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

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

Saturday, 15 April 2017

I always love speaking with illustrators, it takes a lot of determination to turn your joy of doodling and drawing into a thriving business. I was lucky enough to get some time this week to speak with the lovely Ellie, from Ellie Good Illustration. We spoke about her graphic design background and how she created an ethical stationery company, with the environment very much at heart of what they do.

Q. Tell us a bit about Ellie Good Illustration

I am an illustrator and graphic designer, with a background in magazines and a degree in fine art. I moved out of London with my partner 5 years ago (blimey, has it been that long?!) to start a family and we now live in a little village in South Bucks.

I create illustrations to hang in the home and I also make cards, which I sell individually or grouped in a big, life-hack pack called 'A Year of Cards'. I work from home around the kids who are still young, but am very driven and hope that I can upscale to a studio space and an assistant in the future!

Q. What makes your cards & prints different?

Drawing and creating is like a tick I can't get rid of. I have done it since I can remember. And ethical and sustainable consumerism is something that I care very deeply about. Bringing the two together was a no-brainer for me.

My style is very much influenced by my memories and by nature. I like to make people happy, so bright, positive colours are important, and I like to use pattern to liven up something otherwise a bit mundane (mugs / a hot air balloon etc). I can't help it, but things often come out looking a bit retro.

My technique is a combination of ink drawing, paint wash, and digital line and collage.

Q. You mention ethical and sustainable consumerism, how important was that to you when setting up your brand?

It's what drives me in creating my products. I will only ever use a printer with impeccable environmental credentials. I use two different printers. One is a completely zero-waste printing company, and the other is a waterless, chemical-free company that recycles all printed waste.

I also ensure that all the card I print on is recycled and that all the packaging is recycled and biodegradable. My cards, prints and packaging will never hang around killing sea-life or making our earth toxic.

My supply chain is fairly simple, and my card comes from well-respected paper merchants, with good ethics.

Q. We love your concept for a year of cards, what made you decide on creating these?

A Year of Cards was born out of my own frustrations. When my first child was young, like many parents, my mind was all over the place and I would only remember birthdays or anniversaries on the day, or the day before, if I was lucky! So I would routinely be 'caught out' without a card. I am an illustrator and a graphic designer, so it was well within my reach and skill set to create. I asked around my friends and contacts and the feedback seemed very positive, so I took the bull by the horns.

Q. When you’re not doodling how do you like to spend your day? 

An ideal day would be a walk through the woods with my family, followed by a lavish picnic lunch in our secret spot. I also love a bit of culture and head into London whenever I can for some inspiration or meet-ups with old friends.

To view Ellie's entire range of environmentally-friendly stationery and wall art CLICK HERE

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

At a time where sustainable power is being both hailed and stomped on by lots of different experts and non-experts, it was a genuine pleasure to see our lovely neighbours over in Scotland release their March data. Since records started, Scotland set a new record in March for the amount of power sent to National Grid.

"Analysis of wind power data found for the month of March that turbines in Scotland provided 1,240,095 MWh of electricity to the National Grid - enough to supply, on average, the electrical needs of 136 per cent of Scottish households, or 3.3 million homes. This represents an increase of 81 per cent compared to that of March 2016, when wind energy provided 684,632 MWh." (source)

If we want to get serious about Climate Change then we need governments to get serious about Renewable Energy. Find out more about Scotland's record-breaking electrical power in the below video. 

Saturday, 8 April 2017

This week I spoke with Terrence from FRUU, FRUU is a fruit-based organic cosmetics company, FRUU are shaking up the way we view beauty basics like lip balm. Directly competing with the high street Fruu specialise in making affordable products using sustainable fruit-based ingredients. What's more, all their lip balms are vegan and cruelty-free certified by PETA. 

Speaking with Terence was fascinating from his experience as a cosmetic scientist and biochemist, to how his first prototype was tested in a second-hand reptile incubator, purchased from a 13-year-old kid with 20 pythons in his room. Intrigued? You should be! 

