Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Merging old fishing nets with new technology, Spanish brand Ecoalf has developed a brand that recycles what would be landfill and turns it into refined modern day products. Founder Javier Goyeneche tells us how important it is to be persistent while branching out from the norm.

What inspired you to start ECOALF?
I believe that natural resources are not endless and that recycling can be a very good option. Why not try to create recycled products with the aspect and technical properties of the best non-recycled products?

New technology has been your key to creating a sustainable product, how did you come up with the idea of using fishing nets?
We discovered that in many ports there was a lot of discarded nylon fishing nets. Where people find waste, ECOALF finds raw materials!

Has it been difficult starting a company with a strong emphasis on recycling?
It hasn´t been easy as we have had to invest a lot in R&D. The beginning has been slower than we expected. We have had to convince many manufacturers to develop new recycled products with us like laces, linings, labels etc while maintaining the same quality as the non-recycled ones.

How do you develop new products?
We spend a lot of time and resources developing new recycled fabrics, the final look of the end product, the tactile aspect, the technical aspects, and finally, it becomes part of our new collection.

When designing one of your bags, what do you have in mind? How do you start the creative process?
We believe that in order to develop a sustainable product it all starts with the design. Once we have a clear idea of the fabrics and materials that we can use we start designing under the ECOALF life style concept.
We try to design urban, functional, timeless products with the best quality.
Our aim is to prove that a recycled product can be as cool, good looking and technical as a non-recycled.

Can you explain a bit more about what Authenticity means to you?
Authenticity for us is important, our goal is to have 100% recycled products but for the moment that is not possible. We work hard making joint ventures with lots of suppliers to develop all the different components for recycling. ECOALF is not green washing, we believe in what we do and we work hard to make those values be real and authentic.

Where are you based? Does your location effect you/inspire you?
We are based in Madrid, Spain, but we are always ready to travel anywhere in the world to find new materials that we could recycle and turn into one of our products!

What do you hope for the future of fashion?
We have to realize that our natural resources are in great danger; our company thrives to investigate the use of recycling to create fashionable, commercial and successful products that are at the same level as non-recycled products.

You can find out more about Ecoalf here where you can watch how they actually recycle nets and bottles.

Monday, November 28, 2011

We are ULTRA

We are ULTRA is a sustainable collective for the future. Founded by Tengku Jamidah and Anita Hawkins, two women with an eccentric mix of experiences in design, art and politics. The pair have recently won an Innovation award through the EFF for Ultra 10. A collection designed to be the only items you need for a whole year, it challenges the over flowing wardrobes of most of us! Anita tells us how the concept began.

How did Ultra start?
In 2009 my partner Jamidah and I had come to turning points in our lives. Jamidah had just become a mother and was starting to think about how to make products and a lifestyle that was beneficial for a child; and I had just finished working with UNHCR and had started to think about how I could use my experiences to benefit something larger than myself. Since then we have created artwork, installations, skincare and more, with a future-minded perspective.

Can you expand on the concept behind your 10 piece wardrobe?
It's about addressing the need for conscientious consumption. Thinking about what one really needs and how much use you can get out of well-designed basics and multifunctional clothing. It's compiled of ten pieces designed for a woman to wear for a year, made up of innovative pieces such as a 4-in-1 coat/dress/jacket/skirt. When it launched, Amena from The Wellness Works committed to wearing only the ULTRA 10 and a few basics, donating the rest of her wardrobe to prove the point of conscientious consumerism and simplifying one's life.

Call you tell us a bit more about your yearly exchange and up-cycling service?
We aim to create a refreshed set of ULTRA 10 once a year, which builds on the idea and gives extended options. We offer the owners of the previous ULTRA 10 the option to return their pieces in exchange for a large discount on the newest version. It's an effort to reduce the waste often associated with fashion, we will recycle, upcycle or donate the returned pieces as responsibly as we can.

Where are you based and how does this inform your work?
I am based in Shanghai which as a massive city in a heightened state of flux is highly influential on my own pace of innovation. It helps inform the pace of my work as well as confronts me with the huge state of consumer culture and ensuing environmental effects on a daily basis. It keeps me in check and striving for forward momentum.

What's next for We are Ultra fashion?
We are developing new ways to distribute our clothes and ethos through means that are not so taxing on the world. Downloadable design being one of them. We will also seek to keep refining ideas such as the ULTRA 10 so we can really make an impact on how people view the way that they are consuming fashion.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lu Flux

I'm not sure about the rest of you but I am a wee bit jealous of Lu Flux...Past assistant of the incredible Bernhard Wilhelm, with a bunch of awards and enviable mentorships under her belt, she has also presented her collections in London, Paris, Tokyo and Amsterdam! All of this has been achieved on her own terms with no compromise to her design dignity or ethics. Each collection is refreshingly original with complete disregard to trends or any other nonsense.

Her current collection "A Lu Ha" features a soft palette of textured details and a few highlights of brights. Tiki motifs and tropical vibes are mixed with a collage of english floral,it's a perfect example of Lu Flux style. With her Autumn/Winter collection due out in the coming months, we can expect to be wowed again very soon..

How do you start the creative process for each collection?
We start with experimenting with techniques and manipulations to see what works and then with the selected techniques, we develop them further and then place and build them into garments.

Can you tell your favourite part about working for Berhnard Wilhelm?Any valuable wisdom learnt?
Well having lunch with Bjork was fun! Working with Berhnard Wilhelm reaffirmed to me that it is possible to have a successful fashion label without a focal point of glamour and sex.

