Wednesday 27 November 2013

My Five Picks For The Source Awards

With the Source Awards coming up, I've been presented with a chance to highlight some exciting and innovative brands and producers. As always, The Ethical Fashion Forum have chosen some strikingly creative people to honour with nominations and, of course, awards. I thought I'd stick my oar in and raise a glass to five nominees that I believe have a good chance of snagging a prize.

I wanted to start by focusing on the menswear category because, you know, I'm a man and I wear, you know, clothes. I'm a little sorry not to see Clare Lissaman's Arthur And Henry shirts in the running this go-round. Instead, I've plumped for Cock And Bull, a menswear company that produces a fine range of clothing, wherever possible, in the UK. Their ethos is to create sustainable style from ethical fabrics. To that end, their tweed caps and waistcoats are woven from British wool and put together by British craftspeople. When they have to source from off our shores, they use hemp, bamboo and organic cotton from ethical sources in India and China. The look is classically English with a twist: pops of colour and interesting patterns.

I mentioned Senhoa in my post earlier this week. Creators of beautiful, Asian-inspired accessories, they work exclusively with victims of human trafficking or women vulnerable to exploitation in Cambodia, teaching them new skills and enabling them with a trade and an independent income.
The sale of their socially-conscious jewel ensembles provides income-generating opportunities, and aids the rescue, rehabilitation, and education of young women in South East Asia.

Sticking with accessories, I was struck by the hefty, edgy designs coming out of Australian house The Sway. Crafted from up-cycled leather and linings, the range is heavy on biker chic. Their clutches and bags are studded and buckled, and bulging with hard-rock attitude. They even do a couple of leather jackets. Proudly worn by trend-setters like Amber Valletta and Santigold, The Sway's gear will help you to toughen up your image in moments.

After seven years as the co-founder of women's wear brand HandYMade, Marion "May" Perret decided to start her own eco-luxe lingerie label. Launched in early 2013, Marion May pieces are one of a kind, created from surplus fabric she gleans from her fashion house contacts. Mixing jersey, silk and cotton, and with a mix of retro and contemporary styling, Marion May is creating lingerie with a more than a hint of luxury, that's backed up with a rigorous focus on sustainability.

Finally, my pick for the Source Design Leader, recognising a brand creating outstanding design to change lives, change perceptions, and raise awareness around sustainability in the fashion industry. It's a tough call; all four nominees are seriously pushing the boundaries.

I'm plumping for Quazi Designs. This Swaziland-based company create their jewellery from waste magazine paper stock, in some cases weaving it to create the impression of wood, closing the circle between source and finished product. Working exclusively with female artisans who are encouraged to be a part of the design process, Quazi are really showing what a fashion house based on the twin foundations of sustainability and good ethical practice should be about.

So, those are my picks. We'll find out if I'm on the money or talking through my hat in a few weeks. Who would you pick?

Monday 25 November 2013

A Source Of Greatness: The Source Awards 2013

Crikey, is it that time again already? The Ethical Fashion Forum, home and cheerleader for the cutting-edge in eco-fashion, have just announced the finalists for their Source Awards in 2013. And wow, it's a varied and fascinating line-up.

Of course, there are some names familiar to the readers of this blog: Po-Zu's fantastic footwear gets a nod, as do the beautiful hand-made accessories of Nakate. Our old friends at Mantis World are in the sports and leisure category again; always a worthy nomination. We wouldn't use them at Pier32 if we didn't think they are great.

I'm very pleased to see a company we highlighted back in May, the innovative and potentially game-changing Paper No. 9 getting into the fabric and component manufacture category. Their fabrics are bespoke and limited-edition at the moment, but who knows when that could change?

As ever, the Source Awards highlight the best in ethical fashion: from one-person shops like Senhoa, to big high street names like New Look. The one thing that every nomination has in common? A real, provable commitment to sustainability and fair trade.

The Awards are announced next month. Keep it locked to The View for the full rundown of winners as we get them. In the meantime, the complete list of nominees is below.

The Source Award Nominees For 2013

Thursday 21 November 2013

Wood you like to see more trees? WeWood!*

You might remember I've talked about luxurious, fashion-forward wooden watch brand, WeWood here at The Pier. We're fans of the cool styling and their commitment to sustainability. They've been in touch to let us know about their new initiative. This winter, they're going back to their roots.

WeWood has teamed up with Time4Trees, a new and innovative national planting project. They plant 1.75 million trees annually around Great Britain in collaboration with a range of community, sustainable development and ecological projects. Working in conjunction with Time4Trees, WeWood's tree planting project will see it contribute to the sustainability of the beautiful British countryside by planting hardwood trees every month in the UK through a range of farmer assisted projects. It will plant one tree for every WeWood watch sold.

