Friday, 18 December 2009

I Love Lowie

Last night after a few festive drinks at my local pub I walked home surrounded by a flurry of dancing snowflakes. How exciting. How magical. How uncomfortable it became as the freezing wind bit into my cheeks, nipped my ears and pinched it's frosty grasp around my thumbs, which were peeping out through holes in my gloves. The snowflakes' dance had lost it's magic.

As I am writing this I am watching another snowflake dance outside my window. It's cold out there. It's time to invest in some winter warmers to cocoon myself. I need look no further than Lowie who produce hand knitted and hand crocheted clothing and accessories using traditional hand crafted techniques. The result is a colourful, modern and ethically produced range, which is perfect for snuggling into on cold winter days. Ideal for Christmas gifts too.

If you're around London's Covent Garden, check out their Pop-Up shop on Neal Street. For those who are not in London, or if you can't face going out into the cold, you can see the collection on I Love Lowie website.

Images by I Love Lowie

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Dark Dogs and Chinese Cats

I met Hannah Galvin-Horne - who runs Dark Dog Studio - at London Printworks last week where she experimented with Chinese cat designs to stunning effect. Hannah designs, screen-prints, dyes and makes a range of home-wares and accessories from studios in Ballinspittle, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Dark Dog Studio's work is produced using high quality inks and materials that are ethically sourced. Hannah tries to ensure that the production has as little impact on the environment as possible.

It is evident from Hannah's work that she is a talented painter and print designer, with a sharp eye for visual culture. Through her print designs, Hannah has created a bold, clean and contemporary range with a fun twist. Dark Dog Studio products are available on their website as well as being available from a shop in Kinsale, Co. Cork. Private commissions are also welcomed.

Products by

Monday, 14 December 2009

A messy week at London Printworks

I’m still scrubbing ink from beneath my fingernails after spending an enjoyable 5 days being creatively messy at the London Print Works last week. I was there along with a small group of people for a workshop induction course, which covered basic textile printing processes through to more complex techniques. Following the induction, designers can hire the fully equipped workshop to produce their work.

We were fortunate to have Dawn Dupree - a talented textile artist and extremely patient tutor - leading the course. Each day Dawn would calmly demonstrate new techniques, which would send us enthusiastically racing back to our print tables to incorporate these into our textiles.

I enjoyed combining colours and textures. I enjoyed experimenting with different techniques. I enjoyed the unexpected results. I enjoyed being messy and I enjoyed wiping my ink-covered hands on my clothes. I really didn’t expect to enjoy myself quite so much. And, I didn’t expect to spend a week with such an open and friendly group of people all sharing ideas and advise. There was a tinge of sadness at the end of the week as we reviewed our work over mince pies and a couple of bottles of wine. I’d like to think we would catch up again. Hopefully, my hands will be clean by then.

London Printworks Trust is the UK’s leading textile print resource. As a registered charity, the trust offers a diverse programme of activities, which combines textile print facilities, exhibitions, professional development and educational activities, particularly work with excluded groups or people who find themselves outside the mainstream education system.

Ethical fashion with X-Factor

Is that a leather jacket, Leona?
image via Google

As another series of the phenomena that is 'X-Factor' came to last night's not-soon-enough final, I was surprised by two things. The first that yesterday's Observer gave front page column space to the two finalists: Olly Murs and Joe McElderry. (If you're interested, it was Joe the 18 year old with a dazzling smile who won and who is now reportedly being whisked off to Hollywood by Simon Cowell to become South Shields answer to Zac Efron).

The second, is that Stella McCartney is rumoured to be linking-up with Leona Lewis - 2007's X-Factor winner and fellow vegetarian - to create a clothing range for 2010. The results of which I am interested in seeing.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Dreaming of a white christmas

'Crocheted Snow 08' by Abigail Doan

Abigail Doan - writer, editor, environmental artist and one of my blog-list favourites - creates eco-textile installations by combining yarns, textiles and nature. Her work is incredibly beautiful and thought provoking.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Festivities with Victoria and Albert.

