Saturday, 21 May 2011

Girl, would like to meet wardrobe, for lasting relationship

Latest article on the Ethics Girls website, which looks at creating a (conscious) capsule wardrobe.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Today is Friday the 13th. It is also Bagsful’s first birthday.

 How terrifying that a year’s gone by already… it’s been a great one though, and through this blog I’ve met and got to know loads of brilliant bloggers, artists and activists.

I’m celebrating with a new regular(ish) column. Here’s the first, a special outpouring of birthday bile, dedicate to that well-known earth mother Karl Lagerfeld.

Thank you all and here’s to another year!

Rabbits v Lagerfeld – who’s your money on?

Furocious beasts

Whilst researching Chanel at work last week, it was my absolute pleasure to happen upon the dazzling intellectual genius that is their head designer.

And oh what a joyous voyage of discovery it was. Searching for the company’s policies on the use of fur, before I could find an official line I was pulled up short by some insightful words on the topic from Karl Lagerfeld.

For him, it all boils down to the basic issue of survival. According to Lagerfeld, those “beasts” would “kill us if they could.” It’s us or them.

As if the world isn't scary enough as it is, what with mass unemployment and impending climate doom (more from Karl on that later). We now also have to face up to the unknown fear of rabbiterrorism. Brace yourselves, for at any given moment, raging mobs of murderous fluffy herbivores may destroy all you’ve ever known. Will our daily commute ever be the same again? 

I’m sure we could all be forgiven for thinking he’s just a mad old git, but it turns out KL is widely quoted on a range of important topics besides animal rights. Other pearls emanating from the Lagerfeld dual-purpose arsehole/mouth orifice include “Thank goodness for prostitution” and the revelation that the only critics of skinny models are “fat mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television”. As a man who was himself really rather round until recently, this is particularly jarring.

Global cooling

Not limited to campaigning for animal and human rights, he also dabbles in environmental science. 

An astonishingly thorough investigation last year led Professor Lagerfeld to the firm conclusion that climate change is not actually happening; At a Chanel show last March, models sploshed down a flooded catwalk amongst huge replica icebergs.  
"Have you felt any warming this winter?" he asked reporters, referring to the freezing cold weather outside. "Maybe that's all nonsense, who knows."2
In case you thought the little pirate-cum-equestrian Lego man was making a savvy satire on climate change, the soundtrack to the show might persuade you otherwise. Over techno beats, a deep voice bellowed repeatedly "Ich moechte ein Eisbaer sein" ("I want to be a polar bear").

As to whether we're likely to get anything more profound out of him, KL himself assures us this is unlikely. “I hate intellectual conversation with intellectuals because I only care about my opinion", he says, which if nothing else proves he’s not entirely senile. "I live in a set, with the curtains of the stage closed with no audience - but who cares?".

Well said that man.



Sunday, 8 May 2011

[Part 1] Dress less, dress better – projects to live your life by

Recently I’ve been reading about some amazing projects which set out to tackle head-on the issue of over-consumption of clothing. They all share a common connection; a desire to challenge the way we think about getting dressed in the morning.
Each one represents enormous challenge and personal sacrifice, and I thought these women (I haven’t come across any male-run projects yet) deserved a special mention.

In this post, I’ll take a look at the people and projects that inspired this new wave of activity. Then in parts 2, 3 and 4, I speak to three women currently running their own inspiring projects.

Part 1: How it all began; Past projects
The project most people will be familiar with is the Uniform Project, conceived of by Sheena Matheiken. In May 2009, and Matheiken committed to wear one black dress every day for a whole year. She used second-hand accessories to turn this one plain black dress into a daily fashion statement, meaning she never looked the same from one day to the next.

All profits having been donated to Akanksha Foundation, the U.P. raised $103,378 to send 287 kids to school in India.
The Uniform Project might not have been most virtuous of these projects (the ‘different look everyday’ idea jars a bit with the anti-consumerist ethic, and the fact that the dress has now been put into production suggests that perhaps some of U.P’s fans don’t quite ‘get’ it…). But it has been incredibly well marketed and presented visually (check out the gorgeous video here).  

It received masses of press attention, but U.P. wasn’t the first of its kind. A few years earlier, a purer form of the U.P. experiment was taken on by the artist Alex Martin.