Matt Cromie, UK Director of WeWood says,

We take our one watch, one plant, one tree motto seriously and are passionate about contributing to sustainability efforts here in the UK and overseas. We use woods that are destined for the scrap heap in our designs and transform them into beautiful, functional watches. We are delighted to be taking our ecological efforts and commitment to sustainability a step further with our new Time4Trees partnership and look forward to making a positive contribution to the nation's woods and forests with one tree planted for every watch we sell.

The UK-based Time4Trees tree planting activity joins WeWood's continuing worldwide effort to plant trees through initiatives like American Forests and Trees for the Future. In addition to planting one tree for every WeWood wooden watch sold, the brand’s social and environmental commitment has seen it supporting a range of projects in local communities in Indonesia including a trade skills school.

We love their sophisticated range of stylish ladies and men’s timepieces made from 100% natural materials. But we really love the way in which WeWood is rapidly creating a name for itself as an eco-responsible company that pairs stylish apparel with sophisticated sustainability. Time4Trees has 380 reforestation teams in the UK, planting in 972 sites spanning 15,270 hectares. It aims to facilitate tens of millions of indigenous tree plantings and plant 2020 miles of new hedgerows. So just think, your swish new watch could help create much-needed habitats for wildlife across the country, and make Britain that little bit greener. For more, check out WeWood's website.

*the management wood like to apologise for the un-necessarily puntastic headline.

Monday 18 November 2013

The Pier In Winter 2: This Time It's Onesies (and Sledges)!

You know Pier32 for our ethical approach to customisable clothing; t-shirts, hoodies, hats and the like. The perfect choices for your business, club or promotional events. You can find Pier32 products everywhere, from university campuses to charities to the arena of the Reading & Leeds and Latitude festivals.

But we also like to think outside the box when it comes to promotional and customisable items, and this winter we have a couple of items that might just interest you.

The onesie is becoming the must-have item for late 2013. The ultimate in comfort wear, it's like wearing a sleeping bag with arms and legs. The onesie has made the transition from campus to high street, and everyone's going to be in one this winter. Forget the slanket, this is the way to spend a lazy day indoors. At Pier32 we have a choice of two styles, available in four sizes and up to 13 colour ways (depending on the brand). All you need to do is upload your artwork, decide on your sizes and colours and then prepare for the snuggliness!

Ready to get comfy? Start here!

But what if you decide to brave the weather and venture outside? Let's take the best case scenario: it's Christmas Day, and the country is blanketed in snow. Well, of course, Pier32 has a great range of winter and ski wear. But I bet you didn't know that we also offer customisable sledges! Again, we offer a choice of styles and colour ways, and the sledges are wood-framed and built to last. These are not throw-away items (we'd hardly be living up to our eco-friendly credentials if they were) and make brilliant presents, corporate give-aways or fund-raising prizes. If you want something unusual to get the name of your brand, product or group across this winter, a sledge is a cheeky and smart way to do it.

For more, contact us today!

So, as the nights draw in, you know that, indoors in the wrm, or outdoors in the snow, Pier32 has you covered.

Friday 15 November 2013

A writer writes, right? or Life During NaNoWriMo

I have a confession to make; my full attention is not on the Pier32 blog. Yes, I know, I hang my head in shame. That is, I would, if I had the time to hang about. Regular readers will know that I engage in all kinds of writerly activities, including my other blog Excuses And Half Truths and its associated podcast.

But this November, after a three-year break, I decided to return to the core event that has helped me find the skills and focus to become a published writer. That break was largely due to the fact that I wasn't sure if I could do it and concentrate appropriately on my duties here at The Pier.

Well, it seems to be the case that I can. Allow me to cross-post a piece from Excuses And Half Truths that explains what I've been up to since November 1st. And in case you're wondering, yes, the typing calluses are fully formed now, thanks...

It's been three years since I did this, and I'm still not sure if I'm doing the right thing, but uh-oh, here we go, NaNoWriMo.

It starts, as it always does, with an idea, usually at the beginning of October. The Nanowrimo feeling hits me in the same way every time--like a swift hit to the third eye. Inspiration strikes with a ball-peen hammer and a bradawl, and story starts flooding into me as if the gods of creativity have just turned on a faucet. I know, at that point, that the moment has come. It's all I can do to keep a header cap on the thing by throwing out plot notes, outlines, character synopses, timelines and the other underpinnings and foundations of any decent novel. All of which is busy work for that sweet moment on November the first, when I put down my first two words: CHAPTER ONE.

