Thursday 31 May 2012

Top Shop Goes Ethical (a bit)

Top Shop are the latest high street retailer to dip their toes into the ethical fashion market. It's a tentative, but hopeful start.
They are working in conjunction with Reclaim To Wear, a company set up in 1997 to come up with a solution to the problem of textile waste. Together, they have created a capsule collection made from production offcuts and repurposed overstock items. The clothes are designed to be mixed and matched, and include a soft grey marl sweater, blouse and colour block panel maxi dress.
It's an admirable start, and Top Shop have chosen wisely for their first collaboration. The founders of Reclaim To Wear, Orsola de Castro and Filippo Ricci are the brains behind Esthetica, the eco-fashion offshoot of London Fashion Week. But the clothes are only available at Top Shop's flagship Oxford Circus store and online. For the Saturday browsing crowd that make up Top Shop's core consumer base, the clothes might as well not be there.
Can we throw out an accusation of greenwashing? Not in this case, I think. The feeling here is more one of "carefully does it". I'd like to see this as a soft launch for a more meaningful drive into the ethical arena. As Orsola de Castro puts it:
"This is the first step towards the creation of zero waste design collections. I trust that the Topshop team's commitment to new sustainable solutions will lead to the reconsidering of consumption versus disposal throughout the whole fashion industry supply chain."
You can't say fairer than that, and here at The Pier we wish Top Shop and Reclaim To Wear lots of luck in their new venture.
The collection drops on June 15th. More on the Topshop Blog. 

Tuesday 29 May 2012

H&M's striking problem with ethical fashion

Interesting news from Cambodia, that show more clearly than ever how H&M's hopes of claiming the title of most ethical high street retailer are unravelling like a badly-made piece of knitwear.

Over 1500 workers at the SL Processing Company have marched on the capital, Phnom Penh, to demand government intervention after negotiations on pay and conditions broke down late last week. Strike action is looking increasingly likely at the factory, which produces clothes for brands like Levi's and Gap as well as H&M.

Pay and conditions are notoriously poor for workers in the fashion trade in Cambodia, with most employees receiving pay of less than $10 a month. Factories are inadequately lit and ventilated, and there is a constant threat of sexual harassment or even rape for the largely female workforce.

If H&M want their ethical claims to be taken seriously, then they should support the people that work for them, and ensure they get a decent living wage, and safe, clean working conditions. That, surely, is the definition of responsible, ethical behaviour.

More on the story at Just Style

Friday 25 May 2012

Taking Tencel Higher

Here at The Pier, we are great believers in Tencel. Made from eucalyptus and other wood pulp cellulose, it's sustainable credentials are impeccable. It's 100% biodegradable, and significantly friendlier to the environment than fabrics like denim. But it's also waterproof, breathable and endlessly adaptable.

In fact, the denim world is coming around to the attractions of Tencel. At the Paris Denim show, currently running in the French capital, Tencel manufacturer Lenzing are showing how jeans made from a denim/Tencel mix can be much more environmentally friendly. On average, denim with 25% of Tencel in the mix provide huge improvements in the washing process that is such a problem in its manufacture - a 45% improvement in water consumption has been reported. More on that at the link below: it's in German, let Google Translate do the heavy lifting.

The versatility of the fabric has seen Tencel make a show of it on the catwalk, too. Japanese designer Ryota Shiga showed a collection at the Paris Ethical Fashion Show late last year made entirely from Tencel, and won the Ethical Fashion Award for his trouble. He plans to use the fabric in more of his work from now on, and who can blame him? The clothes are sleek, sexy and sharply tailored - a far cry from the mountaineering gear for which Tencel was originally developed.

At Pier32, we're constantly expanding our range of clothing made from innovative fabrics, and Tencel is very much in the mix. Check out our range of Tencel clothing from brands like Continental at the link.

Tencel at Pier32
Tencel At The Paris Denim Show
Ryota Shiga

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Vivienne Westwood - winning at Ethical Fashion

We are delighted to note that Pier Crush Vivienne Westwood, and her Ethical Fashion Africa collection, was nominated for the Design Museum's Design Of The Year Award.
The collection, now in its third season, have provided work for women living in some of the most deprived areas of Kenya. The women have been taught lifelong skills, helping them to bring in sustainable income. Above all, the project has restored a little pride and dignity to a community that had precious little of either.
The collection is also notable as the only nominee for the award that identifys as ethical or sustainable. Sadly, the award in the fashion category went to Issey Miyaki, but Westwood's nomination shows how important and influential ethical thought is becoming in the fashion world.
The nominated designs can be seen at the Design Museum until July 4th, or you can have a look at everything on the Design Museum blog.

