Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable Fashion’

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??

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, 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