Saturday, 30 June 2007

Summer nights - ethical dresses for the evening

Finding an ethical dress to wear for a night out might seem a bit more challenging than finding daywear, but here to the rescue, as ever, I have managed to source a selection of beautiful ethical dresses that can be worn in the daytime or the evening. Three of them are made from 100% organic cotton, which is fantastic, because the growing of regular cotton uses 25% of all insecticides and almost $3 billion worth of pesticides every single year. Between 1 million and 5 million pesticide poisonings take place every year, leading to 20,000 reported deaths among agricultural workers (Environmental Justice Foundation). Pesticides also contaminate rivers around the world. Organic cotton uses natural pesticides (such as a mixture of chilli, garlic and soap), is handpicked and often rain fed, which is a much more environmentally friendly option.

The other three dresses use alternative fabrics, preventing the reliance on cotton, which uses up precious water resources - six pints of water are required to produce one cotton bud. Global cotton consumption has been estimated to be responsible for 2.6 per cent of the world's water use (EJF). Bamboo (used in the Ecoganik dress) is a fast growing grass that is organically grown. It is also antibacterial and antifungal. The Debbi Little Parachute dress is made from recycled parachutes, so prevents wastage and the Enamore dress incorporates innovative fabrics such as hemp and tencel.

Now all you have to do is choose which ones to go for!

1) Katherine Hamnett Cynthia Dress, 100% organic cotton, £239.99, Katherine Hamnett.
2) Camilla Norrback Moa Dress, creme, 100% organic cotton, 1275 kr, Mint and Vintage.
3) Ecoganik Bamboo Amy Kimono Dress in Paradise, 95% bamboo, 5% spandex, Couture Candy.
4) Debbi Little Parachute Dress, made from 1950s parachutes, £240, Equa Clothing.
5) Ciel Sophia Dress, 100% organic cotton, £162, My Wardrobe.
6) Enamore Eva Dress in black with vintage detail, 55% hemp, 45% tencel and vintage, £150, Enamore.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Vegan shoes galore!

Vegan shoes used to be frumpy, clumpy and incredibly unattractive. Those days are thankfully gone and there are now some wonderful vegan footwear brands, producing striking and cruelty free footwear. Many people like the comfort factor and breathability of leather shoes, but unfortunately it's a dirty business. Millions of animals are slaughtered every year for their skin, being subject to castration, branding, dehorning and tail docking (minus anesthetics), before bleeding to death and being skinned. Animal skin is then converted to leather with dangerous chemicals, dyes and other toxins, that are exceedingly harmful to people and the environment. Rearing animals whose skins are eventually transformed into leather uses vast amounts of fossil fuels. Farm animals create large amounts of toxic waste which is absorbed into the ground and surface water, polluting wells and rivers and contributing to global warming. The vast amount of land used for grazing also contributes to a negative environmental impact.

A study carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disclosed that a solvent utilised in tanning leather has been linked with a heightened risk of testicular cancer. Additionally when you buy leather products, you may sometimes be purchasing leather from Asian cat and dog tanneries. For more information see

There is an alternative. Some fantastic vegan footwear brands have emerged that provide stylish and ethical vegan shoes. Three of my favourites are featured below. I will be featuring more in coming weeks!

Beyond Skin

Beyond Skin is an exclusive vegan footwear label that was established in 2001, by Natalie Dean, a make-up artist in the music and fashion industry. Beyond Skin footwear is hand-made to order in the UK, by a small manufacturer in East London, utilising a range of man-made fabrics such as polyester (kinder to the environment than viscose, which is processed with acid chemicals) and cotton backed polyurethane (which is less damaging to the environment than PVC). Polyurethane is not perfect by any means, but it is a whole lot better than leather! Beyond Skin is a firm favourite with celebrities such as Natalie Portman, Sadie Frost, Amanda Holden and Joanna Lumley.

Hot Pick - Sui Generis Angelina almond toe court, in a variety of vegan fabrics, £284.

