Bags of Sustainable Style

Handbags, tote bags, clutch bags, shoulder bags…. all ‘essential’ (or not?) to modern life…..

In addition to editing my clothes, it goes without saying that I am also editing my collection of bags.  Handbags, tote bags, clutch bags, shoulder bags…. all ‘essential’ (or not?) to modern life.

My current favourite is the bag I bought a couple of years ago, from Healing the Wounded Heart in Hue, Vietnam.  The shop is an eco-friendly, fair trade shop and one project of the Spiral Foundation.  It provides work for disabled and disavantaged artists in Vietman and its proceeds fund fair wages and humanitarian aid.  15% of net proceeds help fund heart surgery patients in Hue.

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On the same holiday I bought a second bag (I think i have said in a previous blog that there’s something about being away on holiday that enourages the shopping urge? And of course, I love to buy things that are different to what’s available at home).  This other bag is by Valerie Cordier.  She designs and make beautiful bags and purses, from denim, leather, cotton and recycled materials, referencing local culture and using traditional craftsmanship.  The bags are all beautifully lined with patterns and colours.  Mine is made fom recycled grain storage bags. It’s strong and beautiful, and I use all the time.

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As for handbags, I inherited a couple of leather handbags from my grandmother. Both framed, I wouldn’t necessariy choose to buy these handbags today, but they come from another era, have huge sentimental value and I love their combination of practicality and  feminine elegance.

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Clutch bags can be more about frivolity than practicality.  Animal print is always a favourite and I have a lovely little fabric clutchbag from Other Stories, that I bought a couple of years ago.

Whether or not you choose to wear and carry leather is a personal choice.  I have leather bags, fabric bags, nylons sports bags and a beautiful Stella McCartney bag made from ‘vegetarian leather‘.

You may want to consider the environmental issues before making a decision. The tanning process is incredibly toxic, in particular chrome tanning, which results in carcinogenic chromium (VI) being released into the water table. Most factories in Europe and America no longer use this practice, but in China, for example, it is fairly widespread. Leather can be tanned using non-toxic vegetable dyes, but chrome tanning is faster and produces a more flexible leather that’s preferred for high-end bags and coats.

If you are looking for an alternative, Beyond Skin produce sustainable and leather-free footwear, handbags and accessories and their products are ethically and beautifully handmade in Spain.

Bella Purple Purse Vegan
Bella Purple Purse Vegan, Beyond Skin

Abury is another online company bringing together traditional crafts and avant-garde design to create luxury, sustainable style.  It’s aim is to empower the craftsmen, the communities and the designers, and it brings together traditional crafts knowledge from different cultures around the world.  Every time you buy an ABURY product, you are donating to the Abury Foundation which aims to transform the hours spent in production into hours of Education for the Communities where the product was made. For more about the Abury Foundation and its projects see here.

abury tote bag
Abury Tote Bag
ABury clutch bag
Abury Clutch Bag

Of course, Stella McCartney is a natural go-to for leather alternatives.  In particular this season, I love the star mini shoulder bag.  I also would love the Stella Star Belt Bag in black for a bit of hands-free bopping on the dance floor this summer?!

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Stella Star Bag Pink
stella star belt bag
Stella Star Belt Bag, Black

Good quality leather handbags can last for years.  I still have a Mulberry mini Alexa that I’ve had for almost a decade, and if anything I prefer it now that it is somewhat weathered and a little bit battered.

Finally, If you want a designer bag, but either don’t want the price tag or want to contribute to sustainablility, think about looking on Ebay or  in a local clothes agency (Pandora or Vestiaire Collective are a good place to start).   Recycling and reselling bags is a great idea.

Fashion Revolution Week – and Responsible Shopping.

How can we make socially resonsible clothing choices…?

As many of you will be aware, the last week in April was Fashion Revolution Week, a global campaign calling for more transparency in fashion supply chains. 

Fashion Revolution was set up by designers Cary Somers and Orsola de Castro, in direct response to the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in Bangladesh on 24th April 2013.  The collapse killed 1,134 people and injured 2,500 others and highlighted to the world the low wages and dangerous working conditions suffered by garment workers in India.

Clothing supply chains are complex and can involve many countries and many phases of textile production.  The Rana Plaza collapse made headline news, but for every ‘newsworthy’ story there are hundreds of other stories of poverty and abuse of workers within the fashion and clothing industry.  And unacceptable working conditions and ‘slave labour’ exist, not just in the developing world but in parts of Europe too.

FASHION-REVOLUTION-WEEK-2016

The team behind Fashion Revolution Week organised many activites worldwide including hosting ‘open studios’  inviting people into the workshops of Stella McCartney, Vivenne Westwood, Eileen Fisher, Veja and others who are happy to submit their processes to public scrutiny.

Their aim is a Three-Fold Change –

a. Change the Model, ie the way clothing is produced and consumed.

b. Change the Material – chemicals used in growing, dyeing and cleaning fabric are polluting rivers worldwide; tonnes of clothing is being taken to landfill every year; and through increasing mass production we are in danger of losing artisanal craftsmanship and human skills. In addition, according to the Carbon Trust clothing accounts for around 3% of the global production of CO2 emissions.

c. Change theMindset of the consumer.

