A Garden Party to Make a Difference by Orsola de Castro

October 5, 2010

I am so proud of the workshops that we did in the Red Cross Tent at the Clarence House Garden Party To Make A Difference.
Goodness knows how we got it all together with the little time we had, but with incredible support from students and designers, as well as sponsors such as Janome, John Lewis and B&Q, we did it.
And it was a fantastic experience.

As for the LIVE UPCYCLE, scheduled for Saturday the 11th September, well, all I can say is that I wont be doing that again in a hurry, (I never knew being on stage could be so petrifying), although Lucy might have other ideas…

For starters, when Lucy Siegle and I first went to Clarence House to offer the NOI Collective services (the Noi Collective being Lucy Siegle, Livia Firth, Jocelyn Whipple, and I), and we mentioned that we were interested in doing a series of workshops and a Live Upcycle, we had but a vague idea as to what a Live Upcycle actually was.
We were clear about the workshops – fantastic designers sharing their methods and experiences with the public – but the “live upcycle event” was somehow, more … abstract.

Lucy, consummate professional, got going in writing the script, after we babbled a few concepts all together – like to involve the most experienced UK upcycling designers and get them on stage to play sewing machines instead of electric guitars, for instance.
Then we had to think of what actually we were going to sew, exactly.
And again, televisual Lucy, came up with the idea of upcycling Sinitta, and anything iconic from her 80’s wardrobe.
What can I say, she is a genius Lucy, and a very funny genius to boot.
And as she scripted away, we involved more and more people to take part – all who agreed absolutely blindly to possibly be completely humiliated on stage and talk rubbish, in this case, literally.

As the opening day drew closer, with the workshops beautifully organised by Elizabeth and ready to go with amazing designers (Elvis & Kresse, Enamore, Lu Flux, THTC, Alessandra Rigillo, Little Glass Clementine, From Somewhere) and an army of students from some of the UK’s best colleges ready at hand, our generous sponsors donated (all haberdasheries from John Lewis, irons and ironing boards from B&Q, and all sewing machines and overlockers from Janome) we proudly saw our concept taking shape and come to life.

On the first day of the event, Lucy and I had to do press.
I kind of thought we’ll be in a little room, a bunch of journalists will ask a few questions – what else can people expect from you at 8 am anyway?
Well, actually, what they expect from you at 8am in this kind of situation is a line up of 10 national and international live TV crews grilling you for 5 minutes each, followed by 20 photographers flashing away at a long celebrity line up, and me, pretty much the only civilian.
Vivienne Westwood was there, Jooles Holland, Alan Titchmarsh, and a few others I am ashamed to say I didn’t recognise.
Luckily I was flanked by Lucy and Sinitta, who were as relaxed as if they were having a cup of tea.

On Thursday I met HRH The Prince Of Wales. As you do, on Thursdays.
He came over to the Red Cross Tent during a workshop on jewellery upcycling, which was run by one of our new Estethica labels, Little Glass Clementine.
This time, support came thanks to Caroline Rush (head of the British Fashion Council) and Louise Carter, there to talk about the Sustainable Catwalk, also scheduled to take place at Clarence House, on the 17th of September.

And so it all rolled quickly into Saturday and the Live Upcycle.
Junky Styling (honestly, who else?) got to upcycle Sinitta’s outfit from her Toyboy album cover, and we used our usual scraps (generously donated by Dame Vivienne Westwood, Stella Mc Cartney, Sir Paul Smith and Speedo) and on stage with us we had the creme de la creme of the UK upcycling scene: Christopher Raeburn, Gary Harvey, Erin O Connor with Traid and John Paul Flintoff (revisiting his own homemade experiments as featured in his book Sew Your Own.)
It was anarchy on stage. Machines whizzing. Crazy hand stitching behind the scenes. And all of us, united in our cause to diminish landfill mass and re-use waste creatively.

It was absolutely, amazingly brilliant. Scary, mad, spontaneous, but brilliant.

