Wednesday 26 June 2013

Walking With Pride and NAT

Pier32 are supplying t-shirts for the National AIDS Trust, as they join the throngs of people hitting the city for London Pride. Here's more on what they do, how they're doing it and how you can help!

On 29 June 2013 NAT (National AIDS Trust), the UK’s leading campaigning HIV charity, will be walking at London Pride. We will be promoting our message of getting people passionate about HIV activism.
With a 50-strong crowd we will be marching down Baker Street, through Oxford Street and Trafalgar Square to Whitehall. The route is only two miles but it will take us about three hours.
While we are marching we will be wearing t-shirts, supplied with support from Pier 32, asking people to ‘GET PASSIONATE’ and become a HIV Activist. By wearing our message literally on our chests we will be channelling HIV Activism that was so important in the early days of the HIV epidemic.
We will be giving out stickers, holding up placards, and making our voices heard. By doing this we hope to sign up more people to our HIV Activist Network.
The HIV Activists Network is a virtual group of individuals who are passionate about the rights of people living with HIV - and want to campaign for change.
The group brings people together and provides the tools and information they need to take direct action on issues affecting the lives, rights and well-being of people living with HIV and communities at increased risk of HIV.
Susan Cole, community engagement officer, said:
“The Network combines people’s voices – the more we have the louder they will be.”
NAT will be marching in the front section of the London Pride parade on 29 June 2013.

You can find out about becoming an HIV Activist at


As promised, here's a pic of the NAT guys and gals in their Pier32-supplied T-shirts. Looking good, everyone, and best of luck tomorrow!

Monday 24 June 2013

Here Comes The Sun?

Something a little bit different for a Monday morning. Our clients, and anyone that has had occasion to call up the island base of Pier32 will have had the unadorned pleasure of speaking to Gerry Hayter. The boss of us all here at the Pier, he's a proud and upright fella from sunny Hounslow (like Elvis Costello) with a colourful history in the music biz, and a voice that has equal measures of gravel and honey in it. It's an extraordinary thing, and makes Gerry a real joy to chat to on the phone.
He dropped me an email on Friday, which said in part:
It feels like summer at last at Pier 32 and just found one of my top toons from way back when I was A&R Manager in Africa for US label Casablanca Records. Would be good to see it up on the blog as Gerry's memories of summers past...
Can't say fairer than that. Summer so far has been hit and miss, to put it mildly. So let's invoke a little African magic, courtesy of The Voice of Pier32, and I hope it brings a little sunshine into your day.
Any other requests?

Friday 21 June 2013

Vaho: Vinyl Addiction

Here's a tip from Guru Ian that I'm happy to share. While wandering around Barcelona (a detail that he somehow couldn't resist from slipping into his email) he came across a company called Vaho.
They create bags, wallets and holdalls from heavy, commercial-grade vinyl--the sort of stuff you see on hoardings and billboards. This long-lasting, heavyweight material is, like the rubber used in Katcha Bilek or Sophie Postma's bags, a resource that's ripe for retasking. The vinyl is taken from banners used as promotional materials for festivals, concerts and special events--material that has served its primary purpose, but has plenty of life left in it. It's cleaned, cut and formed into a wide range of accessories.
The end result is colourful, practical and dare I say it (yes, yes I dare) chock-full of both WANT and GIMMEE. The aesthetic is close to Frieheit's messenger bags. The waxed tarpaulin, with its splashes of logowork and beautiful information design, has an edgy feel that works well with the knowledge that you'd have to work very hard indeed to damage these bags beyond repair.
There's some clever thinking in the way the bags have been put together as well. Each Vaho piece contains a strong rare-earth magnet, which means you can stick them on any metal surface. This gives the Vaho shops a neat way of showing off their goods: the walls are clad in steel, and everything's magnetically stuck in place.
Of course, there's also the knowledge that every Vaho piece is, by dint of being made from commercial signage, different from every other piece. You're getting a lot of designer cool, and a very tough, hard-wearing bag for your money. You can even design your own. Pick your bag, pick your banner, merge the two and you have something that's unique to you.
People, I've spent all morning slobbering in a most unseemly fashion over Vaho and their "trashion" accessories on their webstore. They're making great products with a genuine desire to create sustainably, all with a suitably Spanish dash of surreal humour. They're always trying out new things, experimenting with furniture, totes made from old jute coffee bags and more.
Vaho are just my speed, and I'm definitely going to check them out when I'm next in Barcelona. The dfficult bit is deciding how much I can get away with spending. Muy bueno!

