Friday, 19 December 2014

Contribute Some Kindness this Christmas!

Are you over the frantic flurry of gift-giving that occurs around this time of year? Want to be part of something bigger but still receive a fun treat in return? Why not contribute to an inspiring start-up initiative, either for yourself or on someone else's behalf? I'm all about crowdfunding some ethically designed Christmas cheer :D

Here are 3 of my top ecofashion project picks:

GOO LiFE on Pozible

Who: This independent Melbourne-based label was launched in early 2014 by RMIT design graduate, Sophia Coughlan. According to Sophia "The more I learnt about it the more I thought that I don’t want to be part of an industry which values a dollar sign more highly than the ethical treatment of humans, animals and the environment".

What: Sophia is aiming to raise AUD$5,000 to create an entirely new ethical and sustainable collection to feature at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival in March 2015. She aims to use locally-sourced fabrics whenever possible, which will then be printed locally by an ethical print studio in Sydenham and then the garments will be constructed in her studio in Northcote. 

Why: You can help to shine a spotlight on sustainable fashion by funding Goo LiFe to showcase their designs at a major fashion event. Rewards include nabbing your own piece from the new collection!

When: Pledges close on 6th February 2015 

Fashion Positive on Indiegogo

Who: Fashion Positive is a massive initiative which is partnering with a wide range of brands, designers and others along the fashion supply chain to create better materials for both people and planet. Current partners include Stella McCartney and G-Star RAW.

The campaign is hoping to raise US$100,000 to go toward pilot projects which will look at: decreasing the ecological footprint of factories, improving social impact on workers and their local communities, and investing in materials take back, recycling or upcycling programs within the facilities, brands, retailers or across the entire supply chain.   

Why: Be part of the creation of widespread change for a brighter fashion future! Rewards include sustainable fashion accessories, being part of team meetings and enjoying a personalised styling session. 

When: Pledges close 27th January 2015

Osei-Duro on Kickstarter

Who: Based in Los Angeles California and Accra in Ghana, Osei-Duro was created in 2009 by Maryanne Mathias and Molly Keogh. They work closely with artisans to create high-quality, contemporary apparel using handmade textile techniques and transparent, small scale production processes. A guiding philosophy behind the brand is respecting the rights and aesthetics of local makers.

What: The campaign goal is US$10,000, which will assist Osei-Duro to: fund their current round of production,  preserve the traditional artisan techniques of Ghana, provide employment and training for local artisans, and expand the collection into housewares.

Why: Stand up for makers and encourage the world to recognize the value of traditional techniques! Rewards range from handmade accessories, to unique housewares and amazing pieces of ecofashion.

When: Pledges close 26th December 2014


Thursday, 11 December 2014

RIYKA is Collaborating for a Sustainable Fashion Future

Rebecca Johnson - designer for London-based women's wear label RIYKA - recently got in touch to share her new project with the Kindness by Design community! This season the team at RIYKA have embarked on a new collaboration with Elizabeth Loopy, a 27-year old woman living in Gambia. 

Very sadly, Elizabeth's father passed away when she was only 13 and soon afterwards she was sent from her home country of Senegal to live with a family friend in Gambia. Despite the many challenges she faced, and with the support of charity GETS, Elizabeth completed her final two years at school, where she was awarded best sewing upon graduation. 

Now Elizabeth is crafting a range of dust bags made from end waste fabric for RIYKA. According to Rebecca, "For every RIYKA purchase made in December over £100 we're including one of Elizabeth's hand-sewn dust bags - for free. Not only does this make the perfect sustainable gift wrap for Christmas, but you will also be helping Elizabeth work towards living in her own flat and achieving financial independence". 

I had the chance to talk to Rebecca about ecochic fashion, her work with Elizabeth and the philosophy behind RIYKA as a fashion label. 

Q. As a designer, why is eco-friendliness important to you? 

Eco friendly/sustainability is a way of life for us, even before we started RIYKA. We try to minimize the effect of our lifestyle on our surroundings. It's a less selfish way of living, and that is the most important thing to us and about being eco. 