I can’t conclude this report without thanking, from the bottom of my heart, all that took part, on stage and at the back.
Elizabeth Laskar and Jocelyn Whipple (bossy but adorable in keeping everything together backstage).
Our celebrity participants, enthusiastic, funny, relevant, talented, brave designers changing the way we look at fashion.
Lucy and Sinitta – the stars of the show.
Livia, texting frantically from the Toronto Film Festival (on duty there with husband Colin Firth).
Our models, Sarah and Emma – and Adam, our good looking assistant turned male model for the occasion.
Filippo and our film crew (Balthazar, Geoffrey and Ed).
All our interns and colleagues, frantically sewing away.
START, who gave us free reign.
And Aveda, who made us all look sleek.

From Somewhere with Speedo

October 5, 2010

From Somewhere with Speedo Dress

From Somewhere’s new and exciting collaboration between the world’s leading swimwear brand, Speedo, was revealed in September at Estethica the British Fashion Council’s ethical fashion area at London Fashion Week.

The ‘From Somewhere with Speedo’ collaboration forms part of a series of creative art and design projects commissioned by Speedo created from unsold stock and surplus pieces of the revolutionary Speedo LZR Racer suit. The limited edition capsule collection that is still in development, comprises a statement dress constructed purely of Speedo LZR Racer suits that will be auctioned for charity.

Following the decision of FINA (Federation Internationale de Natation), swimming’s governing body, to change the rules regarding swimsuit design and prohibit the use of full-body suits from January 2010, the world’s leading swimwear brand was left with a surplus of the record breaking LZR Racer suit.

As part of a wider project to explore new ways of utilising excess stock and a more responsible solution than sending the obsolete product to landfill; Speedo opted to write a new chapter in the history of the Speedo LZR Racer suit by providing the suits to a series of artistic and creative groups and institutions to use in a series of collaborative projects, ensuring that the suit will continue to make waves despite no longer being used in competitive swimming.

With a phenomenal 91 world records broken by athletes wearing the Speedo LZR Racer suit, including the unforgettable achievements of the most decorated athlete of all time, Michael Phelps, the Speedo suit will always be remembered for the way in which it revolutionised the sport of swimming.

David Robinson, President of Speedo International, said: ’The Speedo LZR Racer suit has been a design icon in the sport of swimming since its launch in 2008. During its time in the pool, swimmers wearing it have broken 91 world records and achieved outstanding results. The Speedo collaboration with From Somewhere now allows the LZR Racer to be a design icon outside of the pool. As a company which places great importance in sustainability, we are thrilled to announce the collaboration with From Somewhere. Innovative projects such as this are the perfect way to responsibly dispose of the surplus stocks of the suit while extending the legacy of the Speedo LZR Racer beyond the pool and onto the catwalk. I look forward to seeing the rest of the range early next year.’

Filippo Ricci and Orsola de Castro, owners of From Somewhere, said: ‘From Somewhere is incredibly excited about collaborating with Speedo, as the high-tech fabrics allow for our creativity to run wild. The collection is design led and directional as well as having a considerable environmental impact. We look forward to digging deeper both into our creative resources and into Speedo’s excess stock!’

The full ‘From Somewhere with Speedo’ collection will be revealed early 2011. A percentage of sales from the collection will go to charity. Details of the auction, charity and the sale date are to be announced.

(View the film preview of the From Somewhere with Speedo Collaboration here)

Estethica at YOOXYGEN

October 5, 2010

Estethica - Yooxygen Film

The British Fashion Council launched a collaboration with the virtual boutique for fashion & design yoox.com that will act as the official online retail partner by creating the first online retail space for its ethical talent showcase Estethica. Launching during London Fashion Week in September 2010, YOOXYGEN (yoox.com’s eco-friendly initiative), will present a selection of Estethica designers’ Autumn/Winter 10 collections on yoox.com with special contents, videos and exclusive interviews profiling this groundbreaking initiative.

Estethica showcases the very best of sustainable, innovative fashion. Designers selected for the first season of this collaboration and available on the new YOOXYGEN’s ethical retail space include: From Somewhere, Goodone, Henrietta Ludgate, MAXJENNY, Nina Dolcetti, Sonya Kashmiri and Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF).

