Co-founder of, Raquel is on a mission to live a more sustainable lifestyle

Sunday, 21 May 2017

This week I had a chat with Harun from Jerry Bottle. A Social Enterprise, Jerry Bottle produce re-usable and eco-friendly water bottles campaigning against plastic pollution, but they are a brand that do more, ensuring that all profits provide funds towards clean water projects.

Q: What is Jerry Bottle?
The Jerry names derives from Jerry Cans the big plastic containers you see people carrying all over all over Africa to transport water from wells and water sources to their homes. The name gives a personality to the brand.

We set up as a social enterprise as ultimately all profits go towards clean water projects in India and Africa whilst campaigning closer to home on one time plastic pollution and also to encourage people to drink more water for health and hydration.

Q: Who’s the team behind Jerry Bottle

There's Tobias Gould a social enterprise expert, Taj Bhamra a successful businessman and me, Harun Master. I'm the founder of Waterfall Charity the charity arm of Jerry,

Q: What’s the story behind the brand?

I set up waterfall charity in 2011 and after meeting Tobias, I learnt about social enterprise in how you can trade as a business and make profits which can generate funds for the charity work, instead of just appealing for donations. 
On the bottom are coordinates of a water project, so you can trace back exactly which village your eco-water bottle is funding.

Q: Why water bottles?

The natural link between a water bottle and a jerry can, both transporting water, along with the profitability of the bottle seemed a good commercial decision. We have put coordinates of our water projects on the bottom of our bottles so people can trace where our profits are going, social enterprises need to be more transparent as we are not for profit and are interested in social outcomes.

Q: Obviously aside from the charity aspect, the environment plays a big factor behind your brand, what does plastic pollution really mean for our future?

If we ignore the problem of one-time plastic pollution problem then we are on a road to self-destruction. With rivers and seas having plastic floating around, hugely affecting the sea life and ourselves, the plastic ultimately contaminates the water and comes back through our taps affecting our health, with plastic usage in food and drink leading to many diseases. 
Q: What’s Jerry Bottle’s proudest achievement to date? 

We were invited by a Malaysian Government to talk about social enterprises, we have been endorsed by Lucy Siegle of the Guardian a leading journalist on environmental issues AND we were voted one of the coolest products in the world by GQ Magazine, so a few achievements(!).

Q: What’s your advice to someone wanting to make changes to their lifestyle but not sure where to start?

Take small steps to change your habits and lifestyle for example by increasing your water intake it will benefit your health, by drinking out of a sustainable reusable bottle will save many onetime plastic bottles ending up in landfill or the oceans. If everyone were to change small habits, we could all make a big change in the world we live in.

For more information or to purchase a re-usable eco water bottle CLICK HERE

Sunday, 14 May 2017

I came across Lanka Kade when searching for traditional wooden toys for my nephews and goddaughter. In the age of technology that we live in, I think it's wonderful that retro wooden toys have made such a comeback and it's great to see kids being creative and playing with educational toys that don't require batteries or technical aids. 
Aside from being traditionally led, Lanka Kade are also a toy company that do good, aiding small artisans and businesses in Sri Lanka to flourish into independent businesses.  Their Fair Trade range of toys and bedroom decor are great for eco-conscious parents and those who want to bring creative playtime back into their homes.

I was lucky enough to speak with Millie recently, who gave me the Lanka Kade low down. From their roots and ethos to their major achievements, including the Lanka Kade Educational Foundation.

Q. Tell us a bit about Lanka Kade

Fair trade toy company Lanka Kade was founded in 1994 when husband and wife team, Upul and Diane, returned to the UK having met in Sri Lanka whilst working for the Red Cross. They did not want to lose contact with the country and the people they both love, therefore they set up a small import business to maintain links with Sri Lanka. The name Lanka Kade translates to ‘The Sri Lankan Shop’.

Twenty years on, Lanka Kade is an established business based in the heart of the UK specialising in the design, craft and supply of fair trade wooden toys and gifts for children. Our distinctive range of educational toys offers both bright, bold colours and natural wood finishes.  
Q. What makes the toys different?

Our director Diane was, prior to Sri Lanka, a school teacher. Drawing on this experience, Diane was able to envisage the educational elements that were to be part of every Lanka Kade toy and gift. Once our experienced designer Anne joined the team, there was no stopping the creativity! Anne has designed Lanka Kade products (with help from the team!) to inspire learning through play which develop language, picture, shape and colour recognition skills to name a few. We have worked hard to set high standards for quality handcrafted toys. This, along with our bright colours and natural wood finishes are popular with parents and children alike!

We include artisan stories on our packaging to share our connection with Sri Lanka and promote our artisans, showing the difference purchasing Lanka Kade makes. When you purchase a Lanka Kade product you also directly support our educational foundation which provides books and daily milk drinks to several rural schools in Sri Lanka.
Q. As a fair trade company you obviously care about fair working practices. But how important was that to Diane and Upul when they started in 1994?

