Monday, December 15, 2008


Went to see the launch of Know Whats in Your Knickers at the Southbank Center last week (of course I did - DeviDoll was a sponsor!!). BBC's Verity White has made a very cool, short film that demands attention not least because it so graphically shows the ugly side of fabric production processes through the glamour of a catwalk showcasing the sexiest of lingerie....something that we have learned to associate only with positive (though sometimes naughty)'s something we all want, its big time coveted. See the film here.

Film was good but I was perplexed by Ben 'Pants To Poverty' Ramsden's handling of it and the use of the platform it provided him to talk about ethical issues. I won't bore you with a long winded description but suffice it to say that Ben had to speak right after the film was shown (for the first time ever) and one would have thought he would mention something about the film (even if just the producer/director name). But he didn't...nothing at all. He simply launched into his own speech about poverty, labour, trade and so on....all of which was good stuff, no doubt, but seemed totally disengaged from the film, which had after all been the intro to his appearing on the stage. I think he could have done a better, more cohesive job.

Any way the film will now be shown widely in the media with plenty of events planned around it. We'll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Its really satisfying to read an article in the mainstream press that focuses on the right issues on a particular ethical issue. Source of Concern in this weekend's FT satisfied me.

The key point it made, and this is one that is often lost when ethical activists demand bog-standard, black-and-white fairtrade or other certification, is that 'sanitised production' as required by ethical trade standards that are now widely demanded in the UK (among other developed countries) and which big retailers ignore at their peril (remember the outrage over Primark revelations in the summer?) can have the effect of, simply put, keeping the very poor,those that are most reliant on traditional methods/handicrafts and most unable to break socio-economic barriers to employment diversification, out of the supply chain, ie, out of a livelihood.

Thus when Primark dropped its suppliers because of labour standard violations, they were rightly chastised for throwing the baby out with the bathwater and well and truly behaving unethically. The right thing to do would have been to stick on and improve standards within the supply group they worked with (Primark countered this with the claim that they refused to work with untruthful agencies that denied subcontracting when it was actually going on, but that's pretty lame given Primark's own record of honesty was severely under question here).

The big issue that needs addressing is how to stop the more fortunate (albeit impoverished by Western standards) workers/suppliers from being the only ones who can be employed. At the end of the day, what do ethically-aware consumers in developed countries gain if a poor tailor's family outside Delhi goes hungry and even loses a child or two to sickness if they could have averted that by earning a tiny wage, no matter how abysmal the amount. Even .00001 is more than 0 and for many of the poorest workers thats where its at.

Solutions in this area require, first and foremost, an understanding of what we are trying to achieve by seeking better standards for poor labour in developing countries. I think the first 'phase' of this understanding is pretty clear now and is espoused in the principles of fairtrade, child free labour, health and sanitation requirements for workers, minimum wage and other like doctrines.

The next phase though is to look behind these terms, see the complexities and start figuring out how these are to be addressed...for eg:
--Developing country governments don't always themselves have a clear idea of what the minimum wage should be, indeed, in some cases they keep this low so that business keeps coming in. So assurances and certifications from them need scrutiny and international pressure must be applied to shine some light on what's really going on and rationalise legislation.
--We need to get past the fashionable fixation for formally certified goods. Its now almost de rigueur to pay more for these and feel good about it but the public's knowledge must be clarified. Having a certification can often mean that the supply/worker groups were well-off enough to get all the logistics done but even without the stamp of approval they would have been pretty okay and certainly much better off than less fortunate workers who couldn't afford the certificate but really needed the money more. The ethically aware public has to understand that certifications alone aren't making peoples lives better.
--There is no need for the less fortunate, less able to adhere-to-formal-logistics and less visible worker groups -- homeworkers are a great example here....their the ones that take work home rather than sit in a factory all day because they need to also look after children, livestock etc at home -- to be marginalised but this requires a lot more administrative energy and systems on the part of retailers/organisations in the developed world. This is something that will require public pressure (why would a business-minded company take this on if it could get away with certification alone?) and ultimately will cost something that must be passed on to consumers. Better to pay for this than the shiny label or stamp of approval on your next coffee purchase.

