Thursday 31 January 2013

Straight From The Source For 2013

If you needed any proof of the vitality of the ethical fashion sector (like this blog isn't enough for you?) then the first day of the Ethical Fashion Forum's Source Brand Preview 2013 should have been very convincing. It was jam-packed with presentations and talks from well-respected names and exciting young pioneers, all aiming to show that sustainability and eco-credentials are becoming a massively important watch word in markets worldwide.
It was a full day of events, covering new and established brands, luxury and bridal wear, and for the first time, an hour on menswear. As a stylish and sophistomocated chap it was good to see my needs finally being catered to. Let's not mention the Angry Birds pants I'm wearing today.
There are some distinct trends emerging in ethical fashion. Top players are diversifying and expanding their ranges, and tailoring their goods to specific markets. At the same time, we're seeing a lot of cultural fusion, whether in the design of the clothes, or in the way the entrepreneurs are interacting with their factories and manufacturers. This is really important--decent communication with artisans from different cultures ensures smooth running of the production line. Brands like Choolips and Lalesso stress the importance of effective collaboration. Annagret of Choolips goes further, chatting with everyone involved in the creation of the her funky Africentric clothing to make sure they're comfortable with how things are run. There needs to be a balance between the cutting-edge process a lot of these young guns are using, and the deep traditions of the artisans that are making them.
There's a real sense of concentration on fit, comfort and finish, especially in the eco-luxe brands. More than one attendee noted that Fairtrade and good practice need to be an underlying principle rather than the main reason for buying the clothes. Claire Lissaman for shirt-maker Arthur And Henry pointed out that she wasn't just aiming her clothes at the eco-concsious male, but at the man who wanted a really good, long-lasting shirt for work.
Longevity seems to be a keyword, tying into Pier Crush Vivienne Westwood's mantra of "Buy Less. Choose Well. Make It Last." Finnish designer Anniina Nurmi is making jeans for men and women from a solid cotton/hemp mix. They're built to last, and simply styled to stay on trend season after season.
There was a real determination to smash preconceptions about Fairtrade, and many designers at the preview were pushing clothes that had sharp silhouettes and edgy styling. There's nothing wrong with bold ethnic prints and loose fit, but it's good to have a choice. I especially liked Kowtow's clever, angular basics and 8045's clean-lined menswear.
There were some real innovators at the event. It was great to hear from Ann Runnel of Reet Aus, who's figured out a way to use textile waste at a mass-market scale, creating patchwork skirts and jodhpurs on a huge production line in Bangladesh. José Hendo's is exploring the use of different fabrics from surprising places. She's the first designer to source her organic cotton and hemp entirely from the UK, and she's innovative in her use of barkcloth from Uganda. This is a traditional material that, as the name suggests, is made from a particular treebark. Eminantly sustainable (a fresh harvest from the same trees every year) and desirable to boot--in Uganda, tribal elders and kings wear clothes made from barkcloth. It has the look and feel of suede, apparantly.
It was nice to see some Pier chums at the event too: Katie from Mantis World revealed a massive expansion in their range, and the launch of a new wholesale arm. Pants To Poverty showed off their new collection of lounge and sleepwear, and showed how the last year has shown them move from a minor player to a big noise in the ethical marketplace. And it's always nice to see Nancy Dee and their feminine, flattering vintage silhouettes--a classic look with a modern twist.
I've barely scratched the surface of the goodies at the Brand Preview, and the good news is, it's not over yet. The event continues today, looking at jewellery, lingerie and footwear. Look out for Pier chums like Katcha Bilek and Blysia. The event is online, free to register and you can pick up from anywhere with an internet collection.
If you can't make the time today, the streams and Powerpoints are available to browse and download at your leisure. Now, you can't say fairer than that, can you?
The 2013 Source Brand Preview is the place to be to find out about how this year is shaping up in ethical fashion. The synopsis? It's looking GOOD.
The 2013 Source Brand Preview.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

A Bear For Mali

Mali is one of those places that has suffered greatly over the years. A land-locked country facing imminent threat from terrorist forces coming through the Gobi Desert, Mali seems to be in the news for all the wrong reasons.
As ever, we focus on the negatives. Mali is a vibrant, artistic place, renowned for its music and fabric-making. And now Japanese artist Junichi Nakane is using those fabrics do his bit for the country: by making teddy bears to sell for charity.
After a trip to Mali in 2011, Nakane was struck by the poor access to water suffered by a lot of the communities in the central plateau region, and in particular the village of Tireli. It cost far more money to bore and build a well than these people could afford. On his return to America, and inspired by the waxed fabric the Malians used in everyday life, Nakane pledged to do something for the people of Tireli.