Caroline Rush, CEO (Joint), British Fashion Council said, “We are very pleased to be collaborating with yoox.com for its YOOXYGEN initiative. Estethica was established to showcase collections of progressive designers working in ethical fashion, this online retail space will offer our leading ethical designers an opportunity to compete in the mainstream and gain greater worldwide visibility.”

Over the past eight seasons Estethica, sponsored by Monsoon has become the epicentre of sustainable fashion at London Fashion Week. Over the past year the BFC has developed this initative to offer mentouring support to a selection of emerging ethical designer businesses.

In line with its commitment to eco-sustainability and its research and promotion of new approaches to creativity, yoox.com now supports with this collaboration also the new scene of sustainable fashion, offering its global presence & reach to bring emerging British talent around the world.

Winning the Observer Ethical Award by Orsola de Castro

June 16, 2010

For this newsletter, I am supposed to be describing how it felt like to win the Observer Ethical Awards.

This is no easy task, given the multitude of feelings involved: I very much wanted to win and I had been really nervous ever since the shortlist was  announced, plus I was convinced  that the prize was going to go to Pachacuti.

Ever since being shortlisted in 2008 (Finisterre won that year), this award has felt a bit like an elusive milestone. I didn’t even apply last year, completely out of fear of wanting it and not getting it.

The Ethical Awards are intelligent, they celebrate achievements that are pursuing the right causes, creatively, sustainably, originally, often humorously, always inspirationally.  It is a small wonder if, after 13 years of the most tumultuous journey inside the fashion industry and its waste, I wanted for From Somewhere to be recognised as being some of those things.

When we started in 1997 it was pretty much just us, Junky Styling, Fake, and Geoffrey B Small in Italy.

Recycling clothes didn’t even particularly classify it as “ethical fashion” then, it was just something we did that made sense: buy something second-hand and cheap, change it, make it beautiful and desirable and sell it to the best boutiques.

There was a story to it too, it was poetic, we used to call our collections “abandoned and reclaimed womenswear”. The buyers loved it, the press loved it, and we did our first LFW in 2001 already selling internationally.

For Filippo, my partner, and myself, the ethical and environmental realisation came just about then, when, in order to fulfil increasing orders, we realised quite how much stuff was being thrown away, by the consumer, by  the shops, by the factories, and by the mills – and from that point on  sourcing waste fabrics for our collections became a mission to go further and  further into the heart of the industry’s waste, entering factories only by the  warehouse door, scouring the enormous bins outside textile mills, infiltrating  production cutting rooms, looking for all that is discarded at  source.

In our quest for design led, reproducible, uncompromising up-cycling, we have used waste from some of the best mills, manufacturers and designers in the world, and more and more we find that the companies that we have been working with have come to understand and support this process, make it theirs, collect for us, be an active part in preventing their waste from being  dispersed; from high end family run companies like MILES in Italy to, more recently  (and more controversially), Tesco Clothing, who validated all our efforts by  taking upcycling on board through our joint collection for F&F by making  it widely available and affordable, giving it a much wider  audience.

But back to the Awards and the big party at the V&A..

Who was there: Sam Roddick, there to celebrate her father Gordon’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Jo Wood, Anna Orsini from the British Fashion Council, Allegra Donne, Nicola Giuggioli from Eco Age, Ex- Mayor Ken Livingstone, inventor Trevor Baylis and presenter Rick Edwards. Livia Firth looked beautiful as always and again she was wearing From Somewhere, as were Uscha Pohl from Very Magazine, and Rosie Budhani from Foundation, who looked like a goddess. Still, despite Joss Whipple acting as my nerve sponge all day, I was so electric I could have charged a phone. Filippo on the other hand, was tranquil, the voice of reason, composed and totally reassuring.

We mingled a bit in a room full of people we know so well, and then it all opened with an amazing looking Lucy Siegle, who can switch better than  anyone I know from human encyclopaedia on all things sustainable to  eco-glamour puss, and who truly is the life and soul behind the Ethical Awards. It was then over to Colin Firth, who is the funniest and most eloquent of hosts. His opening speech had us all in stitches; a bit like at last year’s awards, when I kept on chuckling long after he had finished talking. And then this lovely thing happened – when Lucy announced our name in the shortlist, the room filled up with cheers and applause, and that, for me, was almost as romantic than when it was announced that we were the winners.