The fashion industry tends to take itself quite seriously, how do you keep a balance of fun and excitement whilst maintaining a viable business?
My business is my absolute passion and I think that because I am so passionate about what I do, it keeps the mood upbeat while maintaining a high level of productivity. I work extremely hard and try not to pay attention to trends

How do you source your fabric?
I have always appreciated and supported British manufactures and the use of local produce so I am always researching to discover more. My collections revolve around the vintage and salvaged materials that I find by working with recycling companies. It is satisfying and fulfilling to address the disposable side of the fashion industry by making something new out of something old.

What was it like growing up in the Isle of Wight?
When I was growing up I found the Isle of Wight boring and couldn’t wait until I could leave but now when I think about it, I really had a blissful childhood. It continues to be a wonderful escape from the intense city environment.

What led you to London?
It did take me a while to come round to the idea but I moved to London for the reasons a lot of people move to London, for the opportunities and the advantages of being in one of the fashion hubs. Unfortunately I don't think I will be able to live in a countryside haven for a few years yet.

What's next?
It is top secret but we are currently building ideas and experimenting garment shapes and techniques for our Autumn Winter 2012 collection. Soon to be revealed!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Karishma Shahani-The new collection

Karishma Shahani has been busy since graduating from LCF. Living in India, she recently worked with an NGO focusing on empowering village women through skill development. Once completing this project she created her current collection.

The range entitled " Kranti" or "Revolution" is inspired by heroism during revolt and warriors of the past. The range stays true to Shahani's signature style of layering and colour, reflecting the native nomadic costumes of India. With a focus on hand dying and intricate surface techniques, each piece is beautifully rich with detail. Made with devotion and care,the love is passed on from maker to wearer. A talented designer, Karishma blends traditional and contemporary culture without the usual cliches, continuing to pursue a unique aesthetic.

You can read an interview with Karishma in a previous post here.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Suzanne Lee: Grow your own clothes | Video on TED.com

Lee has created clothing using bacteria. Check out this interesting TED talk about the process.I have seen some of Lees end results and they are quite beautiful!


Sunday, October 2, 2011


On a recent trip to London I was lucky enough to chat with Nin Castle and Clare Farrell about their label Goodone. During a typical grey mid morning we explored the trials, tribulations and revelations of producing a successful independent label out of reclaimed materials. Tents, Tesco’s and Textile waste have all played part in the evolution of this label, proving that unlikely combinations can bring about the best creative work.

Can you start by explaining the concept behind Goodone?
We’re a sustainable fashion label, but our aim is to not look like one or act like one, apart from how we produce our clothes obviously! Our specialisation is up-cycling, so we mix reclaimed fabrics with end of roll industrial waste as well as using new British fabrics and sustainable fabrics. We try to be really design led, it’s important to us that we’re being progressive with our designs as well as with our ethos. The reason for starting Goodone was to try and instigate some positive change, some positive impact on the industry and that’s really what motivates us, however we also want to be seen as designers in our own right rather than just another ‘eco brand’.

You use a unique combination of materials, how do approach the sourcing for each collection?
Well we design in two ways, A- From what we want to make and B- From what we have and what we can get a hold of. There are always things we know we can get, for example we know we can always get jumpers. We handpick these from textile recycling centres, but we don’t pick the acrylic or polyester ones, we pick the fine merinos and cashmeres to make sure we get really good quality fibres that are really soft. We work with the mills in Scotland where we get offcuts of cashmere and we also work with mills to get end of rolls and waste from the knitting machines, which we mix with new fabrics.

Sometimes we get people approaching us saying ‘I’ve got all this stuff, can you use it for something?!” So we design with that in mind. We once did a collection with tents. One person approached us and said that they clear up festivals and end up with loads of tents. We told them to give us all the darker coloured tents and we would try and re-use them.

Do you find having a specific product to re-use is limiting? Does this make you think more creatively?
Yes exactly, it limits you but it also pushes you, it’s actually really nice way of working. I very much see design as a series of problem solving exercises. Clare and I design together and we often talk about how being a designer is not like being an artist, (as a designer) your doing something functional and your creating something for a use. And for us good design, or intelligent design, whatever you want to call it, is actually thinking about the effect that each garment has, the effect on the environment, the social effects and that for us is just as important.

It is obviously challenging to run things with sustainability in mind, why do you do this?
It can be a nightmare! The reason we do up-cycling is because there is just so much waste, we all consume so much. We go to recycling factories and it is just immense the amount of textile waste. And for us the most sustainable fibre you can use is one that already exists. If a garment has already been worn, it has already had life and if it is still in really good condition then it should definitely be used and re-worn.

What are some of the problems you face?
Its really difficult, for example for a time I felt really strongly about making everything in the UK, the studio had to be here and the manufacturing out of London. But we got to the point when we were like you know what? Everybody still wants buy from us if we are made abroad and we would actually have a more affordable product and more people buy it. So we could either continue as we are and dye in a years time or make the change. Now we make things in Bulgaria, we have a girl called Lena that works with us, she is from Bulgaria and overseeing it. We sometimes have to make changes to what we want to do.

For us the standardizing is the really difficult part, because we have so much variability coming through. We need to make clothes that are not identical but need to sit as close as possible. Our ability to do that has allowed us to survive a lot longer than a lot of other up-cycled labels. People start doing it and they don’t quite manage the standardising, but for us it is very much about mixing the new and the old together and I would actually rather sell double the amount of clothing made from 50% new and 50% up-cycled than selling nothing that is 100% up-cycled, using a lot more fabrics allows a lot more scope for the design. You can make a higher quality product, so its really about having a bigger picture and not restricting yourself too much, but knowing your aim is to always make the most sustainable garment items we can and also most well designed as we can.