Aside from all this, what's important is that all the complexity doesn't cause exasperation which leads to frustration on the consumers' part about what they are really paying for, what good they are actually doing, when it comes to demanding better standards for foreign labour. Lately magazines have taken to publishing lists of things the credit crunch has happily rid us of (here, for example) and 'over-priced, organic goods' (or something very like that) appear fairly regularly. While this tells me that there are many ultra-shallow people who (i) don't have a clue about better products but want to blah-blah about them anyway and/or (ii) spend on better products not to save the planet/its people but to impress the neighbours, it also tells me that the whole issue of demanding better labour standards could get a bad name among consumers if it falls under the rubric of 'over-priced stuff that claims to be doing good but really isn't' type thinking. Get my drift?

The marketing strap lines of ethical consumerism aren't hard to follow, largely because, there is some intrinsic value human beings attach to doing good for others (no, its not all smug, upwardly-mobile, essentially hollow one-upmanship). But the work behind making these strap lines 'real' and not just marketing speak, is much more complicated. But it's got to be done.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


It's not often that you will think, whilst slipping on (or off, for that matter) your silk gossmer panties and matching brassiere , about fair trade practices and ending labour injustice. Even less likely is that you will be contemplating aspects of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which on Dec. 10 this year, is 60 years old.

Well, you're going to be thinking about all this together if Eco-Boudoir (purveyor of the finest luxury lingerie all ethically sourced and produced), Pants to Poverty (through the sale of fairtrade and organic pants - yes literally - they tackle various issues in poverty eradication) and DeviDoll, along with other like-minded souls, have their way.

The short film 'KNOW WHATS IN YOUR KNICKERS' engages viewers in a dramatic walk down the runway, with front row seats to watch the show unfold. The whole thing revolves around the
environmental and ethical issues associated with creating a garment that either gets no attention at all (when was the last time you really thought hard about your grey/black/white cotton underpants?) or when it does, we're programmed to think lovely, frilly, sexy, delicate, treat, beautiful -- a plethora of terms that conjure up anything but ugly and horrid. Fact is, though, that these innocuous garments can have some pretty awful origins and journey before they end up on us...something this thought provoking film highlights.

The events planned around the debut showing of this film at the Southbank Center on Dec. 10 (if you've been paying attention you'll know why they picked that date) include dance, music, poetry and a debate/discussion about what is/can be wrong with labour rights within supply chains. Sound like a dreary topic? Well, Ben Ramsden of Pants to Poverty is presenting the debate so its likely to have much chutzpah (remember the record set in November at St. Pancras for largest gathering of people dressed only in underpants....well, it was Pants to Poverty's brainchild....ain't nothin' boring 'bout this lot).

There are campaign films and then there are campaign films...this one promises to be unforgettable. Eco-Boudoir and DeviDoll both believe that the consumption of luxury can be wholly ethical....indeed that it should be.

Watch this film and you'll get a glimpse into why.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Those of you who receive our newsletter will know that we did our first real public, 'in-the-flesh' appearance for Boutique de Noel earlier this month. Organised by the Junior League of London, Boutique de Noel is (basically) a 1 1/2 day xmas fair made up of independant, exclusive retailers, the proceeds from which go to charity projects in the UK. Always one to throw itself at good cause (and shopping to support children and families is a pretty amazing cause), DeviDoll was honoured to included.

Happy to report that it all went swimmingly. But even more interested in reporting the lesson learned: to an un-preselected audience, in an ethical fashion colletion it's the fashion part that speaks the loudest. This may not come as a huge surprise but to see it in action was instructive. Part of the problem seems to be simple lack of knowledge -- "clothes can be made from bamboo? really?!"; but there is definitely an element of apathy -- "cashlama, huh? fairtrade? Uh...that's, uh....interesting, I guess....erm...anyway, its so soft and cheaper really than regular cashmere. I love that!"

In my mind there is no doubt that if something looks good and then it has done good en route to you, it wins over stuff that only has the former going for it. But I realize some people don't really care about the's as if its not their problem to worry about. It will take a lot more public awareness for the message to sink in that, ethically made and delivered fashion, is something we all need to think about.

Listen, I'm not complaining because DeviDoll has many customers that are not fussed about ethical but the effect of their shopping is the same as those who are -- DeviDoll is better able to support ethical fashion designers, spread the message and move forward in its aim of making a difference. I am just noting that, having stuck my head out of the eco/green/ethical fashion bubble, I realized how much is still not obvious to shoppers.

