sustainable fashion

Films that changed the way I shopped

When I started work as a personal stylist, I admit that concern for the environment was nowhere on my agenda. Absolutely nowhere.

I honestly put no thought as to how my clothes were made, the conditions in which they were made, the materials they were made from or what happened to them when I was finished with them. It was off my radar in a big way.

But over the years I’ve been on a journey and the things I’ve learnt along the way have meant big changes not only in terms of how I shop personally, but also how I run my whole business.

Part of that journey (and it’s an ongoing one) is to share that knowledge with you. I strongly feel that the more I share, the more informed we all become and therefore the better choices we can make.

So in I’m going to share films and short videos that have fundamentally changed the way I work with clothes. I wish I could say these films were fun, but they’re not. They are all heavy, hard hitting and leave you feeling pretty crap. But it’s a place I had to go to in order to unearth the truth about the fashion industry - the industry in which I work.

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1/ First up is actually the most recent production on the list. It’s a 90 minute film called RiverBlue where conservationist, Mark Angelo, travels the world to show us what the fashion industry is doing to our waterways AND the people who rely on them for drinking water. 

The film highlights the damage caused by harsh chemical manufacturing processes and the irresponsible disposal of toxic chemical waste has had on the rivers.

It’s honestly horrific and it brought me to tears numerous times. I had no idea that 70% of China’s lakes are now highly contaminated, liver cancer rates are through the roof and that chromium has now officially entered their food chain. All because toxic waste is being dumped in the waterways. 

One of the biggest polluters is the humble pair of jeans. In Xintang, 300 million pairs a year are produced - that’s a 1/3rd of the worlds supply. They use dyes which contain mercury, cadmium and lead. Workers are coming into contact with them with no regard for their own health and the waste products are dumped directly into watercourses. Acids are also being used to create lighter patches and designer ‘whiskers’.

We have to put pressure on companies to clean up their act. That’s why I’m such a huge fan of Polly Higgins because if her concept of Ecocide was implemented, the CEOs of these factories would be going straight to jail for the damage they’re causing.

And if you feel it’s already too late, it’s NOT.

Did you know that just 40 years ago there was no sign of life in the Thames? The water was so polluted nothing could survive but major measures were put in place, processes were cleaned up and now 125 species of fish can be found there. So this destruction can be reversed, but not until big businesses change the way they work and YOU can put pressure on them to do something about it.

2/ Next up in my list of influential films is just a 3 minute watch by Jay Shetty, so I urge you to sit through it if you can.

Here you get a snapshot of what it’s like to be a garment worker.

This is exactly why I’m a big supporter of Labour Behind the Label and the reason ALL funds raised from the swaps events I hold go directly towards the work they do.

What this video doesn’t show is what happens when the workers complain about the long hours, or unsafe premises, or working with toxic materials. They are often beaten, and far too many of them are even beaten to death for speaking out.

It is completely unacceptable and we have to put pressure on companies to ensure these practices are a thing of the past.

The woman speaking in this short clip is actually a success story. She escaped the sweatshops and set up www.locwom.org to improve the lives of women and children ❤️ but much more still has to be done to end modern day slavery.

3/ Next up in the list of things that influenced me is a Ted talk that I connected with in a BIG way. I can’t tell you exactly how many times I’ve watched this talk, but it’s a lot! 

It’s a 16 minute video by Christina Dean called ‘You are what you wear’

Although she makes reference to the nasty side of fashion, this talk is upbeat and really made me believe I could do something positive about it.

She’s gone on to be one of my heroines and by setting up sustainable businesses such as www.redress.com and www.thercollective.com she’s really walking her talk. 

She was one of the reasons I bought only second hand clothes for a year. She was one of the reasons I go and talk passionately to organisations about how we can all have a more sustainable wardrobe and she is one of the reasons I changed what I offer through my business services.

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4/ Moving on to number 4 and it’s another recent one. Hands up if back in October 2018 you watched the BBC documentary called ‘Fashions dirty secrets’?

Stacey Dooley did a brilliant job of highlighting some of the key issues within the fashion industry and bringing the info to the masses.