So the Kumanokoido were born. Sewn together using fabrics from across the country, the cute little bears sold out within hours of their first limited production run going on sale. Nakane is keen to sell more, and he's offering the bears on a bespoke, build-to-order model. As well as the Malian fabric, you can also buy kumanokoido made from clashing patches of camouflage fabric. Pieces from countries like the U.S., Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Brazil could find themselves on the same bear. As Nakane explains:
"The Camo Bears are made up of camouflage from different countries that in all reality may not get along that well. This is my way of depicting anti-war and [a hopeful] unity between these countries."
It's a fun project with a serious purpose, and one that's worth supporting at a tumultuous point in Mali's history.
Find out more about the kumanokoido at the website, where you can also pre-order your own.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Shaking And Stirring Up The Red Carpet with Naomie Harris

The Red Carpet, Green Dress initiative, judged by Pier Crush Vivienne Westwood, has a winner, and a star and walk the winning design down the red carpet at this year's Oscar ceremony.

Ghanaian-born designer Michael Badger has won the competition, launched in 2010 by Suzi Amis Cameron, wife of "Avatar" director James Cameron, to help promote ethical and sustainable behaviour in fashion. His design, which beat out some ferocious competition, will be worn by Bond beauty Naomie Harris at the awards. It seems the stars of Skyfall have eco-cred to spare--Naomie's co-star, Javier Bardem, wore a Gucci organic-cotton tux and shirt, and a recycled satin tie to the film's London premiere.

Michael will now be working closely with Vivienne to get his design ready for the awards on February 24th. The dress will be created on cradle-to-cradle principles, and certified by a co-sponsor of this year's competition, the Cradle To Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

Congrats to Michael, and here's to seeing more designs like his on the red carpet soon!

For more on Red Carpet Green Dress and this year's winner, go to the website.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Enough Food For Everyone? Could Be...

In June next year, the G8 summit is meeting in London. It's a great opportunity to make our voices heard, and make sure our opinions and ideas on how to end poverty and hunger do not fall on wilfully deaf ears.

To that end, Pier32 is happy to be joining the broad spectrum of support for the Enough Food For Everyone IF... campaign. It's a simple idea. Our use of land resources is badly skewed towards cash crops that don't pay enough, and away from food production for the majority of people that work the land. There would easily be enough food for everyone if we changed our ways.

It comes down to four big ifs. There's enough for everyone IF...

  • We use land for food rather than fuel.
  • We make sure enough aid gets to the poorest countries to enable farmers to start feeding themselves.
  • Governments make sure that big companies pay their fair amount of tax.
  • Governments are transparent and open about the ways in which they deal with poorer countries.

Sounds pretty simple. The trick is in getting the big guns at the G8 summit to pay attention and start to play fair. Which is where the Enough Food For Everyone IF... campaign comes in. It's the return of Make Poverty History, with fresh aims and new goals. Pier32 came about in its current form thanks to the work Gerry the Voice did for the campaign back in the day. It makes perfect sense that we should be around for this one.

For more info on the campaign, and to sign up, check the website.

Here's the video, which sets out the aims of the campaign with the use of some charming hand-drawn animation.

We have until June. Let's get ourselves heard.



Wednesday 23 January 2013

The Source Brand Preview: Your Ethical Fashion Primer For 2013!

Now, this could be interesting. The Ethical Fashion Forum, whose Source Awards were such a source of interest (sorry) late last year, have an event next week that you should try to check out if you're into the sustainable side of looking good.

The Source Brand Preview is a web-based event taking place on Wednesday and Thursday next week that aims to highlight the very best in cutting-edge fashion with an ethical bent. From womenswear to lingerie, menswear to accessories, there's an expanding range of exciting designers and ateliers that will be featured at the show. And, as it's a webinar, you can check it out from the comfort of your own sofa, while wearing a Pier32 onesie and sipping a cocoa. I mean, no-one actually wants to go out in weather like this, right?

Pier32 pals like Mantis World, Katcha Bilek, Blysia and Pants To Poverty will all be featured in what's looking to be a packed programme of events and showcases. This one looks like an essential visit.

