Monday, 29 July 2013

Kofü Ecodesign Creates Upcycled Elegance

Valérie Fréchette is an innovative jewellery designer based in Montreal. Her label Kofü Ecodesign brings together her love of vintage aesthetics with her passion for a sustainable way of life. I spoke to Valérie about her eco-influences, the future of ethical jewellery and the joys of design!

Q. How did you start down this path of ethical jewellery design?

About 10 years ago, I went into an eco-boutique close to my apartment, not knowing what was awaiting me. I looked around and asked : “What are you selling?”, and the salesperson answered : “ New clothes made from old clothes!”. A new concept had been introduced to my right brain, and the endless possibilities emerging from it have now become reality. From an interest to a hobby, and a lot of jewellery making classes, I eventually started making jewellery out of lace, for it's feminine, elegant and refined style.

Q. In 10 words or less, how would you describe your design aesthetic? 

Balanced, refined, asymmetrical, bold, urban, trend-setting, classic and unique! 

Q. What advice would you give to designers who are interested in becoming more sustainable? 

Ask yourselves this question: “Why buy your raw material new, when you can reuse or recycle something to get the same result?”. Upcycling involves much more processing time than usual jewellery making, but is so much more rewarding. And it is possible to make a collection, or a large-scale production, with raw recycled material. You just have to plan a little bit more, and the final result is a satisfying unique design for each of your client! Which client wouldn’t like that?!

As a designer, you develop a sixth sense when searching for your raw material. When you see a pink leather jacket or a teal lace dress, you have to practice your logical left brain to visualize the end result. Afterwards, let your hands and your self-confidence do the rest… 

Q. Has the cultural mix of Montreal influenced your work at all? 

Yes, absolutely! Montreal is such a great place to be a designer. The community of eco-designers in Montreal is great and also close-knit. Just taking a one hour stroll down Ste-Catherine street gives me ideas for a month! Interestingly enough, both the cultural mix and the proximity of natural settings influence my creative work. I also love to take a stroll in the regional park close to my studio, which helps me to enter a more calm and serene realm. Both are necessary to keep a balanced life, professionally and personally. 

Q. Which ethical designers are inspiring you right now? 

Vuela Vuela is an awesome eco-designer who works with textiles, like organic linen. She transfers illustrations and photographs on her textiles, for an original and unique look. Since I also work with textile (lace) and make them into jewellery, my creative process is strongly inspired by her ethical creations. 

Q. Do you think there’s been an increase in high quality ethical jewellery over the past few years? 

High quality ethical jewellery is more widespread and available than it used to be. Unfortunately, so is low quality, made in China, disposable jewellery made in questionable working conditions. As slow fashion is becoming a widely adopted trend, as a customer (we all buy stuff!) and a member of a community, we must ask ourselves: “What kind of product do I want/need?”, “How was it made?” and “ What is the impact of this choice?”. Unfortunately, few of us take the time to do this.

As a designer, I inform my customers on the contents of our jewellery, i.e. percentage of recycled vs. new material, use of non-toxic glues, high quality hooks and gems - so they know they are buying environmentally conscious jewellery. I also make a point to inform our clientele, via my blog, of our eco-creative process, i.e. the sustainability, the ecological impact, the conditions in which the jewellery is made, etc.

The use of different types of social media allows us to be in direct contact with our clients. From exchanging ideas, to implementing their suggestions to lower our ecological footprint, we make continuous efforts to make our jewellery more sustainable and better for the environment. 

Q. What is one of the most personally rewarding pieces you've ever produced? 

In each new collection, I try to increase the proportion of recycled material in my jewellery, with the ultimate goal of being 100% upcycled! I am also aspiring to create new types of jewellery. Imagine a gorgeous necklace made out of something you would’ve never thought could be used to create a necklace or a bracelet! So I think my most rewarding piece is yet to come!

Q. How do you ensure that the ecological footprint of your work is as small as possible? 

Kofü Ecodesign takes a number of steps to minimize its ecological footprint. For example our entire production chain is inside a 30km radius, from which about 80% of it is inside a 10km radius.  

