Fashion Revolution week is one of the most important weeks in the year for sustainable fashion but in the uncertain times we are currently living in it is perhaps even more important than ever. Garment industry workers all over the world face not only the danger of the virus itself but a very real prospect of poverty and starvation - the knock-on effect of cancelled orders and a lack of basic safeguards and employment rights which leave them vulnerable. At the same time, small brands fight for survival and we have to protect the good work that has been done over the years in building up a more sustainable fashion industry.
Every year during Fashion Revolution week we try to take you behind our wonderful brands - to help you meet the people who really make your clothes and accessories, to understand them better. This year we have asked them to explain how COVID-19 is affecting them and what they are doing in the face of this huge global challenge. There is no sugar-coating what each and every brand is facing - transparency and authenticity is at the heart of Gather&See and we want to tell it to you straight.
We hope that their stories will inspire you and remind you why it is so important to ask the question Who Made My Clothes? What's In My Clothes? and why demanding a more sustainable fashion industry moving forward is our only option. The old normal wasn't working. Let's use this time to reassess and redefine our own futures for the better.
1. LITTLE BY LITTLE
Founded in 2015, Little By Little's enchanting jewellery collections are inspired by the natural beauty found in food and are lovingly created using gold, silver, and touches of enamel. The brand is built on the belief that together, we can all make a difference - little by little. Here is what Georgina, who is currently juggling running the business and homeschooling her children and Annabel, who is about to go on maternity leave, have to say about what they're facing right now:
"Never could we have imagined or dreamt that LbL would have grown as it has and we'd still be as excited, if not more excited about the future, four years on. Sure, we've had battles to face, but Coronavirus has to be one of the toughest yet.
Sales have been slower and keeping those finances afloat all the more challenging. Our workshop in Peru was closed in March and the one in London followed a few weeks later. Luckily we have enough stock for now and so will be able to continue as we'd planned! ✨
More than ever we really want to see the survival of our production houses and the essential employment they provide in Peru and London. We are in regular contact with them as the Coronavirus situation unfolds, to see how they are.
The whole LBL team has graciously taken pay cuts to try and safeguard the future of LBL and we've promised each other that 'we're in this together', our hope is that we're able to weather the storm! Because together, we can all make a difference - Little by Little."
VILDNIS is founded on an unwavering desire to drive a trend for sustainable fashion combined with a wish to make a positive contribution to the world. A British brand with Danish roots, VILDNIS offers collections of casual but stylish pieces at an accessible price point - no compromise needed. The brand's founder Ulla, takes sustainability incredibly seriously and works tirelessly to find the very best in sustainable fabrics and works with two carefully audited factories in India and Portugal. Ulla gave us this update after her collection has been halted in India due to the lockdown:
"On a positive note, we have confirmed to our Indian supplier that we will honour all orders (without asking for discounts) and they have in turn confirmed that all workers, including workers on hourly wages, are being paid 100% of their normal salary during the lockdown. They have also ordered plexi screens for the production line + sanitisers and protective equipment for the workers and there is a plan in place for restarting the work in a safe manner."
Hamaji - meaning Nomad in coastal Swahili - is a luxury ethical bohemian designer label created around preserving ancient textile traditions and nomadic craftsmanship while empowering local small scale artisans in Africa. The collection supports local artisan families throughout the country with a focus on female empowerment in rural Kenya. Made in the foothills of Mount Kenya Hamaji use up-cycled vintage fabrics and sustainably sourced natural fibres. The founder and designer Louise, tells us what impact COVID is having in Kenya:
"We are still operating business and trying to keep things running, but on a slower pace. All of our Artisans are working independently from home and we are functioning through the upkeep of your demand and their work. It's important to keep on trying to support small independent ethical brands during this time as the biggest problem in Africa we face now with the lockdowns is food insecurity from those who rely on their everyday jobs to provide for their families. For every purchase made through Hamaji we are donating 10$ to Red Cross Kenya for Food Hampers. 1 Hamper can feed a whole family for a week."
Riyka is the brain child of husband and wife Rebecca and Vedran. Each collection sources its inspiration from the vibrant cultures that surround them in the heart Dalston, East London where they live and create. Each season Riyka aim to source fabrics that have a minimal impact on the environment and the people making them. They use end of roll, GOTS certified organic, Fair Trade and reclaimed fabrics.
Rebecca explained to us about what they have been doing in the face of lockdown.
"As a small business we are still able to function and send orders out from home. We have been making non surgical masks from our fabric waste since the beginning of the lockdown and only charging people £2.00 to cover the cost of postage. We sent 40 of them as well to a hospital in Whipps Cross for training staff."
Rebecca, in one of her masks.
Started by Georgie Wordley and Jennifer Harkness, Asime is a fashion brand with community and enterprise at its heart. Based in Ghana, Asime produce beautiful pieces made from responsibly sourced fabrics in collaboration with a mother-daughter seamstress team. Each Asime piece is conceived, created and finished with pride and passion.
Here is how it is affecting the team:
"Our work is split between London and Aunty's Fashion Home in Agbledomi, Ghana- a small fishing village approx a 3 hour drive East of Accra. We were due to travel to Ghana a week ago, to shoot and sample both our upcoming Summer collections - a very exciting time. Due to Covid 19 this trip was cancelled and our stock coming out of Ghana will be on hold for some time. Aunty has currently paused on making Asime collections for some time in order to keep some social distance within her workplace. This order is about 80% complete and the full sum of the order will be paid.
6. THE ENDERY
Set up by Kelly Phenicie and Ellen Saville, The Endery is an innovative knitwear project that tackles global waste by using what already exists, creating lifelong knits from deadstock yarn. Through the duo's experience and proximity to knitwear production in Peru, they aim to bring as much sustainability to the table as we can: rescuing quality materials, minimizing environmental impact, making products that last (both in design and quality), celebrating talented artisans and traditional craft, and solidifying a community that cares about our impact as consumers.
"Some of you may know we've been on strict lockdown in Peru, which has meant we haven't been able to knit at full capacity. Our knitters luckily had enough yarn to keep them going on some projects, and we were so happy to receive updates and keep in touch with them via Whatsapp. We were due to launch our second collection in March, which was put on hold until we figured out how we could best make everything work. We have been staying home in New York and felt very humbled by Front Lineworkers, and through running a giveaway on our site, we were overwhelmed by the amount of nominations we had. So our new collection now has a special Front Line Worker discount for the month of May which we feel has been a positive take on what is a very challenging time for so many people. Regarding our Spring / Summer Collection, we have decided to work on a pre-sale basis which allows us to go ahead with our launch as planned, and to hopefully have knitters fulfilling orders as soon as quarantine is officially over in Peru. We also stand behind this as a key way to address overconsumption and production as a sustainable brand."