Category ‘Slow Lifestyle’

Menswear Week and Menswear Walk

Posted in Slow Lifestyle on Friday, June 21st, 2013

In just three editions (the last one having taken place this past week), London Collections: Men has firmly established its presence in the Menswear Fashion calendar. No mean feat, against the reigning power of Pitti Uomo, Milano Moda Uomo and of course Paris. But then again, it is hardly surprising that London should make its voice heard when it comes to menswear – wasn’t the whole concept of men’s fashion (in the contemporary sense of the word) born here after all?

If you need to brush up on your menswear history, I’ve got just the thing for you. And if the mere mention of the word history is already making you yawn, you can think again. A pleasant ‘history lesson’ it is too – in fact, it’s a guided walk through London’s St. James and Mayfair, the cradle of everything gentlemen style, from Savile Row to the Burlington Arcade, to the mad creativity of 1960s Carnaby Street.

Russell Nash is a qualified professional guide and a member of the City of Westminster Guide Lecturers Association. He guides a number of walks on London’s social history, but you could tell the Menswear walk was close to his heart, from his impeccable attire – I don’t think I’ve ever met such a well put-together tour guide before.

We start in St. James, at iconic makers such as Lock & Co. Hatters (which, established in 1676, is the oldest hat shop in the world – and inventors of the bowler hat)  and John Lobb Bootmaker.

Just round the corner is Jermyn Street,  home to London’s finest men’s tailors, shirt makers, suppliers of leather goods, food, wine and cigars merchants. The place were rich men could have their fun, the area all the gentlemen gravitated towards. Iconic amongst them, George ‘Beau’ Brommel, the original dandy: he contributed so much to men’s style, that a statue has been erected in his honour just before the entrance to the Piccadilly Arcade.

Naturally, we carried on towards Mayfair and the address synonym with gentlemen’s style: Savile Row. Russell proceeded to tell us numerous of stories and anecdotes on how tailors’ houses (like Anderson & Sheppard and Henry Poole) were founded, how they used to and still cater for their discerning clientele, how they obtained their royal warrants – and also what the future of Savile Row is. Some of it needs to keep with the traditions that made its name, but some of it is in the hands of creative innovators like Richard James and Ozwald Boateng.

Having now stepped into modern and contemporary menswear, the tour closed on a mention of John Stephen, the ”£1m Mod” and “The King Of Carnaby Street”.

I may have summarised a lot here, but the tour lasted a good two hours during which we heard literally dozens of stories, all with a meticulously researched historic, social and cultural background. If you want to go along with the next tour, contact Russell here.

Slow Lifestyle: The Mending Revolution

Posted in Slow Lifestyle on Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Just as with Tuesday’s, today’s blog post was inspired by a designer I’m following and a coming-up event. The other day I talked about Hannah Gower and her imminent presentation of her Don’t Be Tight collection at Leeds Graduate fashion show. Then yesterday I read a facebook post by Bridget Harvey which sparked my interested, as it’s about a very Slow practice, that seems to be really gaining momentum as of late. It’s about the Repair/Mending revolution.

Harvey is an environmentally conscious designer-maker with a strong interest in Slow design, using plant-based, biodegradable and recyclable materials. As part of the JMB Collective, she will be running a DIY Store, a collaborative and participative make-and-mend space where donated objects of all sorts will be repaired, and then be made available for purchase – a purchase paid for not by money, but by an exchange of mending materials or objects, labour or a mending skill. This sounds like a fantastic idea in itself, reminiscent of the Amsterdam Repair Cafe’ that’s recently enjoyed great press coverage, including by The New York Times.

And it sounds even better when put into context: The DIY Store will in fact be running during Mend*rs, a Mending Research Symposium at Docker in South Cumbria, the first ever large-scale gathering dedicated to mending in the UK, to take place June 29 – July 2. Their intent sounds hopeful and absolutely inspirational: “MEND*RS is an activist project to promote practices and discourses of mending within and beyond the academic establishment. Its aim is to maximise the social impact of mending research and to reinvigorate mending cultures in everyday life. MEND*RS’ aim is to build a mending network to unite practitioners of a marginal, disparate, often domestic activity with designers, craftspeople, small businesses, social enterprises, environmental and social wellbeing groups, local residents and researchers operating across diverse disciplines. The level of enthusiasm for MEND*RS to date shows that, although largely invisible in academic discourse and contemporary culture, mending resonates strongly as a relevant, timely and necessary practice.” While the programme sounds as engaging as it will be fun: a conference over two days, with invited keynotes and talks selected from submitted expressions of interests under the symposium’s themes + an exhibition/performances/film screenings/new artwork/activist interventions related to mending + workshop sessions to share skills and explore practices of mending + time for talking, walking, reflecting, cooking, mending, playing and dancing together.