The main steps we take to ensure a lighter footprint are as follows:

1. We buy or get our fabric and textile in these fabulous places:

2. We are mobile in these green ways to get our raw material:
  • 55% walking or biking
  • 35% in public transport
  • 10% in low gas consumption car
**Kofü Ecodesign tries to limit its use of car travel as much as possible**

3. We deliver our eco-jewelry with Canada Post, since we are available online. By the way, the postal counter is a quick walk from our shop :)

4. Our studio is:

  • Facing the south-west, with large windows that let all the natural light inside, so we can work all day long and enjoy the lovely weather;
  • When it gets dark, we have compact fluorescent lighting;
  • Almost all the furniture and decoration in the workshop is recycled or from thrift stores;
  • All our cleaning products are environmentally friendly 

5. Our company image and our packaging is:
  • Printed on recycled or FSC paper;  
  • Made from reused pattern paper, vintage ribbons and eco-bubble mailers 
Kofü Ecodesign is always striving to improve its production process and is currently working to implement new ways to decrease our ecological footprint. Most of all, we are transparent, and are giving our clients accurate and thorough information regarding the contents of our eco-jewellery and the eco-process behind it! 

Q. What does the future hold for Kofü Ecodesign? 

Good stuff! Kofü Ecodesign is aiming to create 100% upcycled jewellery with a minimal ecological footprint. We have been available on the web for 6 months, and our brand is gradually growing since our jewellery is now available in two boutiques (Canada and USA). As a small business, Kofü Ecodesign’s eco-jewellery is going to be more and more available in retail shops and events that promote locally handmade and upcycled products.

We strongly believe in buying locally and we encourage our customers to go into their neighborhood’s eco-friendly shops and small businesses to discover eco-designers close to home. Kofü Ecodesign will remain on Etsy for our customers abroad that wish to buy our uniquely refined, trend-setting and feminine eco-jewellery. 

You can connect with Kofü Ecodesign on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Stay tuned for my exclusive review and photo-shoot featuring one of Valérie's pieces!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Sustainable Fashion Label Sara C - 'Nature Lust' SS13 Collection

Last year I introduced you to a fabulous ethical designer with a passion for prints - Sara Cohen. Almost 12 months on I decided it was time to see what new and exciting eco-design adventures were afoot at Sara C label, so I recently caught up with Sara herself to find out! 

Q. What’s been happening at Sara C since we spoke last October? 

We’ve been rather busy since we last spoke. We have spent our time honing what we’re currently doing - sourcing the right fabrics, getting the shapes right, and designing lots of new fabulous prints. In May we launched our new collection Nature Lust, which has gone down a storm. 

And we’ve also just finished designing our new collection for next Summer. So lots more colourful, bold, vibrant prints coming your way. 

Q. How would you describe your latest collection SS13 Nature Lust? 

As naturalist John Muir once said, 'In every walk in nature, one receives far more than he seeks.' 

My new collection Nature Lust is inspired by the simple things we see everyday in nature.  The simple stories and shapes we find in flowers and trees, but don't really see. These graphic natural shapes infused with bright washes of colour to bring you a colourful collection of nature's best. 

The prints that make up the new collection are vibrant and colourful with rich blues, oranges and yellows. We have also broadened out our range to include camisoles, shift dresses, slip dresses and maxi dresses.
You can read about the inspiration behind each print here!

Q. Why do you think colour plays such a vital role in your design?

I have always had a love of colour. For me colour has the ability to transform how your feel and put a smile on your face. My vision has always been to design prints that add a little to everyday life. 

Q. What’s on the horizon for Sara C? 

We have just finished designing our new SS14 collection. You can expect to see some exciting new prints and some fabulous new shapes. 

After that, well we have big dreams to grow the Sara C name and share our love of nature. So we’ll have to keep you posted.  

You can connect with Sara C via their Blog, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Kindness by Review: Veryan

Last week on Kindness by Design I introduced you to an amazing young designer, Veryan Raiker, intent on mixing sustainability, social change and style. One of her gorgeous designs - the Organic Cotton Jersey Top in Dusky Coral -  stowed away in my luggage during my recent sea voyage around South America!

One of the great things about this GOTS Certified organic cotton top is how versatile it is! I found I could easily pair it with some fitted jeans, my new sustainable Tagua Nut jewellery from an Ecuadorian market and vegan heels for cocktail time aboard the Ms Veendam - a chic yet funky look.

I really appreciate that this gorgeous shade of Dusky Coral comes from non-toxic reactive dyes with minimal ecological footprint. 

When you're traveling for long periods of time like I was - it's essential to bring clothes that can be used for more than one occasion. This top was lovely, cool and comfortable to wear with shorts on sweltering tropical days. 

Veryan has a great eye for details that don't need to shout at you and I think this slit down the back of the top has added some intrigue to the mix!