Q. Tell us a bit about FRUU

I am Terence Chung, the founder of FRUU. I am a cosmetic scientist with a biochemistry background who is currently teaching and running cosmetic development workshops at the London College of Fashion. We are a team of three, with my partner Kelly who helps with the operation, Theresa who is a beauty editor who constantly gives us advice about how we should build the brand and of course me. I deal with the product development, creative deisgn and pretty much everything else.

Q. Why did you start your brand?

I went into secondary teaching after I completed my doctorate. I was surprised how intrigued the students were about the science of cosmetics and how little they knew about how they are made and what they are made from. On the other hand, we constantly discuss the impact of petrochemicals and sustainability in our lessons.

It occurred to me at the time how unsustainable our cosmetics are whilst at the same time how most “natural cosmetic brands” did not cater to the younger audience. I discovered that “natural cosmetic brands” are often a façade to unsustainably sourced ingredients and synthetic materials e.g. some high street brands claim “100% natural fragrance” when it is used at 1% in the product.

FRUU was then born with the aim to provide accessible, sustainable cosmetic products with a dash of fun which appeals to the younger audience.

At the start, I networked with a few cosmetic formulators and spent hundreds of hours learning about cosmetic science. I then started experimenting, after setting up my own cosmetic development lab at home. I still fondly remember how rubbish one of the first prototypes was and how I tested my prototypes in a second-hand reptile incubator that I bought for £40 from a 13-year-old kid with 20 pythons in his room.

Fast forward to a year later we have made in excess of 10,000 lip balms and have connected with so many satisfied new customers. It has been a thrilling experience indeed!

Q. What makes your lip balms different from those we see every day on the high street?

Tonnes of difference! We created our products with fruit and plant based ingredients only whilst providing the equal/superior hydration to mainstream brands. We were really surprised to find that in common high street stores, up to 98% of the lip products contain some type of animal product i.e.

beeswax, carmine (grounded beetle), lanolin.

All other vegan-friendly alternatives we found had disappointing performance and skin feel. By digging deep into my science knowledge we believed we could produce a brilliant yet sustainable vegan lip balm and we are glad we did! By incorporating nourishing fruit extracts, hydrating banana extract and soothing ingredients like aloe vera, our product is a one of a kind balm that protects and moisturises lips like no others.

Q. The ingredients you use are vegan and sustainable how important was this to you when you initially started?

I have no doubt that for the mankind to continue living sustainably, we will eventually adopt a circular economy model in the future, where there will be no waste and only recycled materials are used. Waste material is only a waste when we struggle to find a use for them. In the dairy industry, we turn the waste whey into protein sources. In the timber industry, we turn woodchip into plywood and MDF boards. In the fruit-processing industry, a lot of wasted materials are produced in the form of nutritious seeds and pulp. For us, they are high-value materials which can be used in our products in the place of petroleum by-products.

Q. In your opinion can green-living be affordable?

Definitely! Although it will be a slow process as our entire fast-moving consumer goods market is built upon the use of petroleum. Petroleum and the process of turning them into products are so cheap it will take decades for the production of sustainable materials to come down to the same level.

However, as a small company we can afford to be nimble and smart in what we do to bring down the product cost. The big brands will hopefully follow suit. An introduction of governmental intervention like carbon tax or a new tax for any petroleum products will hopefully level the playing field.

Affordable green living is a must if we want our children and grandchildren to live in an untarnished planet.

You can shop FRUU's entire organic beauty collection including their 'Pick N' Mix Gift Box Collection HERE

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Buying from small artisans always feels special, the knowledge they have of their products, and the love that goes into manufacturing their wares is a key reason why I love working with independent brands. Lovely Soap Co is run by a savvy business woman called Sally.  

A force to be reckoned with, Sally started her business after being made redundant in the aftermath of the recession. By no small feat, Sally turned around her fortune by following her passion. Nine years on, and the Lovely Soap Co is going from strength to strength offering unique natural skincare gift sets and vegan-friendly soaps and bath bombs. I was lucky enough to interview Sally this week to find out more about her range and the hidden nasties that are lurking in your everyday skincare products. 