Our new fabrics are all produced in the UK. This is mainly because we know how it has been dyed because dying regulations in the UK are really strict. We know the conditions people are making it in and there is not much transporting involved. The UK textile industry is dyeing, its actually having a little bit of a resurgence at the moment which is brilliant, but it’s such a small industry so I feel really strongly about supporting the industry even though we don’t still produce here in the UK.

So it’s about being realistic?
Its about picking what you think is most important and what works.

Are you both from London?
No my dad is a pig farmer! I’m a country girl at heart. Clare comes from up north and so not London based at all. We had no fashion contacts or anything like that.

Why London?
I started the business in Brighton but Brighton is so small, it’s a lovely little place but the move to London was one of the best things I have ever done. I lived in New York for 6 months and did an internship with Marc Jacobs and that was great but being British the one place you go to is London, I just love it and I think as long as you have a bike and don’t have to catch public transport that much then its great.

What’s next for Goodone?
Well at the moment we are creating a small capsule collection for Spring/Summer in silks and jerseys which we are actually really pleased about, it’s looking good. At the moment we feel like we are getting better and better but we do so much as a small company; we do a basics range, we do our main collection, we do dresses, tops, jackets, and we have got a point now after doing this for fives years that we need to focus in on what we do, I really like the saying that it is better to do one thing really well than a lot of things badly, I don’t think we do anything badly at the moment but if we focused on one thing we could do something that is even better. So that’s where we are at the moment. We are wanting to do more project work and have different ideas about that too, quite a few possibilities for the future, there are so many different ways you can work things out!

At the moment we’ve got quite a good reputation and quite a good aesthetic and people know about us, so we need to look at that and go how can we make the most of this now? I suppose we have a bit of a renaissance happening, figuring out who we are.

All photographs by the lovely and very talented Stephanie Sian Smith


ALAS online store

Just thought I would mention some exciting news...My label ALAS, is about to be available online next week from here...


Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Impermanence, Kowtow Summer 11-12 from Kowtow on Vimeo.

Check out Kowtows new range. The Spring/Summer collection can be broken down into two. The first being 'Metamorphous' a collection focused on versatility, each garment can be transformed into many different garments. The second is "Building Blocks',a more minimal approach, each item is a staple piece that can be easily layered and worn throughout any season. Well done Kowtow, you've done it again!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Kissin Cussin

A few months ago I had the lovely opportunity to write about Sydney based label Kissin Cussin for Ecouterre. With a new collection full of fresh prints and colour I thought it would be nice for you to hear a bit more about all the good things they do..

What are you up to today?
We're in Bondi at our little studio. We try to keep Friday's a creative day so we're working on creative marketing for on our blogger as well as finalising fabrics and designs for the next collection ...

Can you tell us about the women that make Kissin Cussin clothing?
The women who sew for us in Talalla Bay are absolutely divine and we've built up a very loving and caring relationship with them over the last 3 years. The ladies, were previously unemployed skilled seamstresses and we've offered them an opportunity to work close to their families, which they are very grateful for.

What was the first conversation like between you and the ladies of Talalla bay?
We were very lucky that the lady we chose to head the whole operation seemed to get what we were about instantly, although she / they had never been approached with anything like this before and there was definitely a sense of feeling that 'this is too good to be true' or 'we'll believe it when we see it'this is because their alternatives are pretty dismal. A common option is to work in the capital or overseas for long, long hours, a low wage and to be away from their families ... so 3 years on and we are continuing to employ and grow the employment in the village you can feel their happiness to be able to work from their own village and earn a decent income ... and for this reason they put so much love and care into each garment that they make for us.

What got you into fashion?
It was sort of by accident ... we both had a love of fashion and experimenting with fashion. After we went to Sri Lanka, and spent 8 months there, we were very much inspired by the colourful nature of tropical life and bought a little bit of this back to Australia .. our friends LOVED the clothing, so we decided to make more and that's how Kissin Cussin was born.

What's it like being based in Sydney? Do you spread your time out working in Sri Lanka and Aus?
Yes we are very lucky. We both love being based in Bondi, there's a hub of artistic inspiration from the people and daily environment .... and then just when we're feeling ready to leave it's time to go to Sri Lanka, which gives us a different insight. I think working in Sri Lanka so much (we spend about 4 months intermittently there each year) is very grounding, we get to experience first hand the humble way of living that most of the villagers do, and makes us very grateful for everything that we have.

We also get to spend time in India, which is a huge melting pot of continual inspiration, Jess just got back from there a week ago as she was checking our current fabric production for SS 2011.

When you are not working you are...
Enjoying the outdoor lifestyle that we are lucky enough to have in both countries .... swimming, yoga, whale watching ... and being with our friends.

What's next?
To carry on as we are ... the label has been growing quickly with each year. We are just about to head into production in Sri Lanka and to develop our next collection ... as well as this we are developing elements of label all the time with creative marketing and sourcing new ideas and fabrics .
- Show quoted text -

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sydney Design Festival Workshop

As some of you may know, Transparent Seams and ALAS recently ran a workshop at the Gaffa Gallery as part of Sydney Design Festival. It was an incredibly fun and inspiring day, everyone took on ambitious projects and created a range of very wearable pieces! We had a great group of people from a diverse range of backgrounds and probably the most enjoyable part was seeing all the different creative approaches unfold. Rumours are we might be hosting another one soon!


