Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Basically since forever, when I started buying British, I've desperately wanted to find our version of American Apparel. Not that I have any problem with shopping there, by their name alone, I know what I'm buying and I barely have to scratch the surface to realise they're a company which embody everything I believe in for fashion manufacture.Woo, go them.

But it would be nice as a MIB advocate to find a British Apparel. So, apart from the very, VERY few basics I've picked up from Topshop (a few of roll sleeve oversized tees last year) and a couple of jersey crops from River Island - I haven't found many alternatives. 

And then this morning, I received a newsletter e-mail from Oh My Love, a fab east London brand, seriously proud of their British manufacturing, promoting OML basics. And guess what they're all MIB, super! Anyway this got me thinking and I've started to look for other MIB basics. And in true blogger style, I'm giving you the AA MIB Dupes, because who doesn't love AA Dupes?

First up the AA Figure Skater Dress vs OML Day Dreamer Skater Dress.

The obvious difference is that one's nylon and the other's jersey, but for aesthetic they're a dupe. And with the AA one almost double the price.. you know where my money's going!

When I started this post I was not anticipating the MIB version would be cheaper. Unless of course you want the mirage of colours on offer at AA. Saying this in my exp. River Island AND Toppers have a lot of these style of dresses which are MIB, so worth checking the label just in case.

Yeh check that price. The AA stripe one is ugly, so I included this bootylicious version instead. But one again MIB wins for me - but I am biased!!

Erm, yeah so that was the end of the MIB bargains. They're identical really, just one (the MIB one) is almost 4 x the price. I'm certain the premium Egyptian cotton is a marker for excellent quality though. 

It's a classic, why not invest in something to last? *please don't throw things at me for suggesting you spend £50 on a white vest*

So you can buy a MIB t-shirt from M&S now - love how their BoB collection is growing season by season! 

Strictly speaking this isn't exactly a dupe but I had to squeeze Love Holly, a brand discovered on Instagram, into the jersey mix. They do some lovely jersey styles, the Lola Dress, adorbs!

And just a fun one to end on.. Hollagram Circle Skirt vs Topshop Silver Leather Skirt
Could these skirts BE anymore perfect? An essential to anyones wardrobe surely?

Not conclusive list by any means of course, it would be a very boring read and would take me hours to show you EVERY style dupe available. But hopefully I've given you a good place to start looking for plain basics!!

Have you come across any MIB basics? Who and where - do share!! 

Andrea x

Thoroughly British

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

There aren't very many bloggers spreading the #madeinbritain love. But that's not to say that demand isn't there. And this is precisely the thought of Thoroughly British founder, Linn Gustavsson. Luckily for me, in the midst of the launch of Thoroughly British, Linn was kind enough to have a chat about the new shopping experience and everything provenance!

Thoroughly British is an exclusive market place for higher end MIB brands. The designers work on a drop-ship arrangement so when an order is placed through the website it is instantly passed on to them and they are responsible for sending it to the customer. Each label has been selected by Thoroughly British based on their designs, feel, price point and obviously provenance. 

To be stocked on Thoroughly British, garments need have at least 50% of all the work and/or components that go into making of the product to be from or carried out in Britain. The site has come up with a ranking system to help customers easily identify how 'British' each product is. Look out for the badges on each item from a 10p piece indicating the item is 50% British to a £1 badge showing the item is at least 90% 'Thoroughly British'.

I first came across Linn and Thoroughly British back at the start of 2013, I'm pleased to see her blog has grown to an e-commerce platform for up and coming British made brands. Linn completed a Master's degree focussing on Sustainable Consumption. Following this she worked in quality management within manufacturing outsourcing. Having spent time in mainly, Chinese factories and understanding how they work, their legislation on pollution and chemical, or lack thereof, she began to feel demotivated and wanted to move away from this sector. With first hand experience her knowledge of the importance of provenance can not be faulted. And this is exactly what excites me about her new venture. 

How did Thoroughly British start?

The idea for Thoroughly British started quite a while back. I'm originally from Sweden I have always thought of the UK (and London in particular) as one of the great fashion countries in the world. As a teenager, to pop over for a weekend's shopping in London was always super exciting!

When I eventually moved here and one day started looking for a new handbag I really wanted one made in Britain. As I knew a bit about the leather industry etc. I thought there would be tonnes of companies out there who made gorgeous MIB handbags but when I started Googling I couldn't find that many. Today, I know that there are quite a few around, they are just really hard to find! Anyway, I ended up buying a lovely handbag from The Cambridge Satchel Company (they were still a small startup back then) and I still love it to bits!

The second thing that gave me the idea for Thoroughly British was Mary Portas' Kinky Knickers. That show was a bit of an eye opener for me, I obviously knew a bit about the British textile industry and had kind of assumed that it was still there and I really had no idea that so many factories had closed down in favour of cheap and cheerful clothes from the Far East.

