Taking a break. Getting a balance.

Dear Readers,

It’s been a full week since my last post, and it will be even longer till my next…

I am taking a break from blogging. I do love blogging, I really do. But at the moment I’m struggling to get the right balance. And in all honesty it’s been messing with my head!

Recently I’ve been given extra responsibility at work, I have a very busy social life and I feel I can’t fully enjoy that at the moment with the added pressure of writing blogs. The last thing I want is to not enjoy writing them, so for September I will be hanging up the keyboard and focusing on my friends and family, my work and myself.

Taking a break. Getting a balance.

But do not fear (or be so relieved), I will be back in October! But in the meantime my September step back is starting well, right now I’m on a train heading to London for a weekend with Rob. Next weekend I’m off to walk Hadrian’s Wall for charity. The weekend after that it’s Rob’s birthday. Then finallyyyyyy I’m off on holiday to Dubrovnik for a week.

In the meantime here are some things I was going to talk about through September that I’ve gotten for my holidays. I’ll let you have a sneaky peak at my sustainable buys without my waffle.

Auria London bikini

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Jyoti skirt

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People Tree dress

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Sundried shorts

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Sometimes taking a break is essential. Have a great September yourself, and make sure you get a good balance!

Cya in October!

Ciao Bella’s xxx

Who Made My Clothes?

Three weeks ago I enrolled on a free online course hosted by Future Learn with Fashion Revolution and Exeter University. The purpose of the course is to understand the issues within the fashion industry, how a fashion supply chain works, and to share a variety of simple techniques to find the answer to ‘Who Made My Clothes?‘. It also explains how to use the findings to press the fashion industry to value people, the environment, creativity and profit in equal measure.

During the course you are asked to write a story about an item of clothing. Here is mine…

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“The first time I was worn was at an Austrian Rolling Stones gig (who turned out to actually be from Birmingham) in a village hall, Melbourne, Derbyshire. I danced to Little Red Rooster, Honky Tonk Woman and got my ‘Jagger On’ to Brown Sugar.

Before my first outing though I originally started as a combination of two materials. I’m HTB1j0XeIpXXXXb0XpXXq6xXFXXXJmade of 76% polyester and 24% metallised fibres which were produced in factories in China. The factories were hot, very hot, highs of 270°C are used in the manufacturing process. In the Chinese factories I didn’t see many people, mainly just machines. The first time I really heard conversations and felt a human touch was when I was being transported by ship to Turkey.

When I arrived in Turkey I found myself in another factory. This time there were loads of people, the majority seemed to be Turkish, around the age of 40 and male. However I did Syrian Refguees Trying To Survive In Turkey Work For Minimum Wagesnotice a small group of workers that seemed distant from the others. Whilst under a needle and thread on a tightly packed sewing machine I overheard them whispering about where they came from, Syria, and the horrid civil war that was taking place there. They had to whisper as the man who gave them their 90p an hour wage was always keeping an eye on them.

Before I was popped into a plastic bag my creases were ironed out by a young boy, I overheard him telling a fellow worker that he had worked 15 hours yesterday and that he would just love to go home and play football with his brothers. 

From Turkey I was shipped to a distribution centre in Swindon. While I was there the union GMB for the distribution centre workers turned up and said the workers there were being Marks__Spencer_Reading_290_153_c1treated like lumps of meat. I wondered what this meant, but it turns out the union were outraged as they had been given less than one week’s notice that workers currently employment by agency Tempay Ltd were to be transferred to another employer, 24-7 Recruitment Services without any consultation. It was not a happy place to be.

Finally on November 1st 2016 in Munich as a birthday present to herself, Anna woke up hungover after many German beers and bought me online from Marks and Spencer’s. I left Swindon by truck and was delivered to Anna’s flat in Leicestershire. Hurray!”

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Writing the above story was so difficult. Please note that photos and facts used in the story are all related to news articles found on the Independent, BBC and GMB website. I am obviously not 100% certain that Syrian refugees were used in the specific factory that made my shirt. From M&S supply chain map you can see there are many factories in Turkey. This does however show how difficult it is to trace an item of clothing!

