It’s that time of year again – Fashion Revolution Week 2019 – where we join thousands of people including consumers, designers + brands across 90 countries worldwide to make positive pro-active changes + lessen the devastating environmental + social impact of the fashion industry.
What is Fashion Revolution?
A global movement to change the impact of the fashion industry.
On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. 1,138 people died and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. Thats when Fashion Revolution started.
Your voice can change everything.
Since Fashion Revolution started, people from all over the world have used their voice and their power to tell brands that things must change. And it’s working. The industry is starting to change. More brands are being open about where their clothes are made. More manufacturers are making their factories safer. More producers are being seen and heard.
But the story is far from over. We are only just getting started. We can’t stop until every garment worker who makes the clothes we love is seen, heard, paid properly and working in safe conditions. Your voice does make a difference. We need to make this Fashion Revolution Week bigger and bolder than ever before. Ask brands #whomademyclothes?
What are we doing for Fashion Revolution Week 2019?
We have lots of exciting projects and events coming up over the next ten days.
We’d love those of you local to Brighton / Sussex / London to join us:
Zola Amour & Friends Pop-Up
18th-29th April | Open daily 10-6pm | 11 Dukes Lane, Brighton BN1 1BG
Launch party Thursday 18th April 6-8.30pm BOOK YOUR FREE TICKET
Visit us for style that doesn’t cost the Earth! Along with some of our Brighton friends including:
Come to our launch party to celebrate our first pop up in Brighton and with a complimentary drink. The first ten customers will also receive 20% off purchases. Due to the size of the space, we have limited tickets for this event on a first come basis.
I will be working in the shop on Easter Monday (22nd April) so do pop in + say hi if you’re in town that day
Consumer Workshop – Sister Society x Sew Fabulous
Wednesday 24th April | 6.30-9pm | My Hotel, Jubilee Street, Brighton
Tickets £6 each BUY YOURS NOW (some low income tickets available – email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sister Society + Sew Fabulous – Brighton’s only sewing social enterprise – have teamed up to host an evening ideas workshop around the 7 key points of Fashion Revolution’s Manifesto. Let’s look at our buying habits and our roles as consumers in 2019!
We have teamed up with an amazing group of people who will be co-ordinating small group discussions around each of the manifesto’s key points (paraphrased here):
1. Dignified work from conception to catwalk
2. Fair & equal pay
3. Gives people a voice
4. Respects culture & heritage
5. Inclusive & champions diversity
6. Conserves & restores the environment
7. Circular fashion – repaired, reused, recycled
Attendees will have the opportunity to ask and answer questions to engage with each topic. At the end of the session there will be a whole room conversation lead by co-ordinators about the workshop findings with resource sheets to take away.
Vivenie Mugunga – managing director Ryico (Rwandan Youth Information Community Organisation) and social enterprise African Sewing Club
Susie Deadman – Sew Fabulous
Bee Nicholls – Brighton & Hove Living Wage Campaign
Cecily Blondel – The Emperor’s Old Clothes
Emily Evans – Zola Amour
Both Sister Society & Sew Fabulous are not-for-profit organisations. All capital raised from ticket sales will go to covering event costs.
‘Why Fashion is a Feminist Issue’ Panel Discussion with Revival Collective
Friday 26th April | 6.30-9pm | 23 Dukes Lane, Brighton BN1 1BG
Tickets £5 each BUY YOURS NOW
Revival Collective presents a special Fashion Revolution Week panel discussion… where we’ll be chatting to 4 amazing ethical fashion pioneers about why fashion is an issue for intersectional feminism.
Panel will start at 7pm but please arrive before. Ticket prices include a donation to Labour Behind The Label
Vivenie Mugunga managing director Ryico (Rwandan Youth Information Community Organisation) and social enterprise African Sewing Club
Jessica McCleave designer and founder of ethical fashion brand ILK + ERNIE
Christine Gent Fair Trade Expert for WFTO, Chair of the board of the People Tree Group and one of the founders of The FAIR Shop
Cecily Blondel designer and founder of The Emperor’s Old Clothes
The Good Fashion Show
Saturday 27th April | 7.30-9.30pm | St Peter’s Church, York Place BN1 4GU
Tickets £7 each / £5 for students BUY YOURS NOW
Join us for an evening celebration of brands that strive to do fashion differently, thinking more about the people and the processes behind the products we buy.
~ Live ‘Alteration Station’ with Alma’s Alterations
~ Stalls featuring brands such as Lucy & Yak, Finisterre, Know The Origin, Madia & Matilda, ILK + ERNIE, Pala Eyewear, The Emperor’s Old Clothes, Rag Trade Clothing, The FAIR Shop and more
~ *Clothes Swap* run by Brighthelm Centre
~ A chance to meet and hear from the founders of Brighton-born brands such as Little By Little Jewellery and RubyMoon Gym To Swim and award-winning Conscious Earthwear/ Ciel Green
All profits go to support:
Tearfund’s matched giving appeal to clean up Pakistan’s worst polluted slums.
