20th Century Theatre, Notting Hill, London W11, UK
Saturday 4th December and Sunday 5th December 2010
By Guy Sangster Adams
As Ethical Just Got Fabulous’ Christmas event is certain to put a sparkle in the eye and provide a very welcoming, inspiring and glittering festive one-stop ethical shopping experience, it is entirely appropriate that at one point in the 150 year history of its venue, Notting Hill’s wonderfully atmospheric 20th Century Theatre, it was called the Bijou.
Following on from the success of their launch event in June 2010, at East London’s The Rag Factory, EJGF’s debut event in West London, will present a unique selection of clothing, accessories, homewares, jewellery, gifts, stocking fillers, and edible treats, from a carefully selected and eclectic mix of the most up and coming, ethical and design focused, fashion and lifestyle brands. The event is supported by Livia Firth, creative director of Eco-Age, the shop, showroom, consultancy, and green hub, that offers “inspiration, ideas, and specific domestic solutions, for all those who want to lead a greener and more energy efficient life.” Eco-Age will also be exhibiting at EJGF. Champagne Lanson and the independent London radio station, Magic 105.4 FM, have also partnered with EJGF for the event, at which shoppers will also be treated to live jazz, mini manicures, mulled wine and a raffle for a chance to win a Fabulous Christmas Hamper worth £1,000. Proceeds from the raffle will go directly to Magic 105.4’s Cash for Kids, a charity dedicated to giving the neediest local children a better and brighter future.
“There is such a lack of presence for quality ethical product on our high streets,” says Naomi Cornelius-Reid, who with Leoni Mani and Katy Pullen, is one of the triumvirate of ethically-minded female entrepreneurs who created Ethical Just Got Fabulous. “The media interest in ethical fashion is huge but for consumers there is often little choice aside from online ethical websites. Too often the system prevents these boutique brands from reaching consumers, with exhibitions and fairs sometimes poorly organised and charging exorbitant prices. We want to show that there is another way, the Fabulous way.”
A facet of the ‘Fabulous way’ is that EJGF is a non-profit company which only charges a fair and honest split of the event’s running costs to the exhibitors, as a key part of its dedication to raise the profile of “the multitude of high quality, beautifully designed, fashion focused, boutique ethical brands out there,” and the shared passion of the founders to bring “feel good fashion to the people,” and to support “the good work of those forward thinking enough to create companies that strive to be both fashionable and ethical in their production. Proving once and for all, that ethical can indeed be fabulous.”
The ethical business credentials of all three of EJGF’s founders are impressive. Naomi Cornelius-Reid is the founder of NV London Calcutta, an ethical accessories company that is dedicated to bridging the gap between high fashion and traditional ethical offerings. Their products are designed in Britain and produced, entirely by hand, in Calcutta, West Bengal, in so doing the company combines, she says, “the best of UK design talent with the promotion of age-old Indian craftsmanship and artisan skills,” which as a result supports and champions “marginalised producer groups to ensure that those who create our products receive both a fair wage and a healthy, happy working environment.”
Aspara, the company founded by Katy Pullen, began with a simple idea, she says, “to make a difference to the communities of artisans we work with.” Aspara’s unique and exclusively designed evening bags, purses, scarves, and shawls are all hand-crafted from silk and the finest natural materials by Cambodian artisans trying to support their families. “Aspara works directly with these producers to cut out the middleman,” says Pullen, “we pass on our knowledge and help financially so that these small businesses are able to meet Western production standards as well as offering a competitive and beautiful product.”
As project manager for the commemoration events for the 2007 Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, Leona Mani gained a further understanding of the importance of promoting Fair Trade. To facilitate this she created BestFairTrade.com, which is the only web-based directory for Fair Trade products, and through which her aim is, she says, “to raise awareness of the huge range of Fair Trade products available and also to promote smaller businesses.” Mani also has a wealth of experience of trading in the textile industry, gained through her time working in Hong Kong and India following graduation from her degree in International Business.
All three women felt that it was high time that the best in ethical fashion and lifestyle were available under one roof, and so in creating Ethical Just Got Fabulous they also gave birth to the first ethical pop-up department store. “Ethical fashion can, and should, be elegant, chic and desirable,” says Naomi Cornelius-Reid, and this is key to all the luxury boutique ethical brands that will be showcased at Ethical Just Got Fabulous’ Christmas event, including Izzy Lane, Fifi Bijoux, Enamore, and Bottletop.
