Thursday, 31 May 2012

Q&A with Bottletop

Oliver Wayman and Cameron Saul, Directors of Bottletop 
The roots of the Bottletop Foundation go back to 2002 when Cameron Saul found a quirky wireframe bag made from recycled bottletops in Uganda.  Having developed the bag, he successfully launched it in partnership with Mulberry, raising vital funds for education project work in Africa.  Bottletop, the premium luxury fashion company followed in 2011, co-founded with Oliver Wayman, the global sales of which, alongside music and contemporary art projects, help to fund the Foundation's work.

The Bottletop fashion production process now supports over 40 staff in Brazil, ensuring fair wages, community-based support and holistic care that includes pensions, medical cover and even regular physiotherapy to avoid repetitive strain. Through the Bottletop Foundation, now active across several nations from the UK, to Rwanda, Malawi, Mozambique and Brazil, Cameron and Oliver aim to empower young people; to protect themselves, their families, their communities and the environment.

Here the Bottletop boys tell us a little more:

Describe Bottletop in three words...
Design, Quality, Ethics

Where does your design inspiration come from?
It is really a combination of the creative, eclectic culture and vibrancy in Salvador, North East Brazil where our collection is produced and the style and finesse of Paris where our design team is based.

Who would your dream person be to design for?
Erykah Badu, the epitomy of roots cool.

If you could only wear one fashion brand forever, which would you choose?

What made you choose to operate in an ethical way vs any other model?
It really originates from wanting to make a sustainable social impact to the community where we, the project, is based. We didn't have grand plans, we just wanted to make beautiful products in the community. Fortunately for us the products have had a great reaction and we have managed to expand the team and employ more workers. We have charitable roots so working in an exploitative, unethical way wouldn't really be an option for us nor something we would want to be involved in. It is incredibly fulfilling to see the impact it is having and every visit to the project is a humbling experience.

Are there any fellow ethical businesses you recommend and why?
Osklen, one of the few brands to achieve luxury whilst maintaining a real focus on the environment through use of sustainable materials.

What tips would you give others keen to run their label or company as a successful ethical business?
Try to maintained focused on the design and quality of the products.  You can have the best ethical credentials in the world but if the products don't work then there is really no longevity in the brand.

If you had to pick a favourite accessory from Bottletop, which would you choose?
The June bag. Our beautiful oversized slouch bag, hand crocheted in Brazil.

What do you see the future holding for the brand?
We have two exciting forthcoming product collaborations, with RED and Osklen. We believe next season's collection will be our most exciting yet, introducing a host of new styles in our leather braided line alongside an injection of bright colour with our existing best selling designs.

To hear more about Bottletop Foundation or to shop and show your support, visit

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

New film features People Tree and rewardrobe

Ms Wanda's Wardrobe, an Uber Blog that campaigns for change in today's fashion industry, has created a new film in conjunction with People Tree and rewardrobe to highlight how far guilt-free shopping has come.

People Tree is highly respected for producing beautifully crafted, high quality clothing with a conscience.  The film features an interview with founder Safia Minney, as well as thoughts from the woman behind London's first slow style consultancy, Veronica Crespi - someone who can help you understand how to make the best of your wardrobe, care for your clothes in the longer term and rediscover a look to suit you.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Q&A with Rapanui

Rapanui is one trail-blazing brand to watch. Not only do the founders, brothers Rob and Mart Drake-Knight, create some of the most eco-friendly easy-to-wear clothes available, they are also busy encouraging positive change across the wider fashion industry by championing an eco labelling system.  Plus the Rapanui trace mapping tool is already making it easy for shoppers of the brand to see exactly how each product is made and where it comes from, an idea which makes us think 'why can't they all do that?!'.

Rapanui has won many awards in its relatively short life and has even achieved arguably the highest eco-accolade of all; the nod from the wonderful Sir David Attenborough. Here Rob shares his thoughts with us:

Rapanui in three words...
Sustainable, Cool, Casualwear

Where does your design inspiration come from?
All of our designs have hidden meanings, or a context with our ethics, some are bold, some detailed. The inspiration comes when we think about how we can influence change through our design, so for example our eco label t-shirt and top are inspired by the EU energy rating symbol, and we hope that people will think about how eco friendly the garments or products that they buy are. The idea with the brand and design is to try to influence change in people’s wider lifestyle through their interaction with Rapanui.