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

Functional, comfortable, classic, timeless, fun, playful, sustainable, unisex.

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

Make it less fast, more transparent, the big companies have so much power to do this, and I am constantly shocked by how this power isn't utilized in a more positive way. They have the power to change the way we all consume, but hopefully things are starting to change...

Q. Can you tell me about RIYKA's collaboration with Elizabeth Loopy in Gambia and how it began?

I was contacted through another designer friend who thought that I might be interested in working with her. We started the project about 6 months ago, the idea is to start with something small, and see how we get on, and hopefully grow the range and give Elizabeth more complex pieces. At the moment she is sewing it all on a manual singer machine, but the ideal would be to set her up with a proper machine. These are all baby steps at the moment, but we love the challenge and I love the idea that we can connect with people in different parts of the world, and help them somehow.

Q. Who or what is inspiring you right now? 

People who are encouraging and promoting for a more sustainable fashion industry- like Lucy Siegel, Livia Firth and and Carry Somers.

I'm loving RIYKA's Flourance shirt made out of light organic crossweave blue chambray, with reclaimed denim panels on the sleeve :-)

You can also connect with RIYKA via Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

TuShare Allows You to Share the Love Sustainably!

Did you know that 37 million parcels are sent from person to person a year in Australia? I certainly didn't! 

That is until earlier this week when I received a pot of dirt delivered directly to my door. No it wasn't a random prank, it was a sustainable gift from the folks at TuShare! Upon opening the card I found some rosemary seeds for me to plant in my new terracotta pot (apparently rosemary is a big favourite of Australian bees). 

If you haven't already heard of them, TuShare is an online marketplace where everything is free. Launched in December 2013, TuShare is Australia’s fastest growing sharing platform which helps products find their next owners, avoiding waste and landfill in the process. As they say themselves - "We believe in generosity and gratitude". How cool is that? So I was pretty chuffed to receive a handwritten letter from Co-­Founder and CEO James Bradfield Moody along with my new pot and seeds. 

James Moody - CEO of TuShare

In the letter I discovered that the team behind TuShare have just launched Sendle, Australia's first fully certified carbon-neutral delivery service. The pot of dirt I received is representative of the 3kg of carbon that Sendle offsets for every package sent. It's also the amount of carbon released when a package travels by road from Brisbane to Perth! Sendle is working with the folks at Climate Friendly to support projects to offset their delivery emissions: one in Tasmania, and one in Ghana. You can read all about them here

You can connect with TuShare via their Facebook and Twitter and Sendle via Facebook and Twitter.  

Monday, 17 November 2014

Ethical Shoes to Put a Spring in Your Step!

The topic of this post was determined via a vote from you - my awesome readers! So thanks to popular demand, here is a round-up of animal-friendly shoes that look great and will help you tread lightly on the planet.

Lion in Mint Floral Court Shoes by Beyond Skin -I'm such a fun of this colour combination! These lovely vintage-inspired vegan shoes have been handmade in Spain using sustainable materials crafted under fair working conditions
Gogo Bootie by Charmone - These meticulously crafted cruelty-free booties have been made under fair working conditions in Italy. Charmone as a brand is also committed to maintaining an environmentally-friendly supply chain
Heera Pumps by Love Is Mighty - I was blown away by these innovative and super chic heels. Artisans have created these beautiful shoes using reclaimed biscuit wrappers! Featured at NY Fashion Week last year, they're proof that high fashion and ethics can be compatible
Desert Boots by Hooves - This style of shoe has stood the test of time! They were first worn by British Army soldiers serving in the Western Desert campaign in North Africa during World War II. Now you can own your very own cruelty-free versions
Aika Opentoe Oxford by Cri de Coeur - I'm loving the cool retro vibe emanating from the sustainable fabric print! These funky shoes were made in a sweatshop-free facility in China
Hi-Top Trainers by Inkkas - Your casual shoes don't have to be ordinary looking! Case in point, check out these vibrant handmade hi-tops crafted using traditional authentic South American textiles. Not only are these shoes fair trade and vegan, a portion of the proceeds go to charities protecting the Amazon rainforest!

