Have you seen the work that has been done on the one year, one outfit challenge? Bloggers in Australia such as the amazing Sue Stoney of Fadanista, have been getting hold of local wool, knitting trousers (!) . Carolyn has been making an embroidered felt dress and matching shoes (!!). The idea has been to use local, sustainable fibres, natural dyes etc to make an outfit entirely from your own labour. I suppose the implication is that it takes a year to make an outfit, and maybe that is all we need to create in a year. But these amazing creatives have done the craft outfit as well as all their usual sewing.
One thing they have done perhaps is to make the rest of us aware of some of the issues associated with where our clothes and dressmaking supplies come from. I was aware of Offset Warehouse because I have been buying silk online for a while. I was interested in a product they promote called Peace Silk. This is silk suitable for vegans, and people dislike the idea of silkworms being boiled alive. According to PETA, 3,000 silkworms are killed to make every pound of silk. It makes you think, but it may not change your behaviour. The peace silk is made from cocoons which have been discarded by the moth.
I don’t normally look for “eco”, “cruelty free” or organic products especially. I have found that some of them are a bit “goody goody” for me, and often there is little choice, high price and mediocre design. Also I find there is a degree of confusion about ‘non-exploitative” products – but if it makes you feel good to wear hand woven linen, or home spun yarn, then great.
If the price and quality is similar to ordinary silk perhaps we could be persuaded to change our buying habits. Offset Warehouse sell peace silk organza for much the same price as anywhere else, but I didn’t know what the quality was like. I thought about buying a few samples but I never got round to it. Having had a chance to examine it up close I would say the organza is nice quality and as good as any you can get elsewhere. They also carry a few block printed fabrics from India which I was interested in.
So I was thrilled to get an email from Charlie Ross the owner of Offset Warehouse, inviting me to a party where she would be showcasing her products, held at Fabrications in Hackney, which is now stocking the fabrics. This gave me a chance to have a good look at the whole range. I was surprised to find recycled polyester as I don’t really associate synthetic fabrics with ethical companies. But of course recyled polyester is made from old plastic cups and bottles, so I see the appeal to some (but not me!).
Of course it wasn’t all about the fabric. It was also about the people. It was great to meet Charlie herself, Kimberly who works with her, and Frankie Campbell. Charlie was wearing a gorgeous dress she had made in some Dusky Pink wool and tencel blend. Kimberly on the other hand had started (but not finished) a dress in some super navy handwoven Ikat fabric. I encouraged her to put the dress on as it is such a great pattern. Hopefully it is finished now! And Franki, who is a freelance pattern cutter, is wearing her rosette. The guests made these from Offset Warehouse fabrics. What a brilliant idea. Effectively we all went home wearing swatches of Offset Warehouse fabrics. My rosettes included some organza so I know it is great stuff.
Thank you for this review. I’ve just checked out their website. What beautiful fabrics. And good to know they are ethical too. 😀
Great name for a company. Shall I come and see you when I am in Lancashire again?
Hmm..Complex topic. It’s not that I think “eco” products are bad – not at all – but I tend to be cautious about jumping on a particular wagon (not referring to these products, specifically, as they look quite interesting) given that in any kind of production or economic development argument there are complex layers of behaviour and impacts and power involved and most are challenging to quantify objectively and fully. This is definitely worth considering deeply. I tend to focus in my own practise on the idea of longevity – creating and using things that will be valued and used to the limit of their usefulness and re-used or shared if possible, rather than having a large quantity of stuff that gets lightly used.
You are right of course. I think I agree with you. But the people who want to make a difference are genuine, nice and personally committed to a certain gentle lifestyle that I can’t help but respect.