Charmoné Shoes

These are my current favourites. Charmoné Shoes
were founded in 2006, by Jodi Koskella and Lauren Carroll who noticed a gap in the market for stylish vegan footwear. They work with the aim of producing beautiful, luxurious and sexy shoes that are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free. The shoes are crafted in Italy, utilising high quality Italian microfibers that are constructed like leather, allowing the skin to breathe. The materials used are free from PVC, instead using a polyurethane coating.

Hot Pick - Ginseng half D'orsay open toe platform, laster cut microfiber faux leather, $315.

Bourgeois Bohéme

Bourgeois Bohéme, a 2007 PETA Proggy Award winner (for Best Cruelty-Free Shoe Retailer) is a trendy on-line boutique providing a range of vegan, natural and organic accessories for men and women. Their products are ethically sourced and the leather alternatives they use are mostly biodegradable. Bourgeois Bohéme endeavour to use recycled products when possible and are Vegan Society approved, as well as being PETA Business Friends.

Hot Pick - Amelia White vegan dress shoe, faux leather, £45.

Exquisite summer style from Deborah Lindquist

For sensational summer vintage fashion, you must check out (no, really you MUST) Deborah Lindquist, one of LA's most well respected and sought after environmentally conscious designers. I am really impressed with Deborah's collections. Embracing vintage clothing avoids contributing yet more waste to already overflowing landfill sites. For that reason, I wholly applaud vintage and recycled fashion.

According to WRAP, in the UK alone over one million tonnes of textiles are discarded every year. Opting for vintage and recycled fashion goes some way towards correcting our throw away culture (although there are many other areas to consider and still a very long way to go).

For her designs, Deborah uses a combination of recycled cashmere, repurposed kimonos and saris, vintage silk scarves and sustainable materials, including: hemp, organic cotton and organic wool. As a Vegan I stay away from cashmere, silk and wool, but wearing vintage is better than buying new items made from these materials, which would otherwise be binned.

Deborah Lindquist has an A-list following including the likes of: Sharon Stone, Gwen Stefani, Demi Moore and Charlize Theron and produces stunning garments that leave smaller imprints on the planet than mainstream fashion items. Trained at the Parsons School of Design, New York City, Deborah's avant-garde fashion has featured in a range of prominent publications such as: InStyle, Lucky Magazine, People and GenLux. It is hard for me to pick favourites, but somehow I have managed, so, here is my selection of hot summer garments, courtesy of Deborah Linquist.

1) #VFB - Vintage tropical floral bustier, $687.
2) #BDL - Empire waistline long dress. Vintage sari fabric bodice embellished with semi-precious or crystal beads. English net and silk chiffon body with doubleface satin ribbon halter tie neck, $950.
3) #LDH1 - Vintage kimono and hemp/cotton bustier dress with semi-precious beading, $775.
4) #HBD - Hemp/cotton babydoll dress with raffia and organic cotton lace trim, $700.
5) #SSK1 - Hemp/cotton pleated mini-skirt with organic cotton lace trim, $200.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Sassy summer dresses from Bahar Shahpar

Short dresses are in this summer, so if you are prepared to show your pins to the world, but want to adorn an ethical frock, Bahar Shahpar creates some beautiful summer dresses.

Bahar is based in Brooklyn and is a self-taught designer with a background in multi-media event production, fashion and publishing. Her designs are produced locally, in New York, using only ethical materials and minimising waste and energy consumption as must as possible, in the process. Unbleached organic cotton linings are utilised in most garments. Bahar's collections manage to maintain a happy balance between style and substance, with the aim of producing clothing for the 'cultivated consumer.'

You can find some of her designs online at and while you're there check out all the other fantastic eco fashion labels. For more information about stockists see Bahar's website.