Guess we have our work cut out.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Okay, have to confess I did not make it to this important event. Why? - well, its a long, and more relevantly, somewhat boring story, so I'll spare you. But the main reason for my writing about it is to publicly congratulate From Somewhere duo Orsola and Filippo for winning in 2 categories

RE:Fashion Designer of the Year Award


RE:Use Award

I have learned so much and continue to from Orsola about ethical fashion (most notably, long lessons in what upcycling actually is) - the business of it, the politics around it, the fashion benchmarks that must be at the forefront at all times and the love of it all. DeviDoll has been proud to be the only retailer in the UK other than the label's eponymous boutique, to stock From Somewhere clothing. Our pleasure and honour entirely. Always has been.

Anyway, these guys have been doing the right thing since 1997, ie, back when saying ethical and fashion together could only mean -- in the best case scenario -- that you (a) didn't like fur but only because animals and plants are 'one with us' (b) lived in a commune, ate alfafa and (c) thought that commerce was the devil.

Today we all know that ethical fashion is something far more encompassing and headed for the mainstream..warts and all. This, in no small part, thanks to people like Orsola and Filippo with their clear message and hard work. I can't think of a more deserving label for these awards -- pioneers, fashionable, stylish and activist. Ooooh, gives you goosebumps.

Read all about what went on, who was there, what they wore and see really great pictures of all the above at Sarah Woodhead's ever-more-impressive daily green glossy

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


At DeviDoll we get around. And we wanted to share snippets of our tete-a-tete's with the whose who of ethical fashion, our forays into fashion shows, our exclusive interviews with consumers and purveyors of green fashion....the entire hoo-haa of being bang smack in the midst of the ethical fashion space.

So we bring you DEVIDOLL LIVE. Its not Hollywood (or Bollywood, for that matter...the difference matters to me not a little) but its topical, home-made and local, authentic and organic and educational.

Our debut was at the Eco Fashion Party (check August's archive here) held at the start of the Autumn fashion season at London's Surya Bar. We talked to 3 of the stylists present -- Lupe Castro, Style Counsel's Maggie and Louise from Create Yourself -- about the if's, why's, what's and how's of ethical styling.

Before anyone thinks we don't know it: yes we are aware this is not from yesterday but from the start of a season that already feels 'over' in fashion buyer terms...and to that we say ' hey...ever heard of slow fashion??'

DEVIDOLL LIVE -- here to stay, so tune in and listen up.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Deborah Lindquist -- Queen of Green

Who in ethical fashion hasn't heard of Deborah Lindquist....her of the rock roll style vintage cashmere couture? Her origins were in that 'look' and she still does it better than anyone else but she has now moved into wider pastures - hemp, peace silk, organic cotton and more.

I had the pleasure of meeting Deborah at LFW this year - we were lucky to have her. DeviDoll continues to be a big fan and supporter.


These are hard times for the biggest names in high street retail. Imagine what they are for a online, ethical designer fashion start up. Yikes!! - as Shaggy from Scooby Doo would say. Don't dwell on the image though - you may not survive it.

Fact is times like this are the context in which all those self-help books come in handy. Time to find your reserves of tenacity, self-belief and most of all, tap into your almost pathalogical sense of optimism (a phrase from my one and only meeting with the late Anita Roddick. She told me it was required of any entrepreneur. I memorised it).

I'll admit that nothing does the trick quite like self-motivated, organic (how could I not use the term) energy but I cannot agree that this is enough. A necessary ingredient to keeping your head above water are peer reviews. They keep the space fertile and make what you do seem worthy.

And lately, BTGOG (my secret term which I cannot unfurl, sorry), DeviDoll and our efforts to define and propogate the notion of ethical fashion as essential, fashionable and the the only way forward, have received plenty of attention. Editorial, no pay for play, pure opinion from those who know about luxury, fashion, green issues and have something to say.

So a very big thank you to -- a truly 'daily' read. Lots out there says it is such but you wouldn't really go there everyday. This you would -- for a start for the 'daily e-bay' finds that make reused/vintage/recycled a J-O-Y. Sift for the best green style.
-- join up, ask (literally) any question you need answered about luxury, quality travel, lifestyle, shopping, eating and more, and I guarantee you will benefit from the responses you get. A discreet meeting of like minds happens at Spire and experiences of how, what, where are shared (but not your whole life, phew!). The site does what it says on the package: Quality lifestyle. Savvy perspective. -- for these folks, its all about helping you arm yourself with knowledge about ethics in that most universal of medium, fashion. Very global, very much about things close to style as well as those that impact it from far off (China Issue, Sept 2008). -- 'under the influence of Green, Independant and Natural lifestyle brands'. Pretty much sums it up here about all kinds of brands, events, happenings, and more -- all from the land of ethical. Sweet.

