Thursday 24 March 2016

My chat with The Minefield

A few weeks ago I received a very exciting phone call - a request to chat with the clever chaps at The Minefield on ABC Radio National about some of the issues around buying ethical fashion.

I know many of you feel the pain - you want to buy ethical fashion, you can't always find it, it's hard to find clear information - and some others are still trying to understand 'ethical fashion' even means (I should dedicate an entire post to that topic!).

The radio program will be played today (24 March) at 11.30am Australian Eastern Time, but the link is already live on the website if you'd like to have a listen through the internet.

An exhibitor irons a dress at an ethical fashion show in Berlin(
Getty / Thomas Lohnes / Stringer)

I find the intro music quite hysterical, and in hindsight there's a few things I'd have loved to have said, but overall I had a great time and was thrilled to have a smart discussion about this important topic that is near and dear to my heart.

Thank you Waleed Aly, Scott Stephens and the rest of the team at The Minefield for helping shed extra light on the ins and outs of ethical fashion!

Enjoy the extra long weekend!

Friday 18 March 2016

fashion and the sharing economy : part one

It doesn't take much to encourage me to wear beautiful clothes - and a ticket to opening night of Swan Lake at the Opera House was all the excuse I needed to start dreaming of designer dresses.

The dancers will be bringing their A-game - why shouldn't I?

Of course, I can't always afford to buy the exact pieces I covet. And more importantly, I don't want to over-buy fashion and end up with a wardrobe full of beauties I've only worn once. A 2015 survey found that women wore clothing items an average of 7 times before throwing them away, and that after 3 wears most items are no longer considered 'new'.

Dresses are the worst offenders, with most bought for a 'one-off' event. I can totally understand why this might happen - I know that sometimes after I've achieved the 'wow' factor on the first wear of a new dress it somehow loses it's luster. So if we can extend the life of dresses and still keep the excitement, it can only be a good thing, right?

Enter the sharing economy and designer dress rental - the best win-win for the planet, my pocketbook and my love of beautiful clothing.

Sharing the love
While sharing amongst friends is fabulous, there is something about wearing a dress that none of your friends have seen. And for fashion lovers like myself, the opportunity to don a stunning piece of wearable art that I typically could not afford is oh-so-tempting.

Fashion sharing websites have been around for awhile, and I've rented dresses before with great success. So it was pure serendipity that brought GlamCorner to my attention just as I was starting to consider where to rent a dress for Swan Lake.

GlamCorner has over 1,000 dresses from more than 60 designer labels available for rental within Australia.

1,000 dresses!!!

There are beauties from Diane Von Furstenberg, Alex Perry, Manning Cartel, Carla Zampatti, Badgley Mischka and more.

The owners of GlamCorner tell me that each dress is rented an average of 10 times - that means these gorgeous gowns that may have only been worn once or twice by a solo owner are actually getting used, seeing the light of day, being enjoyed, and not going straight from one wear to a charity bin or the landfill.

And when 10 different people are enjoying the same item, the environmental footprint of creating the garment gets smaller and smaller.

How does it work?
I hear what you're thinking - how do you know if it will fit? What will it look like it on my body?

GlamCorner provides very specific style and fit comments about each dress. For example, "This dress runs true to size, however there is not a lot of give in the bust. We recommend it for women with medium-to-smaller cup sizes." Thank you for the specificity! There are also suggestions about the best undergarments to wear with each dress, and style tips regarding shoe colour and accessories.

The website offers a range of sizes from 6 to 20 - it's wonderful to see a fashion company that understands that fashion-loving bodies come in a range of shapes and sizes.

Nervous about 'shopping' online? Don't be.
Customers also have a few options to help us feel confident about selecting a dress online.
  • Try before you rent - obligation-free option to try 2 dresses for $30
  • Order a back up dress - select a second dress for the same date for $15
  • Fit guarantee - if the dress you selected doesn't fit, exchange for another size or request a refund

I would have loved to 'try before I rented', but I took too long deciding what I wanted to wear and my preferred dresses are rented out between now and the ballet (hopefully at some other fabulous events!). My advice if you prefer to try something on would be to plan ahead to make sure you allow enough time. You can book dresses up to 6 months in advance.

Instead I've ordered a back up dress. This means that two dresses will be delivered to me to try and wear, and I'm optimistic that one of them will work.

Here are the two I've chosen . . .

