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Friday 16 May 2014

Ethical Handmade Clothing In London By Heba

Everyone in this picture is wearing a jacket that was handmade in London, in a sewing room in Brick Lane. What's more, on the label of every jacket you can find out the name of the seamstress who made it and they are priced fairly to reflect this.
I recently took part is a discussion about ethical fashion on the radio to mark the one year anniversary of the Rana Plaza Factory disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The question they were asking was are we shopping more ethically now?

Heba don't just made jackets they make all kinds of clothes including capes!
'Ethical' has many meanings but one of the questions that commonly arises is do you know how the garment you are wearing was made - was it made in a factory where workers work in unacceptable conditions and are badly paid? When clothes have labels inside that say what country they are made in, we really never know the exact circumstances they were made in....but at Heba it's different. 
This cape cost £20 it was love at first sight so I bought it immediately! Makes me feel very ladylike

Heba is a women's sewing enterprise, collective