One of them was the devastation of the Aral Sea where an area of water the size of Ireland has disappeared in the space of 40 years. Mostly due to irrigating cotton crops.

She also tried to speak to fast fashion heavyweights such as ASOS and Primark at a huge sustainability summit in Copenhagen. Unsurprisingly, when she approached them for comment on what they’re doing to limit the problem, absolutely nobody would talk to her.

She did manage to speak to Levi’s who shared how the company is coming up with solutions to reduce water waste. They are currently working on a solution that takes old garments and turns them into a new fibre that feels, looks and behaves like cotton with zero water impact.

So it’s a thumbs up to Levi’s from me!

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5/ Lastly, is a 50 minute film called ‘The world according to H&M’ from 2014.

H&M is a brilliant example of why choosing sustainable clothes can be a minefield because all is not necessarily as it seems.

On the face on it, I want to love H&M.

This is because they sell organic cotton ranges, they have in-store recycling points, they promote their Conscious Collection and have signed up to lots of sustainability targets.

This film is now 5 years old, but it seems not everything is as it should though.

Only recently it was alleged that H&M had burnt 12 tonnes of unsold but usable clothes. It was also reported that H&M was burning discarded clothing alongside recycled wood and waste at the Västerås power station, as part of its move to becoming a fossil-free facility by 2020.

They have also failed to meet their sustainability targets. One example is promising that all their garment workers would receive the minimum wage. The trouble is, in countries such as Ethiopia, there is no minimum wage (unless you’re a civil servant) and they have some of the lowest wages in the globe.

And there’s also a segment on tax avoidance but that’s a whole other thing....

It’s news like this that makes their sustainability statements hard to truly believe and you can see the complexities of the wider situation. 

H&M were once described to me as the yin and yang of the ethical fashion world and I think that’s an apt way to view them. 

I always come down on the side of some positive action is better than no action but for me H&M need to up their game by actually delivering on their promises.

There are also so many more films, books and courses I could refer you too, but I’ll tackle that another day!

 

 

 

Simple ways to be kinder to the planet with your wardrobe

Earlier this month I attended the Going Green 2019 summit which had some brilliant speakers and ideas on how to be more ‘green’ - including what you wear. This got me thinking about small but effective changes we can all make to our everyday lives which can have a big impact on our planet. So here’s my top 6 tips on how your can be more eco with you clothes without much effort at all.

1/ Look after what you already have. 

Simple as it sounds, cherishing what you already own can have a huge impact. This is because WRAP research has shown that increasing the active life of your clothing by just nine months would reduce the annual carbon, water and waste footprints of UK clothing by 20-30% each, and cut resource costs by £5 billion!

As if she read my mind, my friend Robyn posted how she spruced up a leather jacket with a brilliant eco product by Forest Hog . There’s definitely more than 9 months usage left there now!

Just look at the before and after photos: ️

2/ Buy as much as you can from second hand sources first.

There are so many pre-loved clothes in circulation and many ways to access them at a whole range of price points. This means there must be something for everyone!  A few months ago I found a beautiful dress in the vintage section of St Peters Hospice, Westbury Hill. I can’t vouch for how old it is but I do know that it’s been hand made and I love the fact that at some stage somebody has put some considerable love into making it.

It all would have taken time and effort so I’m really pleased to be able to give it a new home. I’ve no idea who wore it first time around or for what occasion, but I’m just happy it’s now in my possession and I will love it for the foreseeable future.

3/ Get to know your fabrics.

When I first began my journey into understanding how to have a more sustainable wardrobe, I believed that natural fibres (cotton, linen, wool, cashmere, jute, hemp, silk etc.) were by far the best as they biodegraded easily and they didn’t leak plastic microfibres into our waterways unlike polyester and acrylic.

Then I learnt how much water cotton crops take - even organic cotton crops are heavy on water consumption. I also learnt how silk, leather and wool are not acceptable to those clients living a vegan lifestyle. There were many many other factors to consider too - it’s truly a case of the more I learn, the more complicated it becomes!

So I had to start seeking out alternatives to suit everyone and that meant really getting to grips with different types of fabrics.