The Grace in Bali Flowers Ballet Flat by The People's Movement - So much pretty! These ecochic flats have been lovingly made using organic cotton canvas, natural dyes and water-based glues. This brand is highly committed to the fight against single-use plastics, and a portion of their sales go directly to the Plastic Pollution Coalition
Women's Brogues in Chestnut by Wills - Effortlessly classic style is paired with burnished Italian faux leather to create something special. Made under ethical conditions in Portugal
Estee Wedge by OKA b - Fun and vibrant these fancy flip-flops exude summertime vibes! OKA b also practices continuous loop recycling of their shoes
Sunny Yellow by Luludu - I find these crocheted shoes absolutely mesmerizing in their prettiness! Handmade under fair conditions by artisans in Cambodia, each pair takes approximately 8 hours to create
The Guerra + Sara Hi-Top by Keep - It's no surprise that I'm loving this print featuring cats meowing in different languages =^..^= These cruelty-free kicks are strictly limited edition!
Ninja Heels by Olsen Haus - These colours are so delicious! Olsen Haus prides itself on being a champion of animal rights, sustainability and fair trade

Billy Brown Booties by Elizabeth Detroit - These super urban chic handmade booties are amazingly created using recycled plastic! Elizabeth supports a variety of animal welfare organisations through her brand
Black and White Earthwise Classics by TOMS - These wear everywhere shoes have an upper made from 77% hemp and 23% recycled plastic. Plus with each pair you buy, TOMS will give a pair of shoes to a child in need
Clog in Slate Cork and Dark Wood by Sydney Brown - Intriguingly stylish, these clogs have been handmade from sustainable materials such as cork and coconut. Sydney Brown is a strong advocate of 'cradle to cradle' production, minimizing any impact on the environment

On a final note - I would love to see all vegan shoe brands (including those above) disclosing even more detailed information on the source and production of the materials used in creating their cruelty-free shoes. 


Friday, 17 October 2014

Inequality is Never in Style!

In 2007 Blog Action Day was created as vehicle for bloggers worldwide to come together each year to discuss one important global issue. This year's topic is Inequality. There are so many forms of inequality at various levels, for example between species, countries, genders, cultures, and it can feel very overwhelming.

The Paraisópolis favela borders the affluent district of Morumbi in São Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Tuca Vieira

I want to take this opportunity to briefly highlight some of the examples of inequality within the fashion industry and showcase a few examples of those who are working hard to create a level playing field for everyone. In particular I believe there's massive inequality when it comes to the makers (most of whom are women) and the consumers of mainstream fashion. 

Earlier this year I had the honour of interviewing Aafreen Hasnain, an inspiring young woman working with and researching the artisans living in Uttar Pradesh, India. She told me that her research found that more than 60% of the artisans in the region are women, less than 10% of whom are educated beyond Grade 5 and due to a strict Caste System, a section of these women are given a lower wage than the others. According to not-for-profit Labour Behind the Label, "...the scandalous truth is that the majority of workers in the global fashion industry cannot afford to live with dignity, and earn no more than £5 a day in an industry worth over £28 billion across Europe". How is this not madness? 

Europe's Clean Clothes Campaign works extensively to try and close this gap. In Cambodia for instance, they've found that women are not being paid a living wage, meaning that they're constantly battling with the spectre of malnourishment, which in recent years has led to a spate of mass faintings due to overwork. The Clean Clothes Campaign educates and mobilises consumers, lobbies companies and governments, and offers direct solidarity support to workers in the garment industry. 

Greenola's Creative Director, Teresa Kuruvilla once told me that - "By paying workers a fair living wage, and creating a direct relationship built on mutual respect between the business and its producers, Fair Trade allows communities to develop sustainably and ultimately create a long-term, profitable, and ethical relationship between businesses, producers, and consumers". 

April 24th this year marked the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, where 1133 people were killed and over 2500 were injured. This was a terrible example of extreme inequality taking and ruining lives. In response to this tragedy, and others like it within the fashion industry, a global board of industry leaders, campaigners, press and academics from within the sector and beyond have come together to create Fashion Revolution Day.