If you could only wear one fashion brand forever, which would you choose?
Cor... that is tough question, I would be a poor businessman if I didn’t say Rapanui!!

What made you choose to operate in an ethical way vs any other model?
Through Mart’s studies at university in Renewable Energy Engineering we both became passionate about sustainability, we decided that we wanted to do something and the most accessible route for us was a clothing brand, we knew there were problems in the fashion industry and so decided to take that route.

Are there any fellow ethical business owners you admire and why?
I would say Liz Earle for skincare, she has the same principles as us when it comes to the environment, and their product quality is great.

What tips would you give others keen to run their label or company as a successful ethical business?
Go for it! And come to us, we can help – we have a sister business which makes custom eco clothing for other businesses brands and events

If you had to pick a favourite item from Rapanui, which would you choose?
Very difficult, I like so many of them! I think I would have to go for the:
Save our Seas tee / top

What do you see the future holding for the brand?
Lots more cool products! We’ve got a new collection coming soon, and next year we should be making some technical jackets made from recycled plastic based on a rad idea of the circular economy. Basically, we’ll be financially rewarding our customers who recycle their products with us when they have come to the end of their lifetime.

We’re really excited about where things are going, lots of new products and even more developments of our traceability initiative to include video, so people can see even more detail of where and how our clothing is made – very exciting stuff!

Bon Ton Times is certainly looking forward to hearing more from Rapanui!  Check out for more info and to see the latest clothing.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

V&A Ballgowns: British Glamour since 1950 - exhibition preview

Atsuko Kudo, worn by Georgia Frost with dresses by Hardy Amies and Worth of London
For anyone who doesn't quite see the appeal of vintage, just one trip to the V&A's new exhibition will win them over. 'Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950', previewed last night within the gorgeous surroundings of the renovated Fashion Galleries, is a celebration of fashion that transcends the decades. This exhibition gives you a wealth of inspiration for looks that will never go out of style with beautiful ballgowns, red carpet evening dresses and catwalk showstoppers. 
Nicholas Oakwell Couture
More than sixty designs from the 1950s to the present day, for social events such as private parties, royal balls, state occasions and opening nights, are displayed over two floors. Tour de force eveningwear from the V&A’s vast collection by designers such as Norman Hartnell, Victor Stiebel, Zandra Rhodes, Catherine Walker, Jonathan Saunders and Hussein Chalayan are on show, as well as dresses fresh from the catwalk shows of Alexander McQueen, Giles, Erdem, Roksanda Illincic, Mark Fast and Jenny Packham. Innovative designer Gareth Pugh has created a stunning metallic leather dress especially for the exhibition.
Erdem AW2008
A selection of royal ballgowns are displayed, including a Norman Hartnell gown designed for Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Princess Diana’s ‘Elvis Dress’ designed by Catherine Walker and gowns worn by today’s young royals. Dresses worn by actresses and celebrities including Sandra Bullock, Daphne Guinness, Elizabeth Hurley and Bianca Jagger are also shown.

The exhibition takes place in the V&A’s new Fashion Galleries space and is open to the public from 19 May 2012 – 6 January 2013, daily 10.00 – 17.45 and until 22.00 every Friday. Tickets are £10 (concessions available), although V&A Members go free. For advance bookings visit (booking fee applies).

Monday, 14 May 2012

Dig deep for Christian Aid Week

Katherine Hamnett’s welllies and Suki Waterhouse’s brush are among the one-off items to be auctioned in aid of Christian Aid Week 2012.

A host of other celebs have also hoe-ned their artistic talents to show their support.  The sale of gardening tools customised by stars including Tali Lennox, VV Brown, Oliver Proudlock and David Shringley will raise vital funds to help Christian Aid continue its amazing work in countries such as Sierra Leone. 
The tools will be on display at a pop-up shop at 63 Broadwick Street, adjacent to Carnaby Street from 14 – 19 May. Open from 10 – 7pm daily, go take a look and place your bid at  Christian Aid will use the money raised to 'give the tools to help people in poverty out of poverty'.