The LDY Team’s outreach trip to St Stephen’s Society recovery centre in Hong Kong.
The Ethical Fashion Map of Brighton
Explore Brighton’s ethical fashion scene during Fashion Revolution Week with this collaborative trail curated by Revival Collective + beautifully illustrated by Keziah Furini
Find us + take a peek at our studio at FLOCK BRIGHTON!
DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY HERE or pick one up from us
Ok this is a bit of an essay but there are so many aspects to the topic of becoming size inclusive it would be a dis-service not to be fully transparent and give space to the ‘difficult’ parts of the conversation.
Realisation + apology
I’ve been pretty vocal recently on my biggest mistake as a business owner but let’s get this in writing: up until this year I have been guilty of marginalising people of all shapes + sizes with my fashion brand by creating clothing just for people who looked similar to me.
For the last few years our size range has been UK 6-8 to UK 14-16. This is ridiculous, unrealistic and most of all unfair, especially in a country where the average size is UK 16. Every single person deserves to look and feel awesome. To have the same amount of choices as everyone else and not feel ignored and stigmatised.
Having stepped back, looked outside my own experience and privilege as a thin person I’m ashamed of my complicity in the fashion industry’s marginalisation of plus size people up until now. You can see my original video apology in our ‘New sizes’ Instagram stories highlight on our profile but one apology isn’t enough.
It’s important to keep having the conversation over + over again. This blogpost – requested by many of you in a recent instagram poll – is a behind the scenes look at how our brand is becoming more size inclusive, it’s a look at the mistakes and assumptions I’ve made as a business owner and an update on our commitments to diversity and inclusivity for the rest of 2019.
But before we get stuck in… I am sorry for being part of the problem and creating a brand that marginalised so many of you. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to realise and take steps to rectify this. Thank you for your support over the past two months which certainly wasn’t earned by my brand’s actions up til now.
What the process entails
Ok so what does increasing your size range actually mean in practical terms?
I can only speak to our experience and business practices. We are a small brand who make every single one of our garments by hand. This means we have limited resources, we do EVERYTHING ourselves and do not necessarily follow industry practices like many other small, medium and massive brands. Myself and my team are mainly self-taught with a lot of freelance experience and personally some self-investment in sewing lessons etc before I started my business and a small qualification in pattern-cutting a couple of years ago.
It’s important to give context to our experience in this way because for people reading this who may never have worked in fashion or who don’t know how to sew – I don’t want you to leave thinking that the way we do things is necessarily the way this process would work across all brands.
For us it began with deciding the body measurements for our new sizes. Louisa & I looked at our current sizing – the difference in inches between each size and replicated this upwards for our new UK 16-18 and UK 18-20 sizes and downwards for our UK 4-6 size.
Once we’d decided these measurements it was time to start grading of our most popular garment patterns. I pattern-cut every design and then we manually ‘grade’ them to different sizes with rulers, pencils, masking tape, a lot of tea and the odd swear-word here and there.
Manually grading means increasing or decreasing the size of each pattern piece that goes into making a garment in increments determined by the measurements you’ve set for each of your sizes. This is something bigger brands would pay to have done digitally. I can see the benefits of this and maybe it would be something I’d consider in future if budgets allowed but personally I prefer to maintain control over the changes we are making to our patterns.
It’s also not just about objectively adding or taking away the surface area of the garment it’s also taking into account the shape of bodies and altering the designs where needed for example: if your chest is bigger you’ll want your top to be longer to accommodate the size of your bust, if your chest is smaller you’ll want smaller bust darts.
Once we had graded these patterns it was time for fittings to test out our hard work!
This is where I have to give a huge thank you to Lydia Morrow of What Lydia Made. Having seen Lydia’s frustration about lack of size inclusivity from other brands in her Instagram stories I got in touch to see if she’d be up for helping us develop some of our new sizes. Lydia has been absolutely amazing. Not only has she given us really helpful feedback, she has also encouraged and supported us more than I can say. This is what sustainable fashion is about – a community full of supportive relationships – helping to bring about positive change.
Many of you have followed us since Lydia featured us numerous times in her stories and on her grid. I’m going to share some of your messages (anonymously) shortly so please bear with me her but we were inundated and completely overwhelmed by how many of you got in touch offering to help us as ‘fit models’ to test the new sizes of our designs. Thank you!
Through those fittings we took in garments here and let out garments there until we and our fit models were happy with the shape + feel of our dungarees, dungaree-culottes, culottes, crop tops, circle skirts and circle two-pieces.
