Last week, I attended the Home & Gift Buyers’ Festival in Harrogate. It’s a huge event, made up of many producers and even more retailers looking to add new lines to their sites, stores and stalls in the autumn.
As with previous events trade events I’ve attended, my goal was to seek out those makers with an eco, ethical or sustainable tale to tell. I thus set off on the organised ‘Eco Trail’ but I was defeated by the size of the show, covering only around two-thirds of it.
Even so, I met some awesome brands that I’m excited to tell you about!
Big Green Tree is a family owned business that designs and manufacturers its natural skincare products on the edge of the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire. They offer a broad range of paraben and SLS free products, along with a diffusion line of men’s skincare items such as shaving soap and post-shave balm. As well as the friendliness and knowledge of owner Helen, what impressed me was that when they do use plastic bottles, they are recyclable. Good to know for certain!
The Magic Organic Apothecary was established in 2010, creating natural skincare products with close links to old folklore. Their key ingredient is herb yarrow (Achillea millefolium), commonly found in English hedgerows. MOA grow their own in Somerset, where they plant seeds by hand! The products combine yarrow with other herbs and essential oils, such as tea tree and damask rose. The original multi-purpose balm has now been joined by a cleanser, bath potion and facial oil.
Hello all! An especially warm welcome to the new readers who’ve come over from Midlands Minimalist. Good to have you here!
How’s your long weekend going? Been up to much? It seems that pretty much everyone I know is having a quiet one; aside from a few friends who’ve gone on holiday, there’s lots of talk of gardens and family meals and switching off alarm clocks.
This has certainly been the rhythm of my weekend so far. It’s now 4pm on Sunday afternoon and I’ve been mainly occupied with eating and sleeping. In that order.
I’ve also been doing some gentle reading. While flicking through the pages of a couple of magazines, I’ve been thrilled to spot some good recommendations for the conscious consumer. There’s definitely a movement towards greater mindfulness around what we buy – something that we’ve seen for a few years in food but is spreading into other areas too.
If the recent good weather has got you searching for some new outdoor furniture, I spied some FSC certified eucalyptus deckchair frames in the John Lewis Edition summer issue. They are £34 each and you can select a fabric sling for an additional £9.
Initially I was drawn to the gorgeous old school style: ethics don’t have to mean compromising aesthetics.
Also beautifully designed is the bamboo lunch pot (£16) that appears a few pages later. Made by food brand Leon, the bamboo is biodegradable, sustainable and naturally anti-microbial.
The red box would look fab at any picnic or, more likely, perk up lunch at your desk when it starts raining again!
There are many other amazing ethical, eco and sustainable brands that you can buy from listed in my blog post last week, where I offer a round up of the companies that I met at a recent trade exhibition.
While the sun shone down gloriously on London this Tuesday, I spent the day in the giant greenhouse that is Kensington Olympia. I was there for a trade show featuring lots (and I mean *lots*) of companies looking for new retail outlets; imagine the Clothes Show or the Ideal Home exhibition without being able to buy any of the goods. This is probably a good thing as I wanted so much, from sea shell earrings to several different kinds of bag to some oversize pink earrings!
Window shopping opportunities aside, I was there on a specific mission.
In my fashion and beauty writing, I’m committed to featuring eco, ethical and sustainable firms as much as I possibly can. In particular, I want to highlight the many innovative and stylish small brands working in this area – brands that don’t have huge publicity budgets but deserve exposure.
At Olympia, I was looking for companies doing good work in terms of conscious consumption so that I could share them with you.
Boy did I find some! Below I’ve detailed my highlights in five categories (beauty, candles, fashion, jewellery and other). I hope that you like their look, and their ethos, as much as I did. Visit their websites, follow them on social media (check out my following lists on Twitter and Instagram if you like) and next time you’re making a purchase, consider buying from one of them.
‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’ Lao Tzu
Do you have any brands that you like to recommend? Tell me about them! You can comment below. Plus if you enjoyed reading this post, please do tell others about it on social media – it really helps! Sharing buttons are also below.
Natural, organic handcrafted and vegan friendly, never animal tested, ethically sourced and eco-friendly handmade products in recyclable packaging. Also free from SLS, parabens, synthetic fragrance, petroleum and mineral oils [That’s quite a list!].
Small batches of handcrafted botanical skincare and essential oils candles made using completely natural and organic ingredients [These aren’t a new discovery – I love their soap, as I mentioned last week – but they definitely warrant a mention].
Each product is created by handicraft charity units or World Fair Trade Organization producer groups in Nepal, giving local people an income in line with fair trade principles along with a continually developing commitment to minimising environmental impact as much as possible.
Focused on fair trading and supporting Columbian artisans, particularly women with no other employment options, while also using suppliers certified by the Administrative Department of the Environment in Columbia.
Just Trade collaborates directly with eight groups of artisans in Peru, Ecuador and India to create handmade jewellery that is fairly traded and crafted from locally-sourced and ethical materials where possible.
The Revival Collection of home accessories is made using off-cuts from the fast fashion t-shirt industry that are saved, sorted, shredded, woven and then reused by Indian families working in good conditions.