Interestingly, yesterday I also came across Futuremenders, a project that goes by the exciting tag line of “a few steps away from breaking the world record for mass sock darning”. Futuremenders is the lifelong project of UK artist Jonnet Middleton, who took a pledge in 2008 to acquire no more clothes, ever. She explains: “Futuremenders is fun and deadly serious art activism. It sidesteps the traditional art world, cutting to the real business of art in an age of crisis – to futureproof our lives. It prepares us for barely imaginable but plausible futures where forgotten skills are vital for survival.The monumental scale of the Futuremenders mission is to subvert our addiction to short-term shopping by spreading the joy of making and mending together. Let’s mend life’s discarded fragments, used, loved and beautiful. Let’s give our things new lives and our lives new actions.” It’s all beautifully explained in this picture: the joy of life, happiness and self-confidence, through the art of darking socks!

 P.S.: There seem to be a lot of similarities between the two projects of Mend*rs and Futuremenders, but I could find no info of an actual common organisation. However, their manifestoes are exactly the same, so I’m sure there must be some form of collaboration going on. Having myself failed to find more details, I’d be very happy if somebody who knows more wanted to explain! (please just leave a comment below)

**EDIT** Today (21st October 2012) I found this great article. ”San Francisco artist mends clothes and builds community — just by giving a darn” Love it!

Don’t Be Tight! Ideas for a Slow approach to wearing tights

Posted in Slow Lifestyle on Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

I recently received an invitation to the Leeds College of Art end of year fashion show. Among the graduates showing their collections, a name grabbed my attention, as I’ve recently been following a project of hers which does tune in with my Slow approach to wardrobe management.

Hannah Gower has launched Don’t Be Tight, a campaign created to reduce the amount of tights making their way to landfill. Hannah explains: “The tights campaign came around from noticing the short life tights live: they seem to ladder or split after only a couple of wears, with their next stop being the dustbin. Not only they are thrown away far too much and too often, adding to the shocking and increasing amount of textile waste on landfill, but they are non-biodegradable. My campaign wants to instil the idea that tights can live more than the life on your legs; bring inspiration in what people can do with their unwanted hosiery (and unwanted clothing) instead of disposing straight away.” Hannah seeks donations of laddered or unused tights, which she will reuse for her creations. “On the off chance I tried knitting with them, they worked perfectly creating unpredictable movement, stretch and texture within the garment.”

I got interested in Hanna’s project as I, as a Slow fashion consultant, am constantly looking for solutions to inspire my clients and my readers to make better choices for their wardrobes.

If you are interested in donating your tights, you can post them to: Hannah Gower – Don’t Be Tight, Leeds College of Art, Blenhiem Walk, Leeds. Or you can drop them off at Remade In Leeds, Hyde Park, Leeds. Don’t Be Tight are also hoping to have a few collection boxes around the country, so if you would be able to host one, do get in touch with them! Or follow them on facebook here.

 

Another project that’s been running in the past was the Tights for Ethiopia Charity Appeal organised by Tightplease. Their research showed that 524,000 women die from pregnancy and childbirth complications each year and of these deaths, 99% occur in impoverished, developing countries. For every woman who dies, another 40 or 50 suffer severe injuries and complications. Tights are a great way to hold medical dressings in place and so in late 2008 and early 2009 Tightsplease collected over 10,000 pairs of tights to help the Addis Ababa Fistula hospital in Ethiopia. Unfortunately the appeal in now over, but Tightplease still offer ideas on how to re-use the tights before they end up in the bin.

 

However, another question is: where to buy sustainable tights in the first place? This is a trickier one. Tights are made of synthetic fibres, which are not biodegradable. The only natural fibres hosiery can be made of are organic cotton and bamboo, but obviously they don’t offer the same versatility as nylon, especially if we are looking for fine tights, or nude. My personal advice would be to buy thicker tights (40 deniers or up), which ladder much less easily and can last for a very long time (before you repurpose them, obviously!).

Or, if we can’t avoid the environmental issue that comes with the actual product, at least we now have an example where the environmental impact of at least the production has been addresses and greatly reduced. Courtaulds Textiles has been supplying M&S with hosiery for more than 30 years. As a retailer, M&S has a 28 per cent share of the British hosiery market, so any innovation they can back would be of great impact for the specific market. The great news is that Courtaulds, which is Britain’s largest producer of underwear, carried out a £2m renovation project at their West-Mill hosiery plant in Belper, Derbyshire, that has halved the factory’s energy consumption over the past five years. A new high-efficiency chiller, heat-recovery system and a reuse and recycle process have allowed the site to reduce its water consumption by 20 per cent and achieve a 100 per cent reduction in waste sent to landfill. The moved was recognised by M&S, who awarded Courtaulds with its Plan A eco-factory status – the first in the UK, and also the first UK supplier of hosiery for M&S. Jonny Mitchell, the managing director of Courtaulds legwear, said the factory’s changes, such as reduced energy and water consumption, have given it an “edge again to be able to compete with the Far East”.

