Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Pure Pod - Purely Australian Sustainable Fashion

As much as I love interviewing ethical designers from all around the world - it's always very special when I get to chat to someone based here in Australia! In 2007 designer Kelli Donovan and photographer Sean Watson went out on a limb and launched their own ethical fashion label - Pure Pod

I recently spoke to Kelli about the ups and downs of starting an eco-fashion brand. Theirs is a story of dedication, creativity and determination that I found to be very inspiring...I hope you will too!

Q. Why are sustainability and social ethics an important part of fashion design for you?

We don't believe sustainability and ethics should be a choice as a manufacturer and designer. We think it is an integral part of design. We all need a healthy planet to live and survive so why should it be something we ignore when manufacturing products.  We all have the responsibility to do the right thing as this planet is borrowed from the next generations. If we stuff it up what are they going to do? No powerful organisations, huge amounts of money or large armies are going to bring back a healthy planet are they? 

You can make beautiful things with the right choices and feel good about making them. This story then makes our stockists and customers feel good about what they are purchasing, knowing they are making ethical consumer choices! We have a close relationship with many of our makers, printers, cutters, pattern makers. Many of whom we have been working with for 8 years now and we always want to make sure they are okay and enjoy their work. 

It's a tough trade sitting behind a machine or printing or cutting everyday! If they are working in terrible conditions this would only make it worse on their mental and physical health. I believe this feeling will come out in the clothing and then to the wearer! Fast fashion is great at this!  I just couldn't do it any other way. Why make ethical and sustainable clothing  you are passionate about if the story behind it doesn't match the beautiful eco garments? Just doesn't make sense, so to me there is no choice!!  

Q. How would you describe Pure Pod's aesthetic in 10 words or less?

Life style, passion, nature lover, adventurer, slight touch of vintage, dreamer, compassion, clean cut styles that will last the test of time, a life long story behind it << Hee hee slightly over 10 words ;-) Love the answer though! 

Q. What are some of the challenges you've faced as an eco-friendly fashion brand? How did you overcome them?

A huge challenge is to make in Australia. It is getting harder and harder to survive as a brand. Many of our wonderful crafts people are retiring and there is not a younger generation coming through, plus these people are taking with them amazing skills that younger generations do not know. 

Also being Australian Made doesn't get as much media support as a Fair Trade or offshore made ethical brands. These brands are wonderful but we love our makers and know if we stop giving them work they won't survive and many won't get other work as they are too old in their fields to start another career. 

Cash flow is always a big one for all designers, retailers and suppliers. This one we all have to juggle constantly and often paying ourselves last after everyone has been paid and looked after! Ethical and eco fabric suppliers — it can be very hard somethings finding eco-certified fabrics which are good quality and wear well, wash well and stand the test of time. Sometimes real eco-organic veggie dyed fabrics can be much softer than a hard wearing synthetic fabric. We need to educate our customers that this is the case. 

Q. What's your favourite piece in-store right now (I think mine is your Amazon Dress)?

My current favourite is the veggie and herb dyed, hand block printed, organic cotton Mandala Peplum top. I have both colourways - mud sport and the indigo spot. I can't take them off. The fabric is so soft on your skin and beautiful for hot days. It can be layered for cooler days and looks great with pants or a skirt. We have sold this to many different shaped women and they all look amazing wearing it. Even larger busted customers have loved this top. They were hesitant to put it on but once they did they took it!

The fabric is hand block printed with mineral, veggie and herb dyes. These dyes are virtually at Ayervedic medicine levels, so they are good for your skin and body. As our skin is the largest organ in your body it is smart to put things on it which are pure and organic as much as possible as chemicals from our clothing and skin products can go into our skin.

Q. If you had to choose another profession — what would it be? 

I am also a yoga and Pilates teacher so I think I would go into the health and well-being industry more and learn also to paint or sculpt! I love making people feel relaxed and get in touch with their bodies and mind, and release stresses from their everyday lives. The best feeling is when my students sit up from the Savasana (relaxation) at the end of class and they are all dreamy and relaxed! It's almost like they have gone out of their busy minds and back into their bodies, a grounding feeling! This calms the nervous system and mind!

Q. Who or what is currently inspiring you? 

I love all the amazing artists, crafters and designers we meet in the designer market circles, through different groups I am a part of and just in everyday life! I am not always into following famous people but those who are making a difference in their everyday lives for the better!

