Made in Britain

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Rather quietly I decided to embark on a quest to only buy British made clothing. It’s killer. Do you know how friggin’ hard it is to find clothes only manufactured in the UK.. yup bloody hard. Quietly also because I thought I’d fail. It all started when I went on a vintage spree with my sister back in March. We bought a ridiculous amount of stuff all second hand and cheap. And it got me thinking, I can dress fashionably and sustainable – really easily.

This really is Made in Britain AND affordable!

Now I’ve always been an advocate for British manufacture and often got into debates about my views of the dark side of the fashion industry. I’ve often been quoted as saying ‘I want to get into the fashion industry to make a difference’ and I still do. I admire and I am inspired by the industry and I respect it – but there is a hell of a lot wrong with it too and I suppose I want to be a bit of a fashion crusader and promote good and best practice. I disagree with fast fashion and cheap clothes. I rather spend a little more to get something that lasts a bit longer. I believe you get what you pay for, and that couldn't be more of the case in fashion. I don’t want to be ‘in’ fashion for a week; I want to remain constantly stylish.

Many of my friends have wardrobes bulging with clothes and often forget what they even own. I am, or was, just as guilty of this. Yet I was a massive contradiction – although always believing in this and stating my morals of the industry – I too would buy into £3.99 vests from H&M and never looked at the label before purchase. I’m not sure when the epiphany was that made me decide to only buy British was but since I’ve felt nothing but a twang of guilt for clothes which aren’t manufactured in the UK.

I’ve turned into my own worst enemy and all righteous and stuff and riddled with guilt for liking stuff manufactured in Romania and China. So basically, I haven’t been shopping in months. Well, that’s not completely true. I’m still happy to buy second hand regardless of where it’s made and I have bought a few new things since March too! Apparently you can buy British on the high street – just not very much.

My favourite buy came in June when I was in Whitstable for a weekend away. I had seen this dress in River Island. It was a nice cut and fit and most importantly it was Made in Britain! Winner! And only £30. I took a chance hoping that it’d be in the Canterbury store and the last one in my size was there – fate! Since I have discover River Island do quite a bit of stuff Made in Britain. Mainly simple cuts and printed fabrics but that’s brilliant really it makes me want to shop there again! And for my birthday I asked for this skirt and I love it!!

I also discovered Oh My Love, a label I had no idea about – but I stumbled across them during a sample sale. It’s a bit hit and miss as to whether they manufacture it all in Britain (I did e-mail them to ask – but they never replied!) but I have discovered if in the bio it says “Made With Love in East London” it’s a good’n! So far I’ve bought this and this and a couple of things they only had at the sample sale.

Finally, I am massively lusting over the Topshop’s Made in Britain range. It’s perfect; it’s everything I want and more; and it is expensive. I am yet to take the plunge even though the clothes are beautiful. And timeless. And I’d wear them forever (exaggerating and justifying obvs!). Top of my wish list are this, this!

I’ve also been discovering small, young and independent labels – places like Etsy and Big Cartel offer the chance for young designers to sell their goods online and affordably and the vast majority of them are manufactured here, in their bedrooms at 2am in the morning (or y’know 3pm in the arvo, no insinuating illegal stuff or anything!) and maybe this is exactly who I should be spending my money with, not the big high street stores doing it to look good and PR – whilst still happily manufacturing the vast majority of their products in Bangladesh.

There are the classics which are still made here like Barbour jackets and the odd Mulberry Bayswater (which is still top of my made in Brit list ahem) but what I’ve mostly struggled with are shoes and undies. Portas piped up a bit and made a good three part documentary about making kecks in the UK and I praise her for highlighting this! But where do you buy a British made bra? I can’t seem to find the store which Underworld on Coronation Street supplies. Secondly, shoes! I love shoes I own probably dozens of pairs. Brogues make me weak, in glitter and patent and leather and print -  I love them. I can’t afford Churches. Maybe one day. But where else make affordable shoes? And sandals? Luckily without a summer I’ve survived w/o investing in a pair and managed to survive on old battered pairs.  I’ve had to bend the rules a tad too, for example, Zara is Spanish. So should I support their economy and only buy Spanish made goods from them and so on and so forth? I can’t find a basic tee to save my life! Where in the UK manufacture sweatshirts and tee’s? How do I get around that one? I’ve toyed with American Apparel but can I justify using them? I mean they freely promote sweatshop free manufacture. But they still have to ship in. Nightmare.

