“Blink” Retail: Fashion fantasy versus reality, beyond angora

A very, very happy new year to you all and heres our first post of 2014. Before I get stuck in to the subject at hand, I’d like to thank you all for your support and for choosing Blink. Keep sharing the love x

So, I have decided to kick off 2014 with a catch up on a subject we started looking at last year; my desire to bust some fashion myths (you can catch up on the state of play so far by having a read here). The great news is that we were exploring these questions at the same time as many, many influential members of the fashion industry. A multitude of very important brands have now decided to boycott the use of angora until they can be assured that the source (ie those rabbits) are being farmed in a humane and ethical manner, after all this is a crucial element in sustainable behavior aside from the fact that we would all hope to behave in a compassionate and conscious manner as members and customers of the world wide fashion industry.

You know, I couldn’t be more delighted that the conversation has been started in such a public way. I’m just looking for the conversation to expand beyond those gorgeous bunnies and incorporate all sources of animal fibres. PETA have already called for shoppers to boycott wool products (read more here.) and accused British wool producers of severe cruelty. Is any of our wardrobe safe from doubt?

So what about the other animals that are farmed for their fluff and feathers? Here’s a selection of some of the main ones, but we’re sure this isn’t an exhaustive list..

Roosters, image with thanks to Pinterest

Roosters, image with thanks to Pinterest

Roosters, chickens and turkeys are the source of much of fashions feather trims (even most of those feathers we call ‘marabou’ come from the humble turkey apparently). Do you hope as I’d like to, that they are collected as they are naturally shed by these little beings? Hmm, sadly this is highly unlikely.

Cashmere goats, image with thanks to Pinterest

Cashmere goats, image with thanks to Pinterest

I have worked with some of Britain’s most highly respected cashmere businesses who describe their goats being taken great care of, but, as with much of the animal fibre production, this stage of production happens in China and in the hilly wilds of neighbouring countries (where the cashmere goat originates from), so how much do we really know about the lives of those precious herds?

Angora goats, the source of mohair. Image with thanks to Pinterest

Angora goats, the source of mohair. Image with thanks to Pinterest

The same questions could be raised about these beautiful angora goats, who rather confusingly are where we get mohair from.

Alpacas, image with thanks to Pinterest

Alpacas, image with thanks to Pinterest

Alpaca is another noble fibre that is mostly seen in very high end collections, along with camel hair. I do hope that these are not treated to some of the same barbaric practices as the humble sheep.

Merino sheep, image with thanks to Pinterest

Merino sheep, image with thanks to Pinterest

Gosh, where would we be without wool? Just glancing around me, I’m pretty much surrounded by it in various forms and roles in my home office. I was really disturbed by the PETA statements on wool production and sheep farming practices right here on our doorstep. This, in fact, is what sparked this whole desire of mine to debunk some of my own myths.

So, the next stage is underway and I hope to have some more facts to replace our fictions. Oh and I really do hope to have some wonderful findings to share with you all. I couldn’t bear it if the whole thing is a horror story. What the bloody hell would we all end up wearing? It’s far too chilly to be a naturist!

London College of Fashion MA Graduates: We Spotlight Zoe Grace Fletcher

We were invited to the LCF‘s MA Graduate show at Victoria House. It was a wonderfully diverse show and all of the featured graduates delivered very polished and desirable work. We fell in love with the work of four graduates in particular. Each approached their particular discipline in a unique way and we were inspired by their methods as well as the results of their labours. Here is the first interview, in a small series, and we hope that you enjoy learning about some new creative talents who are imminently to be unleashed on the fashion industry.

Zoe Grace Fletcher‘s MA was in ‘Fashion and the Environment’ and she focused on knitwear, and more specifically the knitwear industry within the British Isles. The pieces shown, however, initially grabbed our attention from a fashion perspective with their amazing proportion, colour and texture. We then looked deeper into Zoe’s approach and learned the amazing journey that she took to create those pieces

So, over to Zoe…

CONTEXT

I have always been obsessed with creating, making, doodling, knitting – anything to keep my hands and mind busy. Knitting was the perfect antidote – as a self confessed perfectionist I love having the total control of creating the fabric and silhouette shape at the same time. During my degree studying textiles and fashion the enjoyment of seeing the full journey of processes that went into creating a garment spurred me on to my final project. I became increasingly dissatisfied with the types of yarn available at reasonable prices, and didn’t understand why it was more expensive to buy British wool than wool and synthetic alternatives that had been shipped half way around the world. Delving deeper I was horrified to find that there was little left of what was once a great industry in Britain. This realisation spurred me to learn more about how we can sustain ourselves with the resources that surround us, to try and slow down the fashion trend of buying, buying, buying and take stock of the value and the craftsmanship that goes into each piece of clothing we wear.

