Posts Tagged ‘Winner of Fashion & Accessories Observer Ethical Award 2010’

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