Archive for the ‘The Everyday Awesome’ Category


Sass Brown
Sass Brown is the resident director for the Fashion institute of technology’s study abroad program in Florence, Italy. Originally from London, England, Sass established herself as a designer with her own signature collection selling in the U.K and across Canada. As an academic, her area of research is in community outreach and ethical design practices in fashion businesses. she has published papers and spoken around the world on the topic of sustainable design, has worked and volunteered in women’s cooperatives in Latin America, and taught workshops to manufacturers and fashion enterprises in Peru. Her book, eco design, for British publishers Laurence king, is also translated into Italian and Spanish, with the intent of showcasing some of the best expressions of eco fashion around the world.

My interaction with Sass started a couple of years ago while I worked at the Samant Chauhan design team in India. Sass was then researching on the designers she intended to showcase and her knowledge and interest in the subject had got me totally impressed.

The success of this book “Eco fashion” is no surprise to anyone who knows Sass. She has worked hard on her research and made sure that the the examples within it will act as a model for new and upcoming designers. This has become the most referred book in the sustainable fashion field and will continue to be so for many years to come.

Published by Laurence King


Sass Brown on her book “Eco Fashion” : My hope is that this book and some of the examples within it will act as a model for new and upcoming designers. One of the biggest problems for the next generation of designers is the lack of high profile examples of how to incorporate sustainability and good design. I hope this book will act as just that, a model of what is possible, what can be built upon, and what is already being done. All the best work in any area of product development, from science to design builds upon the past, and furthers the concepts of their predecessors. Our future lays in the hands of designers of every stripe, from products to systems. We can sink in more throw away, designed to be obsolete fashions and products that bury and poison our environment, or we can design ourselves a new future. The eternal optimist, I hope for the later.

Excerpt from my interview with her earlier this week:

Bhakti: Let’s start with the obvious question, Sass- what drove you towards eco-fashion? Sass:  I am a designer by trade, and so have always had a close connection with the industry.  I sort of fell into teaching around 10 years ago, which was a blessing for me, as I was a bit burned out by the industry, having moved from my own label to up of merchandizing in the corporate side of design, and teaching gave me the freedom to explore other areas of design.  very early in my academic career, I was invited to speak on behalf of fit at an international textile conference in Rio, Brazil, and by chance had just read an article about Carlos Miele and his work with women’s cooperatives in Brazil, one of which was based in Rio, who I met during my scheduled visit.  that introduction turned into me writing several grants to work with the cooperative, which started as volunteering, and developed into creative direction, working directly with the artisans in development etc, which grew into me advising and working with various groups in brazil and Peru, giving talks, workshops and consulting and designing, all working with various crafts and techniques, but who needed help to position themselves in a very sophisticated global market place, not as craft cooperatives, but as creators working with traditions techniques and techniques that should be highly prized.  my working with cooperatives, and not for profits in developing countries extended into sustainable fabrications not just sustainable development, which led to more writing, more papers, then the book and now the website and resource guide.

Bhakti: How difficult was it to find the genuine eco fashion and ethical fashion designers throughout the globe? Sass: one of the most refreshing things about the eco fashion movement as opposed to the mainstream fashion movement is the willingness of everyone to share information. there is a general understanding that we all have to support each other for the sustainability of the industry as a whole, so every designer I came across introduced me to other, many times, their biggest competitors.  This is something that is of course all but unheard of in the mainstream fashion system.

Bhakti: Having said that, we know that “Eco fashion” is the most misused term in fashion today, did you have to perform any checks to make sure they are genuine?

Sass: In most cases I visited the company/label, but not in all.  In the end there is a certain amount of trust that went into the gathering of information.  To back that up however, this is an area of design that requires by default absolute transparency, so there is a high expectation of honestly with an equally corresponding high delivery.

Bhakti: As you mentioned visiting the company/labels, I recall that you conduct workshops for manufacturers in fashion. Can you tell us more? Sass: I have given many day long workshops mostly on the design development process and how existing small businesses or even large businesses move into creative development instead of simply production.  So in short, the creative process; where you get inspiration, how you apply that inspiration to your designs, market etc.  In many cases the companies and individuals that have attended those workshops have been individual designers, large companies do product development for others and NGOs and cooperatives looking to break out of a market that undervalues their products into one that values them. I have also given many talks on eco fashion, mostly over viewing who’s doing what around the globe, as a means of showing concrete and inspiring models of what is possible without sacrificing design.