So if you're after something sustainable that's sophisticated but edgy - I think you'll enjoy Veryan's aesthetic. I can personally verify that this top is suitable for standing on a windy deck trying not to lose your Panama hat, as well as for playing hopscotch in the middle of the ocean :)

Northern hemisphere ecofashionistas can shop Veryan here, while I would recommend my fellow Southern hemisphere ecoawesomes head here

Big thanks to my photographer Ryan Collins - you can connect with him on Twitter.  

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Kind Events: Welcome to Planet Elephant!

During my career as an environmental conservationist I've been privileged to work with some incredibly inspiring people - one of these is Dr Tammie Matson. Way back when Tammie and I worked together in the threatened species department of WWF-Australia. Her amazing kindness by conservation is now focused on the plight of the magnificent elephants of the world. Tammie spoke to me recently about her up-coming book launch and fundraiser to help secure a future for both rhinos and elephants. 

Q. What is it about elephants that captures your imagination and has led them to become a huge part of your life?

Elephants are a lot like us! In some ways I think they’re a better version of us.  For me personally, they’ve taught me so much about the value of family, compassion and having fun.  Watching baby elephants playing in the mud you find yourself caught up in the joy of it with them and it really brings you back to being completely in the moment.  It’s magic.

I’ve been working as a zoologist on elephants since 2005, mostly on human-elephant conflict in Africa and India, but in the last year, since moving to Asia, I’ve been trying to understand and raise awareness about the link between the Africa and Asia in the ivory trade that is driving the elephant poaching crisis in Africa.  Over 30,000 elephants are illegally killed annually to provide ivory for Asian markets.

Q. How did you keep yourself motivated while writing “Planet Elephant”?

Well, I have a 3 year old, Solo, who provided both a distraction and a motivation for writing this book!  It took me much longer to write this book than my other two (‘Elephant Dance’ and ‘Dry Water’) because I had become a mum and life had become a juggle.   

But having a child really motivates you to work harder to conserve the wildlife of this planet, because more than anything else you really want your kid/s to see elephants and rhinos in the wild one day, not in a zoo.

It’s also a massive issue, what’s happening to elephants and rhinos in Africa, and that’s very motivating. It’s a crisis – again! Things had been looking up for both species’ populations in Africa following the severe poaching of the 1970s and ‘80s. Now they’re being poached to provide ivory and horn for new markets in Asia, and their populations are smaller and less resilient than they were last century.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about the SAVE African Rhino Gala Dinner?

It’s an opportunity to launch my book and talk about Africa (my favourite subject!) with lots of like-minded people who enjoy the same thing and care about wildlife.  It’s also a great deal - $100 for a 3 course meal at Papaya Thai in Cammeray, including wine and beer – and there are lots of fantastic things to bid on like safaris, wine and photography.  It’s all for a very good cause – stopping the rhino poaching in Africa.  Bookings can be done online here.

Q. Have you ever seen an elephant perform an act of kindness?

Elephants are naturally kind to each other, especially within family groups.  In the breeding herds, a dominant female, the matriarch, is the leader, and she’s surrounded by her female relatives (sisters, aunts, daughters) and young males.  Male elephants leave the herd when they’re teenagers and join other males in small bachelor groups.  I’ve often seen elephants touching trunks, caressing each other, gently helping young ones across rivers or out of muddy wallows.  They’re extremely tactile creatures.

Q. In 2010 you won In Style magazine’s prestigious Women of Style awards for your work on environmental issues! Speaking of style, do you have a favourite ethical fashion designer?

There are two great jewellery designers who are inspired by their love of nature and use only materials that minimise harm to the environment.  They’re also both conservationists!  One is Nicola Markus of Liminal Jewellery and the other is Nadya Hutagalung of Osel Jewllery.

Q. What actions can people take to help protect elephants around the world?

Never buy ivory and spread the word that it’s not cool in any way!  Donate to organisations like The Big Life Foundation  in Africa that are actively fighting poachers every day and TRAFFIC, the global wildlife trade organisation, as they are fighting a huge battle in Asia to stop the illegal flow of ivory from Africa to Asian markets. 

Ivory jewellery and carvings
Q. What brand new adventures are on the horizon for Tammie Matson?

I’m working on an exciting project with TV star and host of ‘Asia’s Next Top Model’ to raise awareness in Asia about the poaching of elephants in Africa and encouraging people not to buy ivory.  We have travelled together with a film crew to both Kenya and Bangkok, going behind the scenes of the poaching and the illegal ivory trade, and in a few months will be producing a series of webisodes for youtube and a public service announcement for the Fox Network Asia about what we discovered along the way! Get on board the “Let Elephants Be Elephants” campaign by joining us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.