Izzy Lane knitwear is made with the fleece of Wensleydale sheep, an endangered breed, their dresses, skirts and jackets are made from the fleece of the rare and primitive Shetland breed, and their cashmere garments are made from the fibre of Scottish cashmere goats, thus helping to support the declining Scottish cashmere industry.
Isobel Davies, the founder of Izzy Lane, pays equal and better prices to farmers for her sheep, which are predominantly animals that would otherwise be, as she says, “sent to slaughter for being male, missing a pregnancy, being a little lame, being too small, being too old or having imperfections such as a black spot in a white fleece.” The sheep then live out their lives at the Izzy Lane Sheep Sanctuary, whilst their wool is spun, as part of Izzy Lane’s commitment to support the ailing British textile industry, “using the last of 51 worsted spinners”, and dyed at “one of the last dyers in the Bradford area.” Similarly Izzy Lane’s cloth is “woven at an ancient mill in Selkirk using Victorian machinery that has been operating for over a hundred years.”
By taking their garments from every stage of the process from fleece, through manufacturing, to finished product, Izzy Lane know and can provide the full provenance for every item they sell.
Vivien Johnston, the director and designer of Fifi Bijoux, launched the ethical, luxury jewellery brand in 2006, with the precept of applying the principles of Fair Trade to gold, precious ethical gems, and ethical diamonds. “Luxury jewellery has a profound history of romance, intrigue and glamour,” she says, “however, this often concealed a harsher reality of cruelty, corruption and abuse.” To counter this, Fifi Bijoux source all their materials from suppliers who make a positive impact, and who do not exploit their workers or cause environmental damage. As Johnston says, “we believe in luxury as it should be; without the blood, sweat or tears.”
Enamore’s founder and creative director, Jenny Ambrose, launched the luxurious lingerie and accessories brand in Brighton in 2004, with a vision “to create beautiful, playful and quirky garments from reclaimed and sustainable materials,” in reaction to the damage she felt the fashion industry was doing to the environment. Enamore continue to develop this vision with both their range of eco-friendly lingerie that offers a new twist on the modern day pin-up, and their accessories, all created from eco-friendly fabrics including organic cotton, bamboo, soya, hemp and natural silk.
In addition to this not only does the company actively support ethical and fairly paid labour, also making use of manufactures local to them in the UK, but, as they say, “when we have no further use for fabrics, we donate the remnants to local schools and colleges for students to use for their own projects, reducing our own waste in the process!”
The empowerment of young people through grass roots education projects is at the core of Bottletop, which was founded by Cameron Saul and Oliver Wayman. The trading arm of the company, Bottletop Trading Ltd, is dedicated to designing and producing ethically sourced and environmentally friendly products. Their focus on quality, sustainability and local craftsmanship enables Bottletop to not only “create beautiful products that people want to own,” but also to generate employment in poverty stricken regions and countries around the world. Profits are invested back into the communities to perpetuate the benefits and reinforce the sustainability.
The Bottletop Campaign, which is Bottletop’s charity, supports their education projects for young people and also funds grass root initiatives that highlight and tackle adolescent health issues, particularly those “taking a longer term holistic approach, tailored for the local needs of young people and addressing simultaneously key issues such as sexual and reproductive health, substance abuse and gender equality.”
Supporting younger generations of talent is also key to EJGF. To this end they have fostered a partnership with London College of Fashion. At the EJGF launch event, LCF graduating students were given free exhibition space, and at the Christmas event students with an ethical fashion focus have been given the opportunity to help with all aspects of the event, thus gaining valuable industry experience.
Also to further “practice what they preach” EJGF created the Future Fabulous competition working with four schools local to Notting Hill. As part of which the EJGF founders have been visiting each school to talk to the pupils about ethical consumerism and the part they can play in that, and also inviting them to design and make their own ethical Christmas cards and decorations to enter into the competition. The entries will be judged by EJGF’s special guest judges including Livia Firth and Neil Fox, Magic FM DJ, director of Green Rewards, and patron of Trees for Cities. The winners will receive a framed picture of their entry, signed by the guest judges, ethical goodie bags to the value of £100, and their cards and decorations will be displayed over the weekend.