In 2006, Martin made a single brown dress and set out to wear it every day for a year in what she called a ‘one-year performance’. Martin used only one dress for the whole experiment, having worked out that she didn’t need a spare to get the dress through the laundry overnight in time for wearing the next day. Alex posts a question to herself on her website “Was it boring?,” to which she replies “No way!” She says that the conversations sparked by the project submerged her in her subject, and kept her on her toes for the entire year, giving interviews, holding events and communicating with fans online.

And surely this is exactly what her Brown Dress Project set out to illustrate; reclaim that time spent thinking about your image, which as Alex points out, most people don’t notice anyway, and spend it engaging more deeply with life. Roll your sleeves up and get stuck in.

Another ancestor to the Uniform Project comes from Andrea Zittel, an artist whose work I’ve loved since art school.
Gong back even further than the Brown Dress Project, Zittel began creating her Six Month Uniforms in 1991. The idea was that each season, Andrea would design and make a uniform to wear for the entire 6 months. 
The uniforms were multi-purpose and tailored specifically to her daily life during that period. For her work in an art gallery and her studio, she required something smart yet practical. For more strenuous activities such as maintaining a chicken coop, in 1993 the uniform evolved to incorporate trousers. The project relieved Zittel of the daily stress of dressing, but also sought to provide an alternative to the perpetually changing image demanded by 21st century consumer culture.

So is there still more to say?

The fact that such projects have existed before doesn’t preclude them happening again. In fact, the occurrence of similar projects in different climates, with slightly differing motives or results, only serves to bolster the underlying message – it concretes the idea that over-consumption is a problem felt by so many, all of whom have it within them to find a solution and inspire others to do the same.

Read on to parts 2, 3 and 4 to hear from three inspiring women building on this movement:

Part 2: Kristy Powell from One Dress Protest (USA) 
Part 3: Lexie Minett from Minimoilist; ‘Minimalism without oil’ (UK)  
Part 4: Laura de Jong from Free Fashion Challenge (Netherlands)

I know there are loads more of you out there, so if anyone else would like to tell me about their project, please get in touch – I’d love to hear from you!

[Part 2] Dress less, dress better - One Dress Protest

Part 2: Bagsful speaks to Kristy Powell from One Dress Protest (USA)
Kristy began her One Dress Protest on 3rd January this year. She will wear one dress every day for a whole year, in order to question the ingrained social ‘norms’ which make fashion and self-esteem inseparable from one another, as well as opening debate about the ethics of the industry.

B: What made you decide to start the One Dress Protest? Do you work in fashion, or is it just a passion of yours?

K: Well, I’m certainly not the first to wear one dress for an extended period of time. Andrea Zittel, an installation artist in New York, and Sheena Matheiken of The Uniform Project both opened me up to it as a possibility (see Part 1 for more).

More specifically, the “protest” idea stems from years of feeling as though I needed to look a certain way or wear a particular style in order to exude whatever identity I was hoping or expected to. I had known I wanted to step out of the mold and figure out ways to express myself without using my clothes as a medium, so I decided that an open and public protest of such societal forces would not only be the best way for me to do that, but also a way to bring others into my experience to get them to ask themselves similar questions.

I started ODP out of an intense desire to exist as apart from fashion as I could manage, and to engage others throughout it all. I felt that I needed to do something on the more radical end of things to attend to the issues I was experiencing and the questions I was asking.

And I did work in fashion prior to starting ODP very part time. I was responsible for the visual aspects of a fashion clothing store (window displays and mannequins). I’ve never considered myself to be too into fashion, but I certainly wasn’t too outside of it either. I suppose I was a rather typical woman who felt she was expressing herself individually and intentionally through the clothes I wore (which just happened to be mass produced for me, and thousands of others).

B: What conclusions have you come to during the project so far?
K: Well, I’m about 100 days into a year-long protest and quite honestly I hadn’t even considered having any conclusions yet. I can say that overall, I’m feeling really encouraged by my own convictions as well as others’ responses to the topics I’m presenting for consideration. It’s already impacting the way I perceive myself and my relationship with fashion and outward presentation, which is really something I’d hoped for from the project.
Unexpectedly, I am beginning to feel more confident about myself in public, mainly because each day I am intentionally choosing to feel content with myself, despite the way my clothes make me feel. My dress ‘is what it is,’ as they say, and it’s the same every day of my life.

B: What have you done with all the rest of your clothes? Have you caught yourself longingly looking through them at any point, or cleared-out your wardrobe and/or given them away to charity?
K: Just before starting ODP I went through every item of clothing, jewelry, shoes, accessories, etc. to determine what should be packed away and what should be given away. I gave away what I knew needed to go and packed the rest into boxes for me to do with whatever I may at the end of this year. I still don’t know the fate of my previous wardrobe that waits for me in that box. I don’t think of them – they are rather out-of-sight, out-of-mind… which was the intention.
As for looking longingly at clothes in window displays, I haven’t had that experience yet.

B: What kind of reactions have you had to the project?
K: Most everyone was a bit shocked, unsure, and confused when I first told them of my intentions. Overall, though, once I explained the ways I really felt called to doing this to my close friends and family, they were all incredibly supportive.

As for those who don’t know me, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. Some have been incredibly supportive, encouraging, and behind the message I’m attempting to promulgate, while others have reacted a bit more harshly than I would have hoped. Most that have reacted negatively have done so thinking that I was simply doing this for attention. But hey, it’s a protest – I’m intentionally attempting to draw attention not to myself, but to my message that the way we consume now is harmful to our sense of self and unsustainable for the natural environment.

B: Do you think it will alter your behavior/habits/attitude toward shopping for good?
K: I’ve intended for my project to be an opportunity for me to learn more about the production of clothing. I’m certainly not coming in as an expert with tons of information to share; however, I do intend to share my explorations as I go. I’ve learned that slow fashion is not only a necessity, but that it’s a feasible reality for everyone to begin consuming slowly made items in the future. I’ve also discovered that vows to not consume for a specific period of time can be freeing and eye opening. And moreover, if we consume quality, ethically and sustainably crafted items, our overall consumption can be drastically reduced; our carbon footprint is substantially cut, too.

These are the things I’m discovering and have every intention of remaining conscious of and committed to after ODP. I think my behaviors and attitudes towards shopping have already been altered for good since I’ve determined to shop and consume according to drastically different standards than I had before.

B: What do you plan to do when the year ends? Do you think ODP will extend, or maybe evolve into something else?

K: I don’t anticipate ODP, at least in its current manifestation, to extend. I’ve considered what it could evolve into, but have no formal thoughts on any of that yet. I suppose I’ve most anticipated returning to at least a few more options of intentionally selected clothing and consuming on an as-needed-basis from there forward by persons I am in relationship with or who produce according to the standards I have set for clothing production. Intentionality and eco-consciousness will be the name of the game from here on out!

B: Thank you Kristy! All the best with ODP.

Follow One Dress Protest here:
Twitter: @onedressprotest

Kristy is calling out for others to join her ODP for one month, by also wearing just one uniform or garment every day from 3rd June 2011, to 3rd July. Find out more in her May video journal.

Read more: Dress less, dress better - projects to live your life by
Part 3: Interview with Lexie Minett from Minimoilist; ‘Minimalism without oil’ (UK) 
Part 4: Interview with Laura de Jong from Free Fashion Challenge (Netherlands)

[Part 3] Dress less, dress better - Minimoilist

Part 3: Bagsful speaks to Lexie Minett from Minimoilist; ‘Minimalism without oil’ (UK)
On her blog, Lexie makes public her journey towards living more sustainably, conscious that we are speeding towards peak oil. Minimoilist encompasses all aspects of her life, as she rethinks her attitude to shopping and pursues a minimalist lifestyle, with the hope of creating a like-minded community as she goes.

 B: What made you decide to start Minimoilist?
L: I started Minimoilist as a place to express my feelings and make myself publicly accountable for my actions both in terms of meeting my personal goals and for my environmental/charitable goals.  My previous writings were disjointed and lacking in identity.  Minimoilist came into being after a few years of soul searching, reflection and self-realisation about the kind of person I wanted to be and the steps that I would need to take to get there.  Part of that person is one who treads very lightly on the earth and not only reduces her own consumption, but also encourages others to reduce theirs, as well as giving back to the world.  My aim is to do this with a completely honest account of my own successes and failures as I change my lifestyle to a more sustainable way of living.  I cover a range of steps from diet, reducing oil-consumption, how to step away from the consumerist lifestyle, increasing charity and well-being.