Friday 18 May 2012

A Uniform Approach To Colour

A little forward thinking when it comes to the design of staff uniforms can save you a bundle of money, and give your venture a smart designer look. Why, for example, would you need to create and print or embroider a corporate logo, when you can simply dress your staff in complementary stand-out colours?

At the Pier we've recently helped a boutique hotel on the south coast with a co-ordinated range of clothing for their staff in a striking marine blue. They present a smart, clean image without the usual branding - a cost-effective solution with a bit of designer flair.

We're always on the lookout for new and interesting directions in which to take corporate and promotional clothing. As Guru Ian puts it:
"The Pier32 team makes an effort to visit as many pubs and restaurants as possible, something we feel duty bound to do in order to ensure that we are as up to date as possible with current staff clothing and uniform choices."

It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it.

For more on our smart approach to corporate clothing, check out Pier32's latest newsletter, check out the website, give us a ring, or drop us an e-mail. We'll get back to you quickly, even if we are in the middle of a tough afternoon of research.

Monday 14 May 2012

A Stella contribution to charity

We're big fans of Stella McCartney here at the Pier for her unswerving commitment to green fashion. Now she, along with photographer sister Mary, are helping make a difference to a charity offering yoga therapy to schools for children with special needs.
Stella and Mary have both donated artwork to this year's Special Yoga Centre Charity Art Auction. Stella has supported The Special Yoga Centre for years, and this time she's given the auction a signed sketch of one of her designs, alongside a black and white snap from acclaimed shutterbug Mary. They'll be joining the likes of Damien Hirst, David Bailey and the elusive Banksy in contributing to the auction.
It takes place tomorrow, May 15th at the Twentieth Century Theatre in Notting Hill. It promises to be a high-profile affair, with support from honorary patrons Trudi Styler and Samantha Cameron. Profits will go towards the charity's new premises, helping to establish The Special Yoga Centre as the largest of its kind in the UK, providing help and support for kids with special needs like autism, epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Director of the charity, Jo Manuel says:
"The art auction is the main fundraising event of the year and this year is extra special. The Centre’'s move to West Hampstead will provide us with a ground floor space, accessible to wheel chair users and providing facilities children and families are in real need of.”"
For more details of the auction, check out the Special Yoga Centre website.  

Friday 11 May 2012

No Hosepipe Ban For Elvis And Kresse

There might be a hosepipe ban going on in the South-East of England at the moment, but design duo Elvis and Kresse have found a neat way round it. Well, kind of.

They have made a name for themselves with their clever accessories made from recycled coffee bags and a woven metal mesh that started life as mobile phone parts. But now they've discovered a new material, and it's getting them a lot of attention.

They've recently launched a range of belts, wallets and bags made from genuine recycled London Fire Brigade fire-hoses. This reinforced rubber has been in service for twenty years or more. In the process, it's lost none of it's strength and durability, but has become soft enough to fashion into high-spec accessories. The top-of-the-range saddle bag is particularly gorgeous, and has the look of proper oxblood leather. Better still, half the profits from everything they sell in the Fire-Hose range goes to the Firefighter's Charity.

Elvis and Kresse have been go-to guys for clever repurposing of upcycled material for a while now, but the Fire-Hose range is not just admirable but actively desirable. So now when someone asks you what's the sexiest thing about a fireman, you can reply with confidence - his hose.

No, wait, that came out wrong.

Elvis And Kresse Firehose Range

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Two Years Of The Big Society

You can do a lot in two years. You can launch and run an initiative that allows charities and local groups to help communities in need. You can bring together the best ideas that the third sector has to offer and allow them to thrive with the security of government backing.

Or you can do what David Cameron and the coalition government did.

Two years seems like a good time to have an overview of what the Big Society has achieved. It should be a robust and mature program by now, helping hundreds of voluntary groups to bring a little light into their neighbourhoods. Instead, the opposite seems to be happening.

An independent audit carried out by think tank Civil Exchange on the first two years of The Big Society paints a harsh picture. It shows that swingeing cuts to local services have crippled the third sector's ability to do what's been asked of them, and the initial goodwill that they had towards the project has by and large evaporated. Lord Wei, the "czar" charged with masterminding the forward sweep of the initiative, quit after less than a year in office. The project has seen five relaunches, each marred with increasingly strident accusations of mismanagement and complacency by the government from charities and local groups that should be at the heart of the whole process.

