After a long stint as a fashion buyer I have spent many years routinely visiting factory after factory in India and the Far East; endlessly pushing out the latest collection to fulfill the ‘target customer’s’ desire. But is that what buyers now really want? I have felt for a number of years that producing fashion at this pace, in a mass-produced way, is feeding a desire for throw away and meaningless fashion. Don’t get me wrong, one of the reasons I am doing what I am doing is because I have been inspired by many of those brands, and through working with them I got exposed to some incredible skill and talent which left my mind buzzing with endless possibilities…
My approach to buying now for Dilli Grey customers is that buying less, choosing well and paying a fair and appropriate price is helping to ensure that I can work with artisans in a more open and honest way. I regularly travel directly to see where my collections are made and I am always blown away by the happy environment that I see them working in. I would proudly take any Dilli Grey customer around the workshops and studios of my artisans – in fact later in the year I’d love to take you all with me, via a series of social media live sessions – so I can introduce you to some of the workers, first-hand.
Perhaps most poignant for me as a working mum is the fact that many of the artisans I employ are women who have previously not been allowed to work. I visit villages where mothers are able to be trained into a new skill to enable them to remain at home with their kids, so they don’t have to travel to the city to work. Even as a small business I can make an impact and ensure in a small way that people are able to provide for their families and that makes my heart sing.
You can learn more about the traditional artisan skills that Dilli Grey supports in my hand-block printing blog here, or check out the quilts that are hand-quilted by the women artisans in Jaipur.
For Fairtrade Fortnight, and to celebrate International Women’s Day, I also picked the brains of one of my favorite blogger friends Karen Maurice, aka N4 Mummy, who is leading the way with her sustainable blog and championing like-minded, independent brands…
Why is ethical, sustainable living so important to you?
Save the earth, it’s the only planet with ice cream! I once saw a T-Shirt with that slogan and it made me chuckle. But seriously, during my time as a buyer for an unnamed UK high-street store, I visited lots of different countries and factories where our garments were being made. The poverty I saw was awful. It was so easy to rationalise it in my head as being ok because it was a poor country. But I realised it is exploitative to pay people so little they can
barely afford to live, just so that we can enjoy cheap clothes and always be wearing the latest trend. In my work, I became totally fed up of trying to create cheaper and cheaper garments, cutting corners with quality, usefulness and longevity of a garment. I wanted to buy clothes that would last. Essentially for me, it comes down to the fact that people matter and our planet matters.
I’m a Christian, so try and live by the words: ‘treat others as you would want to be treated.’
Favourite sustainable brands?
Ooo there are so many goodies out there at the moment, but I love Gather & See for great fashion pieces, People Tree for staples, and Dilli Grey for summer items. I’m a complete jewellery junky so I’m often browsing Edge of Ember, Little By Little and for shoes my favourite is Miista.
Quick wins that anyone can try?
Ditch single use plastic bottles and switch to reusable water bottles and coffee cups. Also if you have nothing to wear, try to first have a rummage around at the back of your wardrobe, if you still can’t find anything then buy something new. But 9 times out of 10 you’ll find a gem that you’d forgotten about.