1. Tell us a bit about Lovely Soap Co.
At Lovely Soap Company we handmade natural soaps, bath and pamper products from our workshop in the Chilterns, South Buckinghamshire. All our products are made in small batches from fresh, natural ingredients, each one chosen for its skin-loving and therapeutic properties. We test our products on willing humans (not animals) and they are suitable for vegans, except our lip balms which contain some beeswax.

2. Why did you start your brand?
I’ve always loved making things and have so many memories as a child spending Sunday afternoons ‘creating’ (a mess usually, but it was great fun). I trained as an aromatherapist and this was when I fell in love with essential oils. Not just the scents but also the different therapeutic benefits each one has. In 2008 I was made redundant and this gave me the push I needed to combine my love of aromatherapy with my love of making things and start my own business. I started out making natural candles and then progressed on to soaps and bath products. The rest is history. If it hadn’t been for redundancy I’d probably never have dared to follow my dream.

3. Your products don't contain any SLS, SLES, parabens or phthalates, but what does this actually mean?

These are terms that we hear and see on packaging but a lot of people are not sure what they actually are. Simply put they are all chemicals added to a vast array of commonly used household and cosmetic products. They are used for things like their foaming and cleansing action or as a preservative or emulsifier. Each one on its own, in the quantity it is in, in any one product has been classified as safe. The problem is they are so widely used now in so many different types of everyday products and this has a cumulative effect meaning we are exposed to large amounts of them.

Take the sulphates, for instance. SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) and SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulphate) were originally designed as heavy industrial de-greasers used to remove oil from factory floors. They also act as a foaming agent and are used in products such as shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, shower gel and detergent bars even though they are known to cause skin, scalp, gum and eye irritations.

It’s very difficult to avoid these chemical nasties completely as they are so very widely used. However, it’s easy for a small business like mine to make products without using them as I only make in small batches so don’t need to consider things like a long shelf life which large-scale producers have to do. This is why I choose to only use natural ingredients in Lovely Soap Company products. 

4. So your products are all natural, free from any nasties, and not tested on animals, how important is that to you personally? 

It’s very important me. I feel happiest putting things on my skin that contain ingredients with names I can pronounce. That way I know what they are. I think natural ingredients are kinder to skin and less drying. For instance, since I started using my own soap to wash my face I no longer need to use moisturiser. It’s great being able to show people the benefits of naturally based products, especially if they haven’t considered them before. 

5. What makes your products stand out from the high street?
As an artisan producer I’m able to offer things that the big manufacturers can’t. Being handmade in small batches, all my products are fresh and preservative free. I’m inspired by nature and my products are often decorated with botanicals. I’ve got a large selection of dried fruit and flowers in my workshop. All my gift sets can be personalised which makes them unique. I think this attention to detail is something that makes buying an artisan product extra-special.

6. What’s your top tip for people wanting to buy skincare gifts?

This is a tricky one but I’d say really think about the person you are buying the gift for and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re not sure which product would be the most suitable.

Some things to consider are; What skin type you are buying for? – sensitive, mature, dry, oily. Does the person have any allergies? – nut oils are widely used in natural products. Is the scent from essential oils or is it a synthetic fragrance oil?

Artisan producers have a wealth of knowledge about their products and are more then happy to share it. After all, we love our products and want you to love them too.

To see the Lovely Soap Co's full range of gifts and beauty products, and learn more CLICK HERE

Saturday, 25 March 2017

This week we met with Eliza from La Juniper. La Juniper is an ethical homewares brand with a whole lot of heart. As if it wasn't enough to be working with small family businesses and offering a great range of cruelty free beauty gifts and wellbeing homewares, La Juniper has also recently partnered up with the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust.  We thought it was time to find out more about the brand, where it all started and what the future holds. 