This isn’t a particularly attractive process with toiles (mock up test garments) made up in unbleached cotton which can be hard for those who don’t sew to see past, but it is the MOST IMPORTANT part of the process because honestly if we’re not going to create comfortable and attractive clothing at the end of all this what is the point?
From this we were able to create our first few pieces of ready to wear in beautiful colours, prints and textures. We have rolled this out for about ⅓-½ of our garment styles so far and will be continuing this process across our whole collection in the coming months (scroll down for our brand commitments).
Does this sound like a lot of work? Not really? Well it wasn’t.
Which begs the question why can’t more brands cater to a more inclusive size range? I have some thoughts on this but let’s hear from you and your experiences first:
Feedback + support
Those fittings, whether virtually like with Lydia, or on site at the studio were not only helpful but really quite emotional.
Here are a handful of the generous, encouraging + critical messages we have received during the call out for fit models, the exposure Lydia gave us and the introduction of our first ready to wear designs by our amazing models Mary + Nyome:
Thank you to everyone of you who got in touch, who supported, encouraged and criticised us. We appreciate your time, thought, care and energy.
It speaks to my privilege and ignorance that I felt overwhelmed by the reactions and stories that many of you shared with us when Lydia and others announced our new sizes.
If I’d taken a moment to think about it, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to me to hear that so many of you felt neglected, overlooked or dis-serviced. That one of our friends who gave their time to be one of our UK 16-18 fit models said she hadn’t worn trousers in years because she couldn’t find any that fit properly on the high street or online.
But that is how privileged blind spots work and why it’s so important to look outside of yourself and listen to others, especially as a business owner in the ‘ethical’ sphere.
Mary wears our ‘I heart dungarees’ UK 16-18
Why brands don’t do better
Honestly I feel 9 times out of 10 it’s that they don’t see that there is an issue and they don’t change because they don’t have to.
I can’t personally talk to the experience of big brands except as a consumer. But it’s a really troubling trap especially for small labels founded by individuals that those people often just blindly design for people that look like them rather than start out designing inclusively. This is why I so admire people like What Lydia Made whose business model centres around being inclusive from the outset (and acknowledges her own blindspots, consistently challenging herself to do better).
It also speaks to who has the power (please see Aja Barber’s work + pay her for it) and the means to start a fashion label. I am a cis middle class thin white woman who has been incredibly privileged to have lots of support, particularly financial support, from family and friends to make my ‘dream job’ a reality. I would not be able to do any of this without that support and this is a privilege that I am very aware of and grateful for, but one that is not available to lots of makers, particularly those who come from marginalised communities and low incomes.
The other major elephant in the room is that I also hold a lot of social privilege within our capitalist, white supremacist, homophobic, ableist society, as a thin white straight abled-bodied woman, all of which adds up to even more of a cushioning support up the ladder which I have in no way earned. My intention here is not to centre myself but to highlight the inequalities that lead to people like me having more of an unfair advantage and chance of success in starting a fashion start-up and therefore more of a platform to (whether knowingly or not) perpetuate the white, fatphobic, ableist vision of beauty and worth that our capitalist society has kept at the forefront if we simply choose not to recognise our privilege.
Because for people like me it is a choice – it is a privilege to not have to recognise our privilege – because society and the media centre us and congratulate us for just moving through the world. You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned sexism here – yes we live in a patriarchy which I am very much against but especially in industries like fashion the privileges of being a young thin white middle class cis woman override much of the disadvantages that we experience through sexism.
So how can we as business owners and fashion brands change the narrative? Yes it takes effort and resources to be more inclusive but honestly how much does it really take?
Much of it comes down to motivation, decision-making and LISTENING to your customers and those within (and those often on the ‘outskirts’) of your community. Starting with a conversation I had with the amazing Kitty Underhill last year I have actively sought out voices and accounts that are different to mine on social media, listened and amplified where appropriate. We have so much to learn and gain by listening to others.
Choose to place inclusivity at the core of your business model, commit to doing this better each day, consider and change your language and have the conversations publicly where appropriate and in a respectful way. Amplify the voices of others who know more, have more authority and are sharing their stories, especially if they have less privilege than you. Pay them for their services and content if they’ve meant that much to you and you are using them.
Nyome wears our ‘Cotton Candy’ Dungarees UK 18-20
Choose BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and plus size models and brand representatives not in a tokenistic way but because there are millions of talented, beautiful people out there who are already doing awesome work who you would be massively lucky and should be honoured to work with. You don’t have to scroll back that far through our feed to see this is not something we have been doing for the whole time our business has been running but it’s about doing better every day than you did before.