A little update

Some of you may have been wondering why there was a lull in regular posts...The hiatus was caused by an impromptu visit to London. My sleepwear label ALAS won a category of the Ethical Fashion Forums Innovation Awards. The EFF are doing amazing things for the Ethical fashion movement, you can check them out here.

While my partner Betony and I spent most of the time running around to meetings, reuniting ourselves with our favourite old haunts and absorbing as much information as we could, I also managed to interview a few designers and make some great contacts for some exciting Transparent Seams articles! So stay tuned..


Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Buses are always late so I am on foot most of the time, half running half walking to here and there, I dont know why- except for pure vanity, but I will never do joggers! It is is hard to find the perfect, practical, good looking shoe.There seems to be an abundant of shoes in the world, so many choices so many styles however it is often hard to find that good quality well designed footwear. An even harder task is finding a shoe produced in Australia. The lovely Melbourne based designer Kristy Barber has added footwear to her womenswear label Kuwaii and in doing so, has rejuvenated my enthusiasm of shoe shopping. Made in a local family run factory with reclaimed leather as well as being beautifully designed, Kuwaiis' new range is extraordinarily tempting.

Why fashion?
I started as a love for making things and an interest in how garments were put together, it was a very natural progression to study fashion and then to start a label.

Can you introduce us to Kuwaii?
Kuwaii is based in Brunswick, Melbourne, and is a personal philosophy of dressing. Each piece is carefully considered- effortless and refined so that these are garments to live in.
Our emphasis is on interesting and meaningful garments. The concept for the label was always a more old Fashioned approach- a return to quality throughout all processes. I wanted to produce beautiful pieces made to last and for their owners to treasure. We focus on workmanship, fabrics, and finishes. Whilst being both stylised and subtly poetic, I hope that Kuwaii garments are intelligent in both their design and production processes. Kuwaii pieces are made locally in Australia, with a strong commitment in excellence in manufacture and supporting the local industry, with the manufacturing process being overseen 100% by Kuwaii to ensure all garments are produced ethically.

You have recently added a shoe range to the label. Why the move into footwear?
It was a lucky collaboration really, I met the shoe manufacturer who were keen to work with a more emerging designer to produce a small collection of footwear. I have always wanted Kuwaii to have a more holistic approach – I guess a lifestyle – so the move into footwear has been amazing, and I've just been so proud of the product – how great the quality is, how comfortable they are, how well they wear, and how ethically they are produced. And I've been so happy with the response from my customers too!

Where and who produces your shoes?
They're produced in Melbourne suburb Clifton Hill, by a small, family owned factory who has been operating for 30 years and who of course oversee the entire production process themselves meaning that these shoes are produced in an non-exploitative environment, 100%.

Why Melbourne for production? Why is this important to you?
This week I met with a knit wear manufacturer and it was completely heart wrenching to hear his stories (and see his photo albums) from when he operated a bustling factory in the 90s employing 65 people, and having state of the art knit wear machinery, to now employing 5 people and having to send his knit machines to scrap metal as there is just no use for them anymore. Personally I don't believe we should discard the skill set and trade of our country. I feel very strongly about keeping trade and industry on shore and supporting the industry here. It's a sort of patriotism and wanting to support and build upon the community here within our shores, and not letting go of the rag trade history we've had.

What inspires each collection?
One thing with producing on shore is that we're slightly more limited with the possibilities of producing designs – limited by the machines the factory has available and how long things take to produce. So I definitely work within parameters given to me by the factory. We devise silhouettes, decide on colours, textures, stitiching details, perforations, linings, laces. The inspiration and colours for the footwear definitely reflects Kuwaii's clothing inspiration for the season and the shoes are devised to be pieced back to any of the Kuwaii garments.

What's next for Kuwaii?
We would love to open a flagship store! At the moment we sell out of our showroom space in Brunswick, which our studio is behind, which is a super cute way to meet our customers, but our dream is to open Kuwaii land … We also recently secured our first international stockist!

Find Kuwaii here

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I.C.A Watermelon

Julia Knupfer is the talent behind I.C.A Watermelon, a Berlin based knitwear label. Relishing in the ambiguous nature of dying with plant extracts, each piece is unique. Her collections are full of body and unusual textures. Shape and form are prioritised while faded colours compliment. I.C.A watermelon represents knitwear at its finest, exploring the endless possibilities you have by taking your time, slowing down and continually being inspired by the materials you work with.

Can you explain the philosophy behind I.C.A Watermelon?
I.C.A Watermelon is a contemporary designer line for women with a commitment to sustainability. The subject of nature and environment plays a central role and is conceptually translated into garments. Traditional handicraft especially handmade knitting and crochet is a consistent feature of the collections. My vision is to create sensible and strong pieces that reflect the zeitgeist and last for a long time in terms of material and style.

Why knitting? What motivated you to this traditional craft?
My grandma and my mother taught me knitting and crochet when I was a child and it still gives me a cosy feeling. Wool is such a versatile and expressive material. That's why I love it.

Your designs are always very structural and full of contrasting textures what inspires you to design in this way?
Contrasts are always fascinating. I am often inspired by the huge variety of natural structures. I love to explore different combinations of fabric treatments and techniques such as weaving and braiding to create unusual atmospheres and structures.

Can you tell us more about your natural dying production?
I started natural dying out of a need, because a few years ago it was quite hard to find a suitable colour range of organic fabrics which I liked to work with. Now natural dying is part of my creative process. Dying with plant extracts produces an astounding spectrum of subtle colours. I really enjoy the fact, that depending on time, temperature and concentration the outcome is never clear.