Bhakti: Coming back to your “Eco fashion”, this book has become the best reference source for eco fashion today, how does it feel?Sass: It has been an uphill struggle, but I am committed to showcasing the work of some outstanding labels and designers, and blowing the out of date myth that eco design is bad design, or basic design at best, but that it can stand against the best of the best the fashion industry has to offer and not come up short.   the hope was that the book, now also the website, would develop into a sort of definitive guide or one stop shop for great eco fashion, not watered down by mediocrity or green-washing.  but one place you could always refer to for aspirational ecological or ethical fashion and only fashion, not interiors, not basics, not cosmetics, but aspirational fashion at various tiers of the market, at multiple price points and for multiple tastes, whether expressed as cerebral, intellectual, playful, naive, pretty, feminine or urban, but always good design.  There is still quite a way to go to becoming the definitive source, but every journey starts with a single step!

Bhakti: And that step has been taken, for sure! What is the road ahead looking like for eco and ethical fashion according to you? Sass: For the industry as a whole, the future is bright. There is so much innovation going on, and new labels and committed individuals entering the arena all the time, alongside others establishing a more consolidated presence. There are the beginnings of an eco fashion press happening with more and more coverage by the mainstream media, plus some new publications such as above magazine for example.  My hope is that the industry will continue to move up market, and will forge its own fashion systems, as mimicking the existing one is not the future, and can’t be.  Aspirational design is what drives a market, so there must be aspirational designers at the lead of this movement.

Bhakti: I hope and wish just like you, that this is indeed the beginning of a new era in Fashion. We would love to keep in touch and follow your journey. Tell us, what are you working on lately?

Sass: The website and blog continue to develop and grow, with a different eco designer featured each week, an ever expanding resource guide and an eco fashion calendar.  There are ongoing plans for the website- Firstly, with the information growing on it all the time, there is the need to subdivide  information, make it searchable etc, so that is an ongoing endeavor.  Then, to expand into a more diverse segment of the market, such as men’s wear for example.  Also, the considerations of adding an e-commerce component to it is on the cards, although these are far from decided as yet. I am in the early stages of working on an eco fashion exhibit that can tour and am also working on another eco fashion book. Lots of other exciting things that it’s not fair to talk about until their future is decided upon. I’m off to London fashion week now and Estethica and Eco luxe, the two green shows in the U.K this weekend!

Bhakti: I would love to host a similar presentation and book signing event in Australia and also a workshop in India. Would you be keen? Sass: Always interested in both of the above!

I wish Sass lots more success and shall continue to be her fan! For others who would like to keep in touch with Sass and Eco Fashion: Here are the links you should be clicking on right away: Facebook, Twitter, Website and Blog.

Can’t wait to witness one of her inspiring talks? Here’s a link to her a talk on behalf of the museum at FIT, about her book Eco Fashion presented at FIT in October 2010. This is 50 minutes of poor goodness and inspiration so make time for it before you continue J

Love and peace,

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Isabelle Quehe, founder of the Universal Love Association, is actively promoting ethical fashion and fabrics – fabrics made from ecologically friendly sources or produced by manufacturers using ethical labor codes.


Universal Love started 15 years ago, in 1995 to support young artists and artisans because they were not enough venues in Paris to showcase their art to the public and to sell them..Today, it is without doubt the biggest name in the ethical fashion industry.


The Universal Love Association spread the word further with its Ethical Fashion Show, something that Quehe came up with herself and set up in two years. “I realized that nobody in France was talking about Fair Trade and these passionate designers were never presented in Paris, the fashion capital,” Quehe said. Even though several passionate designers in Europe were on board with Quehe, “the biggest challenge was to prove to fashion professionals that conscious fashion could exist and would become the future.”

The big news came for Issabelle when Messe Frankfurt expressed interest in taking over the Ethical Fashion show. Further to their discussons and in the best interest of the EFS, Messe Frankfurt acquired the Ethical Fashion Show last year and produced their first season in late 2010.

“This has helped me leave the logistics and the business part to them, so that I can concentrate on the artistic part of the vision” says Isabelle.

Here’s an excerpt from my chat with Isabelle:

Bhakti: What prompted you to start the Ethical Fashion Show?Isabelle: My meeting with the two great designers : Oumou Sy and Bibi Russell. They share my vision that Ethical fashion could help their countries in saving the know-how of the weavers and local crafts. Bibi is my god mother and her work to save the Bangladeshi craft is the most humbling, to say the least. Oumou Sy (Sénégal) is instrumental in making a ready to wear collection at the price of the “second hand clothing” sold on the local market. They both drove me to keep faith in the long-term vision of Universal Love.
Bhakti: We know the EFS, Paris is a great success, what is your plan ahead for rest of the world?Issabelle: We want at this moment, to strengthen the EFS in Paris and later perhaps take it to Milan and NYC.