B: What have you pledged to do (in relation to clothing)?
L:  Part of this includes my clothing pledge.  I have pledged to not only reduce, de-clutter and donate a third of my wardrobe this year (including jewellery and accessories), but to not buy any item of clothing at all for a year.  I don't feel that I have an excessive amount of items compared to a lot of my peers, however I still have a lot that I don't wear/need/like or fit into and needs reducing.  I want to show how few items of clothing we genuinely *need* in modern times, while still feeling gorgeous. 

B: What conclusions have you come to during the project so far?

L: So far this project has been fairly easy.  It has been straight-forward to choose the first 30 or so clothing items that I don't like/wear/or fit into but are still in good enough condition to send to the charity shop.  A lot of the clothes I am holding onto were 'gifts' from others (particularly my parents) that were expensive so I felt obliged to hang onto them despite really disliking them.  Additionally I was shocked by the vast amount of jewellery I had that I didn't even realise I owned until I got it all out, counted it and photographed it.  It made me feel rather ill that I had so much that was unnecessary.  It felt good to donate my jewellery, but I feel that I'm only scratching the surface at the moment.

B: What kind of reaction have you had to it from other people?

L: The majority of the reactions to this pledge from family and friends have been positive.  When I started posting about this/talking about this other people starting putting forward their own pledges, or decluttering their own wardrobes and donating or looking at their own clothing choices.  My mother (who has four wardrobes full of clothes) has gone on a massive purge - I just now need to encourage her to stop buying replacements!  The only slightly negative reaction was from my husband.  I told everyone that not only was I not buying myself clothes this year, I did not want to receive them for gifts either.  My parents accepted this.  My husband was made sad by this as he loves buying me pretty clothes - especially jewellery and dresses.  He has come to terms with it though.

B: Do you think it will alter your behaviour/habits/attitude to shopping for good?

L: I think that this has altered my habits forever.  I was never one to spend masses of money on clothes/jewellery, but I still accumulated a lot!  I am far more conscious of my emotional tugs towards buying clothes and I am much better at being unemotional regarding 'sentimental' or 'guilt-making' clothes.

B: Thank you Lexie, best of luck with the rest of your project!

Follow Lexie’s journey here: 

Twitter: @lexieminett

Read more: Dress less, dress better - projects to live your life by
Part 2: Interview with Kristy Powell from One Dress Protest (USA)
Part 4: Interview with Laura de Jong from Free Fashion Challenge (Netherlands)

[Part 4] Dress less, dress better - Free Fashion Challenge

Part 4: Bagsful speaks to Laura de Jong from Free Fashion Challenge (Netherlands)
Free Fashion Challenge (FFC) was set up by Laura de Jong in collaboration with Amsterdam Fashion Institute ( The project has gathered together 15 fashion addicts (a mix of fashion students and professionals), who on 11th November 2010 pledged to stop buying clothes for a whole year. The website charts their progress as they blog about how they’re coping with going cold turkey.

 B:  What made you decide to start Free Fashion Challenge? Do you work in fashion, or is it just a passion of yours?

L: In November 2010 I graduated as a fashion & branding student at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. In 2009 I had my internship with fashion designer Camilla Norrback in Stockholm. During my stay in Sweden I saw people with a great sense of style. They are less influenced by trends and for this reason they are more prepared to invest in good basic items which they can wear for a longer period. I realized that this Swedish mindset can have a more lasting effect than the trend clothing which is -for example- made of ecological cotton.

That's why I decided to graduate with a new vision on sustainability and fashion. The problem with fashion is that it is unsustainable in it's definition; it's about being modern or even ahead of what’s modern.

While most ‘green’ brands focus on the use of sustainable materials and technical solutions, I believe the real barrier is the way people consume and how brands stimulate this overconsumption.our time. This makes it united to consumption. To create awareness around this subject and to inspire people in a positive, fashionable (!!!) way, I came up with the Free Fashion Challenge. With FFC I want to spread the word.

B:  How did you find the 15 fashion addicts and pursuade them to make the pledge? And are you one of the 15?