Whilst in Sri Lanka in 1994, Diane and Upul met some local workers outside of a toy factory, only to discover they were ex-employees of the factory, chasing payment for work completed three months earlier. So incensed at this injustice, they decided there and then that they would only buy from people who cared about their workforce.

This was the defining moment for the business and the catalyst which established our fair trade business ethic.

We have direct trading relationships with our producers, Upul travels to Sri Lanka regularly, working with our artisans to ensure fair trade working practices are met and maintained. Our commitment to our producers supports their growth and development, whilst ensuring their employees have a sense of job satisfaction and that their employment is valued. The producer groups offer their staff good rates of pay, equal opportunities and a safe working environment in coherence with the 10 Principles of Fair Trade.

At Lanka Kade, we comply with the internationally accepted 10 Principles of Fair Trade and we have been a proud and active member of BAFTS (The British Association of Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers) since 2001, with our Director Diane chairing the board for a couple of years.

Q. Tell us more about the Lanka Kade Educational Foundation

The educational foundation provides several disadvantaged rural schools in Sri Lanka with books and daily milk to ensure that all students are better equipped for learning.

For some children attending school, the cup of milk provided by the foundation is the only sustenance they will receive during the day. Since the programme was introduced, teachers have reported much improved concentration and contribution from the children. In 2016 alone, we provided 40,934 daily milk drinks to 211 students. 
Many children in Sri Lanka attend school unable to fully participate as their parents cannot afford to buy exercise books and they are not supplied by the Government. In schools supported by the foundation, books and pencils are provided to ensure all children have equal access to education; we provided 4771 school books in 2016.

The book donations and milk programmes have inspirited a big increase in admissions, with more children than ever attending school! Exam results are improving, whilst the Public Health Inspector has praised the impact that both programmes have had on the health of the children.

Q. What has been Lanka Kade's biggest achievement that you’re most proud of?

As we have evolved over the last twenty years our ethos has remained the same; to build long-term, sustainable trading partnerships that provide stability and protect local skills. We encourage our producer’s independence and growth at every level and offer interest-free loans, training and independent financial support to help them grow into independent businesses.

Our director Upul comments “Seeing our producer groups flourish over the years into the healthy, independent businesses they are today has been inspiring to see and a privilege to be a part of. The ten groups we work with have given employment to over 180 local people and allowed them to provide for themselves and their families with pride. We are most proud of the independence our producers now demonstrate having seized the opportunities we offered over the years and look forward to working with more groups in the future.’

To learn more or to shop the entire collection please CLICK HERE

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Q. Tell us a bit about the Milly behind the brand Milly'O

I'm Milly, I grew up in Somerset riding a tubby pony and am now 27, I solely run the business and I have a lovely little workroom in Street, Somerset.
I have always been creative and first used a sewing machine when I was at school,  this fueled my passion and I went on to complete an art & design B-TEC at Strode College.  After a year I decided to go travelling and then worked a couple of ski seasons. Finally, I went back to my true love, my sewing machine.  

Q. Why did you start your brand?

I started Milly'O in 2014 after looking back on some photos of me as a child, my parents would always dress me in the most fabulous clothes and I would most definitely stand out from the crowd. From this, I was noticing a gap in the market for fun, bright and comfortable clothes for kids to wear with a smile. I am sure my travels had an impact on the designs of my clothes and the fabrics I choose.

There might not seem like much imagination to why I chose my business name, but for as long as I can remember I have called my Dad Daddy'O therefore Milly'O just fell into place. Plus my surname is Ollis so it's basically just my name.

Q. Your entire brand is handmade by you, how important was this to you when launching your brand?

Really important, my workroom, where all the making takes place is my happy place and I love coming up with new designs in there. Although I do all of my tie dying at home, so naturally all our bedding and clothes are slowly being dyed. I love tie dye!

Q. What inspires you?

Annoyingly most of my designs come to me in the middle of the night, I have a sketchbook and I try and jot down as many ideas as I can and then slowly work on these throughout the year. A firm favourite is definitely my Teddy Sweaters. They have a lovely soft fleece lining and either stars or stripes on the right side, perfect for snuggling in the winter and even heading to our British beaches in the summer months. Another popular product is my soft organic baby leggings, they come in lots of various colours and patterns which brighten up any outfit.

Q. Why should people consider handmade over the high street alternatives?

I think people should consider buying handmade because they will always know exactly where their purchases have come from, and more often than not better quality. I personally make my products so that they are very durable and withstand daily activities that children's clothes go through. 

I source my fabric's from all over, I wish there was just one company that had all my favourite fabrics but that would just be too easy. My favourite designers at the moment come from Sweden, I love the colours and patterns they use. They are so eye catching and really keep up with the current trends, most importantly they use GOTS certified and organic fabric important for my ethical brand.

