Streetstyle: ‘In Fashion’ Focus, part 3

And here’s the final part of our East London streetstyle bonanza for this week. Some diverse looks and some diverse takes on the question “What does ‘in fashion’ mean to you?”. Feel free to share with us your thoughts on what ‘in fashion’ means to you too. Looking forward to hearing from you…

Brooke, Brick Lane "I go to charity shops in search of unique pieces of clothing. Of course I'm influnced by what's new but to be honest I think my clothes reflect who I am and what my mood is."

Verity, Broadway Market "I've just finished work. I don't take being 'in fashion' that seriously. I always wear black and then I have some fun on top of that."

Sophie (right) and Sam (left), Columbia Road Sophie: "I don't like to follow trends and fast changing fashion. I'm not a Topshop girl. I think the important thing about clothes is that they should reflect the person wearing them." Sam: "I think I feel the same way. Mix and match!"

For more of our inspirational streetstyle coverage, just click here. Enjoy!

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.

Blink Interviews: Gaudion Bowerbank

We first met Gaudion Bowerbank when attending a course on working sustainably at the brilliant Centre for Sustainable Fashion. Gaudion Bowerbank were already well progressed on their chosen path towards showcasing amazing jewellery that had been created sustainably and ethically, and we have watched their business go from strength to strength over the past year- never swerving from their mission.

In 2009 Gaudion Bowerbank was born out of the desire this duo have for creating an environment which fosters artistic freedom and creative collaboration leading to more intelligent design; a studio-boutique that would promote the behind-the-scenes craftsmanship of the best contemporary jewellery in the world. Working from small studios or their homes, the designers’ devote fine materials, years of expertise, and the physical workmanship hours needed to craft the orders by hand, one at a time.

“It was really important to Kelly and I that Gaudion Bowerbank have a point of difference, we wanted to offer our customers and designers a new retail experience, something with traditional values but with a contemporary and fresh aesthetic. Yes, on a basic level it [Gaudion Bowerbank] is a shop, but it’s a gallery too, a window into designers’ studios, and the hub of a vibrant, interactive, creative community.”
Claire Gaudion, Co-founder of Gaudion Bowerbank

Gaudion Bowerbank won designer brand of the year at London Jewellery Week in June 2010.

In addition to running Gaudion Bowerbank; Kelly Bowerbank works as a Junior Fashion Editor at Asos. Prior to that Kelly worked on the fashion desk at the Guardian for almost three years, with editors Jess Cartner-Morley and Imogen Fox. Claire Gaudion, alongside her role at Gaudion Bowerbank, also works for Edina Ronay assisting with design, buying and website development. She began this job whilst studying at London College of Fashion, which is where Claire and Kelly met.

We interviewed Kelly Bowerbank, picking her brains on her inspiration and influences. Thanks for the time you have given us Kelly!

Tell us about your current design crush
I’m really excited about a textile designer we’re launching soon. She’s a very talented weaver who makes beautiful scarves and throws. To the untrained eye her work is haphazard and geometric; but each of the patterns that make up her pieces have a secret Morse code word woven into them. My favourite is the design based on the word ‘love’, if you don’t know Morse code, then you’d never guess that’s what it said, or indeed that it said anything at all. It’s such a clever, imaginative concept, and it makes for an incredibly thoughtful gift. I will be treating the special people in my life to one of her scarves come Christmas!

Do you think that wearability is more important than creativity?
My head says yes, but my heart says no! Seriously, I think that (for me at least), it’s about balance. What I wear has to keep me from indecently exposing myself, fairly dry if it rains, and at a pleasant temperature- those are the non-negotiable ‘wearability’ factors. However, I don’t believe that creativity has to be sacrificed to tick these boxes. Even wardrobe staples: white t-shirts, navy jumpers, black trousers, can have beautiful, unexpected design details. I heard someone refer to these as ‘premium basics’ recently, which I thought was nice.

For you, what is the most important aspect of being an independent retailer?
Being able to promote emerging talent. In times of economic difficulty, the large department stores and chains are reluctant to take ‘risks’ with little-known designers. We can be much more flexible and reactive in our approach, and it means we can support new graduates and fresh talent.