Where are you based? What do you like about living there?
I am based in Berlin and despite of the weather it is a perfect place to live and to work. The design scene is very young and vibrant and moreover housing and living costs are low. I like the creative energy on the streets but also the chilled out and relaxed pace. Then there are many visionary people who are working on a greener industry and created a space for the new green fashion movement here.

What's next for ICA watermelon?
Right now I am working on a seasonless and permanent collection simply with colour and material updates each season. Because, I think it makes sense to slow things down. It allows me to work less wasteful and gives me more time to concentrate on doing great designs with a high quality standard. My personal highlight will be the opening of my own showroom and shop in Berlin at the end of this year.

Find more of the collection here


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Transparent Seams at Sydney Design Festival

A.L.A.S and Transparent Seams is putting on an exhibition and workshop as a part of this years Sydney Design festival.

The exhibition and workshop acts as a bridge to reconnect consumers to their clothes, to inspire people’s involvement in the design process and explore solutions to updating or bringing new life to their discarded clothing! Guests will be invited to watch the design and production process that transforms disused... clothing into completely new garments; we will be turning armholes into necklines, necklines into bustles and shirts into skirts!

A one off practical workshop will coincide with the exhibition giving guests the tools to up-cycle their favourite old t-shirt or an unwanted garment from their wardrobe. This project will incite passive consumers to re-connect with their clothing through creative and fun solutions to breathe new life and meaning to their garments. By creating something new but keeping element of the old garment, the clothing’s history and life is extended and consumer becomes the creator.

Please come along!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Study- Tara St James

Tara St James is an incredible designer and mentor. After working as the creative director for Covet, Tara launched her own label Study in 2009 and has swiftly established herself as a key innovator in the ethical fashion scene. Her intelligent zero waste designs and constant collaborations with artists and textile designers are probably the key components to her success. A firm believer in open sourcing, Tara has also set up the Study Hall project, throwing interns into the deep end. Each intern is given the skills and guidance to create their own collections which they then sell to stockists.

Tara tells us about her latest collaboration and gives us an insight into some exciting new developments she is eagerly experimenting with.

What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?
I'll talk about my upcoming SS12 season here as the inspiration for that is most prominent on my mind. It started with the work of artist Zhen Chew who developed a series of Blind Train Drawings in her native Australia, which I am using as prints and the main inspiration for textile development for the collection. The New York City subway system is the secondary inspiration for the collection, which compliments Zhen's work and allows us to expand on it in our own textile development using printing, pleating and dyeing to simulate the folds lines of the train tracks. The body shapes are being kept clean and simple to really focus on the textiles.

Can you explain the concept behind your no waste skirt/top and your approach to versatility?
I started Study with an entirely zero-waste collection for SS09 and have continued to use this patternmaking technique in subsequent seasons. In the Spring 11 collection I made a no waste skirt because the fabric - which is a silk ikat that was hand woven in Uzbekistan - is very narrow and can be used without waste.
Every season I repeat a version of the square dress which can be worn in many different way. This is the most basic form of zero waste as it is just a large square of fabric that has intricately placed buttons and buttonholes allowing the customer to play with it and find their ideal shape. Essentially I want my customers to have fun with their clothes and play around, which is why my designs are made to be versatile.

You are very open with your fabric sourcing and production knowledge, why is this important to you?
A lot of the suppliers I work with are small, fair trade companies or mills that work very hard to be sustainable. I want to support them by buying their fabrics. But I also want them to succeed independently of the work they do for me since I'm not big enough to support them all on my own. So I share their contact info with fellow designers who I respect so we can "group fund" them as suppliers. I'm not worried about being open sourced with my supplier info, I'm confident in my designs and know that other designers will be able to make beautiful garments using the same fabrics without the risk of saturating the market.

Can you tell us more about your project "Study Hall"?
Study Hall is an intern project. The idea is for them to design a mini collection, under my supervision, of 3-4 pieces. They will develop their designs, source fabrics, calculate costs, make samples, sell the styles to a retailer, produce the styles and deliver them to the store. All between now and the end of August. It’s doable. A mini version of what designers and big houses do repeatedly every season.We are now on round 2 of Study Hall with 6 interns, each will be doing one item instead of 4, and they will work together to make the complete collection more cohesive. I have 2 textile designers working with me, so they'll be designing their own textiles as well as garments, so I'm very excited about this season of Study Hall!

Why New York?
I love New York. It's as simple as that. There's a fully functioning garment center here where I can develop and manufacture almost everything I need. And I can walk outside my door and be inspired. I tend to draw inspiration from music, art, people and movement, I need to be surrounded by energy, I don't work well when it's too quiet or peaceful.

What's next for Study?
Always a tough question! I want to continue to develop the brand's sustainability and really evaluate my chain of production to see where I can be more transparent and where I can make improvements. I'm also working with AirDye this season to develop a line of printed textiles that require little to no water use in the printing. This has been a big challenge to source a fabric that is suitable for this next level of printing, but I think we have found what we need! Stay tuned...

For information on her projects go to her informative blog here or the Study website here

Monday, June 27, 2011

Remade in Switzerland

Coats from captains once passed and jackets from disused parachutes, military surplus has been reincarnated in a recent collaboration with Swiss brand Victorinox and UK based designer Christopher Raeburn.

Raeburn has made waves in the fashion industry for his clever approach to creating clothing. A well known transformer of military garb, Victorinox felt Raeburn was the perfect candidate for their “Remade in Switzerland" project.

