*Ignore the creases, we’d been experimenting with styling it – from washerwoman to Stevie Nicks*
It feels very remiss of me to have got as far as the last week in August without a mention of new season clothing. I’m definitely a buy-my-winter-coat when they land in stores, even if everyone around me is looking for bikinis.
I once made myself sick by keeping the wool number I was trying on for too long during a heat wave. True story.
This year I feel a bit behind schedule. I haven’t even planned a single purchase yet. I don’t buy a lot for ethical & minimalism reasons but still like to strategise (yes I take it that seriously!). Maybe I’m now spending so much time thinking & writing about fashion that attention to my own wardrobe is slipping. Talk about first world problems!
Anyhow today I felt the tide turn. Despite summer weather returning with avengenance, during an emergency dash into Marks & Spencer for an last minute swimsuit, my brain switched over. I wanted shirts & knitwear – although that may have been down to the trauma of squeezing my now rather plump bod into a writhing piece of lycra.
The environmental and human impact of fast fashion and our love of the high street is well documented and I’m no apologist for any of the big retailers.
That said, M&S scored among the highest of 200 well known brands in the most recent Fashion Revolution survey of transparency. This doesn’t equate to an endorsement, but I do bear this in mind when a visit to the high street is essential. Like when you discover you need a swimming costume fifteen hours before leaving for your holiday. On a Sunday evening.
My partner’s sister accompanied me on the emergency swimsuit dash and while I had to stay focused (picking up two shirts then abandoning them to concentrate on day glo tubes of material), she had freedom to roam. She picked up a few silk scarves and this one I had to share because it’s gorgeous and totally ticks the winter floral trend box for the new season (more about my thoughts on the fashion industry, trends and seasons coming soon!).
At £9.50, it’s wearable while the sun continues to shine and will be a sure favourite as the green leaves turn to gold too.
Today sees the launch of Larone Artisans, a company making beautiful bags who are already garnering attention in the world of ethical fashion. It’s no wonder given the that all the designs, from clutches to carry-alls, combine style with traditional artisanship, ecologically sound materials and fair employment practices.
I’ve been following Larone’s development for a while now and was delighted when they named one of their range after me. Yes, like the Hermes Kelly and Birkin and Mulberry’s Alexa, you can now buy a Rae bag! I’ve been toting mine (as pictured above) around for a week now and it’s already a firm favourite – and has solicited a lot of compliments!
Last week, I caught up with one of Larone’s co-founders, Leticia Labre. She’s based in New York while her partner Jennifer Lo is in Manilla, allowing close contact with the Filipino craftwomen who make the bags.
Rae: Tell us about Larone Artisans.
Leticia: Larone Artisans is a brand of handmade handbags mainly made out of natural plant fibers. Larone bags are handwoven by skilled craftsmen and women using traditional weaving techniques.
Why did you decide to create a bag company?
Jennifer comes from a family with a long legacy in weaving and artisanship. Her grandfather learned to weave wicker furniture as a twelve year old orphan to support himself. Through sheer hard work, he was eventually able to open his own wicker furniture factory. Jennifer’s mother had the idea of making purses handwoven from natural fibers and has worked with artisanal communities for more than thirty years since.
Jennifer now runs the workshop, using some of the same materials and weaving techniques her grandfather did and working with some of the artisans who saw her grow up. Larone Artisans mission is to introduce these beautiful handbags to a wider audience through our retail website.
Have ethical values always been central to your vision?
Growing up with a loving family and being given a good education in a country [the Philippines] where many live beneath the poverty line, we are always conscious of our blessings and thus our responsibility to improve our community.
Larone Artisans’ vision is to give continuous livelihood to our weavers throughout the year and not just seasonally.
How did you connect with the women who produce your bags?
From our travels around the Philippines, we have met with artisan communities who make exquisite handcrafts that are easily translated into fashionable handbags.
Have you seen a growing interest in ethical fashion?
In a world of fast fashion, Larone stands out because we do not use the traditional model of having a factory, we work with artisans in their communities.
Women are able to work from home while taking care of their families. We produce in small batches, always mindful of the impact to the environment.
People are beginning to be more appreciative of slow fashion. It’s not a rush to get the product to market but rather a thoughtful process of livelihood, product development, intertwined with people and the environment. So yes, there has been a growing interest.
What are the challenges facing ethical manufacturers? Are these different to ‘mainstream’ companies?
Slow fashion manufacturers are faced with the pressure of keeping up with fast fashion brands.
With woven handbags, there are no shortcuts because there is no machine to speed up the process.
Just extracting raw materials such as fibers is a tedious process and the challenge is
to keep the process sustainable for seasons to come.
Do you have an image of the typical Larone Artisans customer?