Let me slow down and backtrack for those of you amongst the Readership who may be new to my November mania. The National Novel Writing Month is a charity-led initiative focussing on child literacy and creative writing in schools. Through social media and local events, it enables authors of all ages and abilities to knuckle down and get some wordcount where it belongs... on the page. The challenge is this. Write 50,000 words towards the first draft of a novel in a month. Seems like a lot? It breaks down to 1667 words a day. Still seems like a lot? Well, you're right. It is. And that's the point. 

There's a lot of snark on the internet (no, really, there is) making the claim that Nanowrimo is about quantity over quality. 50,000 words in a month? Hardly the making of something that will amuse, inform, thrill, amaze, dazzle, terrify or generally gobsmack, is it? It'll be unreadable garbage. My response? These critics are absolutely right. And none of them are writers, because they have no notion of the concept of Draft Zero.

Draft Zero is the process of getting things down on paper. It doesn't have to be unalloyed genius out of the gate. In fact, most of it will be ugly, clunky and teeth-grittingly terrible. But it's out of your head and it's in a form where you can do something with it. That draft is not something that you can show people. You really, really shouldn't. It's a working document. A starting point. You can throw it into Scrivener and start making sense out of it. You can see what works and what doesn't and, over time, make something wonderful. But there's another aspect, and this is what brings me back year after year.

As soon as you start writing something, it changes under your hands, and goes in directions that you never expected. You can discover that your hero is an inexcusably horrible moron, but his sidekick has a story that just won't go away. You find that you've killed people you shouldn't, and you're clinging on for dear life as your tale gallops along and over fences that you don't remeber putting there in the first place. Under the pressure of a deadline, when you're forced to be creative, you discover that Nanowrimo feeling, and the story just starts spilling out of you. That's my experience, anyway.

I know many people who do Nano that struggle every step of the way, and manage a few thousand words. Have they failed? HELLS no. They've put something down that wouldn't exist otherwise, and somewhere in there might just be the spark of a work of literary art. You don't know, and you can't know, until you start. Once you take that first step, you're in a bigger world, and it's one that's only bounded by your imagination. How can you not want to try something like that out?

It's Day 15, the halfway point. I'm just ahead of the inorexable curve that leads to the 50K total. That could change. Who knows? But I'm so happy to be back. I've missed this feeling.

If you want to know more about Nanowrimo, then your first step should of course be If you want to know more about what I'm up to, then my Nano page is here. Add me as a buddy if you need to. I'm always happy to chat, offer advice, and angst about character development and how my plot has just driven itself off a cliff.

Now, if you'll excuse me. I have a novel to write.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

The House Of Wandering Silk

Sounds exciting, doesn't it? Like one of those gorgeous, colourful martial arts movies like The House Of Flying Daggers. Alas, there's no epic battle scenes or doomed romances to be had here.

That's not to say that The House Of Wandering Silk isn't of interest, though. Let's start off by talking about the material itself. Silk is a renewable material, made from the cocoons of insect larvae like the mulberry silkworm, which are boiled to extract and produce the fine thread we know of and treasure. The shimmering fabric has been used in Asia for thousands of years, and it's proven to last and last.

The House Of Wandering Silk is a social and ethical enterprise based in New Delhi. Founded as a way of bringing together artisans and producers to strike a fairer deal for silk workers in India, the House has also found that there are some methods, hitherto unknown to the west, of producing the fabric that produce astonishing results.

Waste silk is produced after the initial boil of the cocoon, when the desirable long thread has been extracted. The fibre that's left is shorter but thicker. The fabric that results from using waste silk is, bizarrely for something that's so clearly labelled as junk, extraordinarily luxurious. Hand spun and woven (unusual in silk production, as the thread is already there as part of the production process) the end is result is thick, highly textured and luscious.

Used to create traditional costumes cheaply, the House Of Wandering Silk are working with a husband-and-wife team who understand waste silk and know how to create stoles, wraps and scarves that are vibrantly coloured (the jewel-like shades they dye with works brilliantly with the natural warm beige of the silk) and utterly desirable. Not bad for a by-product that, until recently was thrown away as waste.

The House Of Wandering Silk is constantly innovating, and bringing products like bags and men's ties to market. Don't forget, Christmas will be with us soon. Why not keep an eye on the House Of Wandering Silk for a special gift for your loved one?

Find out more about the mysteries contained in The House Of Wandering Silk at their website.

Monday 11 November 2013

The Pier In Winter

I'm a bit of a big-mouth on the blog, so for once, I'm going to step aside and let Guru Ian tell you a little about the Pier in Winter. This post has been taken from our regular email updates, which you can subscribe to by clicking on the link at the bottom of the Contact page on the Pier32 website.