Finally, and this is the biggest problem. Apart from Topshop’s specific collection and the bit on Oh My Love – no brands actually freely admit where they manufacture garments in online descriptions. I literally cannot internet shop! It’s funny how they have to put it on clothing labels but there is clearly no requirement to list it on t’internet. I know that the vast majority of people wouldn’t check the labels of the garment before buying something in store but I do and it’s has massively changed the way in which I shop. I would like to think if it’s clearly marked on a garment people would be able to make an informed judgement on what they are buying – and therefore if it’s listed online the same would apply – but I’m being self-righteous and annoying myself again – no one else shops like that – and that’s ok, but I really think that if it’s on the label of the garment it should be on the listing of the garment online – it’s only fair.

Do you think you could only buy British? Would you even want to try? Or more importantly do you know any brands which are UK manufactures or carry UK manufactured goods – if you do – please let me know. It would be great to be able to list them all together!

Andrea x

London College of Fashion: year one.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

I’m 23 and I’ve just completed my first year at London College of Fashion.. and passed! Woo. This time last year I hadn’t even applied. It was at the back of my mind and after a, hmmm, somewhat turbulent start to 2011 it was after my birthday (which is today, scheduled post!) last year that I thought I’d just go for it.

I was living between friends houses and my sisters after being heartbroken and made essentially homeless and thought that things need to change. Uni felt like the only option to make a worthy change, a new job wouldn’t have satisfied me yet the prospect of applying for a full-time course via clearing wasn’t an option either. I needed to get my life on track and not run away and start again. I’ve always known that LCF offered part-time courses it was just deciding which one to apply for.

I applied for the Fashion Retail Branding and Visual Merchandising (FRBVM) course. I’ve always been obsessed with fashion. My mother studied at St Martin’s and I was brought up around sewing machines, Vogue and taught to appreciate Liberty print fabric – my obsession continued and I studied textiles throughout my education. After my A-levels though, I chose full-time work and fashion just became an interest not a viable career option. After all, you need experience and internships and I couldn’t afford to do that.

Why did I chose FRBVM? Well having taken a break from study and education, and admittedly my sewing machine, I didn’t have the portfolio or confidence to apply for anything design lead. I worked in retail when I was younger and I was involved in implementing the VM for the store and I always enjoyed the process – but it’s when you’re in the city and look at the department stores windows you really appreciate it as an art. Secondly, it has been my dream to own and create a concept retail space (yes, I’m being very generic) bit like Dover St Market I guess. If I want to do this then I need to know how to brand and visualise it. This course was ideal and I was studying at one of the most prestigious fashion schools in the world. I think I would’ve happily applied for anything.

I was ecstatic when I got my invite to interview – I had less than a week to prep and I went into overdrive. The interview was a test followed by a group interview where we’d present ourselves to half the group. I was up first and it went ok, but I was very intimidated by the others in my group, these people had proper skills – I was just winging it.

Obviously, they must have seen something in me; I had got in.

First term seems like a blur and so long ago. I was travelling down to London three times a week to attend night lectures and studio sessions all day Saturday. It was a massive time and financial commitment. And I’ll admit I struggled. I was still working full-time and crashing at my sisters.

me being vain in uni loos

We were given introductions to everything and being part-time things seemed to take a long time to get off the ground. Our first lecture was an introduction to a yearlong collaboration with Amnesty International. Our first assignment was to design a t-shirt for Amnesty, after finding my feet in the first weeks, I had left it to the last-minute to actually put a design together ready to submit. I had lots of ideas but when it came to digitally designing it nothing seemed to work. I was left to just submit a basic core idea of what I originally wanted to do. To my utter shock, 2 months later, it was announced that I had won and my t-shirt was going to be put in production to be sold in the Amnesty Boxpark store. I couldn’t believe how much my life had changed in 4 months