Back at the V&A museum last week I was drawn into the crisp cold open-air of the centre courtyard. I paused in awe of the galleries shining brightly before me. Their grand facade framed by the clear dusk sky. To the other sides of the court yard, twinkling fir trees sat neatly in neon blue cubes. A blue that seemed to mirror the clear evening sky. I was entranced. What a beautiful start to the festive season.

Images by Re-Design for LIfe

Monday, 30 November 2009

Future Fashion at the V&A

Last week I immersed myself in the world of decorative arts at the Victoria and Albert museum. I was searching for print design inspiration for a textile course I have coming up in December. More about that in a later post.

While I was at the V&A I took the opportunity to have a look at 'Future Fashion Now' an exhibition showing work by the 2008 fashion graduates from the Royal College of Art. The exhibition presents concept, technique, form and detail by displaying student's sketchbooks, inspiration images, experimental mock-up designs and finished outfits.

Here are a few of my favourites. All displays were behind glass so please excuse any odd reflections on the photos.

Designs by Lea Carreno
Bold grafics and unexpected colour combinations.
Wool, viscose and copper.
Inspired by avant-garde designs of 1920's & 30's.

Designs by Lea Carreno
Juxtaposing fine and heavy guage knits to create interesting buoyancy and movement.
Left: Wool, silk and viscose
Right: Wool, viscose and leather

Design by Timothy Lee
A creative solution to making fabric stand away from the body.
Invisible strips of fused wool form an under-structure to produce controlled folds.
Jacket: Leather
Dress: wool, viscose and neoprene

Design by Timothy Lee
Stiff neoprene becomes the integral part of the coat's streamlined collar.
Exaggerated shoulders are heavily padded.
Coat: wool, silk and neoprene
Dress: viscose and neoprene

Design by Abbie Shaw
Fused fabric and wadding give structure to this boxy dress.
The card model reveals how the pattern was constructed.
Dress: wool
Neckpiece: acrylic and cotton

Design by Hiekki Salonen
The coat's silhouette was created by experimenting with traditional tailoring techniques.
The fringe and raw edges reveal the coat's previous life as a blanket.
Fabric: wool and silk

Designs by Hiekki Salonen
Gilet: cotton and silk
Dress: silk and faux pearls

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

High fashion with sustainable fabrics

I would like to thank the Ethical Fashion Forum for organising the Global Soucing Marketplace at the end of last week. It was an opportunity for buyers and designers to meet with fabric suppliers and garment producers working to supply sustainable, organic and fair trade fashion products.

The exhibition also featured One-off designs by Vivienne Westwood, Zandra Rhodes, Bora Aksu and Preen. Each designer worked with fabrics and components sourced from African manufacturers and community groups to show how sustainable fabrics can become high fashion.

Bora Aksu
Organic cotton and silk

Vivienne Westwood
Bark cloth and organic cotton

Kenyan Kilkoy fabrics

Zandra Rhodes
Bark cloth
All images by Re-Design for Life

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Bairro Alto

I have recently returned from a few days in Lisbon, Portugal where I fell in love with the narrow cobbled streets of the Bairro Alto - the Old Quarter. The Bairro's maze of streets holds an eclectic mix of traditional and modern Lisbon. Fashionable boutiques, contemporary art galleries, cool bars, modern restaurants, traditional Fado music clubs, charming grocery shops and original homes stand side by side.

Nowhere is the mix of old and new more evident than from the exterior of the buildings. I was fascinated by the intricate patterns created by traditional ceramic tiles; the beautiful designs within aged wrought iron railings, precariously perched on upper floor windows; the pretty colours of more recently painted plaster-work; the modern graffiti painted walls.

Ahhh! Yes the graffiti. In places artistic. In others, scrawled across walls and doors of people's homes. I wonder does this also show an eclectic mix of the traditional and contemporary working together side by side? Or, is it simply the demise of an historical area through vandalism?

Bairro Alto, Lisbon
Image by Re-Design For Life

Bairro Alto, Lisbon
Image by Re-Design For Life

Bairro Alto, Lisbon
Image by Re-Design For Life

Bairro Alto, Lisbon
Image by Re-Design For Life

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Hidden vintage gems

(Image by Re-Design for Life)

Is it only me? Or has anyone else set out with the sole purpose of buying a specific item only to return with something completely different? I was back in Crystal Palace - an area of London that really is a hidden gem for retro and vintage lovers – with the intention of buying a retro coffee table. I returned home with a vintage dress.