The Future Learn course has been great in guiding the research done to create my story. As a last ‘assignment’ the course asks you to make a pledge to do at least one thing to support the Fashion Revolution movement to help improve the lives of the people who make your clothes.

I have previously followed Fashion Revolution’s ‘Get Involved’ Guide; I asked Fred Perry ‘Who Made My Clothes?’, I wrote a love story on a wedding outfit and I hosted a Swap Shop.

My pledge is to continue with my blog and bring awareness to others, continue doing research on the clothes I buy and challenge brands to find out #whomademyclothes, continue to buy second hand, vintage or swap with my friends and continue to support Labour Behind the Label.

What do you pledge to do?

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Upcycling Dungarees

Last summer on a very hot day I panic bought some dungaree shorts from a vintage shop. They’re cool, but very large, and because of that I’ve not had much wear out of them. This morning I decided to upcycle them into a dungaree dress.

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Upcycling clothes helps lessen the amount of waste going to landfill. It helps reduce CO2 emissions by using old materials instead of new ones. FACT – for every tonne of discarded textiles used again, 20 tonnes of CO2 is prevented from entering the atmosphere. It saves you money, as it allows you to find new uses for old clothes. Finally, it helps preserve our precious resources.

Refashioning these dungarees was dead simple.

Cut out the crotch area by cutting alongside both sides of the seam.

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Pin and then tack the old ‘legs’ to form a skirt by aligning the seams across the bottom. Cut out the excess material from the back.

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Sew along the seam.

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Voila!

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By no means am I a dab hand on a sewing machine. My Gran gave me this machine 4 years ago. It rarely gets used and apart from textiles lessons at school I’ve had no training. This is seriously something anybody can turn their hand to.

If you’re fed up with some of the clothes in your wardrobe, why not give them an upcycle spruce?

Step Up

For regular readers you will know that I am currently raising money for Labour Behind the Label who are a charity that campaigns to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry. This month they launched a campaign for shoe brands to Step Up and tell us where our shoes are made.

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In 2014 24 billion pairs of shoes were produced, 87% of those shoes were made in Asia. Workers in the shoe industry face many issues from poverty pay, long working hours and denial of union rights to health and environmental risks.

 

Naga-Bai-65-years-homeworker-–-sewer-2Meet Naga Bai, a 65 year old home shoe worker from Ambur in India. For every pair of shoes she stitches, she earns just 10p. She can sew a maximum of 10 pairs per day, meaning her daily income is about £1. This is far too little to live on, a kilogram of rice costs up to 43p. As a home worker, Naga Bai is not eligible to receive any employment benefits, such as a pension or medical insurance.

 

Many shoes are made of leather that use toxic chemicals and dyes which can be dangerous to workers. Chromium 6, used in leather tanning, can cause asthma, eczema, blindness and cancer. When it transfers to the waste water it causes harmful pollution to the environment and to communities nearby.

cys2Here is Jahaj and his brother, aged 8 and 7, working in a factory where animal hides are tanned in Hazaribagh, Bangladesh. They process the raw hides into the first stage of leather. Their job is to get inside the tannery pit, which is full of hazardous chemicals and pull out the hides. They both suffer from rashes and itches. Asked why they perform such dangerous tasks, they said: “When we are hungry, acid doesn’t matter. We have to eat.”

Labour Behind the Label are calling on us to ask ‘who made our shoes’. If brands are transparent about where their shoes are being made it helps workers to claim their rights.

For example…

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Compensation – When the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh collapsed in 2013, more than 1,100 garment workers were killed. But before their families could seek compensation from the brands, the brands’ labels had to be picked out of the rubble. This is because information about which brands were making clothes at those factories wasn’t publicly available. In the horrific event of another catastrophe like Rana Plaza, transparency will allow compensation to be paid for workers and their families much more quickly.