None of this easy but that’s not the point. It’s necessary and vital to make these changes because it’s the right thing to do. Yes you are going to fuck up and say the wrong thing. Listen, apologise, create inclusive solutions and do better. As a brand we are far from perfect – I’m sure there will be those that I haven’t included properly in this post but if/when I’m told that I will credit and apologise and remember that generous feedback for next time. It has to be about deeds not words, impact not just intentions. Please check out Marielle Elizabeth’s ‘Size Inclu Rant’ stories highlight for why this is just so important for the the whole of sustainable fashion – when you as a brand don’t deliver on promises to be inclusive you let the whole community down.
Our commitments going forward
Mary is wearing our ‘Pretty Posy’ Circle Two-Piece UK 16-18
There are so many ways in which I want to improve our brand and some of these changes will take longer than others but here is what we have planned for the rest of 2019:
- Continue to grade our patterns so that our entire range is available at sizes UK 4-6 to UK 18-20
- Start the grading process again to extend our range to include UK 20-22 + UK 22-24 – bare in mind that our current UK 18-20 is equivalent in body measurements to an ASOS 26 and that from feedback the jump in between our sizes is quite generous we hope that this will be mean proper size inclusivity. If it doesn’t we will continue to grade!
- To continue working with awesome models of all sizes, ethnicities, genders and ages! We are always on the lookout for models for our Brighton (UK) shoots. We work with both professional models and non-professional models which include our customers, friends and random people I occasionally scout in the shop, on the street + online… We’ll be adding a ‘model with us’ page to our site soon.
- To remove gender binary language from our site and marketing. Inclusivity includes not assuming how people identify. We’re selling clothing not labels – it’s our responsibility to make that clear in our content.
- To begin conversations with individuals – and budget-allowing – accessibility consultants to test our garments and see where changes need to be made to make them more suitable for disabled customers so that everyone can enjoy our designs.
- To collaborate with more sustainable fashion, plus size, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and disabled influencers (check out our ‘Amplify’ Instagram highlight for some of our faves). This one is really hard because despite what I’ve mentioned earlier about privilege and financial support it is challenging as a small business to turn a profit and have a marketing budget, especially when you are a living wage employer. We currently invest in diversifying our models (who all get paid the same above living wage rate no matter they’re professional status), in our team and in our community by offering free traineeships for people who want to develop their sewing skills (would love to get this funded one day) which leaves very little budget for paying influencers etc for collaborations.
This isn’t a justification or an excuse – I believe everyone should get paid, especially those who are already marginalised within our society. As we grow I hope this will change and we can invest in these relationships too, for now I am putting it out there that we are always up for a conversation on trading garments (including our design your own service) for features.
Sounds ambitious? Yep.
And we may not achieve all of these things in this time-frame (we probably won’t) but that’s ok as long as we are moving in the right direction and doing better each day.
Nyome wears our ‘Rainstorm Roses’ Circle Two-Piece UK 18-20
If you appreciate our ethos and want to see us succeed in our mission please support us by buying our products, sharing our posts and telling your friends. The only way small sustainable brands like ours can grow and make an impact is by reaching more people and growing their customer base.
If we aren’t yet catering to your size please still get in touch with your measurements because 9 times out of 10 we can make you one of our garments as a design your own order while we sort the rest of our grading.
Are we affordable for everyone? Truthfully no. I’d say for more than half of our customers we are a considered purchase. However if you compare the customisable nature of our products, the impact of our business model (using vintage + end of roll fabrics, paying a living wage), the longevity of our products and the quality of our customer service we hope you will find that our pricing is very fair.
If you’ve made it this far through my essay of a blogpost I’d love to hear your thoughts on any and all of the above, positive or otherwise! You can leave a comment below, email us via email@example.com or get in touch with us via Instagram @emperorscloth
Recycling and specifically fabric recycling is super important in sustainable fashion and in the fashion industry as a whole.
As we mentioned in our last blogpost one of the worst, most polluting aspects of fast fashion is the amount of waste the industry produces mostly, but not exclusively, in the form of ‘dead stock’.
What is ‘dead stock’?
A term used to describe merchandise that was never sold to or used by consumers before being removed from sale, usually because it was outdated. Dead stock is often warehoused, but it can also subsequently be offered for sale and typically retains its original package and tags.
Definition from businessdirectory.com
Many major players have been called out in recent months for the disposal of all their dead stock. Fast fashion is the biggest culprit with many big high street names sitting on masses of unsold stock from over-production.
And luxury fashion houses aren’t much better…
‘Dead stock’ is a problem if you’re churning out millions of garments a season but small-scale operations like us can be way more innovative + creative with our solutions.
We have a policy for our ready to wear designs at Emperor’s – an item has to be sent to every one of our stockists and go through two sales (we hold January + Summer sales) before being considered ‘dead stock’.
What happens to a garment that sadly doesn’t find it’s perfect owner? It gets a new lease of life as we rework it into another one of our designs! Ready to start the process again.