Thursday 20 June 2013

Katcha Bilek: Doing Good While Doing Well

Exciting news from our friend Katcha Bilek. Her work is being showcased as part of the Pop-up Britain initiative that kicks off this week at the spiritual home of London fashion, the King's Road in Chelsea.
She'll be showing off new designs and road-testing some new concepts during the two week run of the show, which runs from tomorrow until the 4th of July. Katcha says she's developed a bit of an addiction to pop-up shops (something that has to come from her base in the markets of Bristol) so it should be really interesting to see what she's got to show us.
It's turning into something of a bumper 2013 for Katcha Bilek. She recently won silver in the Craft and Design Selected Awards. Judge Medeia Cohan-Petrolino said that she:
"...explores traditional methods with modern implementation and humour. Her interest in creatively repurposing vegan materials, long term sustainability and future plans for realising a social enterprise are to be celebrated and replicated, as an example of creativity with social purpose, capturing the idea of doing good, while doing well."
Meanwhile, Katcha also got the nod as "Most Eco-Friendly Business" in the Bristol Zoo Hall Of Fame, celebrating the best of Bristol Business, and her work was at the forefront of the gala launch event for the city's Big Green Week. Which just goes to show, you don't need to make a splash in That London to be something a bit special.
However, if you've got the urge to make it to Chelsea, I urge you to drop in and say hi, check out the bags and maybe support a local, sustainable business that's really showing us how it should be done. The preview event for Katcha's pop-up shop is tonight, Thursday 20th, at 387 Kings Road, Chelsea SW10 0LR, between 5:30 and 9:00. Tell 'em Pier32 sent you.

Pop-Up Kings Road

Monday 17 June 2013

A Festival For Everyone

The Greenwich and Docklands International Festival (GDIF from here on in, I think, let's keep the writer's RSI down to a low roar) is one of the premier showcases for outdoor and physical theatre in the world. It regularly premieres big works by some of the most innovative theatre companies around, and all for free.

This year, the Festival features over 150 performances by 30 national and international companies with more than 80,000 people attending the outdoor shows in East and South London. Many of the prime movers behind the festival were the brains behind last year's Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony, the intention for the 2013 event is clear: to build upon and expand the amazing feeling of commumity and celebration that the Olympics brought to London.

There's a mindboggling array of things to see and do. The piazzas at Canary Wharf will be transformed into outdoor dance arenas, and Woolwich High Street will be reimagined. With the Paralympic connection, of course there's a strong focus on accessibility, and showing that disability is no barrier to creativity, courage and inspiration.

Shows to watch out for this year include The Limbless Knight, a cautionary tale of the erosion of our human rights staged by Graeae, and One Million, Tangled Feet's daring new production that tackles the problem of youth unemployment in a dazzling spectacle that weaves in, around and above the audience. But there's something for everyone, and no excuse to make the effort to get down to the eastern end of the River Thames and check out the action.

The GDIF runs from this Friday, the 21st, through to the 28th of June. All events are free, although you may need to book ahead for certain events due to limited space. Full details are on the website. Follow the GDIF link below for a video giving a little more background on what you can expect at this year's festival.

(In case you're wondering at the Pier32 connection to all this: we've supplied staff t-shirts and hi-vis vests for the festival -- no small undertaking!)

See you there!



Thursday 13 June 2013

Still Alive

Since the Rana Plaza collapse in April, more and more attention has been drawn towards the dreadful conditions under which most garment workers in the Far East, Asia and India have to work. The trick is to keep that fact high on the agenda. It's important that the notion of better working conditions for third world workers doesn't become this year's fad. High in the sky like a firework one minute, nothing but cinders a moment later.
The Offset Warehouse, probably the biggest distributor of eco- and ethical-friendly clothing, are doing their bit to raise awareness. They've launched the "Still Alive" t-shirt, which boldly puts its status as cruelty-free wear front and centre. There's a nod to Katherine Hamnett's classic protest t-shirt designs in the strong, sans serif text and simple, direct message. It also makes an uncomfortable point in a clear fashion: it'll probably be one of the few items in your wardrobe that you can be totally certain has been made in an ethical manner. The t-shirts are made in factories where the employees are treated and paid fairly, and all the profits will go towards supporting the rights of garment workers worldwide.
They're under a fiver, which I'd say is well worth the investment. Show your support for garment workers rights, and look good doing it.