Amnesty Swing Tag

The past year has been incredible, the course is great and I’ve met some truly amazing people and friends. LCF has changed my life so much for the better and I am so pleased I applied. I never considered uni as an option or that I would have the opportunity to work in fashion. The part-time course can be at times frustrating, not being there or not be able to be at uni as much as you need or would like is hard. Dealing in e-mail and relying on blackboard (UAL intranet) is frustrating in itself, the time and financial commitment is massive, and shouldn’t be underestimated if you are considering applying. When I applied we didn’t have student loans available to us. I received little financial support and the course needed to be self funded which I had to loan from my employers. You don’t have time to see people as much as you like and you’re often knackered. Trying to fit study and assignments around full-time work as well as contact sessions at uni leaves you with almost no time to yourself.  A silly example but, I dyed my hair lilac over Christmas and physically didn’t have the time to do the upkeep.Given the chance though, I’d absolutely do it again, you just find the time to do it all, you learn to manage and adapt and you learn to afford everything. I managed to set up a blog, train for a mammoth walk (Trailwalker) and I am currently in the process of exploring ethical fashion label called adore + endure. Things I never considered I’d do a year ago let alone have the time for. I also live independently again (yay!) and have met a very lovely boy. I have the best friends (old and new) and amazing family and so much support that they put up with me.

I can’t wait for next term. I am so inspired to do my best and get a good grade out of this course. We’re working on something very exciting next term too. I might not become a world class visual merchandiser after this, I accept this, but the creativity it has inspired in me and the confidence that it has given me to go on and make something from my life and more importantly, something I want to do, is amazing and something I never knew I’d feel.

If you’re considering applying, just do it. It will change your life, just prepare to be committed. But you won’t regret it, at times you will struggle, but carry on and believe in yourself.

Ok, this is starting to turn a bit cheesy. But yeah. Do it. And let me know what you applying for!


Why fashion is important.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

He looks a bit pensive! Probably thinking about the importance of fashion.
Image from Distill Magazine (remember that?)


I'm interested in Fashion. Such a broad statement, actually, and one which is often met with a scoff or a rather condescending "oh really" and a look which says "isn't that nice for you, precious".

I want to work in industry, sure, but when you say you want to work in fashion it's met with the assumption you want to be a designer. I am currently studying Fashion Retail Branding and Visual Merchandising. A little known area to the outside world but a crucial part of the retail operation.

I read the papers, I watch the news and watch educational programmes, I read books and have an interest in music, the arts and culture. I'm a massive foodie. I like to keep up to date with current affairs be it political, environmental or international. And so does Fashion as it is influenced by all of these too.

"You can't have brains and be "into" fashion"
"If you have a brain why would choose a career in fashion"

 The industry is considered to be filled with idle bimbos. And it still has this stigma attached. People can't help but think its a vacuous interest. Maybe it's just my perspective and from what I've experienced - but unless you're in it - generally - people don't 'get' it.

Hardly, it's the second biggest employer in the world. Yes, the world. From design to retail there are millions of people employed globally to ensure this industry keeps ticking over. Imagine a world without fashion. Some may rejoice but in actual fact our whole economy would collapse.

Whilst the rest of the world has seen dwindling business over the past few years - fashion houses have been getting bigger, richer, stronger. How many other industries are recording quite the same sales percentages and figures as Mulberry and Burberry? At this precise point in time couture - one of the most exclusive and expensive forms of fashion - is actually turning a profit. Ludicrous to think that garments which retail for tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds were only just breaking even and have only just become a profitable part of a fashion house.

Aside from the top end, the industry is operated by highly skilled, creative and imaginative individuals and is driven by analytics and forecasting and intricate planning - we may see the designers and the clothes - but there is an awful lot more about the industry than just 'it' bags and new season must haves. It's not for the faint hearted either, its tough industry to gain respect in, you really can't be a floozy and whilst with every industry there is the element of who you know not what, fashion, from my perspective at least it's not something you can blag.

I'm not an industry insider or fashion authority and I don't want to attempt to be. But fashion is plural, accessible, inclusive. And I want to promote this message, the importance of fashion. You don't need to be a fashion designer or model or editor in chief of a top magazine to be a part of a beautiful and inspiring community. And you certainly shouldn't be afraid to explore it and experiment.

If fashion teaches us anything it's to express ourselves and accept one another - different is good; different is inspiring. A contradiction perhaps considering fashion is trend based. But fashion isn't about creating clones. Instead it should be an interpretation - an expression of your creativity and your imagination and an extension of your personality. The beauty of the industry today is social media makes it even more inclusive than ever before. You can steam previously exclusive high fashion shows - LIVE. Street Style is the eternal trend - reimagining and providing more longevity to out there items. Rejoice!

Why is fashion important? It's what inspires people like me to see the beauty in everyday and want to share it with the world. At the end of the day it's just clothes innit?

Andrea x
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