It feels incredible, it was the most monumental moment in my career so far, and it just made the past few months, which, with one thing and another, have been outrageously eventful, even more poignant.

Luckily and uncharacteristically, I didn’t cry.

Even better, Filippo did, and so did Anna Orsini.

‘The judges chose From Somewhere because we saw so many robust but creative ideas in one top-selling, mainstream ethical design. Orsola de Castro  has spent her career simultaneously pursuing creative top end fashion and attempting to bring common sense sustainability back into fashion. She has an extensive knowledge of dead-stock, waste materials and sees opportunities to upcycle all along the fashion chain. She also had the courage to work with a multinational mainstream producer and the tenacity to liberate ‘waste’ fabric from warehouses, skips and even factory floors. We were simply bowled over by her energy and creativity!’ – Lucy Siegle

Pop-up Shop at From Somewhere

June 16, 2010

From Somewhere’s shop on Portobello road will be host to some of the best eco-brands from the 24th of June until the 3rd of July. The pop-up shop will be stocking UK’s best Minna, Junky Styling, From Somewhere, Sonya Kashmiri, MTLables, Nina Dolcetti and US eyewear label KAYU.

An evening of wine, aperitivo and goody bags, will launch this great opportunity to pick up some beautiful pieces to show off this summer.

Choose from ready to wear brands such as Minna’s delicately designed lace dresses, recently chosen by the British Fashion Council for the Estethica mentoring programme, or from the veteran east-end fashion label, Junky Styling, who offer their one-off redesigned pieces produced from recycled suits and shirts. For all you fans of From Somewhere, the beautifully up-cycled new spring summer collection, produced from the highest quality materials will also be available at discounted prices.

Pick up one of Sonya Kashmiri’s beautifully designed and thoughtfully handcrafted vegetable tanned leather bags, or a pair of Nina Dolcetti’s daring, architectural and design led shoes made from up-cycled leather with beautiful hand details.

You will also find MTLabel’s lovely leather clutches, hand cut and stitched, and KAYU’s range of bamboo sunglasses, which, as part of their ongoing campaign against preventable blindness, will fund one sight restoring surgery in a developing country with every pair sold.

Be the first to sample Green People’s amazing new ranges of mineral make-up and menswear grooming products.

Come and get a hold of some inspiring collection pieces, samples and all sorts at the From Somewhere shop on 341 Portobello Road until the 3rd of July.

With thanks to Green People and Speciality Foods.

Miriam Gonzalez on From Somewhere

June 16, 2010

Miriam Gonzalez, the wife of the Liberal Democrat party leader and recently elected deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, was spotted wearing From Somewhere alongside her husband through out the UK elections. An international lawyer by trade, Miriam has been at the centre of attention for her style choices, and she kindly agreed to tell us a few words on her recent interest for ethical and sustainable fashion.

How long have you be interested in wearing/supporting ethical and sustainable fashion?

I became aware of the importance of Ethical Fashion only relatively recently, but I was completely taken away by the strength and merits of this cause.


Where did you hear about From Somewhere?

I first read about it when Livia Firth wore an ethical fashion dress at the Oscars’ ceremony this year.  I enquired about it and soon realised there was a wonderful and inspiring team of people working tirelessly on this. I frankly felt ashamed I was not more aware of the incredible amount of waste behind fashion.

As an international Trade Lawyer, could you give us a few suggestions on how you think the fashion industry could improve in regards to sustainability and ethics?

Working on favourable tariffs and customs rates at a world wide level could be make a huge difference to the long term viability of ethical fashion.

What fashion tips would you give to our readers?

I just try to follow the rule that you should never wear anything that does not make you feel like yourself.

Why did you choose to wear ‘From Somewhere’ to the elections in May?  And how did it make you feel?