Since the end of our January sale we have been having fun reworking some of the unsold garments.
Here are a couple of examples:
‘Scarlet Fever’ Amy Dress becomes ‘Scarlet Fever’ Circle Two-Piece
‘Afternoon Tea’ Amy Dress becomes ‘Afternoon Tea’ Circle Two-Piece
What does reworking involve?
We take the time to unpick the unsold garment into pieces that will work for the new design.
It takes time, especially unpicking all the overlocking where we use four different threads.
It’s totally worth it though to know that we are giving this piece of clothing a new chance to be loved.
In the case of transforming a dress into a two-piece we need to create a waistband for the new skirt. Luckily we have a zero fabric waste policy at Emperor’s HQ! We hold onto the scraps of every fabric from our cutting room floor so in most cases we just look for the corresponding fabric remnant in one of our colour-coded boxes and get to work.
The same goes for turning culottes into dungaree-culottes we look for leftover fabric to create the straps and bib…
But isn’t this all a lot of work?
Yes all this is extra work and ultimately this means the profit margin of the garment in question takes a hit but we value sustainability + our slow fashion ethos above making a buck.
We have made sure that recycling is a central part of our business model.
As brands we don’t need to follow traditional retail business models – in fact we shouldn’t! Look at the mess they’ve gotten us into…
‘Dead stock’ is a horrid term and actually just doesn’t exist at The Emperor’s Old Clothes.
On the very rare occasion that a garment has been reworked into as many styles as possible + still hasn’t sold, well then we would make it into our signature accessories + so on + so on.
Waste is only waste if you waste it + in this day and age with all the knowledge we have about the social + environmental impacts of fast fashion there’s just no excuse for dead stock.
We hope this has inspired you to place more value on the clothing in your wardrobe, to think about where your clothes come from + to support brands who are making meaningful change in their everyday activities + product lines.
The garments pictured + described in this blogpost will be hitting our online boutique this week!
We recently asked the question: ‘What positive impact can we make as consumers in 2019?’ over on Instagram. It was so wonderful to hear such positive intentions and different takes on what sustainability means + your intentions for what your consumerism will look like in 2019.
As promised today’s post is going to map out the impact our brand will be aiming to make as a producer within the fashion industry in 2019 + also my own personal impact intentions as a consumer.
The impact of over-production in the fashion industry
It’s important to remember that every one of us has a role (or multiple) roles to play within the fashion industry and capitalist society in general. As we have explored before the fashion industry has one of the worst reputations for environmental impact + working conditions and for good reason. The numbers are shocking as a recent article in The Guardian highlighted:
“In 2015, greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production globally totalled 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent, according to a report by the industry-led Circular Fibres Initiative. This is more than the emissions of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.”
From the production of the textiles to the production of the clothing:
“15% of fabrics intended as clothing end their life on the cutting room floor” (Lilian Lu, Fashion Revolution Zine: Fashion Environment Change)
To the over-consumption driving the need for ‘52 micro-seasons’ a year – yep that’s one fashion season a week according to the high street. The fast fashion industry is designed to get as much of your hard-earned cash out of your wallet and into their registers stretched out over as many purchases as possible.
Our role as consumers
Do you have items in your wardrobe that still bear their tags? Pieces you’ve bought in a rush or because you couldn’t wear that dress to two weddings that summer? Pieces that didn’t really fit to begin with so you know you’re not really going to wear again?
I don’t know about you but I’ve certainly been guilty of this – in fact shopping used to be one of my favourite past times.
And with stats like this really I do know about you:
This is really important because staggering demand like this fuels massive growth in garment production – and results, in true capitalist style, the cheapest possible production costs. With overseas production at an all time high factories with poor or little working standards, pitiful wages + lack of regulation are where the majority of Brits’ bulging, often unworn wardrobes originate.
And I’m afraid the problems don’t stop there. With over-production comes more waste known as ‘deadstock’:
“H&M is sitting on a pile of unsold clothes worth $4.3 billion. In a quarterly report released last Tuesday, the company revealed that its profits are the lowest they’ve been in 16 years. The 62% decline in sales means that the company has been unable to move stock, even after marking it down at clearance sales, leaving them with billions of dollars worth of deadstock (unsold stock).” – wellmadeclothes.com
What happens to this stock? Well firstly it goes on sale – hi there Black Friday – to make sure it gets the absolute best chance of heading to your wardrobe where it becomes your problem.
If you’re still not tempted sometimes it gets burnt – most famously recently reported to be the case at Burberry – much of it heads to landfill or is shipped to developing countries simply passing the problem on.
A little bit gets recycled ‘less than 1% of the material used to produce clothing globally is recycled into new clothing, with 12% recycled into other products such as insulation or mattress stuffing.’ and some of it ends up in charity shops which is becoming over-saturated with fast fashion cast-offs and costing these charities millions.