I wonder if it’s possible for the average shopper to walk into an M&S branch and know which pair of tights has been produced by Courtaulds – that would really empower us to make the ultimate choice, and show the retailer we do choose a specific product thanks to its eco credentials. However the numbers are quite encouraging.

So here’s another solution for your Slow wardrobe! As it’s often the case, more could be done, but my philosophy is that we can at least start doing something and making some small choices. As with everything else: shop smart, and get creative!

Slow Lifestyle: The Repair Revolution

Posted in Slow Lifestyle on Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Well they certainly like to repair stuff in Amsterdam, don’t they!

I followed a tweet to this article, and I think it’s a great story:

“At Amsterdam’s first Repair Cafe, an event originally held in a theater’s foyer, then in a rented room in a former hotel and now in a community center a couple of times a month, people can bring in whatever they want to have repaired, at no cost, by volunteers who just like to fix things. Conceived as a way to help people reduce waste, the Repair Cafe concept has taken off since its debut two and a half years ago. The Repair Cafe Foundation has raised about $525,000 through a grant from the Dutch government, support from foundations and small donations, all of which pay for staffing, marketing and even a Repair Cafe bus.”

Reading this reminded me that not long ago I read about an Amsterdam-based company who issued a Repair Manifesto. And in fact, the article goes on to say: “[...] Martine Postma, a former journalist, came up with the concept [...] inspired by a design exhibit about the creative, cultural and economic benefits of repairing and recycling”. Just the one I’d been reading of.

Platform 21 is a design platform aiming to positively influence the relationship between user and product. “Through our projects we question today’s society, connect amateur and professional creativity, reveal the making process, and stimulate dialogue and the sharing of creative knowledge. We believe that showing and sharing the process of creation is a powerful way to engage a broad audience in divers aspects of design. It opens up the assumption that design is a professionals’ creative discipline only.”

Platform21’s Repair Manifesto opposes throwaway culture and celebrates repair as the new recycling. The last few months the Manifesto has been downloaded, blogged about and adopted all over the world – apparently more than a million times!

The idea has also been picked up by iFixit.com.

So what do you think? Would it be nice to have a place like the Repair Cafe’ here in London? Do you know of any such places here already? If you do, please leave a comment and let us know!

Buy Nothing Day: get inspired!

Posted in Slow Lifestyle on Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Next Saturday 28th November marks the 10th year of Buy Nothing Day.

buy-nothing-day-2009

Surprised by a ‘Buy Nothing Day’ on a Saturday, just a month before Christmas? I actually think it’s pretty smart. This is the time of year when we spend the most, and probably in the worst way – for things we hardly need at all, and that will soon be forgotten about. So to try and resist the urge to splash some cash this very Saturday can prove an interesting exercise, and one that might actually help reflect on the coming Christmas spending spree.

I say, this is a perfect occasion to take inspiration, and find an alternative to another Saturday down the high street.

And if you ask me, what better idea than a REWARDROBE?

That’s right! Buy Nothing Day is a global initiative, advising us to cut any kind of shopping for the whole day – and I think it just couldn’t be easier to apply the concept to clothes shopping. So, instead of going out only to come home with another black top (or flat pumps, or similar – you know what I mean!), how about dedicating some TLC to your wardrobe!? You are bound to find something in there that you’d forgotten you owned… and won’t that just feel like having been shopping? Something new (quite possibly you haven’t even worn it before!) to wear tonight, and no use of your credit card!

Now, that’s what I call rewarding – you can go along with a global ethical initiative, feel good about it, and still get that little gratification from the day’s activities. That reward is what a Rewardrobe is mostly about!

And if you don’t know where to start, take some inspiration or give us a ring!

Slow Lifestyle: The Slow Bicycle Movement

Posted in Slow Lifestyle on Monday, August 24th, 2009

At Rewardrobe, we move in slow wear. So we appreciate all other things ‘slow’, as part of an attitude and a philosophy that encompass all aspects of everyday life.

Having lately become a keen cyclist myself, and wile doing some research for an article on chic cyclewear, I stumbled upon the wonderful Slow Bycicle Movement - how appropriate!

In their own words: “The Slow Bicycle Movement is all about the journey, not the destination. It’s about riding your bicycle. To work, to play. Casually, in a relaxed manner. With time to enjoy the self-propelled movement that you and you alone generate. And, of course, to look around and see the landscape – urban or not – that you pass by at your leisurely pace. The Slow Bicycle Movement is a celebration of the bicycle. Not as a speed machine or a tool for tribal membership but merely as an enjoyable way to get around. Only decades ago the bicycle was considered a normal way to get around. It still is in Denmark, Holland, Japan and many European cities but returning the bicycle to its rightful place as a feasible transport option in the rest of the world is a noble goal. Of all the cyclists on the planet, the vast majority are, per definition, slow cyclists. So that’s a great start.”

That’s exactly our point. And that’s what we mean when we talk about ‘slow wear’: rediscovering tradition through small everyday things that fit easily in our hectic modern lives, and can bring something good back into them. Doesn’t that sound ideal?