Laura Ashley Archive Collection

Jumping on the ethical fashion bandwagon, Laura Ashley have adapted a range of styles, prints and fabrics from the 1960's and 1970's, to produce a range of contemporary dresses, separates and accessories. All of these have been crafted from 100% organic cotton, so you can rest safe in the knowledge that these pieces are pesticide free. One of these pieces was a beautiful maxi-dress, which has unfortunately sold out (boo hoo), but my current favourites are:

1) The Floral Sprigs Keyhole Sundress, in a daisy print, for £42.
2) The Sweet Rocket Halterneck Dress, in a vintage sprig print, for £48.
3) The Humble Daisy Print Dirndl Skirt, in a heritage print, for £35.
4) The Large Cotton Bow Bag, in a vintage vine print for £24.

goodone recycled clothing

For some interesting and innovative recyled fashion, take a look at goodone clothing, who create unique one off pieces from hand-picked recycled fabrics. goodone garments are designed to flatter the body shapes of both men and women. All designs are produced in a range of sizes and if you provide your specific measurements goodone will create garments to fit you exactly.

You can also take part in the design process by providing your own materials, or contacting the label with your personal preferences on colour, style, texture and pattern.

goodone clothing arose out of discontent with a very negative industry that unnecessarily exploits people and the environment in the manufacture of garments. The creation of goodone clothing was born out of a desire to produce good clothing, with a company that focused on being good themselves, by being good to the environment, producing clothing that focuses on reducing waste, energy expenditure and pollution in the manufacturing process, hence the name goodone clothing.

The label source most of their materials from textile recycling factories in and around London and manufacture their products in the goodone studio in Hackney, East London.

My favourite pieces are the titty dress (as seen on the right) - made from a combination of handpicked recycled t-shirts, combined with organic fairtrade cotton, for £60 and the belt dress (as seen above) - made from a combination of hand-picked sweatshirts, for £70.

Recently, goodone have launched their response to the Anya Hindmarch 'I'm Not a Plastic Bag' bag, with a limited edition, organic, cotton, fairly traded cloth bag for £8, adorned with the simple statement, 'Do I fucking look like a plastic bag?' This is available via the goodone website.

Vintage style at Miss Selfridge

Miss Selfridge has searched the world's best vintage stores and markets from around the world, discovering some beautiful one off pieces that are available online only. Vintage clothing is ethical because it does not require new fabrics, that have been shipped around the world, to create new garments.

The collections currently available are Guatemalan, Prom Queen and Psychedelic. Many of them are sold out already, but there are still some great buys to be found, like the 1950's Pink Net Prom Dress for £180 and the Floral 60s Psychedelic Maxi Dress for £80. New lines are going to be added to the collections on 4th July, so don't fret if you have missed out this time.

You can also sign up to Miss Selfridge's exclusive Vintage Newsletter, if you are keen to receive updates about this range.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Oxfam plans ethical fashion chain

Oxfam is intending to convert some of its charity clothing stores into a fashion conscious chain, under the watchful eye of Jane Shepherdson, former director of Topshop and current advisor to ethical retailer People Tree. It has been suggested that Oxfam will be offering clothing crafted from organic cotton and other sustainable raw materials, in a bid to revamp its image. Jane Shepherdson is believed to be working voluntarily with Oxfam to produce the collection.

Jane Shepherdson resigned from her role as brand director at Topshop, in October 2006, after condemning the sustainability of high street fashion and she is now an advisor to Japanese based ethical brand, People Tree, having introduced the label into Topshop in 2006.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Portrait of an ethical fashion designer - Linda Loudermilk

Profile of Linda Loudermilk

Inspired and awed by nature designer Linda Loudermilk creates stylish, elegant and beautifully tailored items, with sustainable fabrics that any self-respecting fashionista would give her right arm to be seen in. You can forget tree hugger hippy hemp. Bamboo pointelles and soya blends go into producing refined clothes that revere nature and bring Linda’s luxury eco line to the forefront. Luscious fabrics are cleverly crafted out of organic cotton, recycled plastic, reclaimed antique lace, sea cell® (seaweed based), soy, sasawashi (a Japanese anti-bacterial leaf) and other sustainable ingredients.

Linda Loudermilk studied Shakespeare and costume design at Oxford University before practising as a sculptor. Opposed to living a hermit like artist existence Linda embarked upon a course at the Colorado Art Institute in Denver and aired her skills in Paris with a couture collection. After returning to US shores Linda launched a range of organic T-shirts, leading her to realise the true potential of sustainable fabrics and to develop her contemporary ‘eco-fashions’.