Bhakti: The Australian fashion community is very conscious about Ethical fashion and keep a check on what they create and wear.  Can we expect to see your show here in this country?Isabelle: It would be with a big pleasure that Universal Love , the association that launched Ethical Fashion Show organises a catwalk with some of your Australian brands along with the international ones that we promote through Ethical Fashion show. Now that you are there, we will look at the possibility.

Bhakti: Thank you, Isabelle. We look forward to seeing you here. Speaking of Universal love, what are the on-going and future projects of the organisation?Isabelle: In the current age of runaway globalisation with its tendency to make everything homogenous and simplified, cultures and skills are the pillars of a world rich in diversity and history. Thankfully, traditional skills have survived passing trends to reach us through the ages.
Today, thanks to international exchanges, these skills have intermingled, producing a fusion of designs which please the eye. These artforms have huge potential and maybe the originality and excellence of the techniques which produced them can teach us a few lessons about respecting mankind and the environment.
With Universal love, we are dreaming of organising an exhibition in The fashion museum of Paris (Musé Galliera) with all the natural materials from all continents and show case their ancient know-how.
Universal Love is particularly interested in the protection of the ancient skills and traditions in fabric making across the world. Therefore, ensuring that culture specific skills are sustained and maintained by always making sure that their working conditions are in accordance with international labor organization, we aim to achieve our long term goals. I quote Mahatma Gandhi at every given chance: “There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness!”
We at Universal love believe that it’s very important to protect all the traditional crafts and skills for the future generation and hence this year we aim to work more than ever to support the handicraft cooperatives engaged indevelopment projects from all over the world.
In order to achieve this and to make a beginning, we launched  an accessories collection made in different countries by co-operatives promising to create jobs ethically under the brand name UNIVERSAL LOVE.
The first collection comprises of some cravates (ties), ceintures (belts) and foulards (scarves) made in Rio de Janeiro by the women in jails. We also have some products that are made with recycle materials in Madagascar, crochet jewels made in Brasil, bags made in Peru and some boots made with embrodories in Russia.
Universal love has also started producing Tee shirts and jewellery that are made by the folks in Niger (Africa).
All the benefits are used to  showcase one of the cooperatives to participate with a showroom and catwalk at the Ethical Fashion Show, each year. This will allow the cooperative to present its work in front of a professional and international audience and hence allow international exposure for them.

Bhakti: You have done a great job in creating awareness and supporting Ethical fashion. For me, Ethical fashion has been synonymous with Universal Love for a long time, what has been the biggest challenge for EFS according to you?Isabelle: To survive the initial few years was the biggest challenge because it wasn’t so easy to convince partners and public of the importance of ethical fashion and to explain the meaning of these words to them. To explain to people that ethical fashion is NOT for the poor but  more so for the rich to understand and follow. Now that the teething problems have passed, we are in a more comfortable position and are raring to go!

Bhakti:  I wish you very good luck and lots more success. Before I let you go, tell us- who is your favorite fashion designer? Isabelle: There are plenty and I can’t give you just one name. Linda Maï Phang, Ada Zanditon, Ethos, Ak Classics, Samant Chauhan, Terra Ecologica (Charlene O’Brien) would be the names I vouch for. Also, Veja for their trainers and  Ombre Claire for the jewellery.

End of excerpt

I have known Isabelle for about three years now. Her undying faith in the future of ethical fashion and her dedication towards the cause is a constant inspiration to me. She is a name that most industry people idolise and I have been rather fortunate to know her personally.

Wishing Isabelle and ethical fashion a great future,
Yours truly,

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Bibi Russell


Bibi Russell  who is an UNESCO Artist for peace, is a household name in Bangladesh popularly called “The pride of Bangladesh”. She is an inspiration for the rest of us in Ethical fashion and craft communities. 