1. Tell us a bit about La Juniper

We're a home and gift brand based in Lincolnshire.  We started in 2016 and our focus is on ethically produced homewares and gifts. This is right down to our gift-wrap, which is ethically produced in the U.K. and mostly made from recycled card and paper. Another focus of our brand is caring about the stories and people behind the products. We work with a lot of individuals and family-led businesses. 

Our brand is based on good quality products that are either useful, beautiful or both; and also, affordable and ethical. We discovered this is harder than it should be, and we have had to ignore some very lovely producers to stick to these ideals. But this has also meant that we have met some amazing new producers. 

We think of ourselves as a warm, positive and welcoming brand, which we aim to show through our products and our ideals. We're always developing new ranges and have some new scented 'drinks' candles in the pipeline to add to our already popular Gin and Tonic plant wax candle. 

2. How did you start your brand?

I started the business in September 2016 and it has been steadily growing since. I have wanted my own shop as far back as I remember, I spent a lot of time as a child ‘playing shop’. This has never really left me and I have notes from my fourteen-year-old self (they needed a bit of work) that have been used in aspects of the brand (with more to come as La Juniper gets a little bigger).

Years of working in different aspects of retail helped focus my ideas. I realised I didn't just want any business. I wanted one with meaning and heart. This is a big part of why we partnered with the BBCT charity (Bumblebee Conservation Trust) this year. 

3. You mention the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, can you tell us a bit more about this collaboration?

Our partnership with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (Registered Charity No 1115634 Scottish Charity No SC042830) started in January this year. This partnership is something that I am really excited about. The BBCT are a lovely, positive charity; working with people, groups and farmers to protect bumblebees. They are also a very accessible charity (you can join from as little as £1 a month) and they have various events you can join around the country.

I always knew I wanted to link my company to charities and they were the first charity I asked. I loved the positive nature of the charity, but I had a personal reason too, I have a very vivid, happy memory of my grandfather telling me why you should be nice to bees. He has been a member of this charity for years, which is how I first heard of the charity.

One of the ways we support BBCT is through our bee gift sets. These have already been very popular gifts, including as something a little different for Mothers Day. At least 10% from each sale goes to the charity. Each set contains wildflower seeds, meaning that the buyer can have a mini bee habitat growing in their own garden. They really are beautiful little creatures.

4. Your products and gift range are all naturally based and not tested on animals, how important is that to you personally? 

This is very important to me. Both my mum and grandmother were veterinary nurses when they were younger, so I grew up loving animals, and the importance of animal care was taught to me from birth. Growing up in this way, meant my brother, sister and I had a lot of animals, including some rescue ones which were ex-testing animals.

I believe having products that aren't tested on animals, as well as being kinder, is much more positive and makes the brand more accessible. Our candles are made from plant products so are suitable for Vegans.  

The natural base in our products is very important to me too. It stems, in part, from the fact I am allergic to a lot of chemical based home fragrancing and well-being products. This encouraged me to find natural based candles, lip balms, creams and diffusers. These products are a lot kinder to the skin and the senses. Our range is gentler and more subtle than chemical based products, but I honestly believe they have a much nicer and more natural fragrance.

I love our Muscle cream, it is a wonderful way to relax the shoulders after a long day. It is made for us by a really lovely family in Cornwall and tested by trained pharmacists…it contains juniper which has been used for centuries to calm muscles.

5. What makes your gifts stand out from the high street?

Our products stand out from the high street because everything we sell on is ethically made in the UK. All designed by us and, in many cases, hand-finished by us.

There is something special about receiving a carefully wrapped box that you can open to discover unique and lovely things in. This is the idea behind our gift boxes. We understand the importance of gifting. Of celebrating an occasion or showing a person you care. We are a little company, with a lot of heart. We aim to celebrate life; encouraging happiness and well-being.

6. What’s your perfect night in?

My perfect night in would include good food, a roaring fire and flickering candle light. I love getting lost in a book while curled up in a warm blanket, pure bliss. 