Putting these things together - the great British textile heritage that was rapidly being lost, how sick I was of unsustainable, throwaway fashion and how much time it took me to actually find MIB things that were not super frumpy and boring made me think that 'wouldn't it be nice if someone collected a whole bunch of great MIB brands in one place so one didn't need to spend hours trawling the internet just to find a British made shirt?

After days and weeks spent on Google and emailing designers, I came up with quite a long list of really really nice MIB labels. I started up the blog just to have somewhere to tell people about all these great things I was finding and the response was really positive. After just 3 months we had over 500 unique visitors every month.

I also started to realise that the interest in MIB is huge in other countries. I already knew that the Swedes and Japanese really like MIB but there are so many other markets where the interest in high-end MIB products is growing rapidly and I started to see that this could also be a market. But if I was finding it hard to source MIB, how hard must it be for someone from Japan for example?

So about a year ago I started to seriously look into the idea of Thoroughly British, I researched what was currently out there, people's shopping habits, what people look for when they shop, brands that might be suitable etc., etc. And here we are!

Who will you stock?

We have a whole range of different designers that will be on the site from launch including Antithesis, Claire Gaudion, Etrala, Evocha, Katie Darlington, Kitty Ferreira, Mairi McDonald, MYIA, Rosita Bonita, Stella + Alf, Syo Kai, Yull and z-mode and we will add more labels as we go. However, a big part of Thoroughly British is to promote all of our designers and make sure that they are noticed on the website so we have therefore capped the number of designers that will be selling with us at one time.

Why do you think people are looking to buy British made goods?
Generally I think people are getting sick of mass consumption and the whole throw-away attitude in the fashion industry. People are looking for something more genuine and perhaps different from what everyone else has and this is really where MIB brands come in. Also the idea of buying quality that will last through seasons I think is very appealing when money is a bit tight.

I think what Mary Portas highlighted through her Kinky Knickers, is that buying British actually makes a real difference to real people in terms of providing employment has made some people choose MIB over made in China - especially when prices are fairly similar.

Internationally the Made in Britain 'brand' seems to be getting increasingly popular and I definitely think that things like the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee has definitely increased the interest in MIB and perhaps improved people's views on Britain generally.

Sites like yours will make it increasingly easier to make an informed choice about purchasing - particularly in regards to provenance -  why do you think so many online retailers shy away from stating information that is readily available on the clothing label?
Hmm.. I'm not sure really, perhaps they think that the customer is not interested (which I think is underestimating the customer) or they might think it detracts from the item that they are trying to sell. With the fairly recent factory collapse in Bangladesh it might also be that labels prefer not to tell where your shirt was made, they prefer you to pay your money without thinking too much.

At the same time there have been a few cases where retailers have put Made in Britain labels in clothing and the item itself is made in China but the MIB label is made in Britain - so retailers must think that MIB matters! Kate from Make it British calls it Fake it British and has a few really interesting and quite shocking articles on her site..

Have you had a sneak peek at what is going to be stocked? Any stand out favourites items we should keep our eyes peeled for?
That is a tricky one (I obviously like them all) however there are a few items that do stand out like Mairi McDonald's Mosshart dress - the design is stunning and everything including the intricate lace is handmade in Scotland. I also really like this season's z-mode dresses - again handmade lace and prints are just so lovely together.

What trends are you most looking forward to for spring/summer?
I'm really looking forward to warmer weather, sheer fabrics, and graphic and floral prints. At Scoop International there was a lot of really nice prints and I can't wait for them to 'hit the stores'.

What are your hopes and aspirations for Thoroughly British in 2014?
Firstly I'm hoping that everything goes well for the launch and that we will get the response that we are hoping for! Then we are hoping to get more great British labels onboard (there are already a few waiting to join). We will also be expanding into menswear which will be really exciting.

Then there are plans for some press events and exhibitions so all in all I think it will be a very busy and exiting year!

And finally a cheesy one, insert something inspirational..
Haha! I like the thing that people say, that if you are really passionate about something and prepared to work hard you will succeed. I think this is very true but it is also important to do your research before you jump into something - we sure did, which meant it took longer to get to this point but I think what we have created is going to be really great!

Thank you so much Linn for your time, I wish you all the best with the launch and hope it's goes a smoothly as possible!

Thoroughly British launched yesterday, here are a few of my favourite items available now; shop here.

Suit Jacket, Katie Darlington at Thoroughly British; Dress, Mari McDonald at Thoroughly British; Shirt, Etrala at Thoroughly British; Necklace, Daniella Draper at Thoroughly British; Necklace, Rosita Bonita at Thoroughly British; Scarf, Claire Gaudion at Thoroughly British; Shoes, Yull at Thoroughly British.

Andrea x
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