To view Milly's entire collection of ethically made baby & toddler clothing

Saturday, 29 April 2017

In the final of our Fashion Revolution specials, we have passed the baton to Jo, founder of 'Where Does It Come From?' an ethical kids and adults fashion brand. 

Jo takes us through how fashion trends have changed over the years and why getting to know the people behind the garment is at the heart of her brand.  

‘Who Made My Clothes?’ 
A guest blog post by Jo Salter, Founder of 'Where Does It Come From?'

Do you have a relationship with your clothes?

It’s amazing how much clothes shopping has changed in the last thirty years or so. If you ask your Gran you’ll probably find that she had a lot less clothes than you, and that she kept them for much longer. People used to make their own clothes too – often using patterns that were copied from haute couture design houses! However all that changed when Fast Fashion came along.

Fast Fashion is the term used to describe the clothing industry of the most recent decades. Clothing brands produce many collections per year and garment production has moved to developing countries where people work for low wages, long hours and often in dangerous working conditions. Convoluted supply chains have hidden these concerning facts from customers and often from the brands themselves, with price and profit being the main considerations. Whereas the price of most of our items – houses, fuel, food – has increased in this time period, our clothing has become cheaper and cheaper. It is actually cheaper to buy clothes now than in the 1980s! There are lots more clothes about too - according to ‘The Economist’, clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014 so it seems that there is an increasing demand for these cheap clothes, despite how they were made, how many exist already and the rapidly filling landfill sites. 

As for customers - well we’ve changed too, we have little or no relationship with our clothes at all. We wear each garment for an average 6 times and then discard it. 

Getting to Know Who Made Your Clothes 

We set up Where Does It Come From? to rebuild the relationship people have with their clothes. We have a strong environmental and ethical ethos but our uniqueness comes from our story telling. Each garment comes with a code on the label so that our customers can explore how their garment was made and get to know the people involved. Our goal is to inspire our customers to love their clothes – so that they keep them longer and choose to shop ethically in the future. 

We only work with production partners with a social goal. Our main partner is Moral Fibre Fabrics based in Gujarat, India and we’ve just started working on a project with producers based in Africa. 
Moral Fibre has very strong links with Mahatma Gandhi – the founder’s Aunt actually worked with him. Gandhi promoted handwoven cotton called Khadi as part of his campaign to free India from British Rule during the first half of the twentieth century. At that time the cotton grown in India was exported to Britain to be woven and then brought back to India again. Indians were not permitted to spin and weave their own cotton but had to buy imported fabric. Gandhi encouraged Indian people to spin and weave for themselves using hand powered spinning chakras and looms. The fabric they produced is called khadi. This became a powerful symbol of the freedom movement – hence there is a spinning wheel on the Indian flag!

Gandhi and his followers set up worker co-operatives to provide employment and skills for rural women. These co-operatives are still in existence and are supported by India’s government. Their governing principles are very much a forerunner for our Fairtrade movements – prescribing fair pay, good working conditions and other benefits such as sick pay. We visited these co-operatives when we visited our supply chain for Fashion Revolution 2016 and we chatted with some of the people who make our clothes. I even had a go at spinning some cotton!
Preserving Skills and Livelihoods

Many of the skills used to produce fabrics by hand are gradually being worn away through cheaper production methods (often involving poor working conditions and pay). Hand block printing is one of the skills that we have used – both on our scarves and our children’s shirts. Each printing block is carved from wood by hand and then used to create the pattern. Some patterns require several printing blocks. We found a workshop who could provide this skill for us and later discovered that if it hadn’t been for our order then they would have been closing down.

Tahirbhai comes from a family with five generations of block printing skill. But orders for this hand printing were dying out so he was strongly considering closing down that part of his business and moving to only screen printing. When our order for block printed fabric for our children’s shirts arrived he was delighted! He said ‘With orders coming in, I opened my hand block-printing unit again. I have a collection of over 5000 blocks and I want to continue with this beautiful craft.’
Helping our Planet 

The production of Khadi has environmental benefits too. Firstly the cotton is grown and picked in local farms – the co-operatives and the farms are all in the same area. Production is totally carbon free with low water usage, and much of the production is carried out in rural co-operatives set up by Gandhi to provide work and skills for rural women. The fabric itself is beautiful - soft and breathable with natural inconsistencies.

Fashion Revolution

At Where Does It Come From? we work with our partners to create beautiful, high quality clothing that you will want to wear for years to come.

Fashion Revolution is all about asking your brands the question ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ to raise awareness of the lack of transparency in many clothing supply chains. Please ask this question of the clothing brands you buy.