Oh, did I mention it's free to register and attend? Ah, now I've got your attention! Hit up the link below, and join the discerning cognoscenti (and er, me) at the Source Brand Preview 2013.

The Ethical Fashion Forum Source Brand Preview 2013


Monday 21 January 2013

Follow The Bear

2012 was a big year for a very well-known and loved British character. He had two new books written about him, a set of DVDs and a whole new shop dedicated exclusively to him. In fact, some people think he has a whole train station named after him. Who am I talking about?
Why, it's the bear from Peru with a taste for marmalade sandwiches and a penchant for shiny wellington boots, Paddington, of course. In a bumper year for the bear, author Michael Bond, who started writing about him in 1958 brought out a couple of new adventures, and a Britannia themed DVD box set of the well-loved FilmFair series from the 80s hit the shops as well. He was also the star of a new range of items created in conjunction with famed Japanese artist Shinzi Katoh which launched exclusively at Harrod's for Christmas 2012.

What's Pier32's connection to all this? Well, we've been supplying t-shirts to the stall at the concourse at Paddington station for a couple of years now, and we've also sorted out the staff with smart fleeces to keep them snug while they sell. That stall has now expanded into a shop with a commanding view over the station. I popped along to meet Jackie, who's been with the Paddington family since the early eighties and runs the shop, to find out a bit more about what's in store for the bear in the next couple of years.
Jackie, smart in her Pier32 fleece.
"The shop's taken over the space that used to be the London 2012 Store", she explained. "It's great for us as we can have so much more stock out at once, and display a much wider range too." The old stall was in a great position, right by the station entrance, but they were limited as to what they could show. "It could also get pretty cold down there in winter," Jackie said. "We needed the Pier32 fleeces then!" They're desirable items, apparently. Jackie pointed out that more than one person has asked if they can buy them.
The change in location has improved business no end. Jackie estimates footfall has gone up by a half since the shop opened for business in November, just in time for Christmas. I asked what sort of people came in through the doors. "Just about everyone," she said. "Young mums and grannies who grew up with Paddington like to pass the stories they loved as children on to their kids. There's a big international market as well. The Americans and Japanese love Paddington." She thinks there's room to include a Paddington in some of the London tourist couch tours. After all, there's both the bear and the beautiful Isambard Kingdom Brunel ironwork to visit!
I wanted to know why she thought Paddington had lasted for so long. After all, he's 55 in June (although there's no sign of any grey hair as yet). Jackie had no doubts. "He's an iconic British character, with a real gentleness to him."
I definitely agree with that. For me, Paddington has all the best bits of the British character. He's unfailingly polite, but he speaks his mind and doesn't suffer fools gladly. He may look cuddly and a bit vulnerable--but watch out if he turns his hard stare on you!
Before I left, Jackie shared one last bit of exciting news. Paddington will star in his own feature film, set to be released in 2014. Produced by David Heyman, the man behind the Harry Potter movies, it looks to be one of the big movie events of the next couple of years.

Many thanks to Jackie, and to Linda Pooley and Polly Emery from Copyrights Group for giving me their valuable time. You can find the Paddington Store on the first floor of the main shopping concourse at Paddington Station, The Lawn. Look out for the statue of the bear, and Jackie will be waiting for you at the top of the escalator.
Paddington Bear™ © Paddington and Company Limited 2013
PB™, Paddington™, and Paddington Bear™ are trademarks of Paddington and Company Limited
Licensed by Copyrights Group

Thursday 17 January 2013

Flash Discount - free delivery this week!

Just a quick one to highlight the first of our week-long flash discount events that Pier32 will be pushing through 2013.

For this week only, from today till the 24th January, the first £100 of carriage, delivery, packing and insurance are on us. And as it's rare for our delivery costs to go over a ton, we're effectively offering free delivery.

This offer is only on until next Thursday, so you'd better get a wiggle on if you want to snag a bargain. Keep an eye on the View and our Twitter and Facebook feeds for announcements of more events and special offers.

For more details, check the mailout, or chat to the Pier32 team. As the temperature drops, we've got you covered.


Wednesday 16 January 2013

Wheely Good News From The London Cycling Campaign

I have to admit, I'm no driver. The last time I sat behind the wheel of a car, I managed to back it into a tree. At 5mph the damage was minimal, but still. Things like that tend to put you off life in the fast lane.

