Friday, 17 February 2017

#anewageinspiration Birdsong London

All photos are from Birdsong
Birdsong is the coolest fashion brand that you're going to see. A blend of incredible, affordable and feminist ethical clothes it's near impossible to not want to buy every piece of clothing they sell. It's clear through the ethos of the brand and the direction it's heading in there are big things for the future of Birdsong and as there's no doubt that I will love everything they do.

I was lucky enough to interview the co-founder Sophie Slater and not going to lie this is my favourite #anewageinspiration I've done; I have been itching to post this since she sent the answers and I hope you fall in love with Birdsong because they are definitely a new age inspiration.

What was the inspiration behind Birdsong?
Me and my business partner Sarah both worked in the social sector before - with charities, mostly with women, and Sarah was at an elderly day centre that now make all our knitwear. We saw women's organisations being hit by massive funding cuts, but the women attending these community groups had amazing sewing and knitting skills. At the same time, lots of my friends in photography or fashion were exploring what feminism meant to them and getting sick of the standards the industry was setting in terms of being unsustainable, undiverse, and disempowering. 

We decided to connect these ideas as an intersectional approach to feminism and fair, local fashion. Two years on, we've evolved our brand a little but our mission is the same. We’re seeking to revolutionise the way we shop, by sourcing products from women’s organisations with rare skills. From migrant seamstresses to knitting grannies, we unite women from different backgrounds. Combining the skills of women's groups with the talent of contemporary designers, we bring our brand to life using diverse, unedited, models.
Your main ethos is 'no sweatshops, no photoshop' - please could you expand on that?
80% of garment workers globally are women, and they often work for less than a living wage in really poor conditions. After the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 a lot of people were shocked by the deaths of over a thousand garment workers, who'd died making clothes for the British high street. I'd been working for an ethical clothing brand and providing safe, empowering conditions for workers was an issue I felt really strongly about. 

As someone who grew up in the North East of England, there used to be a lot of industry and jobs about and now there's massive economic depression and factory closures since the 1980s. I knew there was a lot of potential for hiring workers nearer to home so that we could track the supply chain and bolster local economies that need it. We do work with international projects that we really believe in, but have really strict standards and they have to contribute to the worker's wellbeing in a charitable aspect too, like our jewellery that's made as part of a support programme for women's who've survived human trafficking in India and Nepal. 

The "no photoshop" aspect comes from a feeling that the way women are advertised to is out of date and dishonest. We shouldn't be made to feel bad about ourselves or like a lesser version than the model in order to buy stuff. We're fine as we are, so our unedited models, who are all non-agency friends or activists, reflect that.
Why do you think feminism is so important to integrate into your brand and the fashion industry? 
As mentioned above, both issues are feminist issues. Feminism has to include all women and all women's challenges and perspectives. That includes the problems facing migrant women, women of colour, and working class women who are so often overlooked. We really hope we're building something that's created by and benefits all kinds of women.

The amount you've raised for women's organisations is incredible and so inspiring, but are there any females that inspire you?
So many! All our friends, colleagues, women we work with. Our muses for the current collection are Angela Davis, Zadie Smith, our models Daniela and Sofya and all the women doing cool things in our local communities, like Sisters Uncut, SIREN collective, Charlie Craggs, we could go on forever...check out our blog for inspiration at www.birdsong.london/the-nest!

You're an ethical fashion brand without the hefty price tag - why do you feel that is important and how do you achieve it?
When we started, the main barrier to our friends and peers shopping ethically was the price tag. There wasn't a lot for our age group, as a high street alternative. We could have easily become yet another "luxury" brand but there would have been less demand for us in that circle. We are our customers so we price it that way. We manage to make the right margins and pay living wage, so most brands could in theory. No super yachts for us, but we're not in it for that!
Do you think it is important to challenge fast fashion? 
A lot of people are just struggling to get by at the moment, so we absolutely don't want to knock anyone who's just trying to get through and can't spend a lot on their clothes. But we're an option if you ever feel like making a super feel good purchase. 

We do think that having 6 shows per fashion season is unsustainable, and the current rate of production is unsustainable. That's why we make some items in 100% reclaimed textiles or eco materials, and we're trying to improve that. I thought it was really interesting a point someone made about artists or novelists only being expected to make something beautiful every five or ten years, but designers have to churn out pointless, uninspired shows every season. Imagine if they only created new trends when they truly felt like it? We make classic items that will hopefully see you through years of trends, updating the colours and detailing to keep things fresh.

I am loving Birdsong's latest collection, what can we expect to see in the future? 
We're launching our first, full own brand collection in March and we can't wait. We're also recruiting more women's groups and skill sets, and hiring our first in house designer. We've also got some really exciting collaborations under our belt from designers and bigger brands, and better choice of products in the pipeline. We're also relaunching our concept store in April. We're beyond excited, and hope our customers are too.

If you've never heard of Birdsong before and want to find out more their links are:
Instagram - @birdsonglondon
Twitter - @birdsonglondon

Do you love Birdsong as much as I do (because I think it's clear from this post that I lavvv them a lot)? Let me know along with other people or brands that you would like me to interview.

eleanor //
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8 comments

  1. I love love love Birdsong, it's so nice reading more about them! What a lovely post <3

    Edie x
    thelifeofedie.com

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    1. Thanks Edie! I found it so interesting reading all the answers :)

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  2. The photos and models in this ahhhh <3_<3
    Such a big fan of the 'No sweatshop no photoshop' ethos, it's so in tune with current affairs :)

    Dalal //
    monochromedaisies.blogspot.com

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    1. I know it's gawgusss, I just love everything about them tbh :))

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  3. I loved this post! I wanted to sit down and talk with her in her darling home.

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  4. Thank you for introducing me to this brand <3

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  5. You are so beautiful inside and love what kind of camera you use? Love all photos

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