Some of Hollywood’s best-dressed including Debra Messing, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Fonda and Farah Fawcett are snapping up Linda’s fashion lines without substituting style for substance.

Linda’s avante-garde flagship store will be located on the LA strip, habitat of Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu, only this store will be ‘green’ down to it’s very foundations.

An Interview with Linda

When and why did you become passionate about nature and eco-sustainability?

"I had an experience with a disease in my life that wasn’t going away and it was an experience with my connection with nature that gave me inspiration to heal this disease. It was on a very personal basis. That was before I was even designing and really when that happened I just realised that that connection was what was going to heal me. As time went on I realised how much that connection gave me strength and it was key to my survival. It’s key now, it is my spiritual world, it’s where I get information from. It’s where I find clarity, freedom and the truth, all of what I would want out of being a physical and a spiritual being.

Nature has turned out to be a catalyst for everything that I do. It’s my goal to take this passion and turn it into something that is good commercially, that is strong business that also feeds our ego so we look good walking down the street. God gave us an ego so why not use it for the good, strut it, feel proud of ourselves and trust that we are making the right decisions for ourselves and the world that we are in."

How do you manage to sustain green fashion without compromising on style?

"When I first started out I was designing in Paris on a couture level. I did a show at the Trocadero in Paris and it was stunning. I should have been on top of the world but I went back to my hotel room and cried. I thought, "why am I not happy?" It’s because what I was doing wasn’t feeding my soul. I packed up everything and came back to the states where I knew I had core support and networking. At the beginning I started out with organic cotton T-shirts as that is all there was.

You can make organic cotton luxury, but there are also luxury fabrics that have not hit the market place because there hasn’t been a designer that was able to do that. They have been scared to take a risk on say a corn fabric or even bamboo. The more I talked about these ideas the more I convinced producers to create fabrics that they hadn't wanted to create before because it was too expensive and they didn’t have anyone to take it to the marketplace. I said, "I’ll do it, lets put it out there, lets tell the story." My passion is about using a fabric and telling the story of the fabric and how it’s made, so that people will understand the value."

What are your favourite eco-fabrics?

"My favourite one each season is the new one. Right now we are doing a lot of experimenting with Ingeo [made from non GM corn] . It’s a lot of fun to see what a fabric can do. Once a manufacturer is making enough leads for me to take the message out to the public then we order these in and start our experimenting. Bamboo is a staple favourite fabric because it can feel like silk."

What are your favourite fashion pieces from your own collections and why?

"I love the more costume pieces that’s what comes out of me naturally. I can do that with my eyes closed. Each season it’s something different, the wildest costume piece I create. The pragmatist in me loves the Caterpillar pants which have no pockets, they are just made out of Bamboo jersey. You can wear it for days, you can wear it in a business meeting or for just sitting in the grass. It is that versatile. I also love the Slick Head top.

My passion is to tell the story. Sasawashi is from the remote hills of Japan it was first used to roll sushi and it’s anti-bacterial. Then they used it in the Suji screens. I took a chance on the fabric, which you can do if you are willing to tell the story behind it and represent the people who have worked so hard to create a fabric that respects the planet."

Do you have any other favourite designers? If so who are they and why?
"Alexander McQueen. Whenever I am looking around to pick out a favourite piece of the season, nine times out of ten it is one of his. The fluidity of his lines and expression of the human experience through his garments is really good."

What charities are you passionate about?

"The Children’s Health and Environmental Coalition (CHEC). It was started by James and Nancy Chuda who lost their young child to cancer. They were convinced that it was from environmental toxins. The charity is about 15 years old and we have been doing a lot with them."

What is your favourite holiday location and why?

"It’s not a city but wherever I am I love to lay down under the Christmas tree and midnight and look up at the lights in the silence. I am really able to absorb the holiday spirit."

Who is your favourite musician / group?

"I like a variety of music. I love native American music and sounds. I also love Outkast, anything off, silly and raw. I was a rocker for a long time. The glory of the angry side of us remains with you."

What is your favourite film?

"Pirates of the Caribbean right now because I love Johnny Depp. He almost died here on sunset. His expressions, how he translates his character and expressions of life is fantastic."