Which comes first for you, personal style or trends?

I have eclectic style. One day I may be dressed in homage to Mad Men, the next could be my take on military, and another I’ll be channeling Snoop Dog (yes really). Trends don’t massively influence me, but I do nod in their direction, especially when it comes to styling my outfits. There’s been a massive shift towards minimalism recently, so I’ll be putting a lot of our designer’s simple, paired back pieces to good use this season.

Do you think that ethical and sustainable fashion can compete with main stream high-street fashion?

It has to, and it is. Today’s customers are shrewd, if ethical fashion doesn’t fulfill their requirements then they just won’t buy it. Of course, there is still room for improvement, but in recent years, the design credentials of the best ethical fashion has really improved to a point where is can easily compete with the fast fashion of the high-street

What season are you currently working on and how is it shaping up?
Gaudion Bowerbank doesn’t really work on seasonal basis, we just choose designers that we love and who deserve a platform for their work. We do apply some common sense to our operational schedule though, for example we wouldn’t launch a knitwear designer in June, when what women really want is is summery dress.

What or who are your longest standing design influences?
Elsa Schiaparelli and Martin Margiela. I’m the proud owner of a Margiela jacket, the shoulders are so huge that I have to go through doorways side on when I wear it. I’ve yet to acquire any Schiaparelli, but I’m hopeful!

What’s currently inspiring you?
We visit many graduate and new designer shows each year, and there have been some great ones this summer. Seeing all of the new talent, fresh and enthusiastic, re-affirms our ethos. Creating a platform that supports emerging designers, that’s inspiring. Claire and I are both also  really looking forward to the Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion, exhibition opening soon at the Barbican Art Gallery. I’m sure I’ll come out of there energized, notepad and pencil in hand, eager to design and create!

How would you describe Gaudion Bowerbank’s fashion aesthetic?
Minimal, timeless, and beautiful. A bold design statement.

What is currently tempting you into making a purchase?

Erm, I’m a little embarrassed by this, but I’ve literally just bought some Rebecca Taylor leopard trousers, despite lots of protests from my boyfriend. After the February fashion weeks I realised there was a huge gap in my wardrobe where animal print trousers should be. Mulberry and Ungaro presented some gorgeous ones; mine are charcoal and black, they’re made of really soft wool. They’re much nicer than what you’re probably imagining! If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m a sucker for fashion…

Any style secrets?
Wear at least one thing everyday that makes you smile. And wear it with confidence.

How has the ethical and sustainable fashion scene changed since you opened your business?

The awareness of ethical and sustainable fashion is growing all the time; both within the industry as more brands launch eco/organic/fairtrade lines, and with customers becoming more conscientious shoppers. Since opening the business, we’ve definitely perceived a positive shift towards sustainable fashion. A year or two ago people were engaging with ethical fashion because they felt they should, but now it’s because they actually want to- there’s been a massive change in attitude.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Seeing the craft behind the products. It’s amazing to be privy to the skill and the love that goes into creating them.

Any future projects that you’d like to tell us about?
We’re focusing on two main projects at the moment, expanding our product range and re-developing the website. It’s a massive job, the revamped site will look clean and modern, and the improved functionality will make the shopping experience much smoother for customers.

Any fashion regrets?
As someone who has indulged in almost every daft trend, you’d think I’d have lots! But fashion is too much fun to have any regrets. Live, wear and learn but never regret.

Whats the best fashion advise that you’ve ever been given?

Don’t save things for ‘special’, it just means you’ll never ever wear them.

Can you share with us your most fabulous fashion moment?
I felt pretty pleased with myself (and only mildly embarrassed) when Jerry Hall had to wait to pass, while the Japarazzi took my picture at an event at London College of Fashion. She was very gracious about it, and totally stunning.