Bibi is a fashion designer and former international model from Bangladesh. Born and raised in Bangladesh, she was the first Bangladeshi girl who went to am international fashion school. She studied in London College of Fashion, earning a graduate degree in 1975. Here she was encouraged by a teacher to model for her own graduation collection and she did so in front of the best in the fashion industry back then.Her first assignment was a grand 14 page shoot for Harper’s Bazaar! She has worked as a model for different magazines including VogueCosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar. She also worked as a fashion model in fashion shows until 1994, working with Yves Saint LaurentKenzoKarl Lagerfeld and Giorgio Armani. Bibi believes this has given her the knowledge and understanding of the industry which helped her become the role-model she is today.

Bibi didn’t let this success get to her head. Her vision was clear. She was not in fashion to become a supermodel or a famous designer for any international brand. Although people still remember Bibi as the first Asian supermodel, what she wanted out of all that learning in fashion was to strive for Bangladesh and its craft. She gathered enough strength and focus to cut out from everything else and returned to Bangladesh in 1994 to save and revive the crafts of her country. 
Bibi Russell
(Image courtesy: Robert Frank Hagens of 1we-One world experience)

Bibi started Bibi Productions, her own fashion house, fusing indigenous Bengali cultural elements into her line. With assistance from UNESCO, she organized her first European fashion show in Paris in 1996. As of 2004, her company employed 35,000 weavers in rural Bangladesh..She has won many awards and accolades and still continues to be a role model for all women working with communities for the greater good. The Asiaweek magazine highlighted her as “one of the 20 people to watch in the millennium”

When I spoke to Bibi recently, I was amazed by her dedication and respect for people. Nothing deters her from her motive of working endlessly for the people of her country. She is truly the messiah for Ethical fashion and someone who’s footsteps we should all follow. In Bibi’s words, “The people of Bangladesh have made my dream come true and now I am working on making their dreams come true. When the world is moving towards eco-friendly and ethical practices, I only see a bright future for our nation that has been sitting on these principles for ages”

Bibi’s sign off message:
In Bangladesh there is no middle class, you are either rich or poor. I am here to help you come out of the poverty line. I am with you and you have to work hard with me to bring you out of poverty. I do not believe in charity- it never helps! People can buy from me thinking of it as charity once and they will forget about it but I want to share the beauty of the craft which YOU will create. Bibi productions is for the people of Bangladesh.

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PRET A PORTER PARIS® in Paris as a primary show, and special trade shows for different markets, with ATMOSPHERE’S for creators and designers, THE BOX for high-fantasy accessories, SO ETHIC for Ethical and eco-friendly fashion, THE TRAIN in New York and LIVING ROOM in Tokyo.

With its brand spreading out internationally, its attraction grows as a “fashion traffic point”.

They are the two main focuses of this essential sector. 
Ethical, fair trade and recycling, use of organic materials…

So Ethic is the window for fashion brands which specialise in sustainable approaches. All the future trends are there, in a committed, demanding, highly fashionable selection. It is now an essential stopover for buyers from specialist stores, multi-branded retailers, mixed concept stores and also department stores.

Choosing a media “show”

The “fashion event/salon” which offers direct contact with your clients, your future clients, trendsetters and journalists. The cost per contact is the least expensive of all the medias (radio/TV/posters/cinema/Internet) and allows for an immediate return on investment. It’s also a source for enrichment, knowledge and inspiration through meeting with others.

Putting your brand in the spotlight

By showing off its universe, its history, its people and designers to make you stand out, and attract buyers looking for something new.

Benefiting from the international recognition of the leading international fashion rendezvous

All the creative brands of today ( Isabel Marant Etoile, Paul&Joe, Tara Jarmon, Vanessa Bruno, Antik Batik, By Malene Birger, Blaak, Heimstone, Jerôme Dreyfuss, Save the Queen, Nathalie Garçon, …..) and references in the female market ( Derhy, Lilith, Didier Parakian, Garella, Fuego, Infinif, …) launched themselves at PRET A PORTER PARIS®.

Obtaining financial assistance: the defi subsidy

Paris offers an international resonance and important media coverage. PRET A PORTER PARIS® welcomes more than 1100 journalists. You can keep them informed with your press kits made available to them in the press office, or present them with your leading silhouettes in the trends forum, or live during the catwalk shows.

You have the possibility of applying to DEFI for financial assistance with your participation at the PRET A PORTER PARIS, ATMOSPHERE and THE BOX salons. This subsidy is aimed primarily at exporting companies, creative startup companies and French fashion companies.

This assistance may amount to as much as 75% of eligible expenditure involved in the participation of the salons (space rental, decoration, communication, fashion shows, etc.)

To consult the criteria for eligibility and request financial assistance, download the form from HERE

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