THE COLLECTION

My work evolves around the idea of slowing down the fashion cycle, Exploring the possibilities for drastic locality within the British Isles. To inspire, utilise and push the boundaries of British wool within the fashion sector, whilst inspiring a new generation to connect with and value their clothing.
Using 100% British wool that I have seen sheared (and attempted myself!), processed and spun locally, connecting with local experts and businesses to forge links between different design sectors, using natural plant dyes grown in Britain, and utilising traditional knitting techniques from a modern perspective, I hope to engage the consumer on a more personal level, and connect with them whilst showing the true value of their clothing in a fashion-led collection.
My belief is that to move forward, progress, and rebuild a once powerful industry that can provide local fashions and trends to local people, we need to look back to the past to see how communities worked together when the world wasn’t so connected.  As well as seeing the importance of being interlinked globally with other nations, we also need to see the importance of being interlinked as transformed local communities.
To see a final collection of physical objects encompass many hard months of researching, learning, developing and making, as well as being able to pinpoint individual collaborations with lovely talented people throughout the designs was satisfying to see. Creating pieces in bold bright colours enabled me to challenge people’s perceptions of natural plant dyes and has spurred me on to think bigger and bolder next time.

What would your dream job be?
A creator of beautiful hand crafted pieces – knowing exactly where they came from and how they were made.
Possibly being an initiator for others to do the same and have a lovely platform for like-minded people to come together. As well as having the time to research and connect other designers and small businesses together to gain the best that we can out of our Great British resources – especially promoting the beautiful wool we have abundantly available, and continuing to push the boundaries of how it is used and interpreted in a fashion context to try and convert people away from fast throw-away fashion to loving one piece that can be dressed in many different ways to suit individual tastes.
I would love to experience many different areas of fashion design and see how sustainable thinking can be integrated into different sized business models – so I am open to many different research and design opportunities.

Who or what has proven to be your longest standing inspiration?
My local surroundings, friends and family constantly inspire me. Finding lovely people with genuinely amazing skills on my doorstep – that collaborate with me and teach me about subjects that go completely over my head as a designer, to create exploratory and unique outcomes always amazes me!

If not knitwear, what other creative discipline would you have chosen?
Since being really little I have explored every craft imaginable – I just love designing, making and seeing an idea come to life – I was never happier than when I was tucked in a quiet corner with some paper, pens, scissors and glue. I can’t sing, have no coordination or musical talent (except for a scratchy year on the violin) so it would definitely have to be an arty alternative that captured my imagination!

Can you see a place for sustainability at all levels of the fashion market?
Definitely, there are so many ways to incorporate a more valued fashion life-cycle, from up-cycling, customizing and buying vintage, re-skilling through education and workshops to encouraging people to treasure pieces for longer, combining a more ethical approach to production through providing a living wage and safe working environment within clothing manufacture, fair trade initiatives and organic approaches to raw materials, dyeing and finishing, combining technological advances within clothing, and creating valued pieces through traditional techniques and valuing craftsmanship skills whilst utilizing valuable resources effectively. Each different aspect overlaps and targets different areas of the fashion market- from high end to high street – so there’s no excuse!

What is the most exciting thing that you learnt on your MA?
That there is no one answer to ‘sustainability’, we have to continue to strive for more in many different areas, from bridging the gap between science and fashion, to seeing not only the importance of being interlinked globally with other nations, but also the need to be interlinked as local communities. Everyone on the MA had such varied opinions, principles and amazing skills that it was fantastic to work beside them, progressing such varied ideas and seeing such beautifully different outcomes all interlinking the need for change within the fashion sector.

What three words best sum up your aesthetic?
Practical, colourful, cherished.