Check these for more than their take on DeviDoll. As Spire's Suzanne says - 'Sharing the best, so you can leave the rest'.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Look at these two - chic, stylish friends who look pretty wiped out. Sounds like us, no? We've got the look, we got the style but, sadly, we also read the papers....sigh.

Newspapers are awash with bad news (yesterday's Telegraph front page was a number -- the cost of global banking crisis bailout -- and it had so many zero's it almost fell off the side of the page. £2 trillion if you must know). And with winter's most definite approach the last few days have been awash in general.

The papers are, in the same breath, full of information about how the ordinary you and me should cope with the crisis in money (thats basically what it is, after all). And fashion shopping does get a central mention - Telegraph's Bryony Gordon smiles from above the £2trillion number and we read 'NOW IS THE TIME FOR BARGAINS'.

Exactly. Which is where DeviDoll comes in. With its Comfort Sale. We decided to put everything - absolutely everything on the site - which includes new colection -- on sale for upto 40% off for 1 week.

A friend in need is a friend indeed. Just ask those two.

So whether its your
or your 'i-must-do-some-fabulous-xmas-shopping-while-there-is-a-bargain'
or a combo of all 4 or some other motivation --

ps -- since everything is on sale you could get lost. Here are some Autumn 08 stars:

Aymara Amanda Knit Cardigan

Doie Bamboo and Silk Tomkins Top (we have it in Black and Silver/Ice Blue)

FIN Organic Cotton Jersey Polo Neck top and Organic Cotton Jersey Full Skirt (looks nice as one but not a set)

So thats a micro-mini taster but now you know.....

Monday, September 29, 2008


How long have I been gone from blogland ("blogosphere" is too technocratish for me)?!? Too long. Everything I have been longing (okay, I'm going to get my thesaurus out) to say has piled up and now is melting one into another ("compost" comes to mind).

Rather than dig through all the pile I picked one thing I wanted to talk about and with that get the blog ball rolling again.

September 16 saw ethical fashion grow up a little with the very slick, very enjoyable 'Make Your Mark in Fashion' catwalk show at the Hospital Club. Organised by Nolcha and a handful of sponsors (DeviDoll among them) this event made it clear that ethical fashion has absolutely no reason to be stuck in the hemp-sack, austere, glamourless doldrums of yore. No siree....not only are eco-fashionistas doing it for themselves they are doing it pretty damn well.

Credit for the event being full-on 100% glam fash-pack event must be divided between

--Nolcha founder, Kerry Bannigan and her trusted lietuenants. That they are bringing their love of indpendant designers to ethical fashion land and to London is good news for everyone in the space
--the Make Your Mark team (not sure if it was them or someone else on this list but someone got the Observer's Lucy Siegle to model on the catwalk -- and what a good call it was!!)
--and of course the designers themselves!! Of the three very talented teams -- R.A.J.E, MIAWI and BERRIE, the winner was MIAWI. Designer Mia Nesbit's inspiration (and soon manufacturing) are based in Malawi, where she plans to involve local communities in her work.

All in all a tastefully done, very well received event that sent all the right messages during the buzz-fest that is LFW.

And I haven't even mentioned the after party......

Saturday, August 23, 2008


So, the eco-fashion party I spoke of some weeks ago happened. And it was quite an instructive happening – from the venue (Club4Climate’s Surya bar), the designers who exhibited, the fact that there was an auction – of important pieces donated by participating designers -- proceeds from which went to Ethical Justice Foundation (EJF) to the vibe among those who attended – everything about this event was about activism via the (increasingly popular) platform that is ethical fashion.

Throughout the evening a key fact loomed large -- ethical fashion now, without a doubt, straddles two things almost equally: as it has always done, it is about awareness, issues, taking a normative stand…things that people might say are ‘serious’ (things that the DEVI in you will tend toward). Equally, with the rise of chic, cool and seriously stylish designer clothing, it is now about looking good (things that the DOLL in you will appreciate deeply) and in this respect it is no more or less than all other fashion. No need to take a stance, make a point. Just get us to look fab, thank you very much.

