everything about Eleanor’s brand: the aesthetic; the sustainability; the integrity. She’s not a designer that uses the ‘ethical’ banner for marketing purposes. There’s a purity about the brand, and Eleanor’s connection to each print makes wearing here pieces a very personal experience. 

Pelican Top by Partimi

Sara C is very similar in both ethos and style. I’ve had her first collection in the shop for a month now and they’re a real eye-catcher. The prints on the bamboo tops make life very difficult…most people want them all and her maxi-dresses are unique. Seeing what’s in store for her next collection is keeping me motivated now the shop’s up and running!

Q. What makes The Keep a great choice for eco-conscious fashionistas?

I hand pick every piece not only based on strict ethical criteria, but also because I genuinely love and would want to own and wear it myself. Therefore, any eco-conscious individual can be assured that they will be able to find something that will genuinely make them feel good – not only because the natural materials are so soft, but because the designs are fashionable and the prints unique.

Q. Do you have a favourite item in store right now?

The Les Racines du Ciel dresses. They’re dyed using sweet potato paste, buried in the mud for six months and then washed in a river thirty times. They’ve become like children to me! I’m genuinely thrilled when someone buys one and I know it’s going to a good home – to someone who’ll treasure it forever.

Q. What’s your advice for people interested in making a career out of ethical fashion and design?

Do your research. That’s the advice Eleanor Dorrien-Smith (Partimi) shared at a talk I went to about a year ago and she was absolutely right. The fashion supply chain is often long and transparent only at certain stages.  

You might not be able to tick every box, but as long as you’re aware of where the limitations are, honest about these, and looking at ways to improve…then you’re on the right path.

And stick at it, because the ethical/sustainable route will become easier as time goes by and more people/brands choose to adopt it.

Q. What does the future hold for The Keep?

That’s the sort of question that makes me wish I had a business partner who I could turn to and say…why don’t you answer that one!

Right now I’m focusing on establishing the shop as a destination location in Brixton Village, whilst growing a customer base of very loyal keepers across London.

I’d love to introduce menswear in a year’s time, and then another one or two shops in London after that. I’ve been told a few times that The Keep would do well in Japan…so who knows…Tokyo here we come.

You can also connect with The Keep via Facebook and Twitter!