Fashion Revolution’s campaign #whomademyclothes, is one way of encouraging a change in mindset.  The campaign has been trending on social media for some time now and in 2017, over 100,000 people asked brands this question. Putting a name and a face to the production of clothing is helping to humanise this fundamental part of the supply chain. Continue reading “Fashion Revolution Week – and Responsible Shopping.”

A New Wardrobe, Literally.

Re-Working my wardrobe has been, and still is, an emotional process…. here are a couple of lessons I have learnt so far…

I think Spring is finally here?!  Well, to be fair, the beginning of the week was perishing …. on Monday I was so cold and wet, having completed various errands on foot, that I came home, ran a hot bath and lay in it for half an hour to thaw!  (And I wore a woolly hat and gloves to walk to my Pilates class, which is actually only a ten minute stroll away!)

But this end of the week, I’m definitely feeling more upbeat about the weather.  The sky is blue, the sun is shining and I’ve left the heating on at home giving me the impression that it’s a good 20 degrees outside!

And I’ve had my bedroom painted.  Big news!  In the List of Things you need to update, change, alter and re-work in times of separation and divorce, then getting your bedroom painted is right up there with ‘change your email address’ and ‘cut your hair’  (I’ve done one of those, so far…) Continue reading “A New Wardrobe, Literally.”

In Praise of the Navy Sweater…

Is it possible to have too many navy sweaters in your wardrobe?…

I can trace my love affair with the navy sweater back to my childhood. Long summers spent in rural France, it was worn by anyone and everyone, and seemed to me the epitome of laid back chic, pulled on over a cotton shirt or simply draped around the shoulders.

I recall returning home to Yorkshire after such a holiday and spending  my meagre clothing allowance on a Marks & Spencer navy round neck sweater – absolute classic – and I wore it everywhere, from school (no uniform in the sixth form) to the local pub for our Friday evening ‘socials’!

Twenty five years later, I have seven navy sweaters in my wardrobe.   Continue reading “In Praise of the Navy Sweater…”

The Re-Worked Bridesmaid Dress

A long time ago, in what feels like another lifetime, I was ‘Chief’ (- obvs) Bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding. It was a brilliant day – sunshine, flowers and good friends. We spent months planning every detail, including the most important aspect of all(!) – what we would wear.

My friend looked amazing for her wedding – most Brides do?  We were both in our twenties, youthful and full of anticipation for what lay ahead.  But however much she loved her dress and veil, (and she did) I don’t think she could have been any happier than I was in my bridesmaid’s ensemble!  It was a rare joy to wear such rich, bright colours, and beautiful fabric. My skirt comprised metres of heavy, crisp silk, in rich blue, red and yellow.  It was gathered and voluminous, and brushed the floor as I glided up the aisle behind my dear friend, feel so proud and beautiful.  On the top, I wore a yellow silk bodice and a blue short-sleeved, silk jacket.  The skirt, top and jacket were all handmade.

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Fastforward 20 -plus years.  Sady, (or not), my friend and I are both now divorced. However – yes, you guessed it –  the clothes have outlasted both our marriages. Continue reading “The Re-Worked Bridesmaid Dress”

Retro Dressing, Now

I know how the saying goes – if you’re old enough to remember that decade the first time around, you really shouldn’t be wearing it now….

Few of us can have failed to notice the 70’s and 80’s influence in current fashion trends.

Culottes, jumpsuits, flares, blue denim (and even puffball skirts at YSL at Paris Fashion Week if I’m not mistaken?)!

I know how the saying goes -‘ if you’re old enough to remember that decade the first time around, you really shouldn’t be wearing it now’… but I do love these clothes. And to be fair, although I remember the 80’s vividly and had a fantastic puffball skirts and some enormous shoulder pads (see below, I have no shame…!) – I was only just born in the 70’s, and that decade is largely pre-‘conscious recollection’?!

For someone who is doing their very best to wear what is already in the wardrobe, rather than buy new stuff, dressing with a slightly retro look can be a sheer joy.  Keeping the look current, however, is more of a challenge.

Yes, I have older clothes and some I have had for a long time – but not originally bought 35 years ago…..

I had a good sort through my wardrobe the other day and came up with the following:- Continue reading “Retro Dressing, Now”

Dressing for extreme cold – practicality or style ?!..o

Answers on a postcard please….

I have asked myself this question several times this week but yes, I know the answer. Who really wants to be uncomfortable, shivering and potentially have hypothermia by lunchtime?!

I have trekked across Clapham Common every day, early in the morning and late in the afternoon – bundled up from head to toe and wearing so many layers, my arms won’t bend!

Every possible personal access point for that bitter Siberian wind – neck, ears, ankles, cuffs – has been blocked or wrapped, with quilting, cashmere, wool, or elastic. Continue reading “Dressing for extreme cold – practicality or style ?!..o”