Also it was interesting to see how, in just the last year, ethical/eco fashion has gone from being a quirky, cool, edgy concept to a real live business prospect. Selling organic cotton/locally produced/natural fabric/animal free etc etc fashion, works. As you can imagine, we at DeviDoll are pleased that in 12 months so many have joined our ranks. But it also throws up an interesting question:

as this arena opens up – new retailers, ‘specialists’, stylists, designers –who will who will take ethical fashion on as a retail issue, full-stop and who will take it on as the complex, messy issue that it is? Who will stay well clear of activist type events but be very smart about selling, merchandising, trend marketing (‘its cool, it’ll sell, lets do it’) and who will open themselves up to, even welcome, questions like

Can ethical fashion really make a difference?
How can I be ethical and fashionable on a limited budget?
How can I ethically style my wardrobe, my life?
Is there good and bad bamboo?
Should I choose the organic cotton tee designed by Lacroix for EJF or From Somewhere’s upcycled fabric tee -- is one ‘more’ ethical/eco than the other??
If this is fair-trade and ethical, then why is it so expensive?

Don’t get me wrong – the retail-minded focus is instrumental in giving ethical fashion business legs and without those the ‘space’ won’t gain the credibility and participation it needs and deserves. So no slagging off the pure ‘lets-sell-it-because-that-works’ type here. Just noting that ethical fashion, unlike conventional fashion, has (always had) serious heart and now, as the eco-fashion party showed, it is developing a serious rational, bottom-line oriented mind.

There can be no doubt that, given the very premise of ethical fashion, the meeting of heart and mind will raise interesting debates and issues about the business of ethical fashion. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 4, 2008


So while many fashionistas are away sunning themselves (under cover of SPF factor Trillion+, of course) reading all about 'autumn 2008 pre-ordering' -- #2 of Grazia's TOP 10 stories is all about 'pre-collection' ordering (pre-order I understand but pre-collection..? I'm obviously not reading by Grazia closely enough. After this post, perhaps) -- those of us who are part (also) of the supply side of the fashion world, are hoisting up are (pre-ordered) summer skirts, rolling up the sleeves of our (pre-collection, pre-ordered) gauzy hot-weather tops, to get ready for FASHION'S AUTUMN/WINTER 2008.

Now, the fashion world works on 2 clocks (sorry if I am boring you but I find this point endlessly intriguing) -- the fashionista one and its own. The former is about clothes that match the season, ie, AW08 buying for a fashionista is about buying autumny-wintery type stuff....about diving into the debate over knee-high vs ankle boots; chunky knits vs body con cashmere and so on. The other clock is one that buyers (eg - yours truly) adhere to and its set to 1 season ahead. So at all the trade shows (LFW, NYFW etc etc) I will start attending from next week, my concern will be about what will take the fashionista's fancy IN SPRING/SUMMER 2009 (florals?/mini vs supermini/neon vs pastel etc etc). Of course the whole notion of pre-ordering and pre-collections, sort of throws this received clockwork into a bit of a tizzy but that is a conversation for another time -- prepare to receive that dish with lashings of commentary on fast vs seasonless fashion.

You're going to hear from me over the next 2 months about interesting events and happenings from FTZ (fashionista time zone) and OTZ (our time zone). Some even overlap!

To kick off, let me alert you to 'The Eco-Fashion Party' to be held on August 12, 2008 at Surya Bar of the (shiny new) Club4Climate (there is some seriously ecological intention, fronted by the seriously wierd Dr. Earth, behind the Club4Climate - check it all out here).

There is an auction of prize pieces from participating brands (DeviDoll included) and also the opportunity to purchase from their larger collections. Basically a big party (club style, full on party) with the chance to see and buy some seriously fashionable clothes -- all of which look good and are certain to make you feel very good.

Pre-collection or not, these are clothes no serious fashionista can afford to miss. See you there.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Editor of the very cool Hippyshopper (don't let the name fool you -- this site has L-O-T-S to offer, whether you are or are not a hippy esque conscientious consumer), Abi Silvester, shares her thoughts about summer and DeviDoll's current collections on the recently launched DeviDoll Loves (love being a noun here not a verb) section.

Check out Abi's adventures in eco-living on Hippyshopper and on ShinyTV - this girl tackles more than just 'best eco swimsuit' type her take on eco can-crushers (with aplomb, we might add and involving some very fast coca-cola swigging), green (as in eco, not actual colour) kitchen cleaners and tour the Innocent Smoothie HQ.

Abi sees and hears alot about ethical living and choices and she shares the best of what she you stay tuned.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


DeviDoll is proudly supporting BBC Thread in its Style Search for ethical fashion designer talent. Wondering what BBC Thread is (where have you been?!) - its an online portal (used to be a time when that was only ever a Star Trek word...remember?) that is all about everything relevant to ethical fashion: they talk about style, ethical styling (interesting video with Elisabeth Lasker from Ethical Fashion Forum and Konnie Haq), pure fashion trends, how to be a fashionista as well as whats going on behind the scenes in the manufacturing and production world (hence the strap line 'fashion without victim'), ie, susbstantial issues that no credible ethical fashion lover can afford to ignore.

