If you buy one thing this week, make it from Birdsong London. Set up in August by friends Sophie Slater, Sarah Beckett and Ruba Huleihel, the online shop sells clothing and accessories made by women’s groups and charities under ethical conditions. “No sweatshops, no Photoshop”, their aim is to make fashion a fairer industry for women and to help make buying ethically both easy and affordable.
From the printed totes made from locally sourced materials in Malawi, to the jewellery produced by women recovering from addiction, the pieces are as aesthetically sound as they are ethically.
“We wanted to make fashion a better place for women,” explains Sophie Slater, who, along with her co-founders, was upset by the discrimination and poor working conditions that women encounter in the industry. “All of the clothes that we sell are made by women’s groups or charities, giving them extra income. A lot of them wouldn’t have the time or resources to sell their produce online, so we do it for them.”
Theses groups include the Bradbury knitting circle, who work out of a day centre for the over-fifties and donate profits from their brightly coloured scarves to the centre, allowing them to welcome in more of London's elderly.
Malawi-based Khama group make zany printed bags and bomber jackets which enable their all-female work force to become breadwinners for the dry season. Jewellery is handmade by Sweet Cavanagh, a charity who provide therapy and a safe working space for women recovering from eating disorders and addiction.
“Our women-makers are amazing and inspiring,” says Slater. “We want to celebrate them and make their voices heard."
Birdsong London's refreshing approach to ethics extends to their imagery. “We feel a responsibility to represent diversity through our models,” explains Slater. As well as using friends and makers in their pictures, Birdsong also has a strict no Photoshop policy: “women are continually under pressure to look a certain way and the accepted skinny aesthetic is not sustainable or healthy.”
Where ethical fashion can so often fall down is on a lack of convenience: when you're pushed for time, it feels far easier to head to your local high street. However, this needs to change. We shouldn't have to choose between affordable, lovely clothes and fair, ethical production. Birdsong London recognises this and provides a solution, and this is why we love them.