For more info or to view Jo's complete collection follow the link HERE

Friday, 28 April 2017

As we near the end of our Fashion Revolution special, we wanted to send you 'behind-the-scenes' of Sustainable Fashion brand Madia and Matilda. They produce unique pieces in timeless styles that are made to last. I interviewed founder Shalize, to learn more about what sustainable fashion actually means and why it's so important to slow down fashion trends.

Q. What do you do?

We create sustainable fashion from end-of-line materials which would otherwise be wasted. We make an impact in British fashion by producing quality made garments that have been produced in a small scale production environment, lessening our impact on the environment.

Q. Why is sustainable fashion important to you?

It comes naturally to me in my natural process of thinking and way of living. My personal ideals are what motivated me to design sustainable fashion pieces. 

Q. When launching your brand did you always know it was going to ethically focused? 

Yes, all my university projects were developed around sustainability and once I was in the industry I didn't like how much waste a garment would produce. I decided that it was not the kind of designer I wanted to be, I wanted to attribute my brand to a less wasteful world. 

When I design, I always ask myself 5 key questions; Is it resourceful? - Does it maintain quality and beauty? - Does it inspire consciousness? - Does it acknowledge human needs? - Are we slowing down consumption? 

Q. Who makes your clothes? 

We have an in-house team of seamstresses here in the UK.

Q. How does slow fashion differ to the high street? 

It is more about timeless styles, it's beautiful clothing that a person can cherish for life. Rather than the throwaway fast fashion that only lasts for a weekend. 

I also believe consumers should be aware of the processes behind fashion and understand what goes into the making of our garments - from design right through to production. 

In our studio and boutique, we actually incorporate the production room, as a part of the shopping experience. It's a way of demonstrating that 'we make your clothes' and we also take in alterations for clients, to prolong the lifecycle of consumers clothing, instead of clothing being sent to clutter up landfills.

Q. Is sustainability important to the future of fashion?

Yes, it's highly important in order to reduce our waste consumption and carbon footprint, slow fashion is the only way forward.

We have also found that consumers are open to more artisanal one-of-a -kind brands; like us, as they’re actively looking for clothing that differentiates from what every other shopper has. Fast fashion causes needless destruction to the environment and there's no room to be original.

To view more from Madia & Matilda's collection follow the link HERE

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Today the fifth day of Fashion Revolution 2017, we bring you our interview with Sophie, founder of 'Love Fair and Ethical' a wonderful start-up jewellery brand doing their bit to challenge the impact of Fast Fashion. 

Q.Who is Love Fair & Ethical?
My name is Sophie and I am the founder of “Love Fair and Ethical” I am the driving force behind the business, and I currently manage all aspects of the business as a sole trader.

Love Fair & Ethical is a business that looks at the bigger picture. We didn’t want to be another money minded profit focused start-up but to try to make a real difference to the world, our environment and the people that live in it.

We wanted original products with a real story behind them, the sort you wouldn’t find on the high-street. So we developed the idea to source products from suppliers around the world supporting key fair trade projects whilst also considering recycling and sustainability and how as a business we could make even a small difference. We are based in Conwy Wales, and the business is run through an on-line website we have also just started to attend local festivals and events with our pop-up shop.

Q.Who makes your jewellery?

We work with a number of suppliers supporting Key projects across the globe providing artisans with a fair wage, safe working conditions, access to education, medical care, opportunities to develop key skills and the chance to escape exploitation and poverty.

Our Jewellery is sourced from many countries including India, Africa, China, Thailand, and Bali & South America. The products we sell are made using traditional methods preserving Tribal ancestral techniques and designs. Many of our items are handmade in small Home workshops, This allows us to offer a unique handmade range of products.
Some of the Artisans based in India working for Tara projects Creating Handmade Jewellery in Delhi. (Trade Alternative Reform Action)TARA was founded in 1973 to assist struggling artisans in Delhi to find markets for their handmade Jewellery. The founders of TARA believed fair trade could help to improve the lives of artisans living in poverty whilst also protecting children from exploitation. 

Asha Handicrafts have been involved in Fair Trade since 1975 basd in Mumbai, Asha in Sanskrit means ‘hope’ and Asha Handicrafts have most certainly brought hope too many offering an outlet for their handmade products whilst giving them the opportunity to develop skills, and access health and education projects that otherwise would not be available to them.

Q. How did it all begin?

I had always wanted to start my own business from a young age, in 2009 I spent 4 months travelling through Asia and visited and stayed with a hill tribe community in Thailand and I fell in love with the beautiful tribal jewellery and handicrafts they created.

I have to admit it has taken a long time to get to this point. I spent around 2 years researching products, suppliers, and business ideas, and test selling products. I also completed the enterprise course with the Princes Trust. After realising there are so many cheap and badly made products originating from China and other less developed countries where workers are unfairly treated and paid I decided I wanted to become an Ethical Brand. The thought of being un-knowingly involved in trading practices such as this made me realise I wanted my business to be completely transparent so we could trace the product right back to the maker and be sure they were treated fairly, safely and provided with a fair decent wage. That’s when I decided to create a fair, ethical, unique Business.