Wages and employment conditions – Knowing the average wages of workers on different grades within a factory and across similar factories would allow for a union to scrutinise whether wages are fair and enough to live on. Women homeworkers play an essential role stitching leather uppers for shoes. But they are often invisible, their rights ignored and they are at the mercy of their employer. Brands must identify and recognise homeworkers and give them the same rights as any other workers.

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What can we do?

You can sign Labour Behind the Label’s petition to call for leading UK shoe brands and retailers Schuh, Office, Faith, Debenhams, Dr Martens, Primark, Asda, Very.co.uk, Bohoo.com, Boden, Harvey Nichols and Sports Direct along with leading global shoe brands Deichmann, Camper, Prada, Birkenstock, CCC and Leder to:

  • Publish the names and addresses of all their suppliers
  • Report on progress in moving away from dangerous chemicals
  • Show that they are respecting the human rights of the people who make their shoes, ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions.

You could reduce the number of shoes you buy. An increase in fast fashion has                   drove brands to resort to using unethical practices in making shoes. Buying less                 and better quality will help to combat this.

Or you could buy from ethical shoe brands such as:

Summer Essentials

In the UK summer tends to just pop up unexpectedly. Our wardrobes, skin and nasal passages are never fully ready for the sun to shine and pollen to flourish. This year I tried to make sure I was prepared for that odd heat wave and this weekend is the perfect chance to try and test those summer essentials.

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Jason Suncream SPF30

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INGREDIENTS: ZINC OXIDE, TITANIUM DIOXIDE, ORGANIC SUNFLOWER SEED OIL, JOJOBA SEED OIL, ALOE LEAF JUICE, CALENDULA FLOWER EXTRACT, CAMELLIA LEAF EXTRACT and CHAMOMILLA FLOWER EXTRACT, WATER, CAPRIC TRIGLYCERIDE, DIMETHICONE, ETHYLHEXYL PALMITATE, SORITAN SESQUIOLEATE, GLYCERIN, GLYCERYL ISOSTEARATE, SHEA BUTTER, POLYGLYCERYL3 RICINOLEATE, ALCOHOL, MAGNESIUM SULPHATE, SILICA, SODIUM CHLORIDE, PHENOXYETHANOL, POLYHYDROSTEARIC ACID

Paraben free, no animal testing and containing 6 organic ingredients this spf30 suncream is waterproof and great for sensitive skin. I catch the sun very easily and today I’ve been on a 12km walk in direct sunlight and haven’t burnt one bit. It applies quite thickly but soon soaks in. One gripe I have with this suncream is that is isn’t scented so it doesn’t give off that nostalgic suncream summer smell.

John Masters Organics Sea Mist Sea Salt Spray with Lavender

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INGREDIENTS: ORGANIC CASTOR SEED OIL, SHEA BUTTER, VANILLA FRUIT OIL, ORANGE FLOWER OIL, TANGERINE PEEL OIL, GRAPEFRUIT PEEL OIL, ROSEMARY LEAF EXTRACT AND SUNFLOWER SEED OIL, GLYCERIN, SORBITOL, PANTHENOL, PHYTIC ACID

I’m a very lazy person when it comes to my hair. I like it easy to do and messy. This sea salt spray is great to get that ‘straight out the sea’ – ‘surfer’ look. All you have to do is spray it on nearly dry/dry hair and scrunch. It gives a natural wave with texture. And it smells amazing! The bottles are made from recycled materials, 9 organic ingredients are used and it is paraben and animal testing free.

Weleda Hayfever Remedies

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Hayfever relief oral spray – This vegan oral spray is homeopathic and helps with hayfever symptoms.

Rhinodoron nasal spray – Made from 100% natural ingredients of aloe vera and saline solution rhinodoron works to break down nasal congestion.

These natural medicines both help alleviate the symptoms of hayfever, but only to a certain extent. If you get a mild case of the allergy then these will be great. However if like me you really do suffer, more chemical methods would be recommended.

