Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Hive of Antiform

When I arrive at Re-Made in Leeds one unseasonably hot day in March it all appears quiet on the surface. Lizzie greats me at the door with a huge hug and we march on through to the kitchen where she has a plethora of tea to choose from. I dish out some chocolate brownies (donated from the WI) and we sit down at her pattern cutting table.

It’s a hot day, we are supping our tea and there is a bloke fitting the floor. “Are you having your floor fitted? Does he want a drink?” I ask, pointing at the bloke who is lying excruciatingly close to the rung near the door. “Nooo…” Lizzie replies, laughing, “He’s a local artist – he’s sketching the rug!” And with that the bloke pops off the rug, waves adios to Lizzie and exits the shop.

Then the office phone starts going, a lady comes in to pick her jeans up which have been mended, Lizzie’s mobile starts bleeping with texts pouring in. Lizzie is one lady in demand and it’s not hard to see why – it seems the phrase ‘fingers in pies’ was invented with her in mind. Re-made in Leeds is a social enterprise, not for profit organisation which has an educational campaign structure. They facilitate Clothes Swaps (where numbers can exceed 100), Workshops and other awesome events. They collect ripped tights for recycling and old bras to give to charities abroad. Out of the Re-Made Building also comes the Antiform brand.
I came across Antiform when I was researching ethical, locally sourced clothes for a client in Yorkshire. I was blown away by the styling – ethically made clothes styled in a way which you would actually aspire to wear. An impressive 75% of all Anti-form clothes are made on site by local seamstresses and the other 25% are made in homes and businesses within 20 miles of the main factory. The materials are sourced from local factories – rolls of off cuts are stored in the Re-Made warehouse. Want to know where the material for their A/W12 collection has come from? The same factory knitting fabric for none other than Victoria Beckham, new darling of world fashion.

Each camp (Re-Made and Antiform) gives volunteers and interns the opportunity to get involved. And it is achingly cool. Remember that issue of Elle which was full of ethical brands but the styling was appalling? Lizzie does, “I don’t see why ethical brands stand their models next to trees looking soppy. We wanted to show a whole new way of doing things: that ethical can be just as stylish, just as on-trend as the mass produced stuff.”  And there are no trees in sight – the colours, the styling, the model, the location - all scream fashion and are styled by Lucy Harvey, the Ethical Stylist. The clothes are designed in accordance with the seasons, not 6 months ahead like other brands do, “We are trying to slow the fashion industry down versus the speed of the fashion industry proper. Our range depends on what materials are available to us from our suppliers.” Sold both wholesale and retail, this approach has seen the brand trade over 2 successful years to date.

So why Leeds? Lizzie downs her tea “We are sold this amazing lie that fashion only exists in New York and London but you can be fashion – it doesn’t matter where you live and it doesn’t matter what money you spend: just buy something from a charity shop and rip it up! Experiment! I wanted to prove that a successful label can exist outside of London, that a fashion supply chain can work in Leeds.” With 9 stockists of Antiform including stockists in London, Bristol, Glasgow and Spain, it shows that her wish is her command.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Me, my man legs and the Manchester Marathon

This month I will be mostly focusing on completing the Manchester Marathon in one piece. In the process of marathon training not only have I split a pair of skinny jeans (just call me The Hulk), gained what can only be described as "man legs" - my calves are now 14" in circumference, I kid you not, I have been forced to wear a highly unattractive high visibility vest for "safety" reasons. But this is all in the name of charity. I am running for The Birdhouse Fund, a registered charity which sits under the umbrella of the Forever Manchester charity. They are a FANTASTIC charity giving vulnerable women a much needed step-up in life. They especially help women who have been the victims of domestic violence. 

Have you ever had to go cap in hand to a charity to ask for help? No? Then please spare a thought and £5 for the women who have and donate here at my Just Giving Page.