The driving force behind Fashion Revolution Day has been a desire to use the power of fashion to catalyse change and reconnect the broken links in the supply chain. Our lack of knowledge can mean that our purchasing decisions can lead us to become unwitting accomplices to human rights violations and environmental degradation. I would argue that ethical fashion is everyone's business! 

What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments! 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Jacob & Esau - A Creative Adventure in Fair Fashion

In the sometimes inwards-looking and selfishly motivated world of fashion, there are still those that are choosing to take a stand for better things. Two young women based in Melbourne have joined forces to start a new label called Jacob & Esau - with a deliberate focus on the makers of their clothing. I recently spoke to co-founders Joanne and Esther about their new adventure in ethical design!

Q. Where did the name Jacob & Esau come from?

J: This is an interesting one! Right before Esther & I even mentioned the idea of starting our own fashion label to each other, Esther always had this name in mind. She thought it was pretty cool to draw inspiration from the biblical siblings in the creative direction of her designs. Jacob for simple, everyday basics and Esau for the occasional wild pieces! So when the time came to decide on a name for our label, she suggested Jacob & Esau and explained the creative underpinnings of this name. I thought it was a fantastic idea and then only realised it also stood for the initials of our very own names! J & E, Joanne & Esther… there you go!

Esther and Joanne

Q. How would you describe Jacob & Esau in 10 words or less?

E: Easy peasy – “Clothing for the people”

Q. Why is fairness and transparency important to you both personally and professionally?

J: Honest and genuine relationships have become sort of a rare breed. It is much easier to do things which serves one’s self at the expense of another person and has probably become the norm in our culture these days; like the popular saying, “look after number one”. I take it as a personal challenge to dare to be a little different, both in the workplace and beyond! 

In the last few years, it has become increasingly obvious to me the need to maintain this stand for fair and honest interactions, be it in everyday choices, my own relationships and business decisions. The J & E initiative was born out of a collective desire to see an option for everyday people to choose clothes which are made fairly by people who are treated respectfully.

Q. What kind of aesthetic will your clothing have?

E: J & E garments are wardrobe staples, think of your favourite white tee, casual men's shorts or a throw-on summer dress in a cute print! Of course we are all influenced by trends to a certain degree, but J & E takes special care to design styles that can be worn for years to come and can be mixed and matched with an existing wardrobe, adding value to the life of the garment.

We are aware of the stigma that is associated with 'ethical or sustainable fashion' and are keen to provide the opposite! In essence, our clothes should look like 'normal' clothes, but upon further inspection a real story evolves, revealing the backbone of our label and it's ethical business decisions.

Q. What made you choose Bali in Indonesia as your manufacturing hub and who are your makers? 

J & E: Garment makers Kholil and Wiwik, a husband and wife team, will be producing our first collection! They work from home and are building up their own home business, enabling them to raise their young son, Dafar, in comfort and convenience, as well as earn a living. 

As you said, they are based in Bali, Indonesia, and we chose this location due to some contacts we had while researching into our business, which have led to strong relationships and really positive outcomes so far! 

Kholil, Wiwik and Dafar

It’s a bonus that Indonesia is a neighboring country for us (being based in Melbourne, Australia), so travel is shorter for this initial stage of launching our business and we’re able to learn the ropes quicker! Another important factor is that many Australians are familiar with Bali as a holiday destination so they can relate well to the culture and also the impact we are trying to make!

Q. Who or what is inspiring you both right now?

J: A great desire to see our vision of J & E becoming reality! Just the thought of being able to see, touch and wear clothes that were once paper designs, and knowing that there is a pretty cool story behind how it all started, is something which keeps me going!

E: People! People always inspire me, whether it’s like-minded creatives who are reaching for the stars, or people like Kholil and Wiwik, who (like many parents!) have the perseverance and the selflessness to work day in and day out to provide for their family. The desire to see J & E make a positive difference to people all around the world is what really gets me going!