Who would you love to work with, past or present?
Working with new and relatively unknown designers is one of the best parts of this job and what drives Gaudion Bowerbank. But there are of course some iconic designers and brands that we’d love to partner with. It would be amazing to do something with Pierre Hardy, I adore his shoes. You can spot his designs from a mile away, there is something about the proportions,  classic, contemporary, simple, yet creative. Whistles is one of my favourite stores and Jane Shepherdson is exceptionally talented- the Phoebe Philo of the high street. She has a sixth sense when it comes to design, she intuitively knows what women want and she doesn’t fail when it comes to delivering it. I’d never say no to a collaboration with Whistles or her or both!

Any final word of advise?
Keep the momentum and smile even when things don’t go to plan- they have a habit of working themselves out. Make time to see your loved ones even when you’re frantically busy.

Claire and Kelly at London Jewellery Week earlier this year

designs by Simone Brewster

designs by Simone Brewster

designs bu Lua Lua

designs bu Lua Lua

Blink guest blogs for the CSF: ‘Empathy’ with The Inoue Brothers

This is the post that I created for the Centre for Sustainable Fashion’s blog. My first ever effort at being ‘Guest Blogger’ and I was feeling the pressure! I think it was a pretty successful attempt, thanks to the very kind co-operation of The Inoue Brothers

The CSF team asked me to consider the word ‘Empathy’ for this month’s subject matter. So I put my thinking cap on and got my trusty Collins English dictionary out. After first thinking that it was a bit of an abstract concept to apply to fashion, I totally reconsidered my view point when I realised that if you don’t have empathy for your manufacturers, your collaborators, partners and customers then you would pretty much fall at the first fashion hurdle.

Collaborations are super hot topic right now, especially with Lanvin planning to add luxury to H&M with a collection landing instore in November, as well as Gap working with Valentino’s designers for a collection that will be featured in Colette. When I interview creatives for the “Blink” blog, I often ask whether they work best alone or in collaboration with others. The answer is generally that collaborations are not the easiest things to do, but are often the most creatively rewarding. You absolutely must have empathy for the other creative party for a successful collaboration. So, I started looking at partnerships and collaborations that I think are incredibly creatively successful. This lead me to The Inoue Brothers

Not only does this brand work in a brilliantly collaborative way both internally and externally, they are also working in a wonderfully sustainable and conscious way too. I felt this made them the perfect subject matter for the CSF’s blog- as well as reflecting the meaning of ‘Empathy’.

Born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark, Japanese brothers Satoru and Kiyoshi Inoue combine Japanese sensibility and Scandinavian simplicity to create a really rather unique creative aesthetic that they term ‘Skandinasian’. In 2005, The Inoue Brothers launched a unique collaboration with the people of Bolivia to create hand-knitted Alpaca garments with sustainability, ethics and social responsibility at the heart of the collection. The Inoue Brothers are also working on a collection produced in South Africa, incorporating the traditional, indigenous craft of beadwork.

We were delighted when the team agreed to this interview. Thanks so much, particularly to Daniel, for your help and such a fantastic insight into what the Inoue Brothers is all about.

How do you go about deciding where to work and who to work with on your collections?

We started designing for clients in the UK and Denmark but mostly graphic and conceptual design. Since we were teenagers, we’ve always been fascinated by fashion but more as an artistic expression and not the industry. The vanity, greed and exploitation often seen in some areas of fashion had kept us away from it. However when we, through a common friend, were introduced to the alpaca fibre and craftsmanship of the indigenous people of Bolivia, we knew immediately this was something of interest. Finally, we saw a way of working with fashion whilst contributing socially, approaching the business and industry with content.

Our work ethics has now been established with this spirit, seeking out communities where craftsmanship and cultural heritages are rich. The communities we chose to collaborate with for our projects are therefore purposely chosen for their less enriched history of financial stability and opportunity.

How does the idea of sustainability impact on your collection?

Sustainability can mean a lot of things in regard to what context the term is used. In one sense the way sustainability impacts our collection is the way we chose to treat our production workers – with the utmost respect and decency. We demand a lot from them, but we are always sure to meet their demands – financially and work ethics wise. In another sense of sustainability we want to show the world what cultural crafts can be communicated in a new light. For example the Alpaca and the knitting that comes from its wool is a cultural heritage of the indigenous people of the Andes. In the same sense the beading crafts of the indigenous women of South Africa is a big part of their cultural heritage – and we aim to make these the focal point of our collections.