So far so depressing…
But there is hope!
Over the past couple of years there has been a growing backlash against the fast fashion industry with consumers questioning ‘Who made my clothes?’ and deciding to be more thoughtful about where their clothing comes from, what they want to buy with many shunning the high street completely.
As I mentioned at the beginning it has been so inspiring to hear so many of our followers + customers telling us how they are turning their backs on fast fashion this year and getting creative with their wardrobes again.
And it’s not just on our grid, our social feeds are full of individuals saying no to fast fashion, influencers encouraging their followers to shop sustainably, not to mention brands becoming more transparent with their customers about their working practices, supply chains and products.
We’re not deluding ourselves – it’s far from everyone – but it’s a wonderful start as we begin a new year.
So without further ado
Here are my intentions for Emperor’s impact in 2019:
Yes even sustainable brands have stock that just hasn’t sold.
The nature of one of a kind items of clothing mean it can be on the rail for much longer than the average garment that is available in many different sizes. It can take time for the person who falls in love with the unique look + feel of that garment AND who’s size corresponds with the size of the garment (although this isn’t always so much of a consideration as we do offer alterations across our ready to wear range) to find it.
It can be a mix of patience + luck to get that garment in front of that customer but that’s ok, that’s why they call it slow fashion!
We have a ready to wear policy at Emperor’s – an item has to be sent to every one of our stockists and go through two sales (we hold January + Summer sales) before being considered ‘deadstock’. What happens to a garment that sadly doesn’t find it’s perfect owner? It gets a new lease of life as we rework it into another one of our designs! Ready to start the process again.
‘Deadstock’ is a horrid term and actually just doesn’t exist within our business model. On the very rare occasion that a garment has been reworked into as many style as possible + still hasn’t sold well then we would make it into our signature accessories + so on.
‘Deadstock’ is a problem if you’re churning out millions of garments a season but small-scale operations like us can be way more innovative + creative with our solutions.
Increasing our size range
It’s not just about making clothes that are sustainably produced it’s about making them inclusive for as many people as possible. We will be working on our inclusivity throughout 2019 – if you have any feedback we’d love to hear it – and we are starting with size. We are currently working on grading all our patterns so that our size range begins at UK 4-6 and goes up to UK 18-20 (up til now it’s been UK 6-8 to UK 14-16).
I completely appreciate this still won’t cover 100% of sizes (although we always have and are ALWAYS more than happy to create design your own garments to your measurements) but for a small business like ours it’s a big step in the right direction + we can’t wait to see more folks of all shapes + sizes in our designs soon.
It’s also worth noting that our lettered system of sizing – XS / S / M / L etc will be replaced by a numbered system eg. UK 14-16 / EUR 40 / US 10 after your feedback from our recent social media post/poll. If you have any questions about any of these changes we are here to help!
Sustainable haberdashery / hardware
Again we’re pretty thorough when sourcing fabrics but we want to up our haberdashery + hardware game this year. I’m really looking forward to heading to the Sustainable Angle’s Future Fabrics Expo next week to explore new brands + hopefully meet some of the makers.
Find more and more ways to use up our fabric scraps
We had so much fun spreading the handmade joy with our fabric wreath kits over Christmas! And as we pointed out these kits and the finished garlands look great as wall art + celebratory decorations all year round.
These kits will continue to feature in our online boutique and we’re aiming to add more kits + possibly some fabric scrap lucky dip bundles for crafters this year.
We will also continue to donate them to local art projects, colleges + community organisations as we love to know that our ‘fabric waste’ is being used in creative pursuits! If you have projects that could use our small scraps please let us know.
Going paperless – as much as possible at Emperor’s HQ
We’re generally pretty good with recycling at the studio but this year as a team we’re aiming to reduce our use of paper even more.
We’ve set up a studio computer + are being much more considered with our use of the printer.
This is something we’ve already been discussing on Instagram. Again our packaging is pretty good.
We currently wrap every item in tissue paper. Design your own orders are finished with a bow using reclaimed ballet ribbons.
I add a handwritten note with every package + although we use white plastic envelopes they are recyclable which I feel we need to make a bit more obvious this year…
I’d like to include more information on our brand + ethos in our packaging this year but it’s a fine line when excess packaging materials are wasteful. We’ve decided to design a new piece of literature to include in our packaging which will include a space for our handwritten note as well as more information on how to take care of your one of a kind garment.
As I mentioned some of us have multiple roles to play in having a positive impact – I’m both a producer + a consumer. What’s the point in running a sustainable fashion label if you’re not walking the walk yourself?
