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Meet the women championing sustainable design

By Charlotte Elizabeth Libby

Plastic-free, minimalism, zero-waste, up-cycling, local, Lagom, fair trade, slow living. Sustainability is a topic taking over headlines in many different ways. As a result of an increasing understanding around issues such as climate change and fast fashion, people are now more focused than ever on ensuring their lifestyle and purchases are environmentally friendly.

However, sustainability goes further than simply ensuring packaging is recyclable and people seeking complete transparency are finding reassurance from independent brands. A wave of new and established designers are placing ethical considerations at the centre of their business and showing dedication to sustainability throughout the supply chain.

For the rest of March, The Whitworth Gallery in Manchester is home to a popup shop dedicated to sustainable and ethical brands, highlighting the work of UK artisan makers and designers. The Original Sustainable Department Store is run by Blue Patch, an organisation dedicated to championing ethical brands in the UK. With a wide variety of products on offer, including homewares, gifts and beauty, this is an opportunity to buy from sustainable designers, including many talented females.

Identity Papers

Identity Papers is both a brand and design studio, offering bespoke and small batch wallpapers, homewares and giftware. Founder Linda Hasking prioritises bespoke designs for wallpapers, printing only the quantity required for each project and choosing plant-based inks to allow a close-to-zero-waste profile.

The weight of recent publicity around poor practice in fashion and garment production has driven Identity Papers to place further scrutiny on supply chain. On the topic of the new interactive Word Search T-Shirt designs introduced by the brand, Linda comments: “I am currently relaunching with an improved supply chain. The printing now takes place less than 60 miles from my base, in a wind-powered factory. The organic cotton used is traceable from seed to shop; produced with fair trade, social accountability and clean, renewable energy. To top that all off, once a garment is worn out it can be returned to the factory for fiber reclamation and that is rewarded with shopping credit. I couldn’t be happier with the clarity and circularity this change has brought”.

XO Balm

XO Balm is bringing minimalism to the beauty industry; offering one product with many uses, made of only a few natural ingredients and creating no waste. The balm is packaged in metal and wood with minimal branding, encouraging people to reuse their tins once empty. The product itself is waterless and free from petroleum, parabens and palm oil; made with only natural ingredients sourced from specialist U.K suppliers.

Founder Charlotte says of sustainability in the beauty industry: “It is much more than than what the tube or pot is made from. It’s consideration for ingredients, the function of the product, suppliers, shipping methods and the effect it has when washed down the drain”. Of her own brand she details: “XO Balm promotes minimalism within the formulation as well as product routine, offering a multifunctional product which can take the place of many others. I designed the packaging to be environmentally considerate, avoiding secondary packaging and plastic wherever possible. The tins are sized to fit through a mailbox, reducing the carbon footprint from multiple delivery attempts.”

Rowena Ardern Design

Rowena Ardern creates contemporary textile designs and homewares for interiors. Her unique images celebrate nature and beauty in its many forms, capturing the essence of a place. They are drawn from life then translated onto cotton, linen and silk textiles through hand and machine embroidery, as well as print and hand painting, in her South London studio.

Discussing the importance of sustainable design in the heirloom textile industry, Rowena Ardern comments: “I incorporate sustainable methods and materials wherever I can, using vintage linens and water-based dyes alongside hand and machine embroidery”.

Badgers Velvet

Badger’s Velvet offers a range of homewares and precious jewellery made using the finest materials. The jewellery creations up-cycle antique items, such Roman coins or 17th Century bronze buttons, by adding silver or 9ct gold by hand. Badger’s Velvet founder Ros has a passionate belief in recovering beautiful objects, complimenting her instinct for contemporary sustainable living and a lifelong 'waste not, want not’ philosophy.

Provenance of materials holds great importance for founder Ros: “All Badger’s Velvet homewares use sustainable materials; from glycerine soap produced in Lancashire, to repurposing large vintage linens into tea towels and napkins. The bone and horn spoons are hand made in Lancashire, the materials sourced ethically and a bi-product of the bovine industry”.

Mariam Syed

The hand-woven textile designs on offer from designer Mariam Syed focus on vibrant, contemporary fabrics, channelling inspiration from her life and background. The collection of hand-woven scarves and rugs draw on architecture and geometry, representing the visual culture of Mariam Syed’s ancestral homeland Karachi, Pakistan.

Discover products from these designers and more at The Original Sustainable Department Store at The Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, until March 31st. For more information and to discover more UK sustainable makers, designers and artists, visit Blue Patch.

For more sustainable shopping events throughout the year, Badgers Velvet Underground hosts popup shops featuring products from artisan makers and designers. The next event will be held in April in London.

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