Q. Can you tell us how to get involved in your Pozible campaign and why this would be awesome?

J & E: This is super easy! Just head over to Pozible and click the huge “PLEDGE” button if you wish to contribute an amount. This amount goes to the funds needed to produce our first collection. 

Another way to get involve is to share this initiative with all your friends & family. Be it via email, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter…we are keen to have more people on board the J & E train! Your time and effort in choosing to partner with us would be so awesome as YOU would be A HUGE PART in enabling the first J & E collection come to life! Thank you in advance!

You can also connect with Jacob & Esau via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Purr-fect Pieces of Ethical Design

Looking for something fair and sustainable that will get your sense of style purring? Check out these fabulous ethical feline finds =^..^=

David Meowie Pillow by Two Lost Souls -Bowie and kittens? What a winning combination! How adorable is this handmade pillow case plumped up with recycled plastic faux down
Meow or Never Sweatshirt by Vaute Couture - Keep cute and warm with this organic cotton top! It's also a great way to start a conversation about the awesomeness of adopting shelter animals :) 
Love Cats Rings by Sarah Healy Design NYC - Inspired by the song 'Love Cats' by The Cure, this super sweet ring has been carefully crafted by hand. PLUS 10% of the proceeds from your purchase will be donated to the ASPCA
Cat Backpack by Little Frenchy - Tired of your boring bag made from synthetic fibres? Then check out this blast of sunshine and kitties made from certified organic cotton and natural dyes
Tiger T-Shirt by RCTees - A beautiful tiger face has been lovingly hand printed onto this organic pima cotton shirt
Vintage 1980s Michaele Vollbrach Maxi Dress - Wonderfully quirky, this vintage dress is fantastic for fabulous winter layering
Kat and Mouse Shirt by Pini Piru - This funky kids tee depicts the epic rivalry between cats and mice printed using water-based ink on a 100% organic and fairly traded cotton tee
The Grin by Pini Piru - Another crazy cat character from this Netherlands-based label graces a fairly traded and organic cotton tee
Fat Cat Coin Purse by Blue Q - This serenely happy orange kitty coin purse is made from 95% post consumer recycled material and is sure to put a smile on your dial!
Cat Ballet Shoes by FC Select - These 100% vegan flats are simply adorable! I'd like to know if the cruelty-free materials are also sustainably sourced...stay tuned :)
Leopard Shoulder Trim Dress by Ruby Rocks - Fierce AND fairtrade = WIN! Made in a small factory in Bali, Ruby Rocks knows each and everyone of their employees and ensures they're not only paid an above average wage but also receive healthcare for themselves and their family members
Kitten in Hammock Necklace by Unique Art Pendants - Need a buddy while you're out and about? Why not this little fella? This cuddly pendant has been handmade

Live in the Meow Tee from People Tree - This lovely tee has been handmade by the artisans of Assisi Garments in India using fairtrade and organic cotton fibres
Black Cat Dress by Leah Goren - I definitely have my eye on this dress for summer! The dress is made from 100% organic cotton sateen and the cat print is 100% cuteness
Leopard Ring by Love Hearts and Crosses - This 100% porcelain leopard just wants to hug your hand! Each spot has been hand painted 
Two Peas in a Pod by Nic and the Newfie - Loving this pair of mischievous Siamese cats watching a bumblebee! This super comfy looking sweatshirt is made from a combination of organic cotton, recycled polyester and rayon. Also thumbs up to pockets!
Leopard Jumper by ASOS Africa - Be an urban wildcat with this handmade jumper which has been crafted under fair conditions in Africa. This top is part of a wider collection  produced in collaboration with a rural Kenyan community north of Mombasa

Georgie Kids T-Shirt by Stella McCartney - Um cat cuddles all day??? Yes please! Loving this certified organic cotton tee from Stella's high-end ecofashion label
Feeling warm and fuzzy after all this kitty-themed design? Then why not look up your local cat shelter and ask if you can volunteer for a few hours? One great thing you can do is to give them all a lovely brush and a kind word =^..^= That's how I found my little rescue boy while living in the Fiji Islands :)