Manning Cartel (Ethical Clothing Australia certified)

Yeojin Bae

Lace is clearly a trend at the moment, and I found myself drawn to both of these stunners in dark blue and navy hues.

I have shoes that will go with either dress, and the length on both is great for the ballet (sitting in a short dress is never that comfortable).  I find the geometric cut and lace-design on the Manning Cartel, and the interesting boho-luxe flare of the Yeojin Bae, are both really interesting takes on the lace trend. Fingers crossed one fits! (Because if both fit, I don't know how I'll choose. . .)

I'll let you know which I select and send pics from the Opera House after the ballet in a couple of weeks and fill you in on the rest of the experience.

Have you had experience renting dresses? Good, bad, ugly? I'd love to hear about it.

In the interest of transparency : GlamCorner have kindly offered to rent a dress to me in return for writing a blog post about the experience. As I hope you all know by now, I only write about businesses I truly believe are helping making fashion more sustainable, and I stand behind my beliefs in this sharing economy business model.

Friday 11 March 2016

fun in the sun style

It seems like summer may never end this year Sydney . . . and as I sit sweltering on another steamy day, I thought I'd share a quick glimpse of some beach wear I've been sporting this summer to enjoy the sand and the surf.

In the upper right of this photo is my beloved straw Panama hat I bought in New Orleans circa 2013. I honestly don't know much about its origins except that it was made in Mexico and is the sturdiest hat I have ever owned. It shows no sign of losing its shape, in fact, the elastic on the black and white band gave way with no sign of the hat itself losing any structure.  I've done a quick repair job on the band and it's good as new.

And since that Aussie sun is so unforgiving, I have another hat that's been shading my face this summer from Patagonia, the mother of all sustainable apparel. Constantly lauded as a leader in transparency, ethics and sustainable production methods, I'm always happy to support Patagonia and this hat has proved to be the perfect accessory for my other summer pastime, standup paddle boarding.

My TOMS one-for-one sunnies are going strong after two Aussie summers now - I'm still loving the style of these quality-made frames.

The gorgeous suit was gifted to me by the team at Bondi Bather, who use Italian Lycra to produce all their suits here in Australia.

I'd been in the market for a one piece (I'm slowly learning to surf and can't trust bikinis to stay put on my many falls!), and was thrilled to receive one with a fashion-forward cut and design. I wasn't sure that the slinky cut would offer enough support, but thanks to the surprisingly strong straps I've felt supported - and stylish - in all my summertime water activities.

Not me pictured, c/o Bondi Bather Instagram.

And now, after regular wear over the past 4 months, I can also say that this suit was built to last the Aussie summer sun - oh-so-important when choosing swimwear! There's been no fading in the print, and the stretch/elastic feels as supportive as ever. I suspect I'll get a lot of use out of this suit.

The abstract prints on the swimwear range is created by local artists and photographers, using Bondi Beach as their muse. So even if you don't live in Sydney or, like me, just  can't face the trek across the harbour to the Eastern suburbs, you can still enjoy a slice of Bondi.

They make bikinis as well, but I just love the print on this suit.

There are no ethical labour accreditations at this point, and no mention of sustainably-sourced fabrics, but local production, quality craftsmanship and use of athletic bodies on their runways and promo materials are a fab start for this Australian swimwear brand.

Stay cool out there my friends!

Monday 7 March 2016

sustainability with style workshop

Over the weekend I had the absolute pleasure of hosting a 'Sustainability with Style' workshop with Willoughby Council that included a field trip to the local Salvos in Chatswood.

Back in December I hosted similar workshops with Manly Council that included op shopping, markets and a clothes swap.

A bit of the poster for the Manly Council workshops.

I love that these councils are dedicated to engaging with people in their communities in various ways about how we, as individuals, can make a difference through our personal choices. As a Manly resident I have attended these workshops, most recently a 'composting in apartments' workshop, and it was a privilege to share my knowledge about fashion and sustainability with others.

The remains of the Manly Council clothes swap.

And a huge thank you to the people who attended the workshops. I am always left feeling energized after meeting people such as yourselves who are engaged in learning and taking action. (And I'm happy to report that most of the crew from Saturday walked away from the Salvos with some fabulous secondhand finds - they got a bargain, and the Salvos earned some money to support their causes).

The group hearing from the Chatswood Salvos manager about the shop.

If your community group, council, school, or other gather would like me to come and talk about fashion and sustainability, drop me a line on Twitter or send me an email.

Have a great week!