Sustainable Style! What does what you wear say about you?
This is a question that Gemma Gratton is asking through her ethical clothing brand, The Bee Thrive.
Catching up with Gemma, Revive asked her what gave her the inspiration and impetus to design her clothes and to focus on the ethical and sustainable aspects of fashion.
“Having spent years working in the construction industry, I found it quite hard to find clothing ranges that were either organic or ethically sourced on the high street that was suitable for work.”
This planted the seed and gave her the idea to set up her own fashion label. It’s been four years in the making.
“Finally, with my business plan written, I went for a week to listen to experts at the Greenshowroom and Ethical Fashion Show in the Kraftwerk Berlin, during Berlin Fashion Week, to get more information about sustainable fashion.”
This was part of a more significant process for Gemma, which also included a fact-finding research trip to Cambodia and Vietnam, where she began designing her initial fashion collections of corporate and evening womenswear.
Despite its global inspiration, The Bee Thrive has a firm Manchester base.
“I wanted to have garments made in Manchester, connecting with the city’s industrial heritage, using sustainable, organic, upcycled fabrics.”
But why are these organic, sustainable elements so important?
The Message Is the Medium
“Every element of the production process in fashion, and any industry for that matter is having some environmental or humanitarian impact.
It is down to us as individuals to choose who and what we are inadvertently supporting. The more consciously aware we become of where we choose to spend our money is the primary consumer step in making a change.
We want to educate, hoping to convert people to support brands that are choosing to be more socially responsible, and in turn, leaving customers wearing their environmental values, literally on their sleeve.”
“When I was travelling a lot, it made me realise the impact of fast fashion on the planet, especially the number of plastics in the oceans and rivers. The reality, when you see it upfront, is far worse than anything you might see in the media. The air you breathe is pungent, vile stench and chemicals you can feel going right into your lungs.”
The western world’s demand for fast, convenient, even disposable fashion is driving pollution in other parts of the globe, including highly toxic chemicals used in the dyeing of textiles.
For Gemma, therefore, designing her own label comes with an urgent need for consciousness-raising among consumers.
“You can give people the information, but they still don’t change their shopping habits. Somehow we have to make the message clearer, putting it in front of their faces.”
The Bee Thrive methodology is to raise consciousness through fashion, but also to spark change on a very practical, productive level.
“We’re about female empowerment, with each garment named after a suffragette, and corresponding biography on our website.
Our purpose is to appeal to women of courage and bravery to step into our garments and stand in their own truth and power.”
We donate 10 per cent of each garment to a local Manchester charity VOLITION that keeps the Bee Hives on Manchester roofs and runs programs and workshops for unemployment in Manchester.”
The ultimate aim is to create a circular economy, which minimises waste while maximising resources.
“We want to get to a stage where, when you’ve finished with your item of clothing, you send it back to us so that we can upcycle it. The same principle applies to our current collections, where we use 1960’s vintage wool. We’re always aiming to recycle or reuse our fabrics.”
One of the must-have brands you’ll want own and have in your wardrobe this season.
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