In The Spotlight: Caroline Harris

Caroline Harris finished her BA (Hons) Fashion at Southampton Solent University with a stunning final project: a luxurious upcycled collection. Caroline was happy to share her story with Pastel Wanders:

“I wanted to make a luxurious and wearable collection that would appeal to a wider audience. I did not want the main focus to be the fact it was recycled because I wanted this to be something that could be ‘normal’ rather than a focus point.”

Quality needs time

“The reason behind my upcycling was purely based upon using up old/ vintage garments, disused cloths and fabric lengths; I even managed to get my hands on old rolls of Ted Baker linings. Most importantly I wanted the collection to maintain its premium and luxurious feel. Although I was using ‘old’ remnants, I never wanted this to affect the quality of my collection. I spent many hours carefully unpicking original garments making sure I could utilise every last inch of the fabrics I had sourced.”

Future of fashion

“It was important to me to use remnant cloth or ‘old’ garments as I felt that it was something that could easily be done if you put thought behind it – so why not. My final project opened my eyes to what the fashion industry could be and where fashion could go if the right people were eager to pursue new possibilities. I see the future of fashion evolve in a way where sustainability, renewal and vintage can flourish.”

Caroline Harris

Amsterdam: a dream for vintage lovers

The beautiful city of Amsterdam is visited for many reasons. I love the rich amount of vintage shops and if you make an effort you can also find some ethical clothing shops. Here are some of my current favourites:

Vintage shops:

Retro chic

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This tiny unique vintage shop has some stunning pieces from every decade of the 20th century and sells quality clothing from renowned designers. Even the shopkeeper looked like she stepped out of a romantic black and white movie.

Address: Staalstraat 2
Retro Chic

Bij ons vintage

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‘Bij ons vintage’ has two locations in Amsterdam where they sell original vintage clothes. Every piece of clothing has a tag with the decade it originates from. The shop is very neatly presented which makes it even more pleasurable to shop there.

Address: Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 150 and Reestraat 13
Bij ons vintage

Zipper

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My number three must be Zipper. They have a lovely range of checkered shirts and Christmas jumpers for this winter. A good place to fill up your Christmas stockings!

Address: Huidenstraat 7
Zipper

Sustainable and fair fashion:

Nukuhiva

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Nukuhiva has two locations: Amsterdam and Utrecht. They specialise in selling trendy brands that are also fair and sustainable. The founder, Floortje Dessing, named her shops after an island in French-Polynesia. According to her it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. “The people who live on that stunning island manage to live in harmony with nature in a way we can only dream of”, Floortje explains on her website.

Address: Haarlemmerstraat 36
Nukuhiva

I love vintage

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This cute shop mostly sells vintage inspired clothes. Not all their garments are fair and sustainable but they sell an interesting and beautiful brand called Bannou. This brand aspires to make every step of the garment chain as sustainable as possible. Designer and founder Faranak Mirjalili travels around the world to fulfil that goal by visiting the factories and building a relationship with her workers.
Address: Haarlemmerstraat 25 and Prinsengracht 201
I love vintage

Enjoy fashion ethically: My style

I enjoy mixing vintage, charity shop bargains and contemporary pieces. My style in a few words: timeless, elegant and edgy. Recently I bought this skirt at a charity shop in Southampton for just a few pounds and matched it with my grey T-shirt from Sissy-Boy. Elegant necklaces are my favourite. I purchased this vintage-looking one at Zahia, a Belgian jewellery shop that sells gems from all over the world. As photography is one of my passions I also have an analogue camera, a Canon A-1, which used to be my grandfather’s.

 

Do you know the true cost of fast fashion?

The True Cost (2015), a documentary by Andrew Morgan, is a must see for all ethical fashion lovers. The impact of the fashion industry on our planet and its people is thoroughly investigated by Andrew and his team. Using this documentary as a basis, I will summarise what fashion is doing to our world and what we can do to stop these practices, once and for all.

Worthless codes of conduct

After the Rana Plaza in Dhaka collapsed, killing 1129 people, a lot of consumers and big clothing companies carried on as they did before. Some companies signed voluntary codes of conduct but hardly any significant changes have occurred for the garment workers. “Voluntary codes of conduct aren’t worth the paper they’re written on”, according to Barbara Briggs, Director of the Institute for labour rights.

The second most polluting industry

Not only are the workers being exploited, our planet is too. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. Tons of waste water are spilt into lakes in developing countries and the amount of pesticides used for cotton keeps rising because of the re-engineered seed produced in the West. “Whole towns in the Punjab region in India are swallowed by epidemics of cancer, mental illness and physical handicaps because of pesticides”, says Dr Pritpal Singh.

Who is responsible?

We, as consumers, are also responsible. By giving in to the idea that more and cheaper clothing will make us happy we encourage big clothing companies to keep cutting corners. “The more people are focused on materialistic values, the more people say money, image, possession and status are important to them. But we need to remember possessing things isn’t going to make us happy”, explains Tim Kasser, PHD en psychology professor at Knox College.

The solution

So, what can we do about this? Shopping consciously is the first step. By supporting ethical brands you choose not to feed bottomless pockets of multinationals that couldn’t care less about the garment workers and our planet.

Secondly we should reconsider the amount of clothes we buy and cherish the pieces we purchase. Lucy Siegle hits the right notes when she says: ‘Fashion can never and should never be thought of as a disposable product’.

Watch the trailer of The True Cost here: