“Blink” New Designers: Tengri

With all new fashion ventures, success or failure is first and foremost rooted in your product. In supporting roles are your approach, your story and your ethics. In my opinion, many sustainable brands focus too much on their ethics and not enough on delivering fashion relevant, want-able, gorgeous product.

Nancy Johnston, founder of Tengri, seems to have the balance just right with her collection of  100% natural, undyed, hand-combed Mongolian yak wool knitwear that is eco-friendly and sustainable, as soft as cashmere and warmer than merino wool. I think it looks really gorgeous and I can’t wait to get my hands on some, especially in the wake of last Autumn Winter’s horrific angora scandal (you can read more about that here and here). Animal fibres are a tough ethical call in many ways. Even the humble woolly sheep often doesn’t get given the care it deserves at home or abroad.

It seems that the small scale, socially engaged, empowerment oriented Tengri offers us a very clear, open and utterly spotless source to production picture that supports all involved from start (the Mongolian yak herders) to the finish (the UK production is manned by retired industry professionals). It’s a beautiful approach and we’re delighted to share this really great fashion story with you.

Tengri AW'14 'Warrior' collection

Tengri AW’14 ‘Warrior’ collection

Tengri AW'14 'Warrior' collection

Tengri AW’14 ‘Warrior’ collection

Tengri AW'14 'Warrior' collection

Tengri AW’14 ‘Warrior’ collection

You can contact the brand and pre-order from this collection on their website.

For more new designers news, just take a look here.

“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!

“Blink” Retail: Fashion fantasy versus reality

an angora rabbit, image from Pinterest, with thanks

an angora rabbit, image from Pinterest, with thanks

How cute is that little fluffy being? That my friends, is an angora rabbit, and this amazing wonder of nature and good breeding has actually ignited a bit of a passion in me. That passion is founded in busting some of my own myths, and some myths that many of us conveniently hold to justify our moral choices when it come to fashion.

You see, I am a pescatatrian who was for many, many years a vegetarian. I recycle. I buy eggs that have been laid by chickens that have a fortnightly mani pedi and are hand fed by virgin farm hands dressed only in eco cotton. I wear leather because in my mind I can justify it as a bi-product of the meat industry (even though I don’t eat meat), and for the same reason I don’t mind sheepskin; however I am rather Milly Tant when it comes to fur which in my mind can never, ever be justified as a fashion material (so what if your coat is vintage, what kind of excuse is that???).

Back to that little fluff-ball bunny. This is part of one of my rather romantic myths. You see when I studied textiles the impression that I took away about the production of fibres like angora, is that these creatures are lovingly cared for and that the hair is gently harvested by combing the creatures in something resembling a visit to the beauty parlour, like in this rather charming vintage image.

image from Pinterest with thanks

image from Pinterest with thanks

Well, my esteemed fashion blogger friend, Disneyrollergirl, posted about the reality of angora production after seeing some coverage by PETA. Well, my myth on angora production has been truly blown apart. Likewise with my thoughts on the wonder of wool and supporting British producers. Those PETA guys don’t spare the gory details…

When did we get so heartless, careless and devoid of basic moral standards as members of the fashion industry and as consumers? I do believe it could be a case of  ‘out of sight, out of mind’ in combination with our convenient blind spots and those darn comfy myths that I mentioned earlier. So this is what I am aiming to do; i want to get to the truth of some of these things, without horrifying you with images that are too graphic but also without scrimping on the facts of the matter. I think if we all care so much about happy chickens laying our breakfast eggs and well cared for pigs in our pork sausages, we should also care about the production of the garments and accessories we wear. After all, fashion is supposed to be an expression of your inner self, so is your inner self a heartless bitch or does she actually give a shit?

Blink Interviews: Boys&Girls

As some of the most stylish folks I see these days are the offspring of some of my very stylish friends, I think its fair to say that fashion knows no age limits. We were really excited when we heard about a new British kidswear brand that combined brilliant aesthetics and a brilliantly ethical approach so it didn’t feel too much of a stretch to feature them on the blog.

Each garment is made using the highest quality organic (GOTS certified) and fairly traded (FLO certified) cotton for garments that are soft yet strong and easy care. A small section of the range is fully Fairtrade certified and carries the Fairtrade Mark, the aim being to eventually have an entirely Fairtrade certified range. The Boys&Girls ethos is ‘created with care’.
The Boys&Girls brand has steadily been building momentum since its launch and now has 50 stockists in the UK and Europe, a great blog as well as a Facebook page and a growing Twitter following. The full range is available from the Boys&Girls website.