Q. Why ethical jewellery?

Fair trade Fashion is about better prices, decent working conditions and fair terms of trade. Buying fair trade means workers get a better deal, they get a fair wage and work in safe conditions having the security of a fair trade agreement allows them to support themselves and their families.

Fast Fashion has been created by the want and need for ever changing styles and fabrics we stand out from High street stores because our products are handmade and created in small batches, this keeps them original, unique, timeless...

We also consciously source products made from recycled materials keeping our environmental footprint in check. We LOVE the idea of creating New from Old, up cycling and using up waste materials.

Q. Where do you see your brand in 5 years?

We only launched one year ago but in that time we have already developed our selling platforms, a strong customer base and are really trying Our best to get our business out there.

In Five years time we are hoping the business will be well established, expanding and growing year on year. We are currently in the process of sourcing some NEW exciting products handmade by women in the foothills of Asia we are also looking into designing some of our own unique accessories, watch this space!!!

Lastly, we hope to encourage people to think about the environment and the products they buy and where they source them from and for everyday people to think more ethically. We hope Slow Fashion will become a revolution and that consumers will change the way they buy and shop.

Something has to change ....

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Today marks the fourth day of our Fashion Revolution 2017 special, and I'm bringing you my interview with Sarah from sustainable lingerie brand Primrose & Pixie. Making waves in the world of lingerie, Sarah has proved that you don't have to sacrifice quality or suffer a human and environmental cost to own luxury lingerie. With her new line of organic cotton, and eco-friendly dyes, Primrose & Pixie is a force to be reckoned with. We caught up with Sarah earlier this week to learn more about the motivation behind her brand.

Q. Tell us a bit about Primrose and Pixie

Primrose & Pixie is a lingerie & sleepwear brand that aims to put a bit of magic into consciously made clothing. We follow no trends, just our hearts and favour the best quality chemical free or organic fabrics. I currently run the brand by myself.

Q. Who makes your clothes?

I do!  Everything is currently designed and handmade in my home studio. I was already running my first business from home so it made sense to continue producing everything in house for now. It gives me control over all areas of the business and I know exactly how my garments are being made. As the business grows I will need to find a garment manufacturer and from my research I’ve been delighted to find that there are ethical manufacturers right here in the UK.

Finding transparent suppliers has really helped with my choice of fabrics. They know exactly where and how their products are being made, what dyes are being used and why. Even little things like finding elastic which is made in Europe, not China makes my life a lot easier!

Q. How did it all begin?

I've only ever wanted to be a designer so I studied BA(Hons) Fashion Design at UCLAN and worked as a high street designer before becoming self-employed in 2011.

I’d been running my first handmade clothing brand for five years but I was starting to feel a bit uninspired and stuck creatively. I’d outgrown the style and needed a change of direction.

I’d started making changes to my diet & lifestyle about four years ago and with that I started paying more attention to what chemicals could be lurking in household products, toiletries and clothing. I was really shocked to find that there were nasty chemicals used in fabric production, I work with fabric every day and it wasn’t something I’d ever really thought about.

I realised that my business wasn’t aligned with my lifestyle anymore and that I still had some of that fast fashion mentality left over from my time in industry. I knew that I should be trying to help fix the problems within the garment industry, not add to them so I launched Primrose & Pixie in September 2016.

I felt that lingerie and sleepwear was a good place to start as these are our most intimate garments, there really shouldn’t be harmful chemicals in your pjs and pants!

Q. I notice you are really careful about sourcing your fabrics and even the inks you use, how important do you think this is for the future of retail?

I think it’s incredibly important as the fast fashion industry is just not sustainable right now. The damage it is doing to the environment and to the health and wellbeing of those who make our clothing isn’t worth it just so we can buy a t-shirt for £3. We need to stop this disposable fashion culture and start learning the real value of products again. People have to work long hours to make these garments and they deserve to be paid and treated fairly for doing so. I can’t stand the thought that someone would buy one of my products, wear it once then throw it away after I put in the hours to make it! We need to learn to love our clothing again and embrace slow fashion.

I’d love to see the shift we’ve had in the food industry trickle down into the garment industry. As people have become more aware of what they are putting into their bodies there’s been a rise in popularity of plant based and vegan products. Let’s start seeing that in fashion too! And as small business owners we are in a great position to show customers that responsibly sourced, ethically made garments can be beautiful, unique and stylish.

Q. What inspires your range of lingerie and sleepwear?

I wanted Primrose & Pixie to be more of a reflection of me so I went back to the things that have always inspired my work from when I was a mini 7 year old wannabe designer all the way through college and university.