Contact Pier32

It's been a while since our last update. We hope you've had a great summer. The change in season and the noticeable difference in the weather would seem to be good reasons to see if there's anything we can do to help you.

As we are predominantly t-shirt printers you won't be surprised to hear that we're not going to turn away any t-shirt enquiries. But we will ask you to consider - given the fact that you're likely to wear something over a t-shirt at this time of year - choosing sweatshirts, hoodies or jackets instead.

The main reason for printed or embroidered customised clothing is for your logo to be seen. That logo could be your brand, your university, your cause, your retail design, your uniform. Whatever your own reason for using custom branded clothing, you really want that branding to be seen.

Of course, t-shirts still have their place at this time of year. That's usually indoors though. If the people wearing your logo or image are likely to be out and about then you can make sure your design is still seen by putting it on outerwear. Or perhaps even bags and umbrellas. In preparation for winter, we can even brand ski jackets and sledges for you!

To get started on your winter range, please send us an email or call us on 020 8398 2847 / 2867. Or visit our Hoodie Printing & Embroidery page for inspiration and ideas. For now though, take care this autumn!

Thursday 7 November 2013

The Soft Shoe Shuffle

It's the time of year when, if you're anything like me, you're going through your wardrobe, moving winter clothing up the rail and realising that it's time to invest in a new pair or two of warm, waterproof boots. Any old footwear that's looking a bit tired gets bundled up and dropped off at a recycling hopper. There. I have done my duty, and the planet is that little bit happier. I can go spend cash on a new pair of Timberlands with a clear conscience.

Sadly, it doesn't quite work like that. Shoes are enormously complex pieces of clothing, containing up to 40 types of material, many of which have been glued or sewn together. It's nearly impossible to break them down into their constituent parts so that the material is fit for recycling. Which means unless the shoes you donate are in a good enough condition to sell on, they're just going to end up in the bin. I was horrified to find out that 95% of shoes bought in the UK end up in landfill, a figure that includes the pairs that you give to charity.

It all seems hopeless. But scientists at Loughborough University's Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre (IMCRC) think they've finally found a way to break shoes down into a range of recyclable materials.

They've developed a multi-stage process, which involves sorting the shoes into different types, removing metal eyelets, then shredding the shoes. They are rendered down to granules which can then be graded using the weight and size of the fragments. The end result: four streams of materials, including rubber and fabric, which can be used in all sorts of other products, including components for new shoes. You've got it: closed-loop manufacturing.

The team at Loughborough are also working closely with footwear manufacturers like Clarks and Nike to design shoes that are easier to break down and recycle. Matthew Turner, Social Resposibility Manager at Clarks says of the project:

"The work of the IMCRC team at Loughborough will both inform our approach to footwear design, and show us new ways to recycle shoes when they have no further use. All in all, we believe it will be another step towards the goal of zero landfill."

A highly laudable aim, and a project that we here at The Pier will be watching with interest. I wonder if I can donate my worn-out trainers to them?

For more info, take a look at the IMCRC page.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Adidas: Making The Right Move In Bangladesh

In a move that's raised eyebrows in the boardrooms of sportswear multinationals and delighted campaigners, Adidas has become the first big-league name to sign the Accord on Fire And Building Safety in Bangladesh. The big-three manufacturer has been under fire in the past for their supposedly lax attitude towards worker rights and welfare in their South Asian factories.

Earlier in the year, the company were forced to pay nearly $2million in compensation to the employees of the shuttered PT Kizone factory in Indonesia: a payment that only happened after bad-tempered court appearances.

By signing up to a legally binding agreement that holds them accountable for the health and well-being of their textile and assembly staff across Bangladesh, Adidas are giving a clear signal to their critics, and putting the spotlight onto their competitors who haven't yet put their names on the dotted line.

There's little doubt that this is a hard-nosed business decision as much as a sign of corporate compassion. The rotten publicity over PT Kizone led to a raft of top US colleges cancelling their contracts with Adidas. If the company can prove they've changed, they might just be able to lure influential schools like Cornell back into the fold.

Whatever the motivation, the end result is a good one, and United Students Against Sweatshops, the college association that brokered the boycott, are rightfully celebrating. In fact, they're ramping up the pressure. The Worker Rights Consortium has now formally recommended that universities require brands producing collegiate apparel in Bangladesh to sign the Accord. 

It's another example of the Detox Effect I was talking about earlier in the week. The most vulnerable part of any corporate structure is its image, a fragile thing that it will do anything, including root and branch changes to the way it does business, to protect.