The slow fashion movement has been quietly gathering pace over the past few years. From new clothes made consciously with respect for the environment to clothes that are vintage, handmade, reworked and rented, the slow fashion revolution has inspired many of us to adopt a more mindful approach to shopping for our wardrobe.
We are seeking out those offering craftsmanship and quality, and we are increasingly choosing local brands to support. And thanks to some enterprising London labels, we are seeing a resurgence of a model that was all but the norm until fast fashion arrived: made to order.
There was a time when having clothes made for you lay at the heart of the fashion industry. Clothes were crafted with care and with longevity in mind, items to be cherished and passed on to the next generation. Of course, the city’s haute couture ateliers and tailors of Savile Row are a reminder that bespoke hasn’t gone away, but, sadly, we have seen fast fashion dominate as our culture has become increasingly throwaway.
In response, the new model of made-to-order fashion is as much about the environment as it is crafting something beautiful that you are unlikely to see being worn by anyone else. By reducing waste in the supply chain and championing inclusive sizing, the new generation of made-to-order brands are helping us shop better. And there’s no need to compromise on style either. As these London-based pioneers prove, slow fashion is always worth the wait.
There is so much to admire about this socially responsible enterprise. Aside from crafting exquisite, long-wearing, sustainable pieces that are the epitome of effortless style, the brand provides work and support to women in London from low-income backgrounds. Inspired by founder Gracie Sutton’s own work with rural artisans in India, where she explored slower methods of design and manufacturer, the brand has recently shifted to a made-to-order model. Its latest collection – Edition 5 – offers pieces made from reclaimed and recycled materials: think drop-waist dresses, billowing blouses and wrap shirts all expertly crafted by women at East London’s FabricWorks.
Already lauded for its ethical, sustainable approach, Birdsong is another brand that has recently embraced the joy of made to order. Its current collection is crafted using Tencel™ – a fabric made from sustainable wood pulp – and is a riot of colour and bold prints based on original ink drawings. However, founders Sophie Slater and Sarah Nevil don’t just design beautiful clothes. Birdsong is a call to arms: created by women for women who expect more from their wardrobe. By supporting low-income migrant workers who make the clothes, and by using a Camden-based charity that works with adults with learning disabilities to pack and post orders, this modern-day fashion brand shows it is possible to do so much more.
When Bozena Jankowska created her eponymous label 2016, she did so in the belief that fashion should be as individual and as unique as the woman who wears it. Cue a brand that combines beautifully executed tailoring that is not only made to order, but can also be personalised to create a statement worthy of the wearer. With a passion for slow fashion, Bozena has focused her business on a collection of three wardrobe essentials: blazers and trousers crafted using end of production and vintage fabric and buttons and a selection of organic cotton printed and embroidered t-shirts.
Founded by Sarah Bartlett, who spent 10 years designing womenswear for brands such as Burberry and Whistles, Carnations is the culmination of a dream to create a responsible fashion label. Recognising that made to order was a sustainable means of producing garments, Carnations offers a collection of interchangeable co-ords that have been designed ‘to grow with you over time’. Such is its commitment to longevity that garment repairs are offered for a small fee. Unsurprisingly, the SS20 collection and painterly pieces created in collaboration with artist Alice Hartley were a sell-out, but we hear that a collaboration with tie-dye queen Dye Baby @Dyebbyy is coming soon.
Eschewing trends in favour of creating exclusive one-off pieces to cherish, Franks keeps its production deliberately small. In fact, just 30 pieces per style are created in order to limit waste. Using upcycled fabrics to create her retro ultra-feminine made-to-order pieces, a particularly lovely touch is that founder Frankie Steed has designed garment labels that feature the name of the individual who hand-finished the piece. You can also expect your order to arrive in a gift bag made from fabric scraps in a further bid to reduce plastic waste.
Another designer with a passion for a bygone era is Mary Benson. A lover of all things vintage, it’s perhaps not surprising that Mary harks back to a time when clothes were created with care and were treated as items to be treasured. Her made-to-order designs are flamboyant – think celestial prints and ruffles – and are crafted using deadstock fabric with meticulous attention to detail (Mary honed her skills working for Alexander McQueen and Richard Nicoll). Rather wonderfully though, Mary also offers a pre-loved line of items that have been upcycled and redesigned by her and her team. They’ll even work their magic on your own items should you desire, ensuring they’re given a new lease of life.
Also with a focus on deadstock fabric, this time from high-end designer brands, is Tøj London. The brainchild of Danish native Emilie Johansen and named after the Danish word for clothes, Tøj London was created last year as her solution to intensively produced fast fashion. The girly pieces – which feature smocking, puff sleeves and pretty prints – are all handmade by the designer herself and are either made to order or crafted in limited quantities to reduce waste. Emilie will also label, steam, package and ship your item, too. And, although it is hoped that you’ll love your item forever, the brand closes the loop by encouraging customers to send back items that have been loved enough so that they may be repurposed.