Tali Lennox travelled to Sierra Leone as an Ambassador for the fundraising week.  There, Tali visited communities that have already benefited from Christian Aid funds and heard how war torn communities, who faced a daily battle against malnutrition after the multinational food companies fled during the war, were left with no tools or equipment to farm.

“This was the first time I got to see how small changes can transform lives in such a big way. People are being provided with the kinds of things we in the UK would take for granted. The country has so much potential. They just need the right tools, and that’s where the donations have been so vital.”

Give online at, call 08080 006 006 or text 'GIVE' to 78866 to give £5. This year there is an even greater focus on fundraising as the first £5million donated to Christian Aid Week 2012 will be matched by the Government pound for pound, allowing the charity to help more people in poor communities around the world work their way out of poverty.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Harvest Collection from L'Occitane to celebrate Chelsea Flower Show

If you visit the RHS Chelsea Flower Show later this month, you may find yourself enjoying the scents and sights of the L’Occitane Corsican-inspired garden. To celebrate its second year at the show, L’Occitane has launched the limited edition Harvest Collection featuring a selection of luxurious bath and body products with natural ingredients such as shea butter, Proven├žal lavender, verbena, rose and peony, all carried in straw basket, for only £25.

L’Occitane is known for its authentic natural products and sustainable processes but the brand’s social conscience goes beyond this. The L’Occitane Foundation has a long standing commitment to a community in Burkina Faso, where founder Olivier Baussan discovered the amazing skincare properties of pure shea butter. What started as an agreement with just 12 local women in the 80’s has grown into an operation involving over 14,000 today. The company has helped establish Fair Trade conditions with five cooperatives, approved and certified by Ecocert, so the women receive payments in advance to help them purchasing materials, tools etc. and receive a price for the shea butter that is higher than market value. These women are also provided with education, professional training and support.

Other projects include limited edition launches to raise money for supported charities. Most recently, L’Occitane put on sale a limited edition soap, with 100% of proceeds donated to NGO Aid and Action who work in Africa and this summer will launch a Candle For Sight – with 100% of the sales being donated to the RNIB to support local UK projects.

Harvest Collection is available now instore or online at

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Fashot Spring party at Sketch

Last week, London's fashion and e-comms crowds came together at Sketch for the Fashot Spring party. Lee Friend, Director and Executive Producer at Fashot, was there to greet his friends and colleagues, to celebrate another year of success at the helm of Europe's leading house of fashion photographers and content providers.

Fashot are the go-to providers for the majority of in-house studios in the UK and are trusted by the biggest names in the business across the whole of Europe. And they know how to put on a good show. Even "Boris" put in an appearance, treating us all to a memorable dance display that won't be forgotten in a hurry...!

 Lee Friend (Director and Executive Producer at Fashot), Kate Russell (BBC Click) and Not Boris Johnson

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Rapanui eco labelling proposal being considered by Brussels


The team at Rapanui has come up with a workable solution to help consumers understand exactly how ethical an item of clothing is at the point of purchase; eco labelling. This could entirely alter how people shop by helping consumers make empowered decisions, not only in the UK, but across the EU.  Rapanui's proposal has now reached the hands of MEPs in Brussels for consideration alongside several other alternative methods.

Few people understand where their clothing comes from, or the environmental and human cost that may be involved. The idea behind eco labelling comes from the consumer-friendly method already used to help judge goods on energy efficiency. Rapanui has created a similar A-G rating system that shows the eco-credentials of a garment clearly on a simple swing tag. Rob and Mart Drake-Knight, brothers who established the label five years ago, want to see this system implemented throughout the fashion industry.

Rob tells us:
"We developed the idea in 2008 and petitioned Number 10 to enforce it, since then the idea has gained national recognition in the press and at awards ceremonies but we want to see it through, that's why we're heading to the European Commission to push the regulation."

The award-winning eco-fashion label takes an organic, ethical and low-carbon approach to casual wear and puts a strong emphasis on the traceability of its products. Each  item of Rapanui clothing already carries a QR barcode on a swing tag. By scanning the code with your smartphone, you can see maps, images and information about the product's supply chain.  Clever stuff!