I'd found myself in Vien, a treasure trove of a boutique owned by the vivacious Vivienne Bartholomew. Vien sells an eclectic selection of unique vintage clothing including a wonderful choice of Fifties dresses, elegant eveningwear, tailoring and accessories. A Lurex batwing top from the 80’s caught my eye. As did a metallic jacquard top – very Marni. Ahhh! But it was a Little Black Dress with sheer voluminous sleeves that won me over. A perfect fit. How could I resist.

All of Vien’s vintage is in excellent condition without eye-popping price tags – easily less than half the price of similar vintage clothes you would see in boutiques around Portobello Road and Cheshire Street. Vien also holds a small range made from surplus and vintage fabrics under it’s eponymous label. I thought the vintage range was much stronger. This is where Vivienne’s eye for detail, love of fabrics and passion shines through.

Crystal Palace may not have the style of Notting Hill or the cool factor of the East End but it’s definitely worth taking a detour for. You never know what vintage treasures you might come home with.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Mid Century Design in the Village

Dulwich College, Dulwich, London SE21.

Yesterday I headed off to the Mid Century Modern show being held in one of those London enclaves oddly known as a village. However, this part of London justifies the title. Dulwich Village has all the hallmarks of an English village despite being part of South East London's borough of Southwark. We drove alongside it's white picket fences, quaint shops and cafes, grand Georgian mansions and the Dulwich Picture Gallery before arriving at our destination. The magnificent Dulwich College. An impressive red brick building with large arched windows and statues carved into the stonework. Certainly a far cry from any college or school I have ever studied at. Not a pre-fab in sight!

Once inside, the design style changed to mid 20th Century as three large halls and a mezzanine level were stylishly filled for the day with Scandinavian, American and English retro furniture, 1950's textiles, huge modernist ceiling lights, glassware and glazed pottery signed by well known 20th Century designers with prices to occasionally raise an eyebrow. This was certainly a show for those people not psychologically equipped for flea markets, car-boot sales and junk shops.

Having said that there were many things that caught my eye and tugged at my purse strings:

Retro cushions and furniture at Emma Loves Retro

Emma Glibbery has a passion for retro textiles - she loves the large scale prints and bold colours. Emma re-designs discarded curtains and clothes into bright and beautiful cushions for her label Emma Loves Retro. Mid century furniture is also available, which Emma will source to customers' requests. It was the dining chairs shown in the corner of this photo that I considered buying - very reasonably priced at just over £200 for four.

Retro inspired hand-crafted products were also on show. I particular liked the whimsical designs traditionally screen-printed onto wallpaper by Lizzie Allen. All designs are hand-printed to order by Lizzie at her London studio. The paper is sourced from managed forests and any wastage is recycled at the local mill.

I'm torn between (no pun intended) the London City Gents design and the Jazz in Cental Park design. Two of my favourite cities. It's a difficult choice.

London City Gents wallpaper by Lizzie Allen

Jazz in central park wallpaper by Lizzie Allen

Retropolitan have a wonderful collection of gorgeous glassware, post war kitsch and mid 20th Century style objects. The glassware on display was truely gorgeous: solid jewel colours as well as swirling ombre effects. My only concern was that I might drop something only to be surrounded by shards of beautifully coloured glass.

Glassware and mid 20th Century ceramics from Retropolitan.

I gingerly moved on to admire a 1960's suitcase on the same stand. Perfect for filling with retro bits and pieces that I've accumulated. It would have been a great statement bag for my college books too.

Retro suitcase from retropolitan

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Inspiration Knocks

Beautiful antique door furniture.
Delicate. Yet, strong.
Le Marais, Paris.

(Images by Re-Design for LIfe)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Topshop markets sustainability

Kate Moss for Top Shop AW09
via Google Images

As we approach the end of what has been a difficult and uncertain financial year, retailers are launching their Christmas marketing campaigns to boost sales figures by enticing customers to purchase new outfits for the festive season.