Who is your favourite author?

"Neale Donald Walsch and Ellen DeGenevres, I love her simple silly books. It’s that balance between intensity and simplicity."

Who inspires you the most?

"Street people."

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

"This mission. Changing the world one sexy little number at a time, building a fresh new environmental platform."

What is your favourite aspect of nature?

"The oddest ones, a knot in a tree or a drip down the wall, the energy of the oddities of nature invigorate me."

Which of these terms best describes you and why: humanist / realist / spiritual being?

"All of them. I have lived through the intensity of all three and after the intensity is the calm and I am able to be in all of those with a beautiful calm that I am very fortunate to have. What a gift that is."

If you could have anything in the world your heart desired what would you choose?

"Right now I am really passionate about this platform. I feel like it will change the way that people choose products if they understand that there is an environmental platform for luxury goods."

Going for gold

Sparkly, shiny fashion is in. Metallic outfits can make you look like a Christmas turkey, waiting to be basted, or else you can end up looking like Bet Lynch or Marlene from Only Fools and Horses. I think it's better to stick to metallic accessories or perhaps a more tasteful, toned down metallic dress or top.

Ethical fashion is not behind the times and metallics have made their way into some ethical brands and accessories, so today I am going for gold! Below you will find a selection of gold fashion items and accessories to leave you looking stylish, tasteful and right on trend.

To start you off, on the left we have the Maxi handbag - Chardonnay by designer Sarah Donegan, handcrafted with vintage textiles and trims, sold by Green Apple for £140.

Amelia Shoe - made from distressed gold pleather with brogue detail - £45, Bourgeois Bohème.

Glam Gold Belt - with silver studs and large diamante detail - cut from £18 to £10, Bourgeois Bohème.

Fifi Bijoux Angel Pendant - made in the UK by Master Goldsmiths, using only ethically mined 9 carat gold and gemstones, no use of cyanide, mercury or arsenic - £164, Adili.

Velvet Scarf - Petrol/Chocolate/Sand - 40% Polyester, 50% Viscose and 10% Polyamide - £16.50, Bourgeois Bohème.

Kylie Gold - sequenced gold upper with cute bow detail - £38, Bourgeois Bohème.

From Somewhere Bell Shaped Skirt
- made from reclaimed cotton, silk and linen - £150, Equa Clothing.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Why choose ethical fashion?

The answer to this question might seem obvious to some, but many people are not aware of the impact mainstream fashion has on the environment and how exploitative it is to many people around the world. Here are some key facts.

Cotton is responsible for the release of US$2 billion of chemical pesticides every year and at least US$819 million of these are considered toxic enough to be classified as hazardous by the World Health Organisation.

Symptoms of pesticide poisoning can include: headaches, tremors, nausea, depression, seizures, loss of consciousness and even death.

Children are often the first victims of pesticide poisonings because their homes are very close to cotton fields or due to the re-use of empty pesticide containers.

Pesticides threaten freshwater resources, contaminating rivers around the world.

Deadly Chemicals in Cotton - A report by the Environmental Justice Foundation in collaboration with the Pesticide Action Network.

At least 3 million accidental poisonings occur every year, in developing countries, because of pesticides used on cotton crops.

World Health Organisation

Workers around the world face excessive hours, forced overtime, lack of job security, denial of trade union rights, poor health, extremely low wages, exhaustion, sexual harassment and mental stress. Factory managers typically force employees to work between 10 and 12 hours and often between 16 and 18 hours in one day. In many factories workers are not given clean water to drink or allowed to use the toilet when they need to.

In 2004 twenty-two union workers at a factory supplying Asda, who demanded their legal overtime pay, were allegedly beaten, sacked and imprisoned on false charges.

A garment in the process of being made, may have been shipped and flown to three or even more countries leaving behind a toxic trail of energy consumption and polluting waste.