Here are my personal wardrobe + lifestyle consumer goals for 2019:
Clearing out my wardrobe
As I mentioned above charities are struggling to cope with the huge amounts of donations as a result of fast fashion. I’ve made sure to offer any items that I’m getting rid of to my friends first before heading to the charity shop. I’m also considering which of these items of clothing just need a bit of TLC or could be reworked.
Investing in sustainable brands
This is the biggie! Ultimately I want my wardrobe to be smaller but also I want to feel amazing in everything I wear – I want to feel I look good but equally I want to feel amazing about every purchase and I want to know where my money from each purchase is actually going. I won’t be buying from anywhere that isn’t either sustainable, ethical or independent going forward.
I am currently creating a sustainable fashion wish-list (especially with my big birthday just round the corner) which includes these gorgeous jumpers from our friends at Zola Amour.
Most of my wardrobe is vintage as I’ve been collecting pieces from the 50s + 60s for the last few years.
I haven’t been wearing them much for the last couple of years but I want to start bringing them back into my everyday outfits, styling them with my Emperor’s dungarees + separates and sustainable investment pieces.
I would like to drastically reduce my use of single use plastic in 2019. I’ll be taking my keep cup everywhere in my bag along with my water bottle.
Having a tote bag folded up in my bag is also a given – I love my ‘Fashion is a Feminist Issue’ Revival Collective + ‘Empower. Support. Engage. Create’ Sister Society totes plus we’ve just started creating some Emperor’s ones so I have a good selection to choose from.
I’m also keen to make sure the cosmetics I’m using aren’t having a terrible impact on the environment, I’m particularly keen to make sure I’m only buying from brands that don’t test on animals. I’ll be going through each item in my cabinet and replacing it with a more ethical brand when it comes to the end of its life.
Well there you have it! This time of year can be hard and there’s a lot of pressure on how you can be this amazing new person who is going to do everything right and be failure-free. That’s not realistic.
This is why I’d rather focus on positive impact and implementing lifestyle changes that positively contributes whatever part you play in our consumerist culture.
So what positive impact can you make as a consumer in 2019?
It’s been such a wonderful year at Emperor’s HQ in many ways but particularly in that I’ve been surrounded by so many amazing + talented women. As the year draws to a close I wanted to take this opportunity to say a big thank you + give a shout out to these women and the work they do with our list of Emperor’s Women of 2018.
Before we get going I have a couple of disclaimers to make:
1.We would be nowhere without people to make clothing for. I hope it goes without saying that our customers are so so appreciated + valued here at The Emperor’s Old Clothes and you should ALL be on this list however I want to respect your privacy. To be honest this post would be waaaay too long to scroll if I put all of you in it so I’ve decided to keep it to women we’ve worked with instead. But thank you for all your support in 2018 – especially our wonderful MyEmperors club members – it means everything to us! We can’t wait to add to your wardrobes in 2019.
2. Our stockists are also super important to us! That’s everyone at Flock in Brighton, Jude, Natasha + Fleur at Godiva in Edinburgh + Ciara and the team at Poot in Somerset plus the lovely Sophie + Jo at Four Candles. I wanted to feature you all however there were a few of you that I could not find photos of + I’m not about to feature some but not all of you – so this is your shout out! Thank you for all your support this year + for helping us to spread the handmade joy.
3. Finally I’ve been working on this for a while + wracking my brains but I’m sure there will be people I’ve neglected to mention so apologies in advance. The truth is I’m really lucky to have a huge number of incredible women in my life so to namecheck every one of them would be quite a feat. There are also lots of women I know that I haven’t had the chance to work with yet but who are doing some awesome things so keep your eyes on the blog as I’m hoping for more collaborations in 2019. Please know that I value you all + your support of my business this year + in the years to come.
Ok so without further ado here’s our:
EMPEROR’S WOMEN OF 2018
My right hand woman! Louisa is so awesome + Emperor’s would be nowhere without her.
Geneva is one of our awesome seamstresses.
She makes the majority of our accessories + works with Louisa on our ready to wear. Geneva is a talented freelance seamstress + also sells gorgeous vintage clothes.
Ella is our marketing assistant.
Ella completed a placement with us in 2017 + she’s come back to work with after a break whilst she concentrated on her degree. Ella is a talented textiles student at Brighton University working towards her final collection.
Nathalie is my mum – can you tell?
She’s been an awesome support, helping us with all sorts of behind the scenes jobs including threading tags, our fabric inventory + prepping our fabric wreath kits. She also teaches Iyengar Yoga in Hove.
Carla is our trainee seamstress.
She’s taking part in our trainee programme to experience in a working studio + develop her sewing skills.
Cress has just completed a marketing placement with us.
She’s a fashion communications student at Brighton University currently completing her placement year.
Lou was part of our marketing team this year – helping us make lots of awesome upgrades to our promotional activities.
Lou owns gorgeous lingerie label Brighton Lace + is part of the Flock boutique gang so we still get to see lots of each other!