I have to praise the innovative marketing team at Top Shop for launching a dress hire service as one of their Christmas marketing initiatives. Celebrities including Kate Moss and Dita Von Teese have agreed to donate dresses, which will be available for shoppers to hire for up to four days from December 7-23. In January, once the party season is over, the dresses will be auctioned off with all profits being donated to Age UK, a charity for the elderly.

Once again, it's a savvy marketing venture from Top Shop. One that I can't knock. The campaign high-lights sustainable fashion by encouraging shoppers to hire an 'one-off' dress rather than purchase a new mass-produced dress. A new dress that may never be worn again once the party season is over.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Never too cold for sandals

Image via

I have never liked my toes! I don’t want to go into detail. All I’m saying is they appear longer than average. There. I’ve said it. My secret is out. But my toes are staying in.

In summer, I try to wear shoes as often as possible. Or I wear sandals with enough coverage to hide the offending toes. Ah! But when Winter arrives, I rejoice the open toed sandal. Worn with socks, of course.

You see, I enjoy the unexpected mix of socks, opaques and woolly tights worn with strappy sandals. There's something interesting about a contrasting print and texture peeking through or even bunching up between the straps. I like to subvert that old style rule that socks with sandals is a major faux pas.

Imagine my delight when I came across Mohops. These innovative, environmentally friendly sandals are hand-crafted by Annie Mohaupt in her Chicago studio. The ergonomically designed soles are made from solid walnut, maple or cherry from sustainably managed forests. Ribbons of different lengths, colour and fabric can be threaded through the elastic loops to create an infinite number of looks with just one pair of sandals.

Fantastic for your individuality, your budget, your storage space and for sustainable fashion. What's more, they look fabulous with socks and woolly tights.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Re-Designed by Gary Harvey

The time has come for a ruthless clear-out. It appears that I have applied the same logic to my computer's hard-drive as I have to my loft: cram in as much inspirational material as possible, never throw away / delete anything.

You see, clicking and dragging file after file into the trash icon seems an incredibly dull task to me. I'd much rather be in my loft dodging spiders and wooden beams in the search for forgotten pieces of fabric. Or so I thought until - mid click and drag - I came across these long-ago saved images.

Creative consultant Gary Harvey re-designed these outfits by reconstructing discarded garments. Why I haven't shared these images earlier I have no idea.

Seeing these outfits again has inspired me to make better use of the clothes and fabrics that I am hoarding in my loft. So while you take a look at Gary's creativity I'm off to join the spiders in my loft.

Denim Dress by Gary Harvey
Made from 42 pairs of discarded Levi 501 jeans.
"Jeans are one of the most hardwearing garments... Since the transition from 'work-wear' to fashion, jeans are often discarded for the latest silhouette before the end of their useful life"

Black T.Shirt Dress by Gary Harvey
Made from 37 black logo t.shirts.
"Logo tees... often given away by brands or bought as souvenirs, one of the cheapest garments to make, often made in appalling conditions by workers earning less than the minimum wage."

Baseball Puffball Dress by Gary Harvey
Made from 26 nylon Baseball jackets.
"Sportswear was originally designed as a uniform for athletes..., since entering the mainstream fashion arena in the 1980's, we've seen loads of non-biodegradable garments discarded at the end of the season for new team kit or the latest fashion trend."

Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Cycle of Fashion

Image via
Image copyright of heleninpraha

The fashion date of 2010 is July 14th when two iconic style capitals - London and Paris - are involved in an exciting, not-to-missed fashion experience. Don't worry! There is no VIP guest list for this event ... the invitation is open to everyone.

The event is being organised by EJF - the Environmental Justice Foundation - who are calling all adventure seeking style-savvy volunteers to embark on "The Great Fashion Cycle" from London to Paris in aid of their work addressing human rights and environmental abuses in the fashion industry.

You don't need to be a "pro cyclist" or a trend driven fashionista to take part. All you need is passion and pedal power to help change the face of fashion for the better.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Peaceful Pom Poms

Pom Pom Knitwear by Ashish
POP. Issue 21.

Remember the fun you had as a child making pom poms? Well it's time to get creative again with strands of wool and cardboard discs made from empty cereal boxes. Pom poms are a key fashion look for AW09. So, what better way to lift the recession blues than with these colourful, fun accessories. Take inspiration from current designer collections to update your outfits with the innocent pom pom.