Labour Behind the Label

These are a just a few facts there are many many more out there that are much more shocking than these. Buying ethical fashion avoids the use of harmful pesticides (if it is organic), by using more natural options. Fair Trade garments ensure a fair price for workers and promote traditional skills and rural development. Fair Trade also helps to tackle poverty and create opportunites for producers who are at an economic disadvantage. It also means a safe and healthy working environment for producers. Brands that use alternative fibres prevent the reliance on cotton and those brands that recycle old materials avoid causing more waste and adding to already overflowing landfill sites.

For more information on Fair Trade and Fair Trade labelling see

My top three ethical fashion brands

Ethical fashion is making big waves with brands like Kuyichi and People Tree having concessions in Topshop. M&S offering a fairtrade range, Dorothy Perkins selling organic tees and The Clothes Show Live having a section dedicated to ethical fashion this year. Anya Hindmarch created a stir with her 'I'm Not A Plastic Bag Bag.' People seemed to be more concerned about its fashion rather than eco-credentials, but some would say that any publicity for ethical living is good publicity. Ethical and stylish were once far from synonymous, but those days are but a distant memory and as an ethical stylist, it's my job to find fantastic ethical fashion buys.

I am off to the Daily Mail for a ethical fashion photo shoot this Wednesday. I'll let you know what day to buy the paper (when I know that is!) if you would like to see this feature and marvel at the beautiful ethical clothes.

For now, to save you scouring the web for hours, tearing out your hair, wondering why you can only find T-shirts with 'Let's Go Green' (or such like) on, here are my top three ethical (I heart) brands. I will be adding more favourites over the coming weeks, months and years.

1) Ciel - The wonderful Ciel, firm celebrity favourite, was brought to us by Sarah Ratty. Sarah's mother was a fashion lecturer at the Brighton College of Art and following in her footsteps, Sarah developed a taste for fashion. After considering and pursuing various paths Sarah finally embraced her creativity and entered the realm of fashion design (luckily for us). Prior to Ciel Sarah developed "Conscious Earthwear," which was first sold in Brown's, South Molton Street.

Sarah designs for ladies who love fashion and care about protecting the environment, recognising that the two don't have to be mutually exclusive. Ciel clothes are created from beautiful eco-fabrics and the production process conforms to labour laws stipulated at
Labour Behind the Label.

If you are wondering what to wear this summer take a look at the V-Neck Smock Dress (as seen on the left). In line with the Foho trend, why not team it with some black tights, or faded denim skinny jeans and a pristine handbag. Hurrah for Ciel!

2) Kuyichi - For the young and uber stylish boys and girls out there, Kuyichi is superb. Kuyichi (established in 2000) craft jeanswear for young, urban consumers. Cutting edge style with a conscience is what they are all about and in my opinion they have succeeded in their endeavour. They develop organic materials and were the first denim label to make good use of organic cotton. What does Kuyichi mean? It comes from the Peruvian god of the rainbow, who, as myth suggests, pinched the colours of life from the Taquille Indians. They weaved glorious blankets and in return Kuyichi returned their colours. This brand certainly bring colour to our lives. Whoever said ethical should be dull?

One of the trends for this summer is going for short dresses and skirts. If you can bear to bare your legs then Kuyichi do some fantastic ones. Check out the Hevess Dress 70-752, Helium Dress 70-753 and Heman Dress 70-754. For stockists of these fab items check out the Kuyichi website.

3) Beyond Skin - Shoes glorious shoes, filling up your wardrobe. Don't buy too many shoes, changing fashion trends lead to an incredible amount of wastage. According to WRAP over one million tonnes of textiles are ditched in the UK every year. Instead of going crazy, buy a capsule collection of shoes, that are less likely to go out of fashion by next week. Beyond Skin is another celebrity favourite. Natalie Portman wore Beyond Skin shoes to the Oscars. This brand was set up by Natalie Dean, a make-up artist in the music and fashion industry and a dedicated follower of veganism. Beyond Skin create exclusive, hand-made (in the UK) vegan shoes in a variety of lush, plush fabrics.

There are no Jesus sandals to be seen on the Beyond Skin website, just luxurious, exquisitely crafted shoes. This month I like the Angelica T-Bar wedge (as seen on the left) which is just so sparkly and spangly and will turn an average outfit into a crowd stopper. Hurrah for Beyond Skin!