For more information or to shop visit

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Q&A with Beulah London

The first Beulah London collection was launched in SS'11 by two friends, Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs and Lavinia Brennan. Since then, the luxury label has gained numerous celebrity and society followers, from the inspirational Katie Piper to the style-setting Duchess of Cambridge.  

The successful establishment of Beulah illustrates how a fashion label can make a real difference and be run as profitable business. The idea came from a trip to India, where the designers met female victims of human trafficking and, on seeing their plight, felt driven to find a way to provide real support to those in such need. Through the simple idea of giving a specially made canvas bag with every Beulah purchase, which has been made in India by victims of trafficking, the girls are ensuring these women receive fair pay, training and skills and so give them a route to freedom.

The ladies behind the label clearly share a heart for social justice as well as a talent for turning out timeless pieces and here they reveal their thoughts:  

Describe Beulah London in three words...
Fashion with (a) conscience.

Where does your design inspiration come from?
We love taking inspiration from vintage designs that are timeless and elegant.  Our all time favourite is Ozzie Clark.

Who would you dream person be to design for?
Charlotte Casiraghi as she has a serene beauty.

If you could only wear one fashion brand forever, what would you choose?
Chinti and Parker, ethical cashmere.  Perfect all day, every day.

What made choose to operate in an ethical way vs any other model?
We felt a need to stand against throw-away fashion and product timeless pieces that never go out of style, which can stay in your wardrobe forever and be passed to the next generation.  We also felt a big need to help women who have been trafficked, so we found this a perfect way of creating employment for them, and at the same time creating ethical fashion.

Are there any fellow ethical business owners or ambassadors you admire and recommend, and why?
Stella McCartney standing for ethical fashion.  We also love Livia Firth as a brand ambassador, and everything she stands for, encouraging big fashion houses to become more ethical.

What tips would you give others keen to run their label or company as a successful ethical business?
Stay true to your vision.  Also realise that being 100% ethical is not always achievable.  We have struggled, particularly with sourcing ethical silks due to the high price.  I think be realistic, but stay true to your vision.

If you had to pick a favourite look from Beulah London, which would you choose?
I love the current Poppy dress from our SS'12 collection.  I love wearing it, it's so flattering and brightens up a dull day.

What do you see the future holding for Beulah London?
We want to be stocked internationally, be a huge fashion house and ultimately be a successful brand so that we can employ and support hundreds (and eventually thousands!) of marginalised  women.

Bon Ton Times applauds you, thanks girls!  To see the highly desirable Beulah London collections for yourself visit for details and showroom information.  

If you feel inspired, tell us how you'd like to change the world for the better: email

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Zaeem Jamal AW12 collection showcase

Last night saw Claridges host a showcase of the latest collection from Zaeem Jamal. His flatting designs are off-set by incredibly intricate and beautiful crystal beading, with handmade shoes and bags to complete the look. The new collection offers a more tempered white and caramel palate compared with earlier creations that dazzled with jewel tones.

As a brand Zaeem Jamal wants to drive spirituality in fashion and a committed CSR programme is part of that, offering support to various charities including The Dhaka Project and Miracles.

He is also reportedly in the process of creating affiliations with crystal traders that mine these stones in an ethically sound way - and his dresses will be all the more beautiful when this is accomplished.

You can find the new collection at his store on New Kings Road, London or Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Spring '12 collection from ASOS Africa

The Spring '12 ASOS Africa collection hits this week and is well worth a look.  Featuring traditional Kitenge wax prints given a modern twistthe vibrant colours and shapes bring a lively dose of sunshine with acid lime, turquoise and lilac bursting out against black and white.  Available exclusively at, the latest collection makes it easy to nail one of the biggest trends of the season with its bold tribal patterns in cutting edge shapes.

The integrity of the designs and intentions of ASOS Africa means the initiative is (quite rightly) gaining influential support - Michelle Obama wore an ASOS Africa top on a humanitarian visit to the continent back in June. 

In this latest collection the use of Kitenge prints, customarily used to represent various moods and cultures of Africa, is meaningful for a range produced in collaboration with Soko Kenya and several small African communities.  Such collaborations are enabling underprivileged communities to establish sustainable business through their local craftsmanship.   £5 from each ASOS Africa garment sold will continue to go directly to the construction of Soko’s new workshop, each £5 being match funded by the ASOS Foundation.