If pom poms aren't the look you're going for this season - and let's face it they're not the easiest accessory to get away with - you can send your fluffy creations to Pom Pom International.

Pom Pom International was founded by the writer and broadcaster Amy Lame to promote peace across the world. All pom poms will eventually be sewn together to make the biggest pom pom in the world as an innocent, non-political gesture of peace and reconciliation.

Pom pom making kits and full details are available on their website.

Pom pom headband by Benoit Missolin

Pom pom trims at John Galliano AW09

Friday, 16 October 2009

Diesel Store Filled With Junk

I am a self confessed junky. I'm not ashamed to admit my obsession for junk and all things worn and torn. I can't pass by a junk shop without having a peak inside. A good old rummage.

This morning, I was stopped in my tracks as I rushed along Carnaby Street. It seems that someone at Diesel has my obsession for junk. The store has been transformed to create the appearance of a derelict building. It's all peeling layers of paint and rusting metal. Diesel's signature window display of edgy street fashion has been replaced by what can only be described as junk. Abandoned picture frames, neglected lamp-shades, random cups and saucers, scratched and scuffed suitcases now clutter the windows. Of course, it's not just any old junk. It's carefully selected junk. Styled junk. There, placed in amongst the junk, are Diesel's new season 'aged' jeans.

Diesel - as you would expect - are spot-on here with the trend for 'Rough Lux'. The trend for the not so perfect and slick*. The trend for surfaces aged by time*. I don't particularly like the concept of trends. Trends are a passing phase. Something soon to be replace. I would like to think that Diesel's display will inspire customers and passers-by to appreciate and embrace the beauty in cast-away objects. To recycle, re-use and re-design them. And, that includes last season's jeans.

* quoted from Textile View Magazine Issue 87

Diesel store
Carnaby Street, London

(Images by Re-Design for Life)

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Waiting For Warmth

After a few days away visiting my family, I was looking forward to getting back home. Don't get me wrong, I had a wonderful time. But no matter where I've been, there's nothing like returning to the familiar comfort of my own place. So my plan was to get through the door, throw my bags in one direction, my coat in the other, kick off my shoes, put the kettle on and collapse onto the sofa.

It was a bit on the chilly side when I entered my flat. I suppose it is October. So the first thing I did was to switch on the heating. I threw my bags into a corner. My coat remained on my back and my scarf didn't leave my neck. I checked the radiators. No heat. I put the kettle on. I made coffee. I checked the radiators. No heat. I collapsed onto the sofa still wearing my coat. I checked the radiators. No heat. I checked the boiler. I checked the thermostat. I checked the radiators. Still no heat. I phoned British Gas. Yes, an Engineer will be sent. He will be there between midday and 6pm tomorrow, which is today.

I am waiting for the Engineer to arrive. I am freezing! All I can think about is being wrapped and layered from head to toe in cozy warm clothes. Look at these gorgeous outfits from Bodkin. They would be just perfect for my current situation. Once my flat warms up, they'd be perfect for outdoors too.

Bodkin AW2009
Recycled polyester fleece tunic.
Organic wool jersey gloves.

Bodkin AW2009
Organic wool coat padded with 100% recycled bottle quilting & lined with recycled polyester

Bodkin AW2009
Hand-loomed and hand-dyed Ahimsa (non-violent) silk dress.
Organic cotton/lycra catsuit.

Miksani - One to Watch.

I've mentioned Miksani before. I'm very excited about this label, which was launched at Pure back in August. So why the excitement? Miksani is everything that ethical fashion should be. Firstly, it's well designed: modern with an edgy sophistication. It's the clothes that grab your attention before the ethics behind the label. Then you realise that the collection is produced to fair trade standards using organic fabrics

Katie Weightman, the designer and founder of Miksani has a real talent. Her SS2010 collection is beautifully designed, ethical and commercial. That's quite an accomplishment.

Keep an eye out for Miksani's SS2010 collection. I have a feeling it's going to be a label to watch.

Miksani SS2010
Miksani SS2010
Miksani SS2010
All images by permission of Miksani
All images copyright of Miksani