Q. What does 2015 hold for Pure Pod? 

This year we have a strong focus on our children's collection - 'dirtgirlworld' organic and ethical kids clothing. We are launching it at Kids In Style in Sydney on 19th February. We are producing the collection for the ABCTV 2 kids show 'dirtgirlworld.' 

We are very passionate about it as we have a little 4 year old girl called Ruby. We want to make families and parents aware of their natural surrounds and to take care of the planet from every purchase to every step! This show teaches kids about the natural world, recycling and just getting outdoors and having fun! Plus it is a fun program with music, colour and learning. Get outside and get grubby! 

You can connect with Pure Pod via Facebook and Twitter - KBC x

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Fairytale EcoFashion

I've always been attracted to the beauty, morality and wonder of fairy-tales, from when I was small to present day they've held my fascination. Recently I've been watching the TV series Once Upon A Time and I was reminded of an idea I'd had years ago to curate a collection of fairytale-inspired items of ecofashion and beauty!

 So allow me to whisk you away to a magical realm - enjoy!

Eyelashes by Paperself - Whether you're a woodland nymph or a sparkling mermaid, London based designer Chunwei Liao has you covered! Paperself claims to be an eco-friendly alternative to more traditional false eyelashes
 High Neck Chipao Collar Capelet by Anny Schoo Eco Clothing - This beautiful vintage-inspired natural linen capelet is perfect for a stroll through the woods to visit Granny...
The Unicorn and The Butterfly Baby Shoes by Little Pitterpat - Even baby princesses need magical vegan shoes! These delightful shoes have been handmade using certified organic cotton and bamboo
Never Never Land Dress by Pierogi Picnic - Add a splash of innocent cheekiness to your wardrobe with this upcycled piece with its Peter Pan Collar. Change the look each time with a different petticoat
Bear-ly There Pillow by Bird Mafia - This super cute bear is sure to think your bed or couch is juuuust right! Made using organic cotton for the exterior and recycled polyester inside to make him nice and plump
Fae Dress by Nuvo Nova - Channel your inner Tinkerbell or Flower Fairy with this sweet dress crafted from vintage materials
Love Pendant by Annabel Panes - Surely one of the most important themes threaded through fairy-tales is LOVE! This stunningly elegant necklace was made in Lima from certified Fairtrade silver mined in the Andes
Sofia Two Piece by Reformation - If you're after a modern take on a fairytale princess then look no further than this beautiful ivory two piece! Impeccably crafted from surplus material, it's feminine yet funky
Light Fairies by Beatrice Oettinger -These utterly strange and delightful lights consist of tiny fairy dresses which have been baked from flour dough and dyed with beetroot! Each exquisite string of lights is unique
Explorer All-in-one by ALAS - How adorable is this all-in-one nightwear from ALAS? It reminds me of the character Michael Darling from Disney's 1953 version of Peter Pan! You can rest easy in these pyjamas knowing they're made from certified organic cotton
Constellation Dress by Vaute Couture - Feeling ordinary? Perhaps it's time to wish upon a star? Loving this organic velvet dress for stargazers and dreamers!

"The fairy poet takes a sheet Of moonbeam, silver white; His ink is dew from daisies sweet, His pen a point of light"

~Joyce Kilmer

Friday, 19 December 2014

Contribute Some Kindness this Christmas!

Are you over the frantic flurry of gift-giving that occurs around this time of year? Want to be part of something bigger but still receive a fun treat in return? Why not contribute to an inspiring start-up initiative, either for yourself or on someone else's behalf? I'm all about crowdfunding some ethically designed Christmas cheer :D

Here are 3 of my top ecofashion project picks:

GOO LiFE on Pozible

Who: This independent Melbourne-based label was launched in early 2014 by RMIT design graduate, Sophia Coughlan. According to Sophia "The more I learnt about it the more I thought that I don’t want to be part of an industry which values a dollar sign more highly than the ethical treatment of humans, animals and the environment".

What: Sophia is aiming to raise AUD$5,000 to create an entirely new ethical and sustainable collection to feature at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival in March 2015. She aims to use locally-sourced fabrics whenever possible, which will then be printed locally by an ethical print studio in Sydenham and then the garments will be constructed in her studio in Northcote. 

Why: You can help to shine a spotlight on sustainable fashion by funding Goo LiFe to showcase their designs at a major fashion event. Rewards include nabbing your own piece from the new collection!