“Planet Elephant” will be in bookstores in August! For more information visit Tammie's website.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Veryan Brings You Simple Luxury and Positive Social Change

Veryan Raiker is an effervescent and driven London-based designer creating beautiful clothing with a sustainable and socially conscious twist. Her style is thoughtful, deliberate, sophisticated yet incredibly wearable. It was my absolute pleasure to interview Veryan and find out more about her fashion inspirations and motivations.

Q. When did you know that ethical fashion design was something you wanted to pursue?

A few years ago, I nearly missed out on a length of beautiful, light, frothy silk voile needed for my sister’s wedding veil—it was touch and go, I just managed to place my order before the tiny mill in the south of France, where the fabric’s woven, closed for the whole of August. The romantic history of the fabric struck me and I realised that I wasn’t the sole creator of, in this case, Merryn’s wedding dress, but part of an interlinking web of designers and artisans.

My interest in the heritage of fashion and the consequences of decisions made by this enormous, thriving industry was sharpened—how could I make a positive contribution to it? Sustainability, through ethics, design and ecology became my sole focus when creating Veryan.

Q. How would you describe the design aesthetic of Veryan in 10 words or less?

Simple, classic—we dance the line between practicality and tailoring.

Q. Can you tell us a little about what makes Veryan a great choice for eco-friendly fashionistas?

We are a growing brand and each new series we create affirms and concretes our principle of sustainability—not only in ethics but in design. To create a wardrobe of style, a selection of interchangeable garments that work seamlessly together, that are locally made from the most luxurious ecological and ethical fabrics will be our enduring aim.

Increasingly, as we grow, we will offer this: simple luxury and positive social change.

Q. Which ethical designers are inspiring you right now?

The jewellery by Johari is beautiful, their Miale necklace with its roughly textured cascades of hammered brass is my particular favourite. Their designs are elegant and the fact that their Johari Foundation uses 100% of their profits for local social enterprises, is inspiring. 

Miale (‘sunrays’) necklace by Johari

New York designer Titiana Inglis’s structured minimalist designs showcase how well ethical and high fashion can intermix—with the variety of ethical and ecological fabrics available to designers now, fantastic designs can be created without compromise.

Q. What advice would you give to other young designers interested in becoming more sustainable?

I’d say: research, research, research—then take time to build up relationships with like-minded companies and individuals. Enjoy the development of your brand, it can be really tough, but each difficulty that arises is the beginning of a new learning curve.

Q. If you had to choose another career other than design – what would that be?

Honestly, I can’t think of a career I’d love more!

Q. Do you have a favourite item that you’ve created?

I love the shirts we’ve released on The Beautiful Think for AW and am very excited for what’s coming up next season. I do love the organic cotton shirt though, it’s so easy to throw on with dark blue vintage jeans and tan sandals—I’m a hoarder of clothes I can throw together, that can be worn in the studio and out and about in London too.

Q. What does the future hold for Veryan?

There are so many exciting things coming up! We’re polishing off the next SS womenswear collection right now, which I can’t wait to launch. I’m beginning to dabble in menswear design, plus there’s an exciting underwear collaboration coming up this autumn. Every day I’m pushing my ethos and designs further—I’m loving every moment. 

You can connect with Veryan via Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Stay tuned for an exclusive Kindness by Design + Veryan photoshoot!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Attention all UK Ethical Designers: Design an Ecochic Outfit for Whitney Port

Let me start by saying this isn't normally the type of thing I write about here at Kindness by Design but I think it's a brilliant opportunity to showcase ecofashion to a mainstream audience! It's important to note that I have not been paid in any way to write this - it's pure me :)

Whitney Port (Image Source)
So here's the deal - I received an email from TalentHouse announcing that Venus & Olay are inviting all UK and Ireland based fashion designers to create a two-piece outfit for their Golden Goddess Ambassador Whitney Port. 

The winning designer will see their creation modeled by Whitney Port as part of an exclusive feature with Glamour Magazine and receive a £1,000 bursary towards their creative work. 

Whitney at the launch party for Who What Wear's new home decor site (Image Source)

Now my initial reaction to this information was - well there doesn't seem to be anything eco/ethical about this competition - then I realised that we the KBD Community could make it so! I've featured so many astoundingly talented ecofashion designers from the UK and I would love nothing more than to see one of these inspiring creatives win this competition. Imagine having Whitney Port wearing and talking about her gorgeous new sustainable outfit to a mainstream audience? Brilliant! Designs need to be submitted by August 7th - all other details can be found here

Let me know if you do enter - Good Luck! x

Monday, 15 July 2013

When Eco Design Rains Cats and Dogs!