L: It was really hard to find participants. I started by e-mailing all my international contacts from my internships in Hong Kong and Stockholm. Everyone was really enthusiastic, but everyone said: “O, wow! What a great idea.... but not for me”. Then I contacted universities my school (the Amsterdam Fashion Institute) has an exchange program with. These universities e-mailed their students about my project and that's how I got most of the participants.

It was really hard to get people together. We tried to get journalists from Dutch magazines. Some of them wanted to participate, but were pulled back by their editor in chief as the magazines were afraid their advertisers might not be happy with it. Interesting to see is that since we started the project, I get e-mails every day of fashion addicts who want to participate. It feels like we're real addicts and we need someone else who forbids us to shop. It's too hard to do it on your own ;-))

Of course I joined myself as well: practice what you preach. Besides that: I felt really guilty that I did consume unethically every now and then, just because it is so easy and cheap... This is a detox period for me, so I will appreciate clothing more.

B: What conclusions have you come to during the project?

L: That's a little difficult to say, as we only started 4 months ago. But it's really interesting to see how the project grows. Everyone around us is so interested in our experiences, people want to be part of the Free Fashion Challenge, we get so much press attention. It's really overwhelming! I guess it's really the time now for this kind of project; people are getting tired of overconsumption and are looking for new, creative ways to approach fashion.

The participants are divided in two 'groups' at the moment. Half of them feels it like a delight that they're not allowed to shop. And -surprisingly- that often goes for the largest fashion addicts. They have so much time for other things, they find it calming and relaxing to have so much time for other things. The other half is really struggling, mostly emotionally. They miss the feeling of something fresh and crispy in their wardrobe.

B:  What kind of reaction have you had to it?

L: We’ve only really had positive reactions till now actually. I really expected (or was afraid) of some angry reactions from the (fast) fashion industy. I would love to have that discussion, but till now everyone is really interested and enthusiastic. Like I mentioned before: maybe it's really 'the time' for this kind of project?

B: Do you think it will alter the 15’s behaviour/habits/attitude to shopping for good?

L: Now we're 'on the way' for 4 months that's one of the things I start thinking about. When I speak to them, I hear they learned a lot already. But I'm really curious - also for myself-  whether we'll be able to maintain this new attitude. At the moment I'm trying to come up with some supporting tools to help us.

B: What do you plan to do when the year ends? Will FFC evolve into anything else?

L: That's another thing I started to think about over the last couple of weeks. My first target was to launch FFC, then we got so much attention from people who wanted to join, that I created a join-option and that's all working now. So now I'm thinking of the next steps... I'm not sure yet, but I would love to combine our vision with the real fashion industry. A multifunctional, timeless, fair fashion collection inspired by FFC, that would be great!

B: Thank you Laura, and best of luck with the project!

Follow FFC's progress, or join the project here:

Twitter: @FreeFashionNow

Read more: Dress less, dress better - projects to live your life by
Part 2: Kristy Powell from One Dress Protest (USA)
Part 3: Lexie Minett from Minimoilist; ‘Minimalism without oil’ (UK)  

Monday, 2 May 2011

Slow fashion stylist embarks on a new refashioning project

Veronica from slow fashion style consultancy ReWardrobe spends her days advising people what to wear. ReWardobe's slow-fashion focus means she will often suggest that clients fix or upcycle their old clothes rather than chucking them out.

So, following her own advice, Veronica has started UpWardrobe. This ongoing project is based around a suitcase full of Veronica's clothes that she no longer wears, but doesn't want to throw away. Each month she is inviting talented upcycling designers to rummage though the suitcase, pick out things they like, and rustle her up something new.

Tracey from LoveMeAgain, (a great Manchester-based label which uses 100% recycled textiles) is one of the designers taking part. She picked out three items from Veronica's suitcase; a long sleeved top in black and one in mustard yellow plus an asymmetric black and cream striped t-shirt.

She then worked her magic:
"I turned the mustard top upside down to create a cowl neck, cut armholes, cut sleeves off and sewed the sides together. I used the sleeves from the black t shirt as a waistband, then attached and gathered the stripe top to fit onto the waistband, and used the sleves from the stripe top as...sleeves!"

Here's Veronica wearing her new garment. Gorgeous!