We're proud champions of all things sustainable fashion, and love collaborating with like-minded brands. So from the 5th-9th September, we're thrilled to be hosting a pop up in our Dalston store featuring the brand Birdsong. Offering sustainable clothing that is ethically made, working with women's groups and charities, they're a groundbreaking brand that promotes feminism workers rights through their practices and the incredible products they sell. To celebrate their 4th birthday, the pop-up will give you the chance to shop their latest collection, get to know the brand, and join us for some exciting events including a Positive Activism Panel and a Feminist Comedy Night.
To get to know Birdsong a little better, we interviewed co-founder Sophie Slater...
Tell us about yourself and Birdsong.
Hi! I'm Sophie and I'm a co-founder and Brand Manager for Birdsong. I've always loved and worked around clothes, feminism and worker's rights so starting Birdsong was a natural culmination of working on all of those things.
What inspired you to start the brand?
I'd worked as a model as a teenager, and in retail for years, and these both gave me a total love of fashion...but also I could see the downsides massively. Like being told your bum's "too big", seeing how un-diverse the industry was. When I met Sarah, my business partner, we were both working for charities. Sarah was working with a group of older people in a day centre who had this incredible knitting group. They made scarves and jumpers to give to charity shops because it made them feel as warm and fuzzy inside. I was working with women's charities and met so many lower-income migrant women with these amazing sewing skills. We decided that we could help these remarkable women sell their wares online, which was much easier for them that doing market stalls or struggling to sell things on Etsy. Then we hired Susanna our designer who now designs everything for us in-house, and sources the most beautiful fabrics so that their skills are elevated and used to their full potential.
Why is sustainable and ethical fashion so important to you?
Women have always found creative ways to make a statement with what they wear. From the berets of the black panthers in the Sixties to the quiet resolution to only wear clothes made in the UK, fashion is an important ally for change. If you start something from scratch, like a fashion company, as outsiders to the industry like we did, there's an incredible opportunity to build things as you would like them to be, in an idealistic, optimistic way. We never knew how things were "supposed" to be done, so we built the kind of fashion we wanted to see in the world, and that's kind to the people who make it, wear it and the planet.
Tell us more about the women's groups you work with.
We design clothes for remarkable women, but we’re also made by them. We work with expert women makers who face barriers to employment – from artists and printmakers to seamstresses and painters – and pay the London living wage to bring our designs to life. We work with two groups of older knitters, and then four other women's projects or charities across London who do our cut and sew, embroidery, shirting and hand-painting. We know them all personally and love going to hang out. Making samples together often includes sharing a Bengali style feast and lots of laughs.
What are your favourite pieces from your new collection?
You won’t find anything like our collection on the high street. It’s about thoughtful clothes in bright colours, edgy silhouettes and original prints made from natural fabrics. Our block colour jumpsuits, hand-printed trousers and super-soft knitwear are staples that will hopefully spark conversation for a lifetime (because, obviously, everything’s made to last!). I'm OBSESSED with our taupe khadi denim suit. I've been bugging Susanna to let me steal the sample for weeks but I'm not allowed yet...It's a gorgeous boxy jacket and super flattering wide legged trousers with the prettiest topstitching and eco buttons made from nuts. It's been so thoughtfully made and everything in the new collection is natural, hand-woven fibres and eco fabrics like super silky bamboo.
What's your biggest tip to help make a positive impact in the fashion world?
For us, wearing our collections is a protest in itself– against the fast nature of the fashion industry, against the obsessive pursuit of trends and against the systematic abuse of women in the production line. We know that women want more from their wardrobe but that the world of ethical, sustainable and local fashion can be a minefield. So we’ve really tried to tick all the boxes for you. Company's like ours and Beyond Retro are so important because we encourage people to think about where their clothes come from, be conscious, and create opportunities for the people who really need it.
And what’s your style staple for the new season?
One of our bamboo or khadi jumpsuits. A cute one piece or dress you can throw on and wear for any occasion, and a big pair of dangly earrings to take you from the office to your after work dinner.
To find out more about our Birdsong Pop Up, check out our facebook event! See you there :)