Truth be told - some of our favourite family and friends are covered in I right? I wanted to blow a little ecofashion kiss to the beautiful cats and dogs in our lives =^..^=

Real Men Love Cats Tee by RCTees - They do indeed! My Teddy Cat's Da-Da is a case in point! This fab organic cotton tee is also available in a men's version as well
Daisy the Bulldog 'Hot Dog' Lavender Heat Cushion by Showpony - Here in Australia it's coooold outside! When you've got the chills don't go for just ANY old winter warmer, give Daisy a hug instead! She's lovingly made from organic and fair trade cotton filled with wheat and lavender
Cat Print Tea Towel by Arthouse Meath -These quirky kitty are adorable! All Arthouse Meath prints are created by people with epilepsy and learning difficulties
Dog and Lead Shirt Dress by Ruby Rocks - How fun is this puppy print! This label prides itself on its quirky prints and knowing everyone involved in the creation of their clothes, ensuring they receive healthcare for themselves and their families
His and Her Cool Cat Pillowcases by Xenotees - I would LOVE this as an engagement present!!! The delightful print has been hand-screened from an original charcoal drawing
Watchful Greyhound Tee from Max and Molly Designs - A gorgeous and unique hand printed image of a pensive greyhound graces this 100% certified organic cotton top created using climate neutral processes
White Kitty Vegan Shoes from Alternative Outfitters - Slip these kitties on and prowl the town in style! Also available in fuchsia and black
Dog Thread Drawing Tee by KLT:Works -This kid's tee is eco-adorable! The super sweet puppy print has been screened onto a blend of organic cotton, recycled polyester, and naturally occurring rayon
Cat Design Tote Bag by Christine Chappell Designs - Absolutely darling! I love a bag that balances cute with the ability to fit my thingamabobs in :) Handmade using jute and cotton with a spiffy phone pocket which can be closed using a recycled button
Scottie Dog Plush by Pink Bunny Patterns - It's hard to believe that this cheeky chap was crafted from an old sweater! I 'uv you upcycling :D
Cat Print Burnout Tee by Aeon - This cat is ready to hit the clubs, printed in vivid gold using eco-friendly inks
Dog Paw Magnets by Happy Bug Designs - Do your magnetic surfaces require a cuteness boost? Made from recycled envelopes, these magnets will hold your lovely items while increasing their "awww" factor by at least 70%
The Toothless Cat Kid's Tee by Pini Piru - I'm a little obsessed with the quirky cast of characters dreamed up by this label! This fab tee is 100% organic and fairly traded cotton
I Heart Dogs Banner by Endure Designs - Don't keep your love of puppies a secret any longer! This terrific banner has been handcrafted from reclaimed coffee sacks
Peter Jensen Cat Dress from People Tree -The cat-tastic print was created by world famous designer Peter Jensen, exclusively for People Tree. The dress was crafted in India from 100% organic cotton under fair trade conditions
Dogs Never Dump Humans Tee by Hendrick Boards - The purchase of this limited edition tee results in a USD$10 donation to your local animal shelter!
Cat Brooch by Mullanium - Purrfect for someone looking to add a bit of whimsy to their ensemble! This hand-painted is made from recycled and reclaimed materials
Sausage Dog Draught Excluder by Bird Textiles - During the cooler months these faithful pooches will guard your doors against chilly breezes! Made from certified organic cotton and hand-printed with water-based dyes in a workshop powered completely by solar
Black Cat Pendant by Rakun Shop - Did you know that black cats are only half as likely to get adopted as cats of other colors? Show your support for black kitties by wearing this charming handmade pendant! If you're considering adopting a new kitty - think black =^..^=
'Adopt' Slouchy Pullover by The Loving Paw - This eco-heather material looks so sublimely comfy! The Loving Paw was created to help support animal shelters
Lavender Cat Bag by Girl Industries - This cheeky pair of hand-stitched lovelies are made from reclaimed fabrics and filled with delicious dried lavender, sure to give your nose a happy :)
The Dapper Greyhound Pullover by Nicola and the Newfoundland - This puppy oozes canine sophistication! Made from a mix of organic cotton and recycled polyester
Window Cat Bracelet by Hringa -This exquisite piece of recycled silver jewellery and Japanese Urushi lacquer is a delight! Pouncing from the creative mind of Icelandic designer Inga R Bachmann, 'Hringa' means 'making rings'