I’ve always been inspired by myths, legends, fairy tales and folklore. I’m a real book worm and I especially love Gothic horror so don't be surprised if you see vampire references in future ranges. Living where I do it’s also hard not to be inspired by nature. There’s a beautiful bit of woodland with a waterfall about 20 mins walk from my house, it’s great for inspiration, recharging and finding some inner calm after a busy week.

To read more about ethical lingerie brand Primrose and Pixie or to shop the collection follow the link HERE

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

In our third Fashion Revolution special, we pass the baton on to the wonderful Senhoa. Senhoa is no ordinary jewellery brand, founded by Lisa Nguyen, Senhoa is a social enterprise based in Cambodia protecting vulnerable women and survivors of human trafficking and exploitation, through jewellery skills training, safe and secure employment and a living wage.

Here is their story>>>

‘I made your jewellery’ 
A guest blog post by Ruth, from 'Senhoa'

In 2006 Lisa Nguyen, Senhoa’s Founder, visited Cambodia. What she found was a country where the exploitation and human trafficking of women and girls was prevalent. Lisa visited several charities providing high level support and rehabilitiation programmes to victims and soon identified that there was a gap in support for young women who had received crisis support but needed hand holding in maintaining their independence while they reintegrated into society. This is where the concept of Senhoa started. In 2008, Lisa and a small team set up a pilot programme with 5 young women and looked to provide help not only in terms of income generation, but also a holistic package of support including education, life skills, counselling etc.

Originally jewellery making was chosen due to it being something that can be taught fairly quickly, enabling the girls to make something beautiful with their hands which gives a sense of personal satisfaction and doesn’t require any level of literacy. None of the team had any previous experience in jewellery making, however we were lucky enough to get an amazing creative director on board and also collaborated with some star designers such as Canadian super model Coco Rocha and New York stylist Julie Ragolia. They have helped us so much with creating stunning collections and grow the small pilot into a jewellery brand that is being recognised globally.
Through fair wages and safe employment we now provide vulnerable women in Cambodia the skills to make luxury jewellery with some of our most intricate pieces taking several weeks for one artisan to make. Our passion is to make high quality statement pieces which offer our customer something amazing to own while at the same time has the added benefit of offering vulnerable women a chance to take control of their lives through economic and emotional empowerment.

At the beginning of 2015 we changed the structure of the program from a charity to a social business. Not only does that enable us to run the business more efficiently and effectively (100% of the profit from jewellery sales goes to funding other social programs within local communities in Cambodia), but it has resulted in a subtle but extremely important shift in the relationship we have with our artisans, from beneficiaries of a holistic program of support, skills training and income generation to formal employees.

This is proving to be transformative – no longer are they ‘service users’ but employees with a vested interest in the business. Whilst maintaining the same nurturing environment with holistic support and understanding , our artisans are stepping up to the challenge of higher expectations in terms of contractual obligations with some moving into different roles within the organisation.

Employ. Empower. Emancipate.

This is our slogan at Senhoa and at the very heart of what we do. It means being able to acquire and have decision-making power over money, for example being able to earn money and decide how you spend it; deciding if you want to save and when you want to draw on your savings; being able to borrow when you want to take out a loan and decide how you repay it. Basic things that most of us take for granted but which non of our artisans had previously had the luxury of enjoying.

Many girls and women don't have this kind of decision-making power. In countries such as Cambodia, girls often spend large amounts of time doing things such as caring for younger siblings, fetching water or preparing food – often at the cost of their schooling or health. They'll often be forced into marriage young and won't necessarily have the same education as their male counterparts. Girls are often sent off to work to pay off a family debt. A sad reality is that virginity sales is not uncommon in the communities that we work in. This typically leads to social isolation, having less access to education and much higher risks of health problems. This affects how much they're able to make choices about every aspect of their lives, and whether they're dependent on male members of their family.
Changing aspirations of women and girls and those of their communities, building their confidence and giving them access to information and networks, is a critical part of Senhoa’s work.  We take a holistic approach. 100% of the profit from the sale of our jewellery goes to fund prevention and early intervention programmes working with the whole family - girls and women, boys and men. 
Understanding what is expected of girls within the confines of their culture or community is essential. By running community programmes alongside the jewellery social business we try and challenge those beliefs.

In 2017 we will:

Protect 159 at-risk children via our Lotus Kids’ Club. We teach basic literacy, math, English, computer skills, cooking and sewing.

Feed 134 families via our Nutrition Program. Monthly food packages and our micro-loans and family development programs allow parents to choose preschool, rather than child labor, for their kids.

Provide medical and dental care, hygienic supplies, vaccinations and vitamins for all our students.

Employ 15 survivor artisans, offering them a fair wage and access to the global marketplace.

We want to give young women opportunities they haven't had before. We are here to provide our artisans with the tools they need to move forward from their pasts and live independently and take care of themselves and their families.
Often what's happening is now they are the first members of the family to be able to save and support the family and, actually, the whole family is learning from what the girls learn, so they're more likely to develop savings habits and other positive financial behaviours. For the first time, they are able to think and plan for the future, decide on a goal they wish to pursue and for the first time, to live out their dreams.

