Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Who needs a surgeon to look good?

. . . asks the Observer.

My own observation is that a combination of the best hairdressing you can't afford, adroitly applied make-up and a really good skincare regime, will take you very far. But mainly the hairdressing.

Not made in China

Meanwhile, as the Olympic torch makes its way to Beijing (is it there yet?) the sight of the Tibetan protesters may make some of us think twice about buying Chinese-made clothes. the US has a made in America label, we have no such thing. One journalist set out to kit herself out in British clothes, and discovered it can only be done at the high end:

But how to buy non-Chinese sourced products when labelling regulations have become so lax? The answer is, you can't - not if you're shopping the high street. I set myself the task of researching the radical, hard-to-find alternative: a top-to-toe shopping list of fashion products made in a little country with a democratic political system, a minimum wage and iron employment laws. I speak, of course, of the exotic UK. And as it turns out, pockets of high-end, great quality, brilliantly designed manufacture still exist here.

A shining example is Margaret Howell, whose Wigmore Street shop (a haven of civilised English aesthetics) sells British-made white shirts which are the closest to the ideal that I've discovered. For fine summer sweaters, there's John Smedley, whose Sea Island cotton knits are made in Matlock, Derbyshire. Meanwhile, 65 per cent of Mulberry's bags are handmade in its Somerset factory.

Young British designers are also finding ways to craft at least part of their collections in Britain. Johnston's of Elgin makes all of Christopher Kane's cashmeres, including this summer's smash-hit biker jacket. The original Mackintosh (also Scottish) produces Erdem's raincoats, and Marios Schwab achieves the architecture of his sculptural designs in London factories.

For shoes, there's Georgina Goodman's Made in Mayfair collection. To complete a 100 per cent British-made wardrobe, it's even possible to find underwear. Buttress & Snatch, a vintage-haberdashery-trimmed collection swings a tag that reads "Handmade in Hackney by Honest, Hardworking Girls".

Our sponsor says . . . nothing


The BBC has launched an on-line ethical fashion magazine, called Thread. It's a very interesting enterprise for our national, state-owned broadcaster, which is paid for through direct taxation. The BBC is prohibited from taking advertising, which will make this possibly the only fashion magazine free from commercial interest. It's produced by BBC Learning and aimed at 16-30 year-olds, I assume on the prniciple of get 'em while their still young and don't have ingrained shopping habits. One of my beefs about ethical clothes is that they still haven't evolved into grown-up work-wear and seem either anti-fashion (the lumpy oatmeal linen dress) or young, multi-coloured, hip and ethnic. Perhaps the generation that demands ethical dress now will go on doing so when they hit 40.

Some extracts:

High street names such as Monsoon, Marks and Spencer and Next are members of the Ethical Trading Initiative, www.ethicaltrade.org. Members agree to a code of practice that covers basic workers' rights. It looks at hours worked, wages, health and safety and child labour. Members work with the factories they use to achieve improvements each year.

But one of the challenges that fashion companies cite is monitoring working conditions across a complex supply chain – raw cotton from India may be woven in Bangladesh, while buttons and zips may come from China. It can be difficult to ensure working conditions are fair in factories thousands of miles away.

and

It used to be relatively easy to spot guilt-free garb whether it was fairly traded or organic. It was dull stuff – the designs and colours didn’t exactly leap out at you. While perfectly decent clothing, it wasn’t high fashion and you wouldn’t find it on the catwalks or in glossy magazines.

All this is changing. Eco fashion is getting bolder and brighter. Gone are the dull, oatmeal-coloured tunics from the 1990s - think luminous red shift dresses from designer Viridis Luxe and clashing bright fabric skirts, stitched together by recycling enthusiasts From Somewhere.

As this summer’s fashion moves to bold, tribal patterns and fluro colours, ethical fashion has much to offer. Use our Style File to kick start your new look – experiment with stripes, branch out into boho or add a hint of tribal.