Seedballs are designed to encourage bees and butterflies by making it easier for everyone to grow either wildflowers or herbs or salad. They’ve been designed specifically for a north eastern European climate and each one containing of these British made balls contains a mini ecosystem of seeds, clay, peat-free compost and a little chilli powder to deter predators! This is a new concept in the UK but seed balls have been used in ecological restoration projects around the world.
It’s Organic Beauty and Wellbeing Week! Yes, really! Under the lead of the Soil Association, 15th to 21st May 2017 is an awareness week dedicated to celebrating beauty brands that are certified organic.
‘there is currently no legal standard in place for organic cosmetics, meaning that any brand can make organic claims on packaging without needing to contain any organic ingredients.’
Unsurprisingly this makes sourcing organic beauty even more complicated. However dedicated we are to this mission, it unfortunately seems that there are firms out there who are willing to dupe us with misleading branding and hard to decipher ingredients lists.
So what can I do? What can each of us do?
1) Get clear about our own priorities
For a start, get clear about our own priorities. Organic Beauty and Wellbeing Week is, unsurprisingly, focused on organics – but maybe your biggest concern is with animal welfare. Cruelty free is a related but not identical issue. Likewise, you might be trying to use fairly traded products as much as you can; this may or may not map neatly on to organic products. Alternatively if you’re looking for British made then you’ll have different criteria again.
This might seem like trying to rank equally worthy objectives, but it is necessary. Otherwise you’ll be stood at the counter trying do weigh up the merits of a possibly smaller carbon footprint versus fairly traded ingredients from further afield while also needing to decide what food to pick up during your lunch break.
In a complex web of competing factors, we need to make our choices as easy as possible.
2) Do some basic research
We can also do some basic research into the area that most concerns us. The internet, as well as online shopping, makes accessing niche brands and products easier than ever. We can check out a firm’s credentials (as I need to do) and buy what we are after with just a few clicks.
There are plenty of resources out there to support this. The Soil Association, for instance, lists the brands that they have certified as organic. There are also apps that can help, such as Skin Matters by Joanne Evans (unfortunately for IOS only at this stage). This doesn’t focus on ethical issues directly but allows you to find out more about the components in your skincare, including those chemicals best avoided.
I’ve realised that my own fashion philosophy is quickly beginning to emerge now that I’m spending more time immersed in thinking and writing about the subject. The phrase that keeps coming to mind is that we need to take fashion both more and less seriously.
We need to take fashion both more and less seriously.
At first glance this is a paradox but less contradictory than it sounds.
We can take fashion more seriously by looking closely at what we are wearing, where it has come from and what practices (working and environmental) have been involved in the creation process.
We can use our consumer power to support businesses who are trying to create new models of manufacture and retailing.
Yet this consideration of the business side of fashion doesn’t preclude a bit of fun.
It is still possible to be playful and creative in what we wear.
Too often we take the appearance side seriously while neglecting to consider the actually serious side at all, but we can reverse this mindset.
Last Wednesday, I encountered an opportunity to do just this when I attended the press night for a pop-up shop in Shoreditch. The garments and accessories on display were beautiful but had quirky elements as well, from fun prints to big bows to unusual materials.
At the same time, all the goods for sale had an ethical twist one way or another, including using up discarded fabrics to stylish but slow fashion to supporting key environmental causes with each purchase.
It felt like a really exciting and growing movement to be part of, and the evening really resonated with my ‘take fashion both more and less seriously’ ethos.
Alas the pop up shop will be closed by the time this post goes live but you can still buy from the brands featured via their websites. Here are my recommendations based on the makers that I met that night, giving you some new names to check out in the new year…
Created by Sophie Dunster, Gung Ho Designs is comprised of organic cotton handmade garments all of which tell an important environmental tale.
Each features a different print, from bees to leopards to elephants, and when you purchase an item you receive a booklet explaining the challenges facing that particular animal. Not only does this raise awareness, but with each sale a donation is made to a relevant good cause.
Named after important women who’ve influenced her, Lucinda Burke’s gorgeous jewellery collection is handmade in London and uses ethically sourced precious stones. Lucinda also does bespoke commissions if you’re after a special piece!
Rhoda and Sarah of P.I.C. Style may produce a versatile and interchangeable capsule collection but I wanted to buy every single item in it! From a base of eight pieces they claim you can create over fifty outfits combinations, allowing you to make a great slow fashion statement.
These are definitely garments that you’ll want to wash and wear for a long time. Even the partner of another designer in the pop-up was sporting their peg trousers!
Kenny of Poli & Jo usually creates limited edition handbags and bags that he sells from his long-established stall on Shoreditch Market but when he realised that car firm Land Rover had leftover roof material, a new concept was born. Alongside his usual range, Kenny now crafts tote bags made from this recycled material.
The result is beautifully styled bags with a hefty dose of British heritage alongside modern design and durability. If a Land Rover roof can survive the African desert, you are not going to wear the material out on the 283 bus.
Designer Nina Kovacevic and her family came to Britain as refugees from the Balkans War and they settled in London. This is where Nina’s War and Drobe company is now based, with her making all the items by hand.
There’s a clear vintage influence on the brand’s vibe, with bolero jackets and close fitting dresses alongside high waisted trousers and jackets. If it’s a feminine silhouette that you’re after, get some War and Drobe in your wardrobe.
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