Therefore, I proudly identify as a cyclist, whizzing off to the shops or the pictures on my trusty, two-wheeled steed. I'm part of an ever-growing band of brothers and sisters who prefer the greener, more sustainable way to make short journeys in urban spaces. And, as we're officially in The Month Of Detox, I can vouch for the healthy attributes of life in the saddle.

However, life isn't all sunshine and roses when you're on a bike. In London particularly, and especially if you're a cycling newbie, the streets of the city can be a very dangerous place.

Kudos, then, to the London Cycling Campaign, who have launched The Bike Station in Broadgate, near to Liverpool Street Station right in the heart of jolly old London. Put together in association with Broadgate Estates, The Bike Station is a safe place where you can hit up experienced cyclists for free help and advice. They'll be happy to sort you out with everything from tips on safe urban cycling to route planning and essential bike maintenance.

Pier32 were happy to help out the LCC with softshell jackets and hi-vis aprons for the launch of The Bike Station last week, and we're delighted to give a big shout out to a cause that's aimed specifically at getting more people onto bikes in London. Especially as the London Bike Show starts tomorrow!

The Bike Station is open every first and third Thursday of the month in Finsbury Avenue Square in Broadgate until April. For more info, check out the link below.

The Bike Station At Broadgate Estates


Monday 14 January 2013

Getting The Need For Speed With Kartforce

The Pier32 team crammed into the Piermobile late last week for a trip up the M6 to Birmingham, for the Autosport show at the NEC. Although we are for the most part petrolheads (yr humble writer not included, more on that later in the week), slobbering over the rims and shocks was not our primary reason for hitting the Midlands.

We were there to support Kartforce, the charity that helps injured veterans by giving them a chance to prove themselves out on the race-track. They were competing as part of a charity event headed up by racing legend Johnny Herbert--a 3-hour endurance go-kart race.

You shouldn't roll your eyes. These machines are low, light, hugely manoeuvrable and bloody quick. They can do a lap of a quarter-mile circuit in something under 30 seconds. Not bad for something with a two-stroke engine in it.

Pier32 are sponsors of the Kartforce team, who race using specially modified machines. As they have three legs between the four of them, that's kind of handy (if you'll excuse the pun). But the boys were given no special treatment out on the track. Kartforce were there to compete, and they didn't need any favours.

They had one ace up their sleeve, though. Each of the 20 teams on the grid had a celebrity driver to help or hinder them, and Kartforce lucked out big time. They only went and got themselves The Stig. Ben Collins, Bond stunt driver and the first man in the iconic white suit and helmet was there to give advice, support and to tear up the track. He wasn't slacking, either--Ben was very much a part of the team from the get-go. He was a blur of motion both in the pits and behind the wheels of the kart.

Ali, Pier32 Mascot And Future Head Of The Company took something of a shine to Ben, following him around all day with a wide-eyed starry look. The Stig, bless him, was ever patient and never ignored him, answering all his questions. When Ben signed his fleece, I think all Ali's Christmases had come at once.

About that fleece. As part of our sponsorship deal, we provided Kartforce with their official team wear. The fleeces are lovely, warm Regatta numbers, covered in logos. Styling race wear. I got to keep one, which was an unexpected treat. I shall wear it with pride--it helps to spread the word about both Kartforce and Pier32.

The race was an endurance event, with plenty of drama and shifting fortunes. In the last half hour, as tiredness set in, mistakes started to be made, and the tracksides were heavily banged about. Lts of flying plastic. There were no major crashes, but plenty of bumps and black flags. This wasn't a banger race, and everyone was deadly serious about doing well.

In the end, Kartforce managed a very creditable 12th place, beating some fairly serious karting teams. That was a solid result, and I reckon the Kartforce guys can walk away from that with their heads held high. It was a long day, but a worthwhile one that will stick in my memory for a while. Here's to the next one!

For more on the great work that Kartforce do for our injured veterans, check out the website. Thanks so much to Dave and the team for letting us join them on their big day.

Your author, with the Piermobile.


Friday 11 January 2013

One-sie To Rule Them All

We like to keep up with the latest trends here at The Pier. We believe in responding to our client's needs. And more and more, what we're hearing is that our clients need onesies.

If you don't know what I'm talking about--lucky you. The onesie is pretty much what it sounds like. It's a grown-up version of the all-in-one that you put a baby in, complete with feet and a hood. The onesie is the natural progression from last year's blanket with sleeves, the slanket. We're basically talking about super-comfy home wear. A simpler, more cosy version of the track suit.