Skye completed our trainee programme earlier this year + has recently been helping us out in the shop.
Skye is a fashion buying student + all round lovely person.
Florence completed our trainee programme this year whilst studying for her A-Levels.
An experienced sewer Florence always came in wearing amazing clothes she’d made herself in gorgeous linens!
Izaskun completed a marketing placement with us this Spring.
Izas came over from Spain to help work on our new website as we were preparing to launch earlier in the year + introduced us to lots of great latin music.
You may recognise Sarah from our website + social as not only did she complete one of our marketing placements Sarah also models for us! She is currently completing her degree at University of Brighton.
Keeping it in the family once more! Charlotte is my beautiful sister.
She previously completed an apprenticeship with us + has continued to model for us this year. She’s currently studying Media Production in Bristol.
George joined us for a week this year for work experience week at her secondary school.
She got a taste of all the different things we do from sewing to photography during her week with us.
Kate owns Pick Up Sticks Vintage + supplies us with truly beautiful fabrics.
She is one of the owners of Flock boutique where we’re based + she does quite a bit of photography for us too. A woman of many talents!
This wonderful woman helped us create our beautiful new website this year!
Madeleine Jones owns Make your Business Shine helping businesses with all the techy stuff like web design + SEO.
Kerry has been super supportive + has helped us get out there online this year.
She owns Social Brighton offering consultancy, courses, social strategy + more. We can’t wait to be a guest on her podcast in the new year.
We’ve had so much fun collaborating with Emily this year!
Emily owns sustainable fashion brand Zola Amour (check them out – their organic wardrobe staples look great with Emperor’s items) + we’ve been teaming up for photoshoots, blogs + have generally been supporting each other wherever we can.
Andrea Anderson is all about creativity!
She owns Who I Am creative coaching + she’s been supporting us with meaningful professional development this year.
You may have seen us in The Times recently? That’s down to Mel Fisher + her zero waste mission.
Mel owns Zero Waste Goods + held the UK’s first and only Zero Waste Market this December. Can’t wait to see what 2019 holds for + get involved in future events.
We’ve had so much fun collaborating with Wilma this year!
Wilma Gostner is the image consultant + personal stylist behind WG Image. We’ve loved teaming up to help our bespoke customers design their one of a kind garments together this year.
HELEN & KIMBERLEY
These fabulous women are Scottish blogging duo Wardrobe Conversations.
They’ve been super supportive of Emperor’s in 2018 + we love they’re awesome attitude + playful styling.
Ruth MacGilp is a wonderful sustainable fashion blogger based in Scotland.
We loved her feature on our design your own dungarees earlier this year + love her overall ethos + attitude to fashion.
Mars Dilbert has one of our fave accounts on Instagram @life_on_mars96 and is lives just down the road from us in Brighton.
We’ve been having lots of fun collaborating this season. We’re currently working on a pair of bespoke woollen trousers designed by Mars which we can’t wait to show you in 2019.
The ever enthusiastic Suzi Grant of Alternative Ageing.
We had so much fun designing + creating a one of a kind dress for Suzi to wear to Goodwood Revival this year, beautifully captured by Sara (Notes by a Stylist). We love that bloggers like Suzi are doing their thing despite the backdrop of awful ageism displayed in media representation of women.
Not sure where to begin with how awesome + inspiring Kitty Underhill is!
Kitty is a model, body acceptance & self love advocate, speaker + does many other amazing things too.
Kitty modelled some of our pieces for a Sister Society blogpost in the summer on body positivity + privilege. Our discussion with her on this project has spurred us to make inclusivity a top priority for Emperor’s 2019 when we’ll be adding a wider range of sizes in all of our designs.
LAST BUT NEVER, EVER LEAST OUR AWESOME GANG OF MODELS:
PAM, JO + SARAH
Pam is one of our lovely customers, Flock buddies where she sells stunning vintage, Jo is a writer + Sarah you have already met!
SIENNA + BETH
Sienna lives locally + is one of our lovely non-professional models. She also walked in our Sister Society Red Collection in November.
Beth has possibly racked up more Emperor’s shoots than any other this year?!
MUSHU + CHARLOTTE
Mushu is a textiles student at Brighton University + Charlotte is a singer/songwriter.
FENIA + SHANNON
Fenia is one of our wonderful customers! Shannon is an Emperor’s shoot regular + also walked in the Red Collection Fundraiser for Sister Society.
IMI + SOPHIA
Amber is currently studying Animal Management + we go to the same yoga class!
FIAMMA + KIM
Thank you to all the women (+ men) who made 2018 such a great year for The Emperor’s Old Clothes!
Want to be on this list in 2019? Get in touch – we love a collaboration.
Have a wonderful start to 2019 everyone,