Victorinox was built on the principle of creating resourceful, long lasting products by Karl Elsener in the late 1800's. Elseners ethos is carried through to the project and t makes perfect sense to reconnect with the orignal innovator. Elseners house and workshop was converted into a 'Swiss Lab' for the project. Local tailors and apprentices were invited to work beside Raeburn and his team to produce the collection.

The final range embodies ingenuity at its best. Each piece incorporates the original fixtures and fastenings, buckles replace buttons, sleeping bags become duffle coats, each design element is functional. The whole collection seems to hark back to times of unknown expeditions and you can't help but feel the urge to abandon daily rituals and embark on your own adventure.

You can find more info on the project here


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Collina Strada

I am always in two minds about buying a leather bag. The debate in a nutshell goes something like this- leather is durable, biodegradable and natural, but it also comes from a dead animal, is often drenched in chemicals and could be replaced with a vegan product. That said I have numerous calico bags looking battered and distraught after only a short period of time and faux leather conjures up petrochemical dreams and an existential lifetime. Bag shopping is a complex decision....

Collina Strada is a label that is tempting me to cross to the other side. Founder and designer Hillary Taymours’ unusual and beautiful designs combined with a sustainable approach is sealing the deal. Her latest collection stays true to her signature style. Rich colour schemes and versatile shapes may perhaps end the eternal search for the perfect handbag. Hillary tells us more about her choice to use leather and how Collina Strada all began.

How did Collina Strada come about?
Collina Strada all happened when I was living in LA and I made a bag for myself in this amazing printed canvas that I had hand drawn. This is now one of my best sellers called the Ferra bag. I was asked everywhere I went who made it and where they could buy it. I realized I had gotten the attention of my fashion peers and decided to move into something more entrepreneurial and start the business.

What was the main inspiration behind your recent collection?
My inspiration behind the Fall 2011 collection is color. I wanted to create my products in great color hues but make them neutral at the same time.

Why do you use leather?
I use leather because it stands the test of time. All of our ancestors used leather for a reason and I just think the synthetic aspect of faux is still harmful to the environment with the chemicals they use and breaks after wear and tear. You do not see many vintage bags out there in great condition made out of faux leather.

Do you know the origin behind the leather you use?
I source all my leather through a very trusty leather man. He tells me what Tannery it comes from and he knows where they buy the raw hides. I know what treatments they do to the leather from start to finish, which allows me to choose the most eco-friendly version.

What do you think about the contemporary leather industry?
To each their own on this one. I think you can do your part to use recycled leathers or vegetable dyes. Most labels choose not too. However, I do believe that amongst the wide variety of selection out there if you do decide to make a purchase infrequently a leather jacket could last 20 years longer than a faux one.

Collina Strada is produced sustainably; can you tell us more about this?
I use all organic canvas and print using eco ink to make all my speciality prints. I only use canvas from the US and print in South Carolina. I then make everything handmade in NY by 3 workers. I only use vegetable dyed leather or leather that is dyed using no chrome. Instead of Dust bags I give Organic Grocery Shopper totes with each bag, which is totally re-useable and washable.

Why is this important to you?
Nowadays everyone is starting a line. If you can start one yourself you might as well make it at least somewhat sustainable. Being sustainable is a choice and for the most part it doesn’t even cost more, it just takes a little bit more creativity during production. If you are going to create on this planet I think it is necessary that you do your part to look out for it as well.

Whats next for Collina Strada?
Clothes! Spring 2012 =)

You can find the latest Collina Strada collection here

Monday, June 6, 2011

Susie Lau- Style Bubble

During Sydney fashion week I was lucky enough to meet the very humble Susie Lau. You are probably aware of her blog, Style Bubble, which has grown to a massive readership of thirty-something-thousand a day. Since 2006, Suzie has guided designers, fashion students and consumers alike to a myriad of labels and trends. I thought it would be interesting to get her opinion on our recent fashion week and the global sustainable fashion movement..

Why fashion?
Fashion has the ability to change the way I'm feeling. We all have to wear clothes of some sort (unless you live in a nudist colony!) so why not make it a tool of personal expression. I'm also drawn to the way it reflects social, economic and cultural change too. It's always interesting to see how something as 'superficial' as clothes reflect the bigger picture...

What were the highlights for you at Sydney Fashion Week?
I loved a lot of shows for different elements... I loved the sensuality of Therese Rawsthorne, the colours of Arnsdorf, the neon pleats in Magdalena Velevska. I loved the luxurious fantasy that Ellery's collection brought, the precise construction and amazing use of materials in Dion Lee and Josh Goot's Richter Gerhard-inspired prints. Overall, I thought Lover's collection was most accomplished in presentation and conception.

After keeping a close eye on the fashion scene for quite a while, can you see more sustainable and socially responsible labels emerging?
Yes definitely. I'm actually seeing more labels try to find ways of being socially responsible or sustainable in small ways whilst not trying to go the full hog as it is virtually impossible to be 100% ethical/organic from raw materials to production to finished product. Every little helps though and I think for labels, small and big it's worth investigating means of keeping things sustainable.

What's your take on ethical fashion?
We went through a phase of labels emerging with a big tag declaring themselves to be ORGANIC, ETHICAL etc with big capital letters without thinking of a desirable final product. Now that is changing and I think by thinking of product first, ethical/sustainability second, the clothes are much better.