The Still Alive T-Shirt at Offset Warehouse

Monday 10 June 2013

Veleco: Smart Cyclewear

Cycling is one of the smartest ways to get around. It has next to no environmental impact, keeps you fit and can be a lot of fun. Of course, you also get issues with pedestrians plugged into iPods who walk out in front of you without looking and drivers who hate the idea of sharing the road with anything that slows them down by 30 seconds. But then, nothing's perfect.
As you can tell, I'm a cyclist. I'm passionate about it as a sport, a pastime and a lean, sustainable means of transportation. However, I'm not one of the characters in skin-tight lycra. I'd look like even more of a cock than they do. I lean towards the Dutch school of cycling apparel--that is, wearing normal clothes.
However, I can be persuaded towards more specialist cycle-wear if the motivation is right. Which is why I'm pleased to announce that I'm one of the first sponsors for Fair Corp's new range of ethical bike gear. Currently running on Kickstarter, Veleco is a collection of t-shirts, classically-styled musette bags and caps made from organic cotton in a sweatshop-free environment. They come in a ton of different designs, and, if Fair Corp's famous Ethletic shoes are anything to go by, are built to last.
The campaign is currently at £1500, with 23 days left to run. £35 gets you a t-shirt with your choice of logo, a bag and a cap... and the knowledge that you're supporting a great new venture and, in a broader sense, the cycling cause. Being Kickstarter, it's a risk-free investment in a new business venture. If they don't make the target, you don't get the goodies. So join me, because I really fancy a skull and crankshaft t-shirt. If you're a cyclist with any sense of style, you should be all over this .
Get with the peleton, readers. The road awaits.
Veleco Kickstarter

Friday 7 June 2013

After The Rubber Hits The Road

Rubber is one of those materials that just keeps on giving. Sustainably sourced (it's a sap produced by rubber trees which can be harvested for years on end) and tough enough to be recycled in all sorts of different ways. We're big fans of Katcha Bilek's designs for belts and accessories that she sells online and at her Bristol stall, but plenty of other designers see the benefits in recycled rubber.

Sophie Postma runs Reclaim Bags, a one-woman operation that creates exciting new bags and clutches from the most humble of starting points: old inner tubes. These come to her in conditions ranging from reasonable to, erm, "scarred". Frequently rusty and filthy, the tubes undergo careful cleaning before being polished, cut and formed into Reclaim's distinctive and minimalist product line.

Up until very recently, you could have any colour as long as it's black. In the last few weeks, however, Sophie has been experimenting with PVC flaps and inserts in red and white, adding a whole new range of texture and pop to a limited edition run of clutches.

The way in which Sophie hides the Reclaim brand name in cutouts shows a playful nature that works well with the formal lines of her designs. They're fun accessories with a real sense of flair, and surprisingly affordable.

They're available online, and at the Reclaim stall at Spitalfield Market every Friday. Worth a trip if you're in the City Of London.

Reclaim Bags

Wednesday 5 June 2013

One Of Your Five A Day

We're always interested in finding out about alternative yarns for fabric. From traditional fibres like nettle and hemp that are ripe for rediscovery, to recycled plastics and spaceage monofibres, we've seen and written about them all here at The Pier.

But here's a real mind-boggler, and an inspired example of lateral thinking. A group of Italian students noted an increased problem with the disposal of citrus harvest waste near to their study base in Milan. Was there anything they could do with the huge amounts of pulp, rind and fibre that the food industry created?

Wait. Fibre. The waste is largely cellulose, which can be transformed into fibre, which can be used to make yarn, and then on to fabric. The students, chemistry majors at the Politechnico di Milano, spent a year on the problem.

The end result? Orange Fiber. The core fabric in designer Adriana Santanocito's Fall/Winter 2012 collection, this cloth has some surprising benefits apart from its impeccable ethical and environmental credentials.