We believe that by wearing Senhoa jewellery our customers are able to advocate against human trafficking and exploitation of women and girls in their own way. Our lotus flower logo symbolises the journey our artisans make, growing in muddy waters and blossoming into a flower with breathtaking beauty.

For more information about Senhoa's work or to shop their ethical jewelry collection follow the link HERE

Monday, 24 April 2017

In the second of our #FashRev specials we're delighted to pass on the reigns of today's blog to the wonderful Know The Origin. An affordable and sustainable brand, Know The Origin are a young and fresh brand producing basic wardrobe essentials without the long term damaging impact of Fast Fashion.

‘A Fashion Revolution’ 
A guest blog post by Molly from 'Know The Origin'

It’s here! Fashion Revolution Week!

We love this week because it means we can challenge brands to uphold the same values that are at the core of Know The Origin: transparency and respect of people and the environment. Unfortunately these are values that are all too lacking in the fashion industry today.

As a Fairtrade and organic fashion brand, at Know The Origin we don’t just want to use Fashion Revolution week as a time to challenge other brands and complain about the fashion industry, but we also want to celebrate! We want to celebrate the incredible processes that go into making our clothes and the ridiculously talented people that make it possible!
The core issue of fast fashion is that it's drive for profit means that it no longer values or respects the work that has gone into every garment. Around 80 people are involved in making a single tee from seed to garment - that’s whole lotta talent, time and effort from 80 individuals in one garment!

At Know The Origin we have seen how fashion can be used to support these individuals. We have traveled all over India to team up with awesome, social justice driven producers - essentially the ethical fashion equivalent of The Avengers!
All our producers, from our 100% cotton farmer owned cooperative to our final factories, have an incredible social impact. They are not only Fairtrade and organic but commit to projects such as food security training, recycling waste products from cotton and dyeing for local agriculture and supporting their workers through initiatives including funding workers children’s education and supporting women who have chosen to leave Kolkata’s sex trade.

The commitments our producers have made to individual workers across India are endless, and we are so inexpressibly proud to be able to support them. After visiting each producer and hanging out with the people that work there (including a lot of dancing and eating) we’ve been able to see the positive impact fashion can have on communities simply through respect! (Resist the urge to belt out Aretha Franklin…) Respecting the individuals and the environment that are involved in each garment is so key. From respect comes fair wages, sustainable practices and support. What could be better? 
So why doesn’t every brand hold these values at the core of their work? 

We have spoken to the survivors of Rana Plaza and Tazreen garment factory disasters and they know a very different, dark side to the fashion industry. Well, fast fashion means that there is a large amount of profit to be made from convincing people their clothing is disposable and worthless. There is an even larger amount of money to made by cutting corners which often means pressuring workers for more work with less pay and avoiding safety and environmental regulations.

Thankfully we, as brands, factories and consumers, have the choice to step away from this. Our money, our purchasing power, means that we have a vote. We can either vote for the current system of exploitation or vote for a new system of respect. As cheesy as it sounds, it really is as simple as that! So vote! Challenge brands, buy ethical (cough... choose us... cough,), shop less, re-use clothing and research! 

Do whatever you can to ensure transparency and respect are at the core of your wardrobe.

For more information about Know The Origin or to shop from their sustainable fashion collection follow the link HERE

Sunday, 23 April 2017

In the first of our #FashRev special, we interviewed Verry Kerry, an ethical & eco fashion brand. Verry Kerry have been making strides in the ethical industry, since launching in 2010.  Founder Kerry has taken her business and turned it into a competing force against the fast fashion high street. Verry Kerry are able to produce original designs and quality garments, without the human and environmental impact. We caught up with Kerry to learn more about her brand's ethos and the talented makers behind her designs.

Q: Who is Verry Kerry?

Verry Kerry is an ethical brand that creates loungewear, daywear & accessories, that is... well, Verry me: colourful, relaxed, passionate, kind and… a little wild!

With a love for prints, we create versatile pieces that can be worn in many different situations. The perfect travel companions, designed for people who love to look and feel amazing without the fuss & very little effort.

We believe in creating a feeling that lasts, not following rules, fashion or trends, whilst championing sustainability, and a fairer and more kind society. We want to be more than just a clothing brand. It’s about lifestyle, attitude, and the way we look at the world.

Trying to help others and the environment is at the forefront of everything we do. We also work with different projects like Kikora, in Kenya, Malambo Grassroots, in Zambia and Streets Kitchen, here in London, to help the less fortunate where we can.

I started the business on my own, shortly after moving to London from Australia, but later my partner joined me on this journey and luckily our skills complemented and our beliefs matched.

We are currently based in London, but dreaming of sunnier beaches….