Are there any designers you admire that integrate ethical aspects into their label?
I like what Suno are doing in that they're going at it from a socially responsible side, training up factories in Kenya to make their garments providing meaningful employment. The same goes for ASOS Africa's initiative. I like certain upcycling projects by Dr Noki, Victim and Andrea Crews. I also like discovering graduate projects who explore sustainability.... a shoe designer called Helen Furber is doing interesting things. I also like labels like Commuun and Bodkin as sustainable/organic labels with great design. Commuun were just recently nominated in the ANDAM prize too which I think is a great leap...

What's next for Susie bubble?
I'm working on a lot of consulting projects at the moment and doing a lot of freelance writing too but mainly keeping busy with the blog!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Designers all over the world have always been influenced by traditional cultures. Jessica Priemus is no different, however instead of just being inspired, she collaborates. Working with women in Bangladesh to create collections for her Perth based label Bhalo, Jessica shows us how exciting supporting artisans and disadvantaged communities can be.

How did Bhalo come about?
I travelled to Bangladesh to be a volunteer at a The Dhaka Project in 2008, where I met my now business partner Shimul, who was a manager of the project at that time. We were placed together as a team to create new designs for the project's sewing centre for disadvantaged women. The women had incredible skills, but little design knowledge, and no market for their products. We then decided to start our own label, using my skills as a designer, and his management skills and (local) experience with working with disadvantaged people. The Dhaka Project are still making my designs for the local market in Dhaka but for international garments we have since moved on to new producers.

Our first Bhalo project was a range of woolen scarves knitted by homeworkers in the outskirts of Dhaka. Soon after that we began working with Thanapara Swallows Development Society, which was established to provide employment for widows after their husbands were killed during the liberation war. Rather than aid, they wanted looms so that they could work and become self-sustainable. Today, the project employs over 200 people and funds free schooling and daycare for their children, as well as other community programs. To keep up with demand, we are also just about to start work with a new producer - Folk Bangladesh that provides new opportunities for tribal and indigenous groups in rural Bangladesh.

Can you tell us about the trips you go on for sampling and production?
About twice a year I travel from Australia to Bangladesh to create samples for the next collection and oversee production of the current collection. When arriving in Dhaka, I collect Shimul and we take the train 5 hours to the village of Thanapara in Rajshahi. We then spend a few weeks working very closely with the producers, who work with us on everything from pattern making to finished product.

What is the best part about going to the villages and working with the people who make Bhalo?
I love everything about going to the village. I love the train journey through the amazingly green rice fields and meeting up with all my friends and all the ladies once I get there. I could spend 1 month there and its still not enough time. We are always rushing to get work done - I really wish we had more leisure time! My goal next time is to find half a day to buy fishing rods and cycle down to the banks of the Ganges (or the Padma as it is known in Bangladesh) and join in with the dusk fishermen. Sometimes when we get a spare hour we go to the project kitchen and help the ladies there, lighting the fire in the traditional clay stove and making fresh roti!

What are the challenges you face?
Main challenges are probably the same as most small businesses, except throw in the added element of unexpected surprises. Something crazy is always happening in Bangladesh - whether it is man made or a natural disaster. This is why they use the word insha'allah a lot - meaning God willing - when talking about when the sampling or production will be done. The main reason why I travel there is to make sure I am there to answer any questions immediately, or just to help out. I always end up doing something manual like actually helping to embroider something or holding somebody's wriggling child - we are just really determined to get it done! We spend a lot of time with black feet and clothes drenched with sweat. I have had to abandon any dreams of maintaining a glamourous haircut!

You have amazing, vibrant prints and embroidery, where does your inspiration come from?
The Autumn/Winter 2011 collection's prints were inspired by traditional Jamdani patterns. Jamdani is this amazing Bengali traditional weaving technique used to make saris from a fine cotton muslin. The shapes and patterns are geometric and I thought that they would be really loved by the Australian market. I have a post about the weaving process on our blog...
I still dream of using actual Jamdani in clothing, but it is not a very durable fabric. It would be suited to something that you could wear once or twice without washing, like a wedding or formal dress... One day!

What do you hope for the future of fashion?
I hope that one day soon we will get rid of the assumption that cheap throwaway fashion is a right. You do not need 100 shirts. In many ways the fashion industry is designed to be unsustainable, with the constant stream of new fashion, new seasons, new styles. People feel unfashionable after one season. I hope that in the future we can get past this shallow attitude and start designing things that can be worn for years. Many fashion designers already do this, but high street fashion is still mostly just disposable.
I also hope that brands will get enough pressure to start being accountable for the conditions that they KNOW their workers toil in when they outsource their work to countries like Bangladesh. The sweatshops only exist for this work, and would most likely change given even slight pressure from the buyer. Sure, the factory owners in Bangladesh are also helping keep workers in these conditions, but what options do they have when someone is demanding a shirt for 30 cents and ready yesterday?

I think many of my hopes are definitely feasible and I hope to see them in my lifetime.

Whats next for Bhalo?
We will be launching our 2011-12 collection, called "Golden Year" online in August, and showing it off during Melbourne Spring Fashion Week in early September.
Currently we are designing and sampling our 2012 collection - think earthy clay colours with splashes of oxblood red and navy, batik prints and a focus on traditional embroidery.
We have just acquired 2 agents - one in Melbourne/Sydney and another in London/Dubai, so we hope to grow quite substantially over the next year, hopefully get more stockists in Australia and overseas.

Check out the Bhalo website here..the winter collection is AMAZING!


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Skinny Nelson

While most of us were still living a life full of teen angst and turmoil, Jacqui Alexander was busy being the youngest designer stocked at Harvey Nichols. These days Jacqui has teamed up with Zachery Midalia for their label Skinny Nelson. Their latest collection holds onto youth, simple cuts circa "Smells like teen spirit", combined with chunky cable knits in Grape and Grey show that Skinny Nelson are more than just a basics label.