Fair Squared Razor

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For the majority of the year my legs are unseen, and so therefore untouched by a razor, it can be a hectic moment when it comes to wearing dresses and shorts. The first glimmer of sun I decided to invest in a new pack of razors. Fair Squared produce a range of fairtrade products from shampoo, to razors, to body lotion all in a carbon neutral factory in Germany. I used this razor for the first time this morning before donning a pair of dungarees for the walk. It moisturised and I didn’t butcher myself. Result!

People Tree Summer Staples

Earlier this year I had a massive clear out of my wardrobe, only keeping what I actually wear. Then as soon as the sun came out I realised I didn’t have any tops to go with my summery bottoms.

Red brenton top – made from 100% organic fairtrade cotton at Fusion Clothing in India who create well-made clothing that uses the planet’s resources intelligently, provides safe working conditions, and gives back to communities that manufacture the garments.

Black t-shirt – made from 95% organic cotton at Rajlakshmi Cottom Mills in India who are pioneers in organic garment manufacturing combining high quality tailoring with a fair deal for farmers and workers, whilst supporting local environmental and social projects.

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Today in Derbyshire the sun is certainly shining. It’s my Granda’s birthday so as soon as this blog post is sent I’ll be off out into the garden for a few beers to celebrate. Hope you all enjoy the sunny weather… while it lasts! x

Super Sunday Swap Shop

People now buy four times more clothes than they did in the 80’s. To meet these increasing demands fashion brands are cutting corners in regards to worker rights, pay and safety. It also has huge consequences for the environment, on average UK consumers send 30kg of clothing to landfill each year.

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Labour Behind the Label are a charity that are dedicated to changing this. Throughout the year I’m doing a couple of challenges to raise money for them and today I held a Swap Shop to encourage the reuse of clothes and raise awareness of the issue.

A Swap Shop is simple, people bring any unwanted clothes, jewellery, books, toiletries etc. to swap. Anything that takes your fancy you can take and any left over bits will be donated to charity. One man/woman’s trash is another man/woman’s treasure.

With support from my amazing friends and family on the day we managed to raise a whopping £123!!!! It was great fun and we took away some cool pieces. My personal favourite is a demin jacket my mate Niamh brought. She had bought it from Dawn O’Porter who sold it on instagram for charity. And now it has been swapped, again for charity! A jacket that just keeps on giving.

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Thank you so much to everyone who has supported this so far. You’re all absolute legends. Especially my Mam, Alison, who today was a superstar! If you would like to donate click here.  Also, keep your ears to the ground as I’ll be hosting another Swap Shop soon!

Hope you’ve all had a great weekend, I know I certainly have. Good night x

 

Asquith – Yoga

I usually do yoga at my local leisure centre and recently they’ve added some extra sessions of piyo and pilates which I can’t wait to get stuck into.

I’ve also started going to an outdoor yoga session which is held at Whistlewood Common (a community-owned area of land in my parent’s town) one Friday a month. Typical UK style – this month’s session was held inside a yurt because of the rain…

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For yoga I used to wear old leggings and a scruffy t-shirt, but since I’m doing it more and I’m getting slightly better at it, I decided to invest in some proper gear and headed to Asquith.  They specify in yoga clothing made from bamboo and organic cotton at a family run factory in Turkey.

Bamboo is a sustainable and environmentally low-impact fabric, it grows faster and absorbs more carbon dioxide than hardwood trees (always a positive!). It is ideal for activewear as it is naturally anti-bacterial and breathable.

All Asquith’s fabrics are Oeko-Tex certified which means they have a low carbon footprint and biodegradable fibres. Their cotton is also GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) certified meaning it is ethically grown, chemical free and responsibly manufactured. It keeps it shape, doesn’t fade, bobble or stretch unlike other activewears.

This morning I wore my new clobber to a Sunday session at the leisure centre. As soon as I put them on they felt much more suitable to yoga than what I was previously wearing. They felt like a second skin, gentle and breathable. I might not yet be able to do ‘floating lizard’, but at least I look the part!

Even if you aren’t a yoga/pilates/piyo goer I’d recommend these clothes for loungewear. Proof – I’ve still got mine on now 4 hours after my session this morning!

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