If what I wear at some occasions is analysed in minute detail I like using that interest in favour of a good cause.
The dress was not just ethical but gorgeous too. It has a really flattering and ‘feminine’ cut. And Orsola’s eye for colours makes you feel instantly happy. Feeling fab and ethically responsible, who can offer more??

Livia Firth on From Somewhere

March 8, 2010

I love beautiful clothes and always cared a lot about the quality of a garment but I would never call myself a fashion person. I tend to keep my clothes forever and will wear them on and off throughout the years. So I’ve never had an ‘it’ bag or been a devotee of designer labels.

So it was with some trepidation that I began to get involved in the sustainable fashion scene. But through my eco lifestyle store, Eco Age, (http://www.eco-age.com/). I had come across designers who were creating products with bigger aspirations than just ending up in landfill. It was only a matter of time before I began meeting designers attempting to do the same for fashion, providing an ethical alternative to fast fashion. I also met three friends Jocelyn Whipple, Lucy Siegle and Orsola de Castro who are all big proponents the ethical fashion movement. Together we began a programme at Eco Age ’12 Degrees of Ethical fashion’. Our mission was to give burgeoning design talent some profile, a little bit of shop space and to promote some of the pivotal issues of ethical fashion, from cotton production to the rights of garment workers.

Over the past 12 months I’ve been introduced to dozens of beautiful brands but From Somewhere, Orsola de Castro’s brand remains one of my favorites. In fashion circles she is known as the queen of ‘upcycling’, taking factory waste – often from extremely high end producers – and rather than recycling, which largely means turning waste into something less valuable, she makes it into exquisite pieces. But it’s not just the upcycling that appeals to me. She has an innate sense of quirky style that stands out from the homogenized style that seems to dominate fashion. She mixes classic style, reminiscent of La Dolce Vita with innovation. Every time I wear a From Somewhere dress, sweater or coat those pieces become the main topic of conversation.

I also love the idea of working with Orsola and developing designs with her. The beautiful thing about her shop in Notting Hill is that it feels a bit like going to a friend’s house. When I saw her wonderful ‘Carina’ black dress made from reclaimed fabrics, with accentuated chiffon sleeves I immediately borrowed it to wear to the Venice film festival for the premiere of Tom Ford’s movie A Single Man. It was made in the Cooperativa Rinascere in Italy, which Orsola set up to make all her clothes. The Cooperativa helps to rehabilitate disabled people and people with mental health problems. Orsola’s seamstresses used to work for top fashion houses but since becoming ill it has been hard for them to re-enter their profession. She says that when I wore the dress in Venice and it came up on the screen, the atmosphere in the Cooperativa was like a football match!

After Venice, Lucy Siegle challenged me to do the rest of the awards season dressing solely in ethical fashion. As we discovered non mainstream designers have a hard time accessing red carpets, so we launched the Green Carpet Challenge through my blog on Vogue.com. Helped along by suggestions from readers who are following the journey, and a lot of input from designers and places such as London College of Fashion, I’ve so far walked down red carpets in a repurposed wedding dress, bamboo wool suit, milk fibre, fairly traded and mud dyed silk and sustainable cork shoes. The level and breadth of design has astonished me and I have met some amazingly talented designers who priorities social and environmental justice and deserve as much recognition as they can get.

On 7 March it’s the Oscars, and the end of this phase of the Green Carpet experiment. With this dress, I wanted to go for old Hollywood glamour and a bit of La Dolce Vita brought together with impeccable ethical credentials. I also wanted to bring the Green Carpet challenge back to where it had started. Of course we all know the perfect candidate: Orsola de Castro who will make the final Green Carpet Challenge Oscar dress. It will be very simple and very elegant, and entirely constructed from waste. I can’t wait!

The Cooperativa Rinascere by Charlotte Turner

March 8, 2010

Since 2002, From Somewhere has been producing its collections in the social Cooperativa Rinascere in Veneto, Northern Italy.  Rinascere, Italian for “reborn”, is a unique not-for-profit organisation that seeks to rehabilitate disadvantaged individuals and equip them to play a fulfilling and productive role in society.

The people helped by the Cooperativa include recovering addicts, in and out patients of local psychiatric units, and others with various disabilities who would be unemployed if not for the opportunities offered by the project. Rinascere is managed by a group of volunteers who have chosen to dedicate their lives to charity and to helping others. Their aim is to provide people in need with new skills and experiences in order to help them back into the world of employment.

The project offers incalculable benefit to those involved: through training and work they build up their skills base; through encouragement and support they gain the self-esteem and self-belief that they need in order to operate in the wider world.  The work provided is tailored to individuals’ needs, taking into consideration any disabilities or specific skills they may have, and varied training is provided for those without experience.  There are opportunities for creative input during projects, and, through being able to problem solve and make decisions, people develop greater self-confidence and faith in their judgement, which in turn benefits and eases their day-to-day lives.

This scheme provides a safe and welcoming workplace for disadvantaged people who have been unable to engage in typical employment.  Such positive surroundings and encouragement result in enthusiastic, dedicated participants who enjoy applying themselves to challenging and stimulating work.  However, even more importantly, it bestows hope for their futures by providing the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to lead independent lives.

From Somewhere to the Oscars by Orsola de Castro

March 3, 2010

Livia Firth has been a tireless supporter of ethical fashion and a key figure in the UK fashion scene, her commitment (from her shop Eco Age, to her work with Lucy Siegle for the Observer’s Ethical Awards and her recent blog for Vogue.com, and lastly ‘The Green Carpet Challenge’) is unquestionable. Yet, she is also a beautiful woman, very much in the public eye, and not one to compromise on her appearance, making her an honest and reliable judge of how and who to wear in ethical fashion.

Livia’s comments on the Oscar dress and ‘Green Carpet Challenge’ :  “When Lucy Siegle and I were discussing the options for the Oscar dress and the Green Carpet Challenge, the decision of going with Orsola was very natural as we have been working together for over a year with 12 Degrees of Fashion at Eco Age.   Also, the ‘Green Carpet Challenge’ began in a way when I wore a ‘From Somewhere’ dress to the worldwide premiere of ‘A Single Man’, in Venice; it feels so natural to end the challenge with Orsola and From Somewhere.  The Oscars will be, in a way, the end of the promotional trip for all of us with A Single Man – and the end of the Green Carpet Challenge.
With this dress, I wanted it to be “Old Hollywood Glamour” and a bit of “La Dolce Vita” – so even in this way Orsola, being Italian, perfectly understood that feeling and created the perfect representation for it.  The dress will be incredibly simple and elegant – and the fact that we could re-create that elegance and simplicity using waste is wonderful!”

The main ingredients of the dress are: our trusted black thick viscose fluid – part of a few rolls of designer obsolete stock – some black organza off cuts and tiny end of rolls, and some unfinished black chiffon petty-coats which we literally rescued from the bin.
The From Somewhere studio in Portobello has never been more hectic and full on, working evenings and weekends, each to her own expertise: Nancy on the pattern, Carina and Erin sewing and Kate and Andrea on the organza/pettycoat shoulder structure. Overall, a really good team, which is remarkable when considering that most of the girls, are just out of college – it goes to show that enthusiasm and passion can really drive you forward.

Luckily, we did have had a little bit of help on the way, from Tom Ford’s right-hand man David Bamber who came with Livia to the first fitting and was just brilliant, to the moral support provided by Dilys Williams at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at LCF ready to mobilise her entire MA army of students just in case we should need them, to Anna Orsini giving advice from Paris on the phone (Anna’s magic words: Everything is possible and don’t be afraid).

This dress will close Livia and Lucy’s Green Carpet Challenge, and I am glad that the word “challenge” is omnipresent throughout. It is my safety net – making this dress has indeed been a challenge, as it will be a challenge for Livia to walk the red carpet covered in exquisite fashion waste – a provocative, audacious choice.

We have to take risks to get where we want to be and say the things we want to say, we have to be brave to be of influence, so in the same vain we have to put a pile of designer fashion rubbish on the red carpet and hope we can convince you  that up-cycling is the way to go.

Orsola x


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.