I’m going to do blog soon on alternative fabrics as it’s such an enormous topic but I just wanted to share that although the following fibres are man made, they actually come from plant cellulose rather than oil or plastic and DO biodegrade over time:

- bamboo 

- lyocell (from eucalyptus trees)

- modal (from beech trees)

- rayon/viscose (from wood pulp)

- vegan leathers (pineapple, apple, mushroom etc)

Also to bust a common myth, there’s PU (polyurethane) as a vegan alternative to leather. It does not require the same chemical plasticisers as PVC (polyvinylchloride) which it often gets confused with and will eventually degrade over time whereas PVC won’t.

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4/ Get to know your OWN personal style. 

Take some time to figure out what you like to wear, what shapes and colours work well on your body and what feels like ‘you’ when you’ve got it on. The more you know your style, the more likely you are to buy the right pieces and this means a number of things:

  • You won’t be swayed by the latest trends (which seem to hit the shop floors on a weekly basis) and be tempted to over-consume 

  •  You will love your clothes more and therefore look after them for longer

  • You will wear more of what’s in your wardrobe and find it easier to create outfits

  • You will find it quicker to make decisions on pieces because you can see whether it expresses your identity or not 

  • You will make less impulse purchases (you know...like when you didn’t really need anything but you found an absolute bargain in the sales that you intend to fit into when you’ve lost that weight....

  •  And lastly, other people can easily find things for you! 

This dress is a case in point. The fab manager of the Cats Protection shop on the Gloucester Road showed me this dress as soon as I walked into his shop. He’d correctly identified it as something I’d wear so not only does it help you find pieces, it makes it easier for others too!

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5/ Use your voice and collaborate with others to create more impact and bring about positive change.

In particular I’d like to draw your attention to the work Polly Higgins carried out before her recent death to try to raise awareness of and pass a law on ecocide. Her campaign is that ecocide should be recognised as a crime. If you’re wondering what ecocide is, it’s 

“extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystems of a given territory, whether by human or other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished”

She sold her house and gave up a high-paying job so she could dedicate herself to attempt to create a law that would make corporate executives and government ministers criminally liable for the damage they do to ecosystems.

Just imagine that. 

The CEO of a clothing factory for example, could be found guilty of a criminal offence if their factory damaged their local ecosystem. I’m pretty sure it would result in some radical and swift changes to the way the clothing industry worked.

If you’d like to find out more, or learn how you can take action, please visit www.stopecocide.earth

6/ Re-think how you wash your clothes.

This is because an estimated 50% of the greenhouse gas emissions from clothing takes place in the consumer use stage. This means we have huge control over the environmental impact we have so here are my 5 super easy tips and tricks for washing and drying clothes in a more environmentally friendly way.


 If you have clothes made with polyester or plastic based textiles like a lot of my 1970’s vintage dresses and pretty much all the kids sports kits, each time you wash them they release microfibres into the water system. Greenpeace estimates that 30% of ocean plastic pollution comes from microplastics with an estimated 35% of these coming from synthetic clothing and other fabrics. To prevent this, pop them in a Guppy Friend Bag when you wash them and the bag will catch all the nasty microfibres for you.

 Washing by hand is good for the environment but with the amount of clothes my family gets through it just isn’t practical for me. However, I do wash at cooler temperatures and just by turning down your washing machine from 40°C to 30°C will save 100 grams of CO2 per load as well as being gentler on your clothes

Something really easy to do is to change from a regular detergent to a natural detergent. So many eco and zero waste shops now sell them and they are usually refillable so it’s a win win as well as being gentle on your skin.

 To reduce your footprint (and therefore your energy bills!) hang-dry your clothes whenever possible. I know it can be a challenge in our climate so if you can’t always hang your clothes outside, get an indoor clothes dryer and watch your clothes last longer than being tumble dried.

 Lastly, wash your clothes less. Probably because we all have machines there’s a tendency to toss everything into the laundry basket regardless of how dirty it actually is. There is a downside to this though.....in my case there’s an eternal pile of clothes on the chest that are too dirty to put back in the wardrobe but too clean to put in the wash! 


Phew…that was a long one, but worth a read and even if you just make a couple of changes, the cumulative effects all add up!