You accomplished quite a lot at a young age. What was it like being a designer in your teens?
It was pretty unreal, in the literal sense of the word, starting so young. So much of what I was doing was very unusual for someone my age and I guess, because I had nothing else to compare it to, I had no fear of failure which pushed me to just leap in and take a chance. The older I get the more I realise I have learned. Starting so young, there had been a massive learning curve very quickly. Whist I was always very fearless, there are definitely things I would've done a little differently or things that I would've taken more control of, but I'm so happy to have experienced so much so young, with time ahead of me now to work and act more effectively.

When you started Skinny Nelson how did you find the shift from solo to collaborating? How do you share roles?
It seamed pretty natural. I guess working alone I had always longed to be able to share the responsibility of sharing a business. It definitely frees up the creative channels to share that load.

Some of your basics are in organic fabrics, what inspired Skinny Nelson to lean towards a greener alternative?
Basically while I was working on my previous brand I came across the organic cotton and simply thought wouldn't it be great, wouldn't it be a cleanse, to wear something that not only looked and felt good contributed positively to the world as well.

What influenced your latest collection?
The current collection was inspired by nostalgic memories of skiing holidays. I chose the Swiss Alps as a point of reference because there is always an underlying Scandinavian aesthetic to each collection. So I included cosy cable knits, stripy long johns and a colour palette that reflected the silver snow and forest green trees of a ski trip memory.

It's often hard not to complicate things in order to strive for difference. How do you keep things fresh but simple?
I just try to keep designing for myself. As I grow and change and my style slightly alters, so do the ranges. That's how I keep them genuine and relevant I guess.

What's next?
We've jut launched our online store www.skinnynelson.com.au which will sell core collection pieces and eventually other products that we love. We're also going to be hosting a serious of intimate studio collection sales during the month of June every Friday at out studio in Collingwood which is pretty exciting.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Simply put, Sosume is a label for the future,. With refined collections, high quality products and a transparent sensibility, we can easily see the reasoning behind each process and decision. Alex Trimmer, founder of the Australian based label offers his thoughts on the legality of careless creation, carpooling to work and the benefits of supporting local manufacturers.

Why fashion? How did SOSUME start?
It all started over in NY when I was finishing my degree as an exchange student. I felt there was a gap in the US market for “non-hippy” styled eco-friendly clothing. Everything I was seeing was fairly unimaginative when it came to colour palettes and fabric content. SOSUME was born to show that you can still wear cutting edge designs with amazing fabrics that actually wear and feel better than conventional fabrics. I launched the collection back home in Australia in late 2008.

What’s your opinion on contemporary fashion production?
If you’re referring to fast fashion, I think it’s awful and laws need to be made to stop it happening. Think of what an eighty-nine dollar nylon “leather” jacket does to a landfill and what it did to the local environment to get to the finished product.

How do you start a new collection?
A combination of what I see on the street mixed with traditional cuts and tailoring and ultimately, the fabrics I find. I’m limited to what I can use so I really have to find the fabrics first then think of the best ways to use them. The market for modern, sustainable fabrics is very small but growing so it’s a long process but well worth the effort. There are some remarkable materials out there.

What is your biggest source of inspiration?
As above. The biggest source is the fabric. I’ve always like men’s aesthetics but cut for a woman. I love traditional, timeless pieces and a quality make. When I find a fabric that I love, I try to think of all the different ways that it can be used to bring it to its fullest potential.

How would you describe your latest collection?
Easy, simple, breezy summer. I wanted to extend the jersey basics and introduce woven shirting. I like to build on previous collections and progressively add more and more complicated pieces. Its what makes me look forward to the next season!

Going back to the more ethical side of things..your label seems to have a sustainable element, why is this important?
Because it’s the only way forward. SOSUME proves you don’t have to wear a potato sack or sacrifice your style in order to wear something that is sustainable. The whole basics line uses micro modal, which only uses a tenth of the amount of water to produce each item than its cotton counterpart. The fabric feels sublimely soft, doesn’t effect the skin, will hold shape twice as long as cotton and also will hold its colour for twice as long too. It also is biodegradable so won’t fill up the dump at the end of the product life. This is a major concern with “fast fashion”.

You mention you garments are both organic and natural, roughly what percent is organic?
Actually, it depends on seasons. Some seasons I use organic cotton and organic wool among other natural or man-made fabrics while other seasons we just use man-made and natural. These new, modern man-made fabrics are actually the greatest thing the industry has seen as far as I know. They are created with the environment in mind and are designed to replace their harmful cousins such as rayon, viscose and others. The entire collection, doesn’t matter which season, is always made from only natural and organic fabrics. I just hope that the mills out there keep developing unique and beautiful fabrics to use!

Why produce in Australia? Why is this important and how does it affect your process?
Quality control. Simple as that. I also think it’s vital to support the industry that supports you. The manufacturing industry in Australia seems to be ailing but there are some great makers out there and it feels good to support them. It makes the process much quicker. If there needs to be an alteration, it’s easily done through a phone call and a visit. I couldn’t imagine the drama one would face when working with overseas factories. I like to work closely with my makers to develop the very best product.

What do you hope for the future of fashion?
For all labels to try and minimise their impact on the environment, whether it’s through their fabrics, their supply chains, their stock management, or even their employees’ carpooling to work! Every change for good makes a difference. It’s simple.

Check out Alex's website here, you can find out all his collections,fabric and production info..truly the way it should be...