We decided that we wanted to know more about this brand and its founders so we asked them for a quick interview…

So, what is the main inspiration behind launching ‘Boys and Girls’?
The inspiration behind Boys&Girls is to prove that ethical retailing can be mainstream, look really cool and need not be ‘green’ or ‘hippy’ just because it’s created with care.
We also feel there is a gap in the kidswear market for a more down-to-earth  British brand that is design-led and reflects today’s vibrant urban lifestyle– more parks and playgrounds than paddocks and ponies. We purposely use just normal kids (not models) to allow their individual personalities to shine through. Boys&Girls styles are comfy, practical and great everyday play clothes yet bright and attractive enough to wear to parties.

Why incorporate sustainability/ fair trade/ organic?
We really just feel it’s the right thing to do. The 3 of us have all worked with organic and Fairtrade manufacturing and it would have been hard to go back to working with conventional cotton again once you are aware of all the positive consequences using organic and Fairtrade manufacturing practices can bring.

Do you think sustainability, fairly traded or organically produced clothing should be a specific focus for kidswear?
We think it should be a specific focus for all clothing manufacturing.

Where do you look for inspiration for the collection?
We are lucky to be surrounded by endless sources of inspiration here in London’s East End– great markets, vintage stores and lots of interestingly dressed people. We always try and make sure our styles can fit the description of play clothes and so we do like retro sports clothes. We are also all about colour– we get very excited about colour palettes and the designs just seem to follow.

Have you considered recycling or upcycling with your products and packaging?
We do try and incorporate sustainable practices into anything we do where possible. So, for example, our paper mail bags are made in the UK from sustainably managed sources and are recyclable. We haven’t done any upcycling yet, but it is a great idea and definitely something for the future.

What is your dream for ‘Boys and Girls’ in 5 years time?
To be the No. 1 British brand for design-led and ethical kids clothes!

Who is the team behind ‘Boys and Girls’?
There are 3 of us in the Boys&Girls team all with a background in clothing retail, but luckily from different head-office roles; Buying, Merchandising and Design. Between us we have worked at some of the main high street retailers including, Topshop and BHS, but all met while working at the organic baby retailer, Green Baby.
However, there is also another Boys&Girls team as in all the various suppliers, free-lancers and friends that have helped us turn our original idea into the fledgling brand it is today and continue to offer their invaluable enthusiasm, support and advice.

What has been your favourite product so far?
I can’t decide between the yellow striped towelling sundress which makes every little girl look like a ray of sunshine, or the Out To Play sweat top which completely took us by surprise with its popularity and has now become instantly recognisable as Boys&Girls.

What additional challenges have you experienced with your decision to make the collection sustainable, fairly traded and organic?
It is a challenge for any start up clothing company to get off the ground due to small quantities being uneconomical and therefore unattractive to most manufacturers. This has been exacerbated recently by steeply rising fuel and cotton prices.
When you also throw into the mix organic and FLO cotton which has an extra cost and less availability it really does become even more challenging. Maintaining the ‘Fairtrade’ element of the range has proved to be the biggest struggle. In order for the cotton in a garment to be fully Fairtrade certified, it has to pass FLO certification at every stage of the supply chain – from the price paid for the cotton, to the ginners, the knitters, the dye house, etc all the way to the manufacturers. This is not as easy as it sounds for a small start-up company as most of these processors need to work with certain minimums of cloth in order for them to stay productive. For example, a FLO certified dye house does not stay open 24 hours a day meaning their employers all have to work overtime as most conventional dye houses do, so they need to reach optimum productivity during the hours they are open in order to remain profitable. Unfortunately we were unable to meet the minimums required by the FLO dye house on all but a small portion of our range and so although we have paid a fair price for the cotton, it cannot be fully Fairtrade certified as it didn’t manage to get FLO certification for this part of the supply chain.
The daily challenge for us therefore, is to continue to support the cotton farmers by buying the FLO cotton while trying to increase our sales and order quantities so that we can eventually have a completely Fairtrade certified range.

Well, we think that all the effort is worth it! Thanks to the Boys&Girls team for sparing us some time to give us the interview and we wish you the very best success with this brilliant brand.

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…


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.


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