When: Pledges close on 6th February 2015 

Fashion Positive on Indiegogo

Who: Fashion Positive is a massive initiative which is partnering with a wide range of brands, designers and others along the fashion supply chain to create better materials for both people and planet. Current partners include Stella McCartney and G-Star RAW.

The campaign is hoping to raise US$100,000 to go toward pilot projects which will look at: decreasing the ecological footprint of factories, improving social impact on workers and their local communities, and investing in materials take back, recycling or upcycling programs within the facilities, brands, retailers or across the entire supply chain.   

Why: Be part of the creation of widespread change for a brighter fashion future! Rewards include sustainable fashion accessories, being part of team meetings and enjoying a personalised styling session. 

When: Pledges close 27th January 2015

Osei-Duro on Kickstarter

Who: Based in Los Angeles California and Accra in Ghana, Osei-Duro was created in 2009 by Maryanne Mathias and Molly Keogh. They work closely with artisans to create high-quality, contemporary apparel using handmade textile techniques and transparent, small scale production processes. A guiding philosophy behind the brand is respecting the rights and aesthetics of local makers.

What: The campaign goal is US$10,000, which will assist Osei-Duro to: fund their current round of production,  preserve the traditional artisan techniques of Ghana, provide employment and training for local artisans, and expand the collection into housewares.

Why: Stand up for makers and encourage the world to recognize the value of traditional techniques! Rewards range from handmade accessories, to unique housewares and amazing pieces of ecofashion.

When: Pledges close 26th December 2014


Thursday, 11 December 2014

RIYKA is Collaborating for a Sustainable Fashion Future

Rebecca Johnson - designer for London-based women's wear label RIYKA - recently got in touch to share her new project with the Kindness by Design community! This season the team at RIYKA have embarked on a new collaboration with Elizabeth Loopy, a 27-year old woman living in Gambia. 

Very sadly, Elizabeth's father passed away when she was only 13 and soon afterwards she was sent from her home country of Senegal to live with a family friend in Gambia. Despite the many challenges she faced, and with the support of charity GETS, Elizabeth completed her final two years at school, where she was awarded best sewing upon graduation. 

Now Elizabeth is crafting a range of dust bags made from end waste fabric for RIYKA. According to Rebecca, "For every RIYKA purchase made in December over £100 we're including one of Elizabeth's hand-sewn dust bags - for free. Not only does this make the perfect sustainable gift wrap for Christmas, but you will also be helping Elizabeth work towards living in her own flat and achieving financial independence". 

I had the chance to talk to Rebecca about ecochic fashion, her work with Elizabeth and the philosophy behind RIYKA as a fashion label. 

Q. As a designer, why is eco-friendliness important to you? 

Eco friendly/sustainability is a way of life for us, even before we started RIYKA. We try to minimize the effect of our lifestyle on our surroundings. It's a less selfish way of living, and that is the most important thing to us and about being eco. 

Q. How would you describe RIYKA in 10 words or less?

Functional, comfortable, classic, timeless, fun, playful, sustainable, unisex.

Q. If you could change one thing about the current fashion industry, what would it be?

Make it less fast, more transparent, the big companies have so much power to do this, and I am constantly shocked by how this power isn't utilized in a more positive way. They have the power to change the way we all consume, but hopefully things are starting to change...

Q. Can you tell me about RIYKA's collaboration with Elizabeth Loopy in Gambia and how it began?

I was contacted through another designer friend who thought that I might be interested in working with her. We started the project about 6 months ago, the idea is to start with something small, and see how we get on, and hopefully grow the range and give Elizabeth more complex pieces. At the moment she is sewing it all on a manual singer machine, but the ideal would be to set her up with a proper machine. These are all baby steps at the moment, but we love the challenge and I love the idea that we can connect with people in different parts of the world, and help them somehow.

Q. Who or what is inspiring you right now? 

People who are encouraging and promoting for a more sustainable fashion industry- like Lucy Siegel, Livia Firth and and Carry Somers.

I'm loving RIYKA's Flourance shirt made out of light organic crossweave blue chambray, with reclaimed denim panels on the sleeve :-)

You can also connect with RIYKA via Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

TuShare Allows You to Share the Love Sustainably!

Did you know that 37 million parcels are sent from person to person a year in Australia? I certainly didn't! 

That is until earlier this week when I received a pot of dirt delivered directly to my door. No it wasn't a random prank, it was a sustainable gift from the folks at TuShare! Upon opening the card I found some rosemary seeds for me to plant in my new terracotta pot (apparently rosemary is a big favourite of Australian bees). 

