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 pioneers prove, slow fashion is always worth the wait.
This independent slow-fashion brand makes joyful, exuberant clothing with a retro spin. The highlight of founder and seamstress Karina Molby’s designs are the gingham dresses, with voluminous sleeves and cinched in waists. In single, summer-appropriate gingham colours or a tapestry of different fabrics, the midi-length dresses have a wonderfully playful spirit and timeless silhouette. There’s a selection of cherry, banana and strawberry t-shirts too, in similarly colourful designs and with a splash of gingham. Handmade to order, Molby the Label pieces can take up to three weeks to arrive — but are well worth the wait.
Founder Olivia Rose Havelock began her business making garments from her Edinburgh flat, which quickly went on to become an Instagram hit. Her puff sleeved dresses, playful blouses and nightshirt-style dresses have earned Olivia Rose The Label 70,000 followers, and a pop-up in Selfridges a few years ago. The figure-hugging pieces are wonderfully feminine, and the romantic clothing is all made to order from locally sourced fabrics, just as it was when she first started. For an extra personal touch, each package comes with a hand written note from Olivia.
Launched by London-based sisters Hannah and Melissa Collett in 2018, this luxury silk fashion brand creates elegant pieces without any waste. Inspired by their teenage travels in Catalonia and the region’s artistic traditions, their ready-to-wear collections are beautifully simple, with artfully draped dresses, tops and trousers in vibrant reds, blues, gold and olive. Their made-to-order selection also covers accessories, with a curated assortment of silver chain necklaces, earrings and kilt pins with delicate shell details.
Already lauded for its ethical, sustainable approach, Birdsong is another brand that has recently embraced the joy of made to order. Last year, they launched a collection crafted entirely using Tencel™ – a fabric made from sustainable wood pulp – and their pieces are a riot of colour featuring 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.
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 treated as items to be treasured. Her made-to-order designs are flamboyant – think celestial prints and ruffles – with each one crafted using deadstock fabric with meticulous attention to detail (Mary honed her skills working for Alexander McQueen and Richard Nicoll). Rather wonderfully, 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.