The Larone woman has a quirky sense of style and is not afraid to stand out. No boring and safe black leather bag for her! Give her pompoms! Give her color and exotic materials!
She appreciates the handmade details of Larone bags and is attracted to its raw natural character.
What are your backgrounds and how did you guys meet?
I grew up in the Philippines but was living in the US/UK for a long time, most recently as a climate change consultant. Five years ago I moved back to the Philippines, but I knew it was just going to be a stopover before moving back West again. I was looking for a project that could move with me and move me. I had heard about Jennifer and Larone through mutual friends and was immediately excited. First, I love purses (what woman doesn’t)! And they preserve culture and are environmentally-friendly too?? It sounded perfect and it was! I reached out to Jen and here we are 🙂
Which of the bags is the most popular so far?
It’s so hard to say because we’ve received interest and messages on almost every style that we’ve put out on Instagram. At a push I would say maybe the pompom bag for its color, and the wicker saddle bag for its unique shape and material, are slightly more popular. But there’s definitely a group that’s inspired by abaca, of which The Rae Bag is made.
If you could only have one of the bags, which would you choose?
I LOVE my abaca and gold cord tote. It rises to the occasion and carries itself elegantly when I have a dressy occasion to go to. But it’s just as dependable for daily tasks like going to the grocery or the gym! When I’m feeling drab, it’s my preferred pick-my-look-up accessory. I’ve even used it to secure my personal space against people who don’t seem familiar with the concept!
If you want to know more about Larone Artisans and their beautiful bags, head to their website at www.laroneartisans.com – but don’t forget you can secure a 30 percent discount exclusively through my newsletter!
I’ve recently started appearing on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio’s Brody Swain show. Every few weeks, I turn up and talk about the day’s more lighthearted news stories with Brody and a couple of other guests.
This is fun in itself, but it also means that I’ve got a great excuse to regularly pop in to a row of my favourite charity shops on the nearby Trinity Street in Coventry city centre. Together they represent three great causes, including two with local links: Mary Anne Evans Hospice, Cancer Research UK and The Myton Hospices.
The greatest compliment I’ve ever received was linked to a skirt purchased from one of these, as I’ve talked about before. I say in that post that it was from Scope but I think it was actually the Mary Anne Evans Hospice Shop – which is the store I didn’t have time to go in earlier.
Here’s today’s haul and how I plan to wear each item. I’ve love to hear what you’ve picked up recently in charity shops and what you’re doing with it! Comment below or pop over and tell me on Instagram or Twitter.
And if you enjoy this post, please do share it on social media – it really does make a difference! There are sharing buttons at the bottom of the post.
Black pleated skirt, £3 (The Myton Hospices)
Knowing how much I wear my navy one, I was chuffed to spot a similar skirt in black. I’m already imagining it at Christmas with a winter white jumper (yet to be purchased, but I was eyeing up a Finisterre with RNLI one on Pebble Magazine this morning).
I’m thinking of swapping the self-coloured buttons to houndstooth check ones. Any thoughts?
Farah men’s vintage fit t-shirt, £3.75 (The Myton Hospices)
Since going to see ‘North: Identity, Photography, Fashion’ at Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery back in the spring (soon to be on show at Somerset House), I’ve been aspiring to channel the casuals’ look – largely by wearing my partner’s slim fit Fred Perry t-shirt with my Adidas Gazelles. I can now branch out to wearing this t-shirt too.
It’s a beautiful jersey cotton that I’m hoping will also contrast nicely with the silk of wide leg pyjama style bottoms!
Khaadi long length shirt, £3.00 (Cancer Research UK)
A quick Internet search revealed that Khaadi is a Pakistani clothing brand, which isn’t surprising given the design of this shirt. I loved its colour, softness and overall look, which is about as near to boho as I ever get. As Imran Khan, the former Pakistani cricketer turned politican, is one of my style icons, it feels like this was meant to be mine!
For now I’m planning on wearing it with linen trousers and tucking in the front. I saw the latter on a street style blog and it caught my eye. Loving the popularity of shirts at the moment as I live in them and I’m getting lots of inspiration on different ways to wear them (see also below for more!).
Top Lady blouse, £2.00 (Cancer Research UK)
The sight of this on a rack is what pulled me into the store when I thought I was done with my Myton Hospices purchases! I’ve yet to find anymore information about the brand. It isn’t one I’ve encountered before. If the style alone didn’t scream retro then the ‘Made in the UK’ label indicates it has to be of a certain vintage!
Turns out I first saw the blouse from the back. It’s actually a button up with a pussy cat bow, which is nice in itself but I’m determined to try wearing it the other way round as I think it looks amazing that way. Just need to ensure I get dressed and undressed with my partner around!
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