FASHION: Crafting a look for autumn

SADLY, we are all too familiar with stories of sweatshop labour and youth exploitation in the fashion industry.

So it is heartening to hear another tale – one where fashion is a positive force in people's lives and helps them make a fair living.

York businesswoman Anne McCrickard has been telling those stories for several years now, through her ethical clothing boutique Maude & Tommy, Grape Lane.

If clothes could talk, these garments would keep you captivated.

Take the exquisite and colourful swing coat from Bibi Hanum in Uzbekistan. It is made by craftspeople, mostly women, in the Tashkent, Ferghana Valley and the Navoi Region. The company is a social enterprise, with a mission to provide economic opportunities for women while preserving Uzbekistan’s rich heritage.

Anne explains: "The clothes are designed to incorporate the traditional crafts of Uzbek artisans. Ikat fabrics are made by master craftsmen in the Fergana Valley, whose families have employed these techniques for generations."

These techniques were almost lost forever, adds Anne, because of the imposition of modernisation during the Soviet era.

"In their style and ornamentation, Uzbek clothing reflects centuries of cross-cultural trade along the Silk Road network that crossed Central Asia, particularly from Persia, India and China."

Every garment in the boutique has to fit in with Anne's ethos of slow fashion, the antithesis of today’s throwaway fast fashion, often made in sweatshop conditions.

“I love buying from craftspeople from around the world," says Anne. "For autumn/winter, we have items handmade in York and Yorkshire, alongside pieces from India, Uzbekistan, France, Sweden and Italy.

“Some are new ventures while others keep alive techniques that have been mastered over centuries. You’re not just buying clothes, you’re supporting these people, their children and entire communities."

Another example is the block colour coat by Neeru Kumar. It looks surprisingly modern, but is based on traditional techniques and indigenous materials from India.

And how about this as an antidote to throwaway fashion – a bag made from recycled goods. The company What Daisy Did uses waste materials from various industries to create its range of bags and purses.

Anne says the designs are timeless, to outlive micro trends and seasons, and made by more than 100 artisans in rural India. "The bags are hard wearing and made to last, keeping them out of landfill for as long as possible," she adds.

Chic craft pieces made closer to home also make the cut for autumn/winter at Maude & Tommy.

"Norfolk-based CoridaKnit is known for its hand-felted accessories but the business has taken the latest collection in a new direction," says Anne. "Using a fresh technique known as nuno felting, it involves bonding 70 per cent extra fine merino wool on to a printed silk gauze textile. The effect is a stunningly-detailed lightweight felt with exquisite detail."

Making Fairisle fabulous again is Galashiels-based Eribé, which describes itself as ‘a cottage industry gone global’. The business works with hand-knitters and knitwear designers who are experts in the heritage knitting technique.

Created from natural fibres, including lambswool and merino, the garments are made using knowledge handed down from one generation to the next. There’s a mix of machine-knits and hand-framed styles, with almost 90 per cent of products made in Scotland, says Anne.

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