DIY Halloween Outfits

You don’t have to buy cheap tat…!


Halloween has become a bit of a thing in recent years whether we like it or not. Shops and supermarkets are currently flooded with costumes (almost all will be made from synthetic fibres) but before you buy one, ask yourself could you knock up something at home?


I gave DIY costuming a go because my daughter asked for a ‘mummy’ costume to wear to a school disco. I raided her wardrobe and picked the lightest clothes possible (white leggings and a light grey t-shirt) and headed to our medicine box to dig out all the crepe bandages. YouTube provided an easy tutorial for me to turn her face into a skeleton, and about 50 safety pins later, we had a costume!

If you’re not feeling creative, or you’re stretched for time, why not also try the charity shops? Every single one I’ve been in recently has had an area dedicated to Halloween and there’s been some seriously good stuff secondhand goods to buy.

So, before you buy some brand new tat, maybe see what you can find secondhand, or already in your house? 

It's all kicking off!

Goodness me!

If you had told me this time last year that I would be running shopping tours of the charity shops I wouldn't have believed you. But it's very real and the word is getting out there fast. Even the BBC recently filmed a short piece on it as they were intrigued by the concept! So I just wanted to share some of the feedback from recent shoppers as it's such a good feeling to know that other women are now finding joy in pre-loved clothes.

Becky Barnes leading a charity shopping tour on the Gloucester Road

And here's what some of my most recent shoppers had to say about the whole experience:

“I keep meaning to write and say what a BRILLIANT time I had on the last charity shopping tour with Becky. It was so helpful to have your wisdom and eagle eyes Becky and I absolutely love everything I bought, including that amazing 1950s vintage dress for £20. One very happy woman! Thanks so much xxx”
“7 tops, 4 dresses and 4 necklaces...epic shopping session today with the amazing Becky Barnes. Becky you are a total legend and thank you for a fab morning”

So if you fancy seeing what little gems might be out there for you, please have a look at my latest dates and book yourself on before I hang up my shopping shoes for the summer! You can find all the details and book here:

Charity Shopping Tour Tickets

Go on, with summer just around the corner let's bring in some new pieces to help your wardrobe and your style feel refreshed x

Charity Shopping Tours are now live!

When Bristol's Independent District asked whether I'd consider setting up and running shopping tours on the Gloucester Road, I could hardly believe my luck! The answer was always going to be yes as it combines shopping and personal styling with charity shops. All of my favourite things!

The first tour was last week and my intrepid shoppers and I hit the Gloucester Road. We spent two hours scanning a variety of charity shops, carefully selecting different items for each woman to try. 

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As we went, I passed on some of my top tips for successful charity shopping and after two hours my shoppers could barely carry their bulging shopping bags.

One shopper's haul included a Windsmoor coat, two blazers (one from Reiss and one from LK Bennett), two dresses, one waistcoat, two jumpers, five scarves, two bags, three necklaces and two pairs of shoes. All for less than £100!

some finds from the charity shopping tour

The good news is that it was so successful that I've already organised another two tours on Saturday April 21st. If you'd like to find out more or buy a ticket you can click here for the morning tour, or here for the afternoon tour. Tickets cost £25 per person plus a small Eventbrite booking fee. I'd love to see you there and help you find some treasures x

Some of my favourite boutiques in Bristol

The party season is almost here! From office parties, family gatherings to New Year’s festivities, there are plenty of opportunities to look glamorous. That’s why I love the season so much! Next time you’re in Bristol, you don’t necessarily need to rely on the High Street when looking for that special outfit - if you want something a bit different and extra special to wear, give one of Bristol’s numerous boutiques a go. I know we’re all busy in the lead up to Christmas, so to save you time I’ve put together a list of some of my favourite hidden gems in Bristol to help you begin exploring...

Rhubarb Jumble

I love Rhubarb Jumble and they specialise in 1950s to 1970s fashion as well as homeware. Their collection is just amazing which is why they were recently featured as one of Bristol and Bath’s 'hot spots' in none other than Vogue magazine. They take a lot of care in choosing fabulous pieces so you’re bound to discover something unique. As a bonus you’ll might find a perfect gift for someone too, such as Lea Stein jewellery.