Q: How did it all begin?

I was born in Zambia where the vibrant, bold textiles (and abundant mangos, storms, stars, fireflies and incredible nature) always brought a smile to my face.

I was also very lucky to experience life in Australia where I took a love for simple, casual & relaxed shapes with a beachy, Summery feel.

However, I could never find anything that was ‘me enough’ and hated the idea of looking like everyone else, often taking my sketches to a local tailor to be made. With my graphic design background, I had an innate passion for colour and prints and found the switch into clothing quite a natural one.

I wanted to create beautiful, comfortable yet flattering pieces that I could wear seamlessly in many situations. One piece with many different possibilities.

In 2008 I embarked on a journey to India and its vibrant fabric markets, to bring my vision of cool, groovy loungewear, that could be worn everywhere, to life. As soon as I figured it all out, I started trading in 2010. I now juggle my time between being a mum and running my business.

Being ethical and as sustainable as possible was never something to contemplate – it was an absolute must. It is of, of course, and ongoing journey, and we are constantly trying to learn and improve our efforts.

Q: Who makes your clothes?

My designs are either digitally or screen printed by hand, with earth friendly inks, in a wonderful, family-run factory in New Delhi, that has been doing this for over 25years. The fabrics are then ethically brought to life by a team of talented tailors in another factory, always in Delhi.

The working conditions are excellent: spacious and airy, ventilated spaces (it gets pretty hot in India…), modern equipment, but also a friendly, smile-filled environment where you can hear laughter, music and general peer support.

There are regular breaks, promotions, self-improvement opportunities and a lovely team feeling.

The owner, now a good friend also buys buffet lunches for the whole factory on special celebrations, like Holi & Diwali and to reward the excellent team work. Most of his key team have been with him since the beginning, so it is a real testament to him and the workplace he has created.

I spend most of my time there when in India and it is my home away from home.

Tackling the waste issue is also a topic close to our hearts, and we are very proud to work with Swechha, an NGO that creates our vegan accessories, mostly by upcycling production waste.

They are a youth-led, youth-run organization dedicated to making a difference to the environment, both physical and social. In their workshop, skilled artisans from impoverished communities are paid 1.5 times the average wage.

Q: As a fashion brand, why was it important for you to know every aspect of the manufacturing behind your designs?

When I started Verry Kerry awareness about wrong practices in fashion wasn’t as widespread as today. However, having had the privilege to grow up in Africa, I knew that I didn’t want to be just another clothing brand. Verry Kerry was born with the intention to give back to less fortunate people and I could never have accepted to exploit someone in the process.

It is of the utmost importance and a wonderful feeling knowing that I have complete control and understanding of every part of my business and what goes into every little step. Of course, having a small scale production, with the manufacturing happening under one roof, makes tracing the product easier, allows me to witness key parts of the manufacturing process, and improves quality control.

Furthermore, having established a great relationship with the suppliers means that I am able to put great trust in these professionals and their truly amazing abilities.

It all starts with high-quality fabric, mostly organic cotton and bamboo, and earth friendly, AZO-free dyes, all brought together by exceptional craftsmanship. Nothing is mass produced, each piece is limited edition and hand finished, making it a truly special garment. The difference with cheap fast fashion is a significant one.

We make a point to avoid animal derived materials and polyester in our clothing as well as plastic in our packaging. Our garments are sent out in fairtrade cotton tote bags that can be re-used and placed into a recycled brown, unbleached paper mailing-bag.

Q: Can ethical fashion be a viable contender for the high street competition?

If you consider that since the 1980's the cost of housing, rent, food, fuel and other commodities has risen, in some cases dramatically, then you would expect clothing to have done the same. In fact the opposite happened. As is now very clear to most, someone along the line pays the price.

Luckily more and more people are waking up to this and demanding that their clothes are more consciously made, but we still need a shift in perceptions: fast fashion & trends have manipulated people into thinking that clothes are disposable and that we need to continuously buy and update our wardrobes, adding to the ongoing waste epidemic & throw away culture.
I believe ethical clothing must be a contender in the race and I believe the key is in re-educating ourselves. The impact the clothing industry has on the environment is something we must all stop turning a blind eye to. Our planet is ours, and we should all be doing our bit to protect it.

We fight fast fashion habits by only making 2 main collections a year, avoiding continuous discounts and not taking part in initiatives such as Black Friday and other campaigns that inevitably undervalue your products just to make a fast buck.

Every piece is designed to be timeless every season, because is most certainly not ‘fashion’ that matters, it's the way it makes you feel.

To learn more about Verry Kerry or view their range or eco-friendly and ethical fashion collection follow the link HERE

About Us

Ethical Living is your destination for ethical fashion, sustainable living and top tips for an ethical home. With interviews and guest blog posts, it's the perfect addition to your coffee break! Ethical Living is brought to you by

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