Natural citrus oils remain in the fabric, so as you wear it the clothing releases doses of Vitamin A, C and E onto your skin. This benefit is something that nano-tech fabric researchers have been working on for years, trying to find ways of embedding micro-capsules of nutrients or moisturiser into the cloth. The students who now run Orange Fiber have beaten them to the finish line by all accounts. This is clothing that looks good and does you good.

What next? Well, Orange Fiber are one of ten startups to be featured at the 2015 Changemakers Expo in Milan, which should focus a ton of attention and money on them. Their goal is to bring new life to the Italian textile industry, and a shot of sunshine to ethical manufacture there.

I'll raise a glass of juice to that.

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Saving The Rainforest With Lily Cole

You should, as the saying goes, never judge a book by the cover. Take model and actress Lily Cole. Her ethereal, almost alien looks have seen her spook up the catwalk for years. She's been cast as a sea-nymph in Doctor Who, and a mystery girl in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. She seems almost apart from this world. Otherworldly.
Her efforts on behalf of a wide range of ethical campaigns, and her role as the face of Sky Rainforest Rescue tell a different story. Now, in conjunction with them and the WWF she's launched a new range of jewellery, with an unusual main component.
Lily was inspired by a visit to wild rubber plantations in north-west Brazil, seeing huge, delicate sheets of the stuff hung out to dry. The rubber, in jewel-like colours, sparked an idea. It took a little work, though. She says:
"I looked into embroidering it, I looked into putting lace into it and creating different textures. I looked at carving it, but in the end all I had were these millimetre-thick sheets of rubber, so I ended up doing things very simply."
By which, she means pendants, ear-rings, bracelets and rings in warm, soft colours teamed with bronze inserts. They're somehow delicate, their simplicity all the more striking given the craftsmanship of the pieces.
The jewellery is designed to highlight an important issue: the erosion of wild rubber plantations in Brazil. Farmers, faced with dwindling profits in the face of plantation rubber, are cutting down hundreds of acres of virgin forest to clear space for crops and livestock. The task is to persuade these communities that wild rubber still has a place in the global marketplace, and is a viable alternative to farming. Lily wants to help save a billion trees in the Amazon rainforest. Encouraging the use of this most sustainable resource is a good way of keeping the trees where they belong: as part of the lungs of the world.
Projects like this are important to the role of green economics as a part of the general ecological movement. Empowering local communities to make the most of the resources to hand rather than forcing them into an ill-suited subsistence farming model helps them, us and the planet. Here at the Pier we applaud Lily's efforts, and note that this is no expensive vanity project. Her jewellery is thoroughly affordable, with rings starting at just a tenner. Well worth checking out. Why not get a little rubber in your life? You'll be doing us all a favour.

Lily Cole's Jewellery for the Sky Rainforest Rescue project is available at

*UPDATE* sold out with more coming soon, I'm told. If you Facebook, you can sign up to be told when new stock becomes available.

Monday 3 June 2013

How many slaves work for you?

A tough question for a Monday morning, sure. But it's one that shouldn't be ignored. It's a hard truth that many of the raw materials and manufacturing processes on which we rely use slavery in some form or another, either as indentured workers or through debt bondage and economic migrancy gone wrong.

If you're a consumer, then at some point some products in your household have been touched by slavery. If you're a geek, like me, with a ton of gadgets in the house, or cotton clothing in the wardrobe
, or if you like prawns or bananas, or have a tin can in the food cupboard, then you are housing products of slavery. It's pointless to deny it.

It's important to know more about the role slavery still plays in the world, which is why I spent an eye-opening five minutes on Slavery Footprint. It takes you through the contents of your life, from clothes to food to technology, the car you drive, the bicycle you pedal so proudly to the station in the morning. Got kids? Well, they need feeding and clothing, and I bet they have a cupboard full of toys.

The friendly graphical interface takes you through everything, allowing you to finetune the results, before dropping a bomb on your head. Me? I like to think I lead a good life, with a low global impact. I took the survey, answering honestly.

53 slaves work for me.

Once the awful truth has dawned, you're given the chance to find out more, and maybe do something about it. But we should not be complacent. Slavery is still a major force in the global workplace, and our blithe ignorance of that fact doesn't make it any less real or shocking. I urge you to give Slavery Footprint a go, and find out just what your comfortable life is built on.

Slavery Footprint