Location: 52 North Street, Bedminster, BS3 1HJ and their website is here

Amulet Boutique

You’ll find an exciting range of brands at Amulet and there’s something to suit so many styles and occasions. From dresses to outerwear, skirts to accessories, they have something for everyone in their extensive range. They also stock  Fair-trade and ethical products as well as British made and organic items too. If you try to source your clothes ethically and sustainably then you will love what’s on offer.

Location: 39A Cotham Hill, BS6 6JY and their website is here

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Motiq

No outfit is complete without stunning jewellery – and Motiq has just that! They carefully select the most beautiful pieces of jewellery as well as other accessories such as sumptuous shawls and silk scarves. You’ll find a range of showstopper party pieces too available during the lead up to Christmas. We all deserve to treat ourselves to something special during the festive period so go and see if you can find yourself something amazing.

Location: 8 Boyce's Avenue, Clifton, BS8 4AA and their website is here

Vintage Boutique Personal Stylist Bristol

Heartfelt Vintage

As the name suggests, Heartfelt Vintage specialise in all things vintage and their shop is absolutely beautiful to look at. You’ll find a carefully selected range of designer vintage pieces that combines style and quality. If you haven’t given pre-loved fashion a go yet, I promise you’ll only find very high quality, faultless pieces here. Once you’ve finished shopping, you can give yourself a break and enjoy a scrumptious afternoon tea in their beautiful tearoom – just be sure to book in advance. 

Location: 32 Alma Vale Road, Bristol, BS8 2HY and their website is here

Movement Boutique

Movement Boutique is relatively new on the scene after launching in March 2016 and they’ve already blown me away with their great taste. You’ll find brands and items here from across the world, many of which are completely new to Bristol. They currently have some beautiful dresses by Rixo which I urge you to go take a look at. They’ll definitely give you a warm welcome and help you find something special,whatever the occasion.

Location: 66 Alma Rd, BS8 2DJ and their website is here

ethical sustainable fashion bristol

And if it's still too hard, I can take you shopping and provide invaluable support and guidance to help you find the perfect look. Happy exploring! x

 

A strong woman stands up for herself. A stronger woman stands up for others...

Remember the Swap 'til You Drop fundraising event in July? It was just a-maz-ing for so many reasons. 

The first is that I'm over the moon to say I was finally able to present a cheque last week to our charity for the evening, Labour Behind The Label for the sum of £1500!

Honestly, I never ever thought we would raise that amount but I'm thrilled that we did and I know it will be put to good use. The work LBTL undertakes is incredible as they strive to improve the rights of garment workers right across the world. If you want to know more, including how you could help, please visit www.labourbehindthelabel.org

Aside from raising a huge sum of money, the night was so much more than I could have dreamed of!

Here's what one lovely guest had to say:

"What an evening! I went to Becky's charity evening on my own as my mate couldn't make it. So I put on a smile and left telling the babysitter I would be back by 9. I felt nervous but I thought "hey it's for charity and I might find one nice swap". What I didn't expect was the camaraderie, the giggles and the good natured banter with women I've never met. I bonded with one lady over her new floaty blouse and another over an unexpected trouser suit find and another over her dresses. Women of all ages standing around in their bras chatting. I enjoyed myself so much and came away with 4 items to spruce up my wardrobe. When Becky organised another evening like this, I'll definitely be back!"

I know also that women are now considering upcycling too. Another gorgeous guest wrote to me and said:

"Had to tell you I dyed my faded jeans and threw in 3 tops that were likely to head to recycling. So happy with the results, especially the jeans as had there been a pair in Debenhams I would have bought them. I've caught the upcycling bug".

It was an evening that encouraged us to recycle and repurpose our clothes as well as consider who made those clothes in the first place and it was SO much fun in the simply beautiful surroundings of Leigh Court.

However you played a part in the evening this is my personal thank you to you. I couldn't have done it without you and I'm truly grateful for your heartfelt support.

Here's to the next one...... 

Becky x

 

Photography courtesy of www.viktoriakuti.com