I think if you are going to have a relaxing night in you need to do it wholeheartedly. This is actually what inspired our Deluxe Home Sweet Home Gift Box Set. The set includes wool blanket that has been made in the U.K, a Home Sweet Home diffuser and a Home Sweet Home candle. The beautiful fragrance of these can form a beautiful ambience. I'll the choice of how you enjoy your cosy night in up to you, but personally, I love a good classic book like Pride and Prejudice.

To view La Juniper's entire range of ethical homewares

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

It is estimated that Kenya uses 24 million plastic bags every month, half of which are poorly disposed of and end up in roadsides and illegally made dumping sites.  However, just this week Kenya became the latest African nation to ban plastic bags, which applies to product, import and use.

It's a huge step for Kenya to curb plastic pollution, the UN Environment estimates that 100 million plastic bags are handed out every year in Kenya by supermarkets alone. (source)

Watch the video below via ATTN >>

Saturday, 18 March 2017

This week we spoke with Know The Origin, a cool and affordable ethical clothing brand. Making everyday basics like hoodies and organic cotton tops, Know The Origin are giving the high street a run for their money. We chatted with Charlotte about what manufacturing means to them and whether ethical fashion can ever really be affordable and attainable.

Q. Tell us a bit about Know The Origin

Know The Origin is an ethical fashion brand based in London. We create clothing that is stylish and affordable whilst being fully Fairtrade and organic from seed to garment! We ensure that the people involved in producing every garment has been treated with dignity, paid fairly and valued for their work. There is 5 of us on the dream team myself (Charlotte), Rosie, Josephine, Ollie and Molly! We are essentially just a bunch of overly eager, social justice fans who want to share that with the world, in the form of beautiful products.

Q. How did it all start?

During my Fashion Buying and Merchandising degree at the London College of Fashion I was learning how to make clothing, from drawing to shop floor. Yet I had never stopped and asked myself those important questions on who was making the clothes that we were producing. Then in 2013 Rana Plaza, a factory in Bangladesh, collapsed. It was a physical symbol of how the fashion industry was holding profit above everything else. I didn’t want to be a part of that. Know The Origin was born out of the desire to do what I love but also support amazing producers along the way that wanted to create positive change in the fashion industry.

Q. Your entire brand is traceable in terms of manufacturing, how important was this to you before launching your brand?

Very! We started with the name - as a test of whether we could actually do it. Make affordable, fully ethical cool clothing. It’s definitely been a learning curve. As I researched and saw for myself how to make fashion ethical I realised that it is so important to be traceable at every stage. There's so much work and awesomeness in each stage - it would suck not to know and appreciate who grew the cotton, spun the thread and dyed the garment.

How can you claim to be ethical when you don’t know who is doing each process. Now we are a stage where I have personally met every producer group in our supply chain. It’s these relationships that make Know The Origin what it is.

Q. In your opinion can ethical fashion ever be affordable?

Definitely! Know The Origin is all about affordable fun ethical fashion. The reputation that ethical fashion is currently that its expensive, weird or unfashionable. That is what we want to challenge. There is definitely a cost to make a garment whilst ensuring that every worker is treated with respect, and this is higher than what fast fashion prices lead us to believe. However, this doesn’t mean ethical fashion should be an unaffordable luxury but instead the standard across high street.

Q. How important do you think Ethical fashion is to the future of consumerism?

I think ethical fashion is the future of consumerism! It is has been so encouraging to see how more and more people are take control of their purchasing power and asking questions like who made my clothes? Is clothing really disposable, when there are so many other environmental costs? For example, it takes 2,700L to make one t-shirt.

Consumerism as we know it can’t continue. The impact on the environment and communities is showing us that. Ethical fashion is a way of shifting consumerism to being sustainable. Empowering customers to make decisions that value clothing and the people that produce them.

Q. What is your favourite piece from your latest collection and what’s your advice on dressing this up/down for a day-night look?

I personally love the Black Cropped Sleeve Sweater! It is so soft and cool that even with a pair of jeans it looks stylish. The clean shape of it also makes it a great evening look that matches with almost every smart pair of trousers or skirt. I pretty much wear it most days, not going to lie!

To read more about the brand or to view their entire collection please click 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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