The onesie has blown up over the last nine months. My 18 year old super-stylish nephew, who plays for a League One football team, has been known to wear his onesie out in the street. There are sightings of people in onesies in the supermarket, on the school run. They're a revelation, apparently. Once you slide into a onesie, you're converted.

How can we not respond to that? As Guru Ian tweeted earlier in the week, Pier32 offer a onesie in our 2013 catalogue, available to customise in whatever way you see fit. Available in 8 colours and 4 sizes, we've got you quite literally covered from head to toe with this one. If there's not such a thing as a sleepover club, there soon will be.

And there's no point in sneering. Onesies will be everywhere this year. After all, it's not like there isn't precedent...


The Onesie at Pier32.


Thursday 10 January 2013

New Year's Detox From Uniqlo, and Levi's Up The Ante With WasteLess Jeans.

Looks like we have a couple of front-runners in the race for big multinationals to show off some green credentials in 2013.
Uniqlo, the Japanese clothing giant, are the latest company to sign up to Greenpeace's Detox Pledge to eradicate all toxic chemicals from their supply chain by 2020. This brings the roll-call of pledgees up to an even dozen. It's not the only example of sustainable behaviour from Uniqlo, either. They're radically expanding the clothes recycling project that has been running in Japan since 2001, rolling it out to their US, UK and French stores through the early part of this year. The initiative actually started in November in Uniqlo's New York flagships, and you can expect to be able to recycle your clean, dry and unwanted articles soon. The campaign is run in conjunction with The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and every item donated will either be going to displaced people in need of fresh duds, or upcycled into insulation or fuel.

Meanwhile Levi's, whose signature to the Detox pledge came late last year following demonstartions by Greenpeace outside their stores, are quietly proving that their commitment to a sustainable strategy is more than just a show or attempt to protect their brand. The jeans giant have launched a new range of Waste<Less jeans, made partially from PET: shredded plastic drinks bottles. Each pair will contain at least 20% recycled material. Levi's has also put a lot of research and work into cutting the amount of water used to manufacture and finish their clothes. Low-water methods of growing cotton, and changes in the way they soften and distress their denim means that there's been a 90% decrease in the amount of water they use since 2007. Where the largest jeans manufacturer on the planet goes, others will follow. Waste<Less jeans should be available in the first quarter of the year.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Put A Cork In It...

...or more accurately, put it in some cork. Although Pier32's Mobile Blogging Solution is a highly evolved and effective method for getting the latest in ethical fashion and charity news out to everyone, yr. humble writer is always interesting in seeing what other options are out there for him and his trusty iPad.
Let us then consider the sexy, angular new case from Pomm Design. Crafted entirely from sustainable, eco-friendly cork, the iCorkCase is a simple and elegant solution to the eternal dilemma of how to keep your beloved slab of tech safe and clean.
Naturally shock-absorbent and biodegradable, cork is the ideal choice for an increasing range of products, particularly as the traditional market for the material - wine bottle closure - is under threat from screw-top and plastic corks. Take, for example, Nike's latest trainer, the LeBron X. Designed to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the basketball player's association with the sportswear giant, the shoe features an upper made entirely from cork. Breathable, water-resistant and supple, this is not just a gimmick. Cork has been used in shoe manufacture since the 14th century, and its naturally shock-absorbent qualities make it the ideal choice for high quality, comfortable footwear.
I'll pop open a bottle to celebrate that!

Monday 7 January 2013

How Much Good Can A Jumper Do?

Christmas jumpers were big in 2012. All of a sudden, the embarrassment factor behind them has vanished, and everyone (including The Pier's own Guru Ian) are wearing their woolly, reindeer-encrusted pullies with pride.
But that was then. The Xmas woolies have gone back in the drawer of shame, and it's time to look ahead. This week's big news in chunky knitwear comes from a very unlikely source indeed: Myanmar. Two jumpers knitted by democracy activist and politician Aung Sun Suu Kyi have been auctioned for over $120,000. They were knitted by Suu Kyi while she was under house arrest for speaking out against the military dictatorship in the former Burmese state in the 90s.
The $123,000 raised by the sale will go towards children's and community projects in Myanmar, helping to secure social change in an area that is still politically unstable. As you can see by the picture, Aung Sun Suu Kyi has a bold eye for both colour and design. I think there's a knitwear line in there when things finally settle down in Myanmar.