What are you currently working on and how is it shaping up?

At the moment we are preparing our Spring Summer 2011 collections in collaboration with the same community – Khayelitsha. We are also working on our Autumn/Winter collection continually with the people of the Bolivian Andes. This collection will be our biggest to date. We also have very exciting ideas developing, which will be released in the near future.

What does the word ’empathy’ mean to you and your business?

The very simple meaning of the word is ‘to share’. To share ideas, emotions and opportunities to better any circumstances with the outset of beginning with oneself.

How important do you think it is to respect the traditional cultural heritage and skills of the area you are manufacturing in?

It is of utmost importance! We work from a basis of empowerment. We want the people who we commission to feel proud that their cultural heritages as crafts are spread and sold in the Western world. We hope it empowers their everyday to strengthen and develop their culture and identity as a community.

What or who are your longest standing design influences?

Our main design influences are the people we work with. On the other hand we are very influenced by Comme des Garcon’s spirit in their boldness of style. As kids our dream was to work with them in some way and in 2008 this dream came true when we were approached to work on a collaboration. With their words, the reason they found us interesting was because they could sense a passion in the way we choose to work.

Has your business developed in the way that you anticipated?

We can safely say no. When we start a new project we have some initial ideas, but we always end up somewhere completely unexpected. When we go on research trips we take a long time before, preparing ourselves as not to have any preconceived ideas about the places we are going. We strive to keep an open heart and mind everywhere we go and embrace any culture we are so fortunate to have the opportunity to encounter. Therefore, we don’t know what our future holds, however as long as we uncompromisingly strive to uphold our beliefs we are sure for it to be with headwind but guaranteed excitement.

Many of your collections have been knitwear focused. Is this due to your own passion for knit or more due to the traditions and local skill set of place you were manufacturing?

Good question. Initially we started with knit due to the previously explained opportunity we had to engage in the fashion industry. But now, four years later, knitting has become something of passion for sure. It’s very hard not to get super excited about the end product when so much work, effort and love has been put into it!

How would you describe your design aesthetic?

Scandinasian! It is a mix of Scandinavian simplicity and Japanese sensibility.

What’s the best thing about your job?

One of the best things about our job is overcoming obstacles that initially seem impossible and in retrospect seeing how all the little details and would be coincidences actually makes perfect sense. This always makes us smile. Another is when we see the positive impact in every aspect of the realms we work in, especially the privilege we have to work so closely with our manufacturing collaborators and clients and the positive vibrations they give us. This is something we are truly grateful for.

Any final words of advise?

Our way of working is all about the people we are privileged enough to be able to work with. The most valued part of our business is the relations we make and the new ones to come. These are only upheld when respect and human decency is the basis. And for us these things only appear when we feel we are able to empathize with our relations.

No man is an island entire of it self

Every man is a part of the main.

John Donne (1624)

The Inoue Brothers

Bolivian alpaca products

AW '10 collection

'Ubuntu' collection shoot

Blink Discoveries: Lu Flux vs the World!

We first came across Lu Flux at the Estethica exhibition at the last London Fashion Week, and we then had the pleasure to meet Lu again whilst at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. Lu Flux is not only a brilliantly innovative London based brand, but it’s also created in an ethical and sustainable way- and that really rings our bell.

We were super excited to see that Lu’s work has made it on to the red carpet. American actress, Brie Larson, wore a Lu Flux frock to the ‘Scott Pilgrim vs The World’ European premiere in London’s Leicester Square.  The dress, called ‘Bluetit’, is from the SS ’10 ‘The Eco Life of Riley’ collection. Its made completely from salvaged silks and is a total one-off.

Lu Flux will be showing as part of Estethica again at September’s London Fashion Week and we are really looking forward to seeing her new collection.

Brie Larson wearing Lu Flux (image from the Eyeprime blog)