And now, through the Style Search competition, they aim to support up coming sustainable and conscientious designers. Something DeviDoll upholds as an original principle having from its very inception been an 'incubator' for promising ethical fashion talent, across the globe, by giving it a commercial platform.

So get moving on your designs or at least put the word out! A digital image of a design must be uploaded to the BBC Thread site and away you go. E-A-S-Y! And the prize (ooh-aah) -- a day spent with a catwalk stylist at London Fashion Week in September. Click the picture above for full details.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Earlier this month I was at a conference about online fashion retail. Among the many 'nuggets', as an old friend used to call wise advice, I came away with was that shopping is an emotional experience for women (check), it is as much about aquisition as socialisation (can't disagree), referrals from trusted sources (your friends, me, blogs/sites that insist on 'no pay for play') are increasingly important as choices proliferate (true). All this means that any successful retail enterprise on the net needs to locate itself firmly in a like-minded community. Its visitors can that way socialise, refer, discuss, emote and so on while (hopefully) putting the ching-ching in ka-ching (££$$) as they (in a way only women can) multi-task.

Made me think a bit harder about the DeviDoll 'community' -- I know who the like-minded retailers are out there, but what about the rest of the community: the advisors, referrers, informers, discussers? Two things emerged --

1) Most of the community is widespread across the blogosphere. Everyday new and interesting blogs spring up with new things to say and DeviDoll's current 'we-know-you' list is to the right hand side of this entry. But among them as far as women-centric goes Eco-Chick is the only one that comes to mind. But then EcoChick is relevant to everyone not just women even if its roots are from there.....

2) There simply aren't that many sites that (a) are geared to all those things about shopping that define women and which para 1 talks about here (b) are portals that put all this together. I did, however, find one (I think relatively new - though if not, then apologies in advance) that comes quite close:
Ethics Girls
There is alot going on on this site that aims to SET THE EXAMPLE on how to shop and care about the future of the planet AND to socialise about all this and more. They have customer recommended items, a magazine, ethical money, food, fashion (and more) tips/insights and interviews with like-minded women who are making a difference. Most interestingly, they operate like a cooperative. Keep an eye out for what these Girls do next...

Happy as I am to have discovered them, my little reccy mission has spawned another one: to find 'social netoworking' type ethical lifestyle sites. First lets find them and then lets see how many are savvy to the most emotional shoppers of all.....

Stay tuned....(and if you know names I am missing, PLEASE direct me there).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


So some news that is not very surprising: turns out Primark was working with suppliers in South India that used child labour. Also not surprising is Primark's outrage at having been deceived “We are appalled, we feel let down and we are taking all the action we can to prevent this happening again.”(Times Online). Hmmm...perhaps they should have investigated the 'suspicions' they already had about these same suppliers before the BBC's Panorama team (effectively) forced them to. Then maybe the outrage wouldn't seem so contrived.

What are we to make of this debacle? Well here are 2 ideas to start with:
1) Question Primark's assertion that its labour costs are unrelated to the low prices it offers its fashion at. Is it really believable that high volume, low mark-ups, absence of big ad budgets and low overheads have alone contributed to Primark being the fastest growing part of Associated British Foods and the 2nd biggest clothing retailer (in volume terms) in the UK?

2) Question the genuine ethical cred of a company that, having been 'outed', cuts and runs. What of those children and their families now? We'd rather not dwell on the fact that they probably prefer very little money to none at all and so, in a perverse sense, were probably better off slogging for Primark than not at all. Odds are they are devastated by the turn of events. If it wasn't for such dire circumstances, the complicity that Primark says its a victim of, between workers, middlemen, subcontractors and others wouldn't exist.

Rather than be appalled and get out, Primark needs to invest resources in engaging with issues on the ground in places it chooses to take its business to. This means pressuring the Indian government to do more, supporting the best NGO efforts in children's welfare in India itself and monitoring the entire supply chain rather than just factory conditions. It is simply not enough to take your business to places like India and be an ostrich about what you are walking into. We now know too much about labour conditions in these countries to accept just this much from any company doing work there.

