Style is not something you can buy. It’s in your DNA. Welcome to our darling new feature – our monthly glam organic girl pinup story. A celebration of the organic, circular and ethical fashion trailblazer. The woman who is a leader in her field, and is equally at home in slow couture, a sassy, circular economy organic t-shirt with a svelte, form-fitting riding skirt or a preloved vintage masterpiece snapped up at Oxfam. In each issue, we will feature a woman of substance who embodies the spirit of an Ethical Hedonist and works, shops and dresses for social and environmental impact with a fabulous streak of originality, ingenuity, daring and chutzpah! This month I am delighted to introduce you to the effervescent and forever in vogue fashion academic, Dr. Natasha Radcliffe – Alison Jane Reid
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t care about clothes and they are such a part of my life that I can instantly recall events through what I was wearing. As a teenager, I learned to sew from vintage patterns and books picked up in charity shops, and I’m still fascinated by making and the people throughout the international fashion system. I have spent my life in fashion, as a teenager creating a look to suit my tastes, mood, music affiliations, and friendship groups, later as a designer-maker with a small fashion label and now as an educator. It is a huge privilege to work in fashion education – I’m a National Teaching Fellow and I have been lucky enough to teach in the United Kingdom, Asia, and the United States.
Fashion is a multi-faceted global industry; a source of pleasure and creativity but also an industry that faces huge social and environmental challenges. The impact of textile and garment production is there for all to see. It is tangible in poor water and air quality as well as overflowing landfill. Living in Hong Kong I saw first-hand how mass migration to the factories of southern China has exploited workers and disrupted family relationships. I have witnessed how the impact of mass production has impacted local, small-scale fashion brands and how skills like tailoring are being lost. Living in the US and visiting New York’s garment district, I saw how the decrease in domestic production means that hand skills and heritage makers are being lost at an alarming rate.
In my new role as Reader in Marketing and Sustainable Business at the British School of Fashion, I take a systems approach with research and teaching on sustainability and ethics as sources of value for fashion businesses and individuals. I will be conducting cross-disciplinary research on sustainability including fashion, luxury, and health; promoting innovative policy in sustainability, international marketing, ethical business, and fair trade; delivering global values-based teaching and promoting sustainability literacy in support of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Reflecting on this outfit for my son’s summer wedding blessing, I can see the spirit of the UN’s concept of intangible cultural heritage as celebrating artisan skills. And I’d like to think I’m giving a nod to the spirit of make-do-and-mend by re-wearing long-loved clothes and adding just one new thing – my cheeky fuchsia hat!
Meher Kakalia, @meherkakalia, born in Karachi, left her home town to study in London. After a few years in the world of Finance, she left the City to pursue a more creative career in shoe design. Her idea was to design an original collection of shoes based on her country’s rich tradition of hand embroidery and shoemaking. With this in mind, Meher launched a collection of handcrafted shoes, often using colour in the most unexpected way.
In order to achieve her dreams, Meher had to set up her own workshop and spent time searching for master craftsmen. This was a tremendous challenge that Meher has achieved in a remarkable way whilst remaining committed to her respect for tradition, empowering women, using sustainable and recycled materials, limiting the use of toxic glue and most of all nurturing her love for fashion.
I had the luxury of working with a tailor when I lived in Hong Kong and she made me a series of cheongsams and separates that I wear and re-wear.
Clothes are made to wear and I love how this traditional Korean hanbok take on a 1950’s swing coat mood worn this way- it’s a bit of a go-to for me.
I bought this Marc Jacobs’ piece at a ‘Redressed’ charity pop-up shop in Hong Kong- this is my first-day-of-term skirt! Redress is a Hong Kong-based environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry.
I aspire to emulate my extremely glamorous grandmother; her handbag comes out for high days and holidays.
Dr. Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas is a co-author of Fashion Management: A Strategic Approach.
The British School of Fashion is a specialist postgraduate environment based in London’s Spitalfields.
Photo credit: Yuyang Li at Little Forest Studio @little_forest_studio
Love our intelligent fashion journalism? Read another sparkling, must-read, conscious fashion story here – Swarovski Seeks to Inspire the Next Generation of Fashion Stars with ‘Conscious Design’ Programme Reports Journalist Alison Jane Reid