If you haven't already heard of them, TuShare is an online marketplace where everything is free. Launched in December 2013, TuShare is Australia’s fastest growing sharing platform which helps products find their next owners, avoiding waste and landfill in the process. As they say themselves - "We believe in generosity and gratitude". How cool is that? So I was pretty chuffed to receive a handwritten letter from Co-­Founder and CEO James Bradfield Moody along with my new pot and seeds. 

James Moody - CEO of TuShare

In the letter I discovered that the team behind TuShare have just launched Sendle, Australia's first fully certified carbon-neutral delivery service. The pot of dirt I received is representative of the 3kg of carbon that Sendle offsets for every package sent. It's also the amount of carbon released when a package travels by road from Brisbane to Perth! Sendle is working with the folks at Climate Friendly to support projects to offset their delivery emissions: one in Tasmania, and one in Ghana. You can read all about them here

You can connect with TuShare via their Facebook and Twitter and Sendle via Facebook and Twitter.  

Monday, 17 November 2014

Ethical Shoes to Put a Spring in Your Step!

The topic of this post was determined via a vote from you - my awesome readers! So thanks to popular demand, here is a round-up of animal-friendly shoes that look great and will help you tread lightly on the planet.

Lion in Mint Floral Court Shoes by Beyond Skin -I'm such a fun of this colour combination! These lovely vintage-inspired vegan shoes have been handmade in Spain using sustainable materials crafted under fair working conditions
Gogo Bootie by Charmone - These meticulously crafted cruelty-free booties have been made under fair working conditions in Italy. Charmone as a brand is also committed to maintaining an environmentally-friendly supply chain
Heera Pumps by Love Is Mighty - I was blown away by these innovative and super chic heels. Artisans have created these beautiful shoes using reclaimed biscuit wrappers! Featured at NY Fashion Week last year, they're proof that high fashion and ethics can be compatible
Desert Boots by Hooves - This style of shoe has stood the test of time! They were first worn by British Army soldiers serving in the Western Desert campaign in North Africa during World War II. Now you can own your very own cruelty-free versions
Aika Opentoe Oxford by Cri de Coeur - I'm loving the cool retro vibe emanating from the sustainable fabric print! These funky shoes were made in a sweatshop-free facility in China
Hi-Top Trainers by Inkkas - Your casual shoes don't have to be ordinary looking! Case in point, check out these vibrant handmade hi-tops crafted using traditional authentic South American textiles. Not only are these shoes fair trade and vegan, a portion of the proceeds go to charities protecting the Amazon rainforest!

The Grace in Bali Flowers Ballet Flat by The People's Movement - So much pretty! These ecochic flats have been lovingly made using organic cotton canvas, natural dyes and water-based glues. This brand is highly committed to the fight against single-use plastics, and a portion of their sales go directly to the Plastic Pollution Coalition
Women's Brogues in Chestnut by Wills - Effortlessly classic style is paired with burnished Italian faux leather to create something special. Made under ethical conditions in Portugal
Estee Wedge by OKA b - Fun and vibrant these fancy flip-flops exude summertime vibes! OKA b also practices continuous loop recycling of their shoes
Sunny Yellow by Luludu - I find these crocheted shoes absolutely mesmerizing in their prettiness! Handmade under fair conditions by artisans in Cambodia, each pair takes approximately 8 hours to create
The Guerra + Sara Hi-Top by Keep - It's no surprise that I'm loving this print featuring cats meowing in different languages =^..^= These cruelty-free kicks are strictly limited edition!
Ninja Heels by Olsen Haus - These colours are so delicious! Olsen Haus prides itself on being a champion of animal rights, sustainability and fair trade

Billy Brown Booties by Elizabeth Detroit - These super urban chic handmade booties are amazingly created using recycled plastic! Elizabeth supports a variety of animal welfare organisations through her brand
Black and White Earthwise Classics by TOMS - These wear everywhere shoes have an upper made from 77% hemp and 23% recycled plastic. Plus with each pair you buy, TOMS will give a pair of shoes to a child in need
Clog in Slate Cork and Dark Wood by Sydney Brown - Intriguingly stylish, these clogs have been handmade from sustainable materials such as cork and coconut. Sydney Brown is a strong advocate of 'cradle to cradle' production, minimizing any impact on the environment

On a final note - I would love to see all vegan shoe brands (including those above) disclosing even more detailed information on the source and production of the materials used in creating their cruelty-free shoes.