Things are bleaker now than ever. There's evidence of a clear north/south divide, with those charities most in need finding themselves side-lined in favour of so-called "leafy suburb initiatives". Let me give you an example.
The Guardian highlights a project in Manton, Nottinghamshire, which was a prime example of how to bring a community together through radical approaches that often ignored the accepted way of doing things in favour of something more closely tailored to the needs of the local people. The Manton Community Alliance was a huge success, and its neighbourhood manager, Richard Edwards, was invited to Downing Street along with other carefully chosen local activists in 2010 to discuss ways to roll out the Manton success story across the country.

You notice I'm using the past tense. Manton's funding was slashed, and the Community Alliance shut up shop at the end of December. Yet another example of the coalition promising one thing, and delivering precisely the opposite.

Most of the community leaders and charity bosses that were at the Downing Street meeting launching the Big Society are now bluntly pessimistic about the initiative. The sad thing is that the idea is a good one, carried on a genuine wave of public support. Shifting the focus from an isolated central authority and giving power and responsibility to committed and talented community workers makes all kinds of sense. Why not give the people who understand their communities best the financial security to carry out reforms that have real benefit? Good question. The sad fact is that It simply hasn't happened. Brutal cuts that will add up to over £3 billion by 2015, paired with the belief that voluntary and charity workers find it impossible to get their voices heard in Parliament, have effectively chopped the Big Society off at the knees not once, but time and time again.

There's a real sense of frustration at the heart of the Civil Exchange report, and it's not surprising. The best and brightest minds in the charity and voluntary sector were brought together to help put together a radical experiment in social change, and have been systematically prevented from doing so.

You can read the full report from Civil Exchange at the link below. It's not light, or cheerful reading.

The Big Society Audit 2012

Friday 4 May 2012

The Pier At The Seaside

The Eco-Technology Show, highlighting the best in smart new green and sustainable thinking, is in Brighton this June. Because we at the Pier love a trip to the seaside, and have a thing for eco-technology, we will be there too.

You'll be able to find us on Stands L20-L21 in the Information, Education & Lifestyle Zone in the Platinum Lounge, where you get the chance to check out our huge range of ethical promotional wear. We've got the lot, from organic cotton t-shirts and sustainable bamboo ladieswear through to bags and baseball caps made from recycled plastic bottles. Come and have a chat, and we'll help you get your message across in the most ethical and environmentally friendly way.

We have special, show-exclusive offers and surprises in place. And you'll get the chance to meet Guru Ian and in a shocking turn of events I will be there too, reporting live on the best that the show has to offer.

If you'd like to go, then you can get tickets on us. They're normally a fiver, but check out our Eco-Technology page on the Pier32 website, and you can get in for free. As ever, the Pier has you covered.

The Eco-Technology Show is on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th of June at the Amex Stadium, Brighton. Hope to see you all there.

Pier32 At The Eco-Technology Show.

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Labs, Labels and Shwopping: M&S crank Plan A up a gear

While H&M have made a lot of noise about their sustainable credentials, with results that are at best open to question and at worst to accusations of blatant green-washing, Britain’s other store that can be abbreviated to two letters and an ampersand is quietly making some big changes.

In the past couple of weeks Marks and Spencer have announced three major new initiatives that put them very much in the lead when it comes to greening the High Street. A Sustainable Fashion Lab, run in association with the London School of Fashion, is running now until May 9th at the Old Truman Brewery in East London, holding talks, workshops and the chance to design your own pieces. Entrance is free, as long as you bring an unwanted piece of clothing that can be repurposed on site or donated to Oxfam.

On that subject, M&S have also just launched their ”shwopping” campaign, headed up by comedy fashionista Joanna Lumley. The idea is simple, and hooks into their earlier collaboration with Oxfam. Bring in an item of clothing when you buy something new from M&S and you get entered into prize draws and competitions. The eventual aim is for the chain to recycle as many clothes as it sells - 350 million items a year. It's a big idea, and if it takes off could have massive implications for the way we shop.

Finally, a small thing that shows how attention to detail can have surprising benefits. M&S have announced plans to make their labels from recycled PET (shredded plastic bottles melted and spun into yarn) instead of virgin polyester. Which might not seem like much, but they make 300 million of the little blighters a year. The new labels will also carry a reminder to use the M&S and Oxfam Clothes Exchange, which offers rewards to customers that donate old clothing to Oxfam stores in exchange for an M&S money-off voucher.

The Plan A initiative that M&S began to roll out a couple of years ago has seen the retailer embrace change and innovation at all levels of its business, from factory to store room to shop floor. These new announcements show a company that's confidant and forward thinking, and fully aware that when it comes to high street sales, green means go.