Saturday 24 November 2012

eco-shopping : spain style

Beautiful Barcelona. What a delightful city to explore following my African adventure.
My itinerary during my brief stay?

Gaudi. Picasso. Culinary explorations. Eco-shopping.

Getting ready to hit the eco-shopping trail! I was so
happy to be in a city again and took the opportunity to
put on some red lippy and a fave vintage dress.

When I'm home in Sydney, I'm an expert eco-shopper. I know the green shops, which markets have great secondhand finds, my favourite vintage stores, and (perhaps most importantly) the time to wait for online purchases to be delivered to my door. In Barcelona I didn't have the luxury of time, and I had the need of finding winter pieces to bulk up my travel wardrobe as my hubby and I began 3 months of winter weather.

Would I be able to find sustainable fashion with limited time in a new city?

After half an hour of internet research (I love free Wifi) I found a handful of sustainable shops in the Gracia neighbourhood so decided to start the search there. My hubby and I downed a couple espressos and pain au chocolat and were out the door, ready to pound the beautifully-tiled pavement in search of Spanish sustainable fashion.

Olokuti was our first stop. It's a fun little shop with a little bit of everything eco. There was women's fashion (unfortunately most was not my style), a rack of men's clothing, children's toys and clothing, gifts, books, gadgets and even some food items. It was a great shop with lovely staff and I'm sure it would be a 'go-to' for me if I lived in Barcelona.

People Tree
I know, it's UK-based, but I was happy to find this fabulous frock by People Tree in Olokuti.  It is a handmade, Fair Trade, organic cotton dress. Can we get any more feel-good-factor into one flirty dress? Yes we can!* People Tree work with Assisi Garments, a Fair Trade group set up to provide work for underprivileged women and physically and mentally disabled people in India. All I can say is keep up this amazing fashionable, sustainable work, People Tree!

I Owe You
This goosebump-inducing label (watch the short video on their website to get goosebumps of your own), also carried at Olokuti, is responsible for keeping my hubby looking extra fine this season. I Owe You works directly with artisans in India who hand-weave all the fabric. The weavers use very little energy in their shops and weave natural cotton grown locally - it's a great sustainable business partnership.  And even more fun, each piece of clothing has a unique bar code that enables you to track your piece of clothing through it's entire life cycle, including the buyer uploading a photo of themselves wearing the item so the producers can see their finished product in action. Sometimes the world is a beautifully small place.

Nudie Jeans
Again, not a Spanish brand, but I was thrilled to come across this well-known Swedish brand which has this year achieved 100% organic cotton denim. Nudie also fully supports repair (the flagship stores will repair your damaged denim), reuse (selling secondhand denim in flagship stores) and reducing water usage, encouraging consumers to avoid over-washing their denim. I love this fashion-forward denim label with real sustainability cred. My hubby picked up a fab pair of black jeans (and we both picked up a fab restaurant tip for a local lunch hotspot from the friendly shopkeeper).

This beautiful shop brings together a unique collection of ethical European fashion labels featuring high-quality, sustainably-sourced materials like certified organic cotton and recycled fabrics. One line included pieces of upcycled men's trousers crafted into dresses and skirts.  The store was stocked with lovely basics, as well, and if it weren't for the eco-name you'd think you were in any other stylish fashion shop. Lovely.

In the El Born district of Barcelona I stumbled upon a collaborative pop-up store for local fashion designers called Coshop. It is located near the Picasso Museum at Bays Vells, 9. Lots of pretty little things await the curious shopper inside the store, and one brand in particular caught my attention (no prize for guessing why!).

An excellent haven for a rainy evening in Barcelona.

I came across Ecoology inside Coshop and it was love at first sight. The label has a vision "to care and spoil both women and the planet we live on through fashion and design" and a mission to provide women with catwalk trends made with organic and natural fabrics (they also have a few quality basics). Ecology's sustainability standards are high, utilising only materials with eco-certification. The pieces were lovely to the touch and excellent quality, and it's one label I'll definitely be keeping my eye on.

I.M. by Eme
After leaving Barcelona I headed to the gorgeous Basque country and stayed in San Sebastian. I found this fantastic necklace (which attracts multiple compliments each time I wear it!) in the Patagonia store - just another reason for me to crush on Patagonia.  It's made by a local skater-girl artist who makes the necklaces out of used skate decks. I love beautiful upcycling! You can order online through  IM by Eme's Facebook page.

This aqueous-minded menswear label - founded in San Sebastian - was created for "the gentleman sharing our devotion to the ocean" and was perfect for my surf-loving hubby.  TwoThirds reminds us to protect and respect the 2/3 of our planet that is water; it thinks of itself not as a green fashion label, but a blue one. TwoThirds has partnered with Oceana, a global ocean conservation organisation, and gives 10% of its proceeds to Oceana. The clothing is made of sustainable fasbrics and they use plant-based 'plastic' when shipping that dissolves in - you guessed it - water. I loved much of the fashion in the shop, it was perfectly in line with the nautical trend I saw throughout European fashion, and my only complaint is that they don't have a women's line!

Sorry the photo is crooked and that I cut off the branding!

* * * *

Okay, full disclosure. Not everything I purchased in Spain was truly sustainable fashion. I blame my time constraints (a horrible excuse but it's the truth!). I made sure to follow some 'better' shopping guidelines, though, and didn't cave for the many fast-fashion labels available. My 'better' guidelines included:
  • Natural fibres
  • No viscose (it is everywhere!)
  • Quality over quantity
A couple of the tops made of natural fibres which are keeping me warm!

I also ventured into H&M but was unable to locate any of their sustainable fashion pieces. Truthfully, it was the usual nightmare of overflowing racks and tables of disposable fashion and I didn't have the patience to hunt through the store. I know H&M has lofty eco- and ethical-goals, but I'm not celebrating this brand just yet.
* * * * 

Eco-shopping on the spot was an excellent exercise for me. I've become so comfortable eco-shopping at home that I'd forgotten how awkward it can be when you're learning the ropes.  Of course I'll frequent my favourite haunts again once I get home, but I'm glad to have brushed up on my skills, explored new territory and discovered more sustainable fashion labels. Besides, what better way to experience a new city than wandering in and out of shops?

I loved Spain, and had a blast shopping and chatting with the local shopkeepers, and at the end of the day my eco-shopping advice remains the same as ever - take your time, read every label (preferably before you try it on, so you don't fall in love with something you shouldn't), choose sustainable fabrics, and don't buy anything you don't absolutely love.


*I couldn't help this small tribute to my favourite re-elected president, especially since he finally addressed climate change in his acceptance speech. Go Obama!

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