So basically its not rocket science: all of the 'right' thing to do involves taking time off notching up the bottom line and putting it to responsibly engaging with the labour and labour conditions you locate yourself in; and further, to taking, on the chin, the effect this has on your budgets and overheads. Some might say this is just putting your money where your mouth is.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


We've all heard of recycling but we hear less (unfortunately) about 'upcycling'. Whats the difference? Well, 'upcycling' --coined by McDonough and Braungart in their seminal (2002) book 'Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things' --means transforming used things into other usable things of great (or greater) value. Intrinsic to the concept of upcycling is the notion that there is embedded value in things that allows them to be remade into further usable things again and again so that eventual waste is minimized massively AND this is all done without further damage to the planet and/or energy usage.

And herein lies the rub: recycling is, according to the book, an example of 'downcycling' because the re-made items are often not related at all to the original thing so that in the re-creation excessive energy/resources are used AND in recycling, recreated items lose value with each 'life' a and are thus likely to end up eventually as waste. So upcycling is a more mindful and authentic way than recycling to reuse what we consume (but don't be spooked and give up all recycling attempts you may be currently involved with. Just think it through and if you need ideas there are great ones here and here.

The whole issue of re-use is B-I-G in fashion - as it well should be...without serious thought about how to deal with the byproducts from the fashion industry, our consumptive behaviour being what it is, we'd charge the earth costs it simply cannot meet (these charges are being levied as I type....not in some distant future).

But what aspects of fashion are amenable to upcycling? How does upcycling sit with the desire to be 'fashionable', ie, wear well-made, attractive clothing as defined by 'mainstream' fashion society? With all the current interest in eco/ethical/green fashion what is authentic re-use and what is lip-service? What prospects does upcycling have for fashion at different points in the process - textile creation vs finished product? These are all very good questions and are all likely to get very good answers from the group assembled on July 18 at the Chelsea College of Art & Design.

The College's Textile Environment Design (TED) program is holding a 1-day symposium on (basically everything you want/need to know about) upcycling and textiles. Following on from last year's Ever & Again: Experimental Recycled Textiles exhibition, they've gathered the best practitioners from this space, including upcycled fashion's grande dame and founder of From Somewhere label Orsola De Castro; Kerry Seager of Junky Styling fame, Emmeline4Re's Emmeline Child and several others, and put together a fantastic program of talks, audience interface, theory and practice.

It is through efforts like this that sustainability in fashion can become an everyday reality and TED gives us the chance to meet those who daily live and work to bring us closer to this reality. Great opportunity not to be missed.

Other details you need to know --
Ticket price (£35 or £15 for students) includes organic picnic lunch and early evening drinks reception.
The symposium will be held at the Millibank campus.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Readers of this blog will be well aware by now that this is a question, the treatment of which at the hands of general press, vexes me. Not the question, you understand, rather the absence of sensible or helpful or not wildly biased (to put it mildly) answers to it. Not sure what I mean? Here's an example.

Not to say there isn't more positive press...rather to say that this type of questioning is now archaic and needs to be switched off and replaced with some actually helpful advice on how to go about the business of being more ethical in our fashion/lifestyle choices.

But, you know, my insistence alone isn't all that and so I decided to put the matter to other, better known people, in the space. Fertile, informed debate - who can resist it? Here's the question I asked:

"Given the reputation of fashion as a 'dirty' business, a 'shallow' business and as creating false needs, ethical fashion is often written off as hypocritical/unrealistic/fashion piggybacking on wider awareness of eco-issues without adding any real value; a 'rich people' syndrome -- from organic food to organic cotton tops simply for the sake of seeming 'in' -- is derided as the symbol of what ethical fashion really is all about. And so the question is often asked: does ethical fashion really amount to any real good for anyone/the planet?
What are your thoughts on this kind of thinking and can you offer a counter-opinion about ethical fashion?"

And here's who I asked (if you're reading this because of even a modicum of interest in ethical fashion issues, you'll know at least one of them) --

Margaret Teich: Associate Producer on The Lazy Environmentalist radio show and curator extraordinaire of the Directory of Eco-Fashion Retailers on the influential Lazy Environmentalist blog. Margaret's job requires her to be somewhat of a knowledge bank and have her eye on lots and lots of different goings-on in the world of modern-day eco/sustainable/ethical living.

Starre Vartan: founder of must-read, in the know, particularly inspiring for (but by no means only) women , blog Eco-Chick. Starre writes for other publications too and she's on our panel because there is very very little going on in the eco living world that she is not aware of. She is quite simply, in the know.

Jocelyn Whipple - far left

Jocelyn Whipple: Jocelyn's agency, Element23, represents leading ethical fashion brands in the UK and Europe. She also separately designs and supplies sustainable textiles as well as being a personal stylist. This is a person who lives and breathes the commerce of ethical fashion -- its creation, marketing and distribution.

Interestingly, all 3 of them had the same key arguments:

Women will shop, fashion will be important-it always has been. To question the interest in/place of fashion is to be, at best, naive and at worst, part of the problem, not the solution. Starre puts it aptly "Human beings have been decorating themselves and their clothes for as long as there has been civilization, so assuming that we're going to stop for any reason (even the poorest people in the world add color to fabrics they create themselves, or patch clothing in ways that show creativity and flair) is just ridiculous." and Margaret is even more direct "So here is the reality: women love to shop. We love the idea that the interior can be expressed by what is worn on the exterior."

Jocelyn goes straight to the heart of the matter "Buy better, less often". We should understand where clothes come from and what happens before they arrive in front of us (just like you think about battery chickens and automatically buy free-range eggs). We should also revert to previous ways of thinking, according to Starre, so that clothes are not "...disposable items, but investments...". Then, we'll more naturally, make better choices whether these are to eschew disposable fashion, ask for accountability or, as Margaret emphasizes "...(support) designers and their artistic craft, green sourcing and ethical manufacturing processes...".

Forget all the cynical nay-saying about ethical fashion being the purview of only the select few blah blah blah; no, it affects and can be affected by everyone at some level. Starre sets it out simply "We can make a lot of positive change, as consumers, in all these areas.(...)These problems need to be solved, not ignored. This is not just an issue for "yummy mummys". We all need to wear clothes.". How? you ask - well, by building your awareness, looking behind the label and, as Jocelyn emphasizes " sure the brands and concepts you are buying into are upholding their part of the deal, by giving you real information and support around the complexities of the ‘eco /ethical’ fashion industry. Ask questions. Ask for accountability."

Of course, these ladies had more to say and I'll publish their full comments later. Here I wanted to just point out that there are substantial issues which everyone in the field, regardless of specific involvement, recognizes. And, even more crucially, these are issues which pertain to you and me....not just celebs or deep green vegans. As Margaret reminds us, there is 'modern environmental revolution' afoot (by they way, you're ALREADY part of it with all your organic food choices, washing machine at 30c, switching off lights, buying white goods with optimal energy ratings....) and 'touting green fashion' is part of that revolution.'

Yes, these are extraordinary issues relevant to ordinary people.

Thursday, May 8, 2008



Another week, another trend. 'The' weekly glossy says neutrals are 'in' and neons are 'out' but flip a few pages on and you're shown a clutch of 'must-have' dresses bright, neon flowered dresses. And so it goes. The treacherous weather of the last few weeks hasn't helped...what sort of trend can cover hail, rain, sunshine and everything in between?

Here's the thing about trends -- there are only a few that really mark a season...everything else is built on that or recycled from the same time last year (not least because, global warming notwithstanding, the weather tends to require
similar stuff) or just made up as the fashion-world goes along. Nothing wrong with any of this, say we. Its just good to know.

But what's truly handy is knowing what marks a season definitively and incorporating that into one's wardrobe. And this, happily, is exactly what our first (ever) style file brings you. Now you can dive even more joyfully into the 'thank-God-its-finally-arrived' spring that is all around us:

1) THINK FLORAL -- Prada, always one to set the mark, many months ago set the catwalks abloom. And so it has remained. With good reason....nothing says 'Spring' like flowers. Just look around you.

2) THINK GEOMETRY -- Stripes, triangles, circles, all of them together. The non-floral equivalent of channelling spring in all its bustling, busy glory.

3) SHOW SOME SKIN -- You know its the only time you really least if you want to avoid the 'clubbing-in-short-skirts-and-bare (red) legs-in-freezing temps' chav look. Plus you know you've been buffing, exfoliating, sloughing, depilating, and tan-spraying just for this weather since March.

4) BE A COLOURFUL PERSONALITY -- All across the globe spring is celebrated with usually dreary climes like ours, this calls for double the effort. Not too much, you understand - just a single splash of arresting colour. If you want to go with a neutral/pastel shade then combine with white and add colourful accessories.

So there you have it - nothing standing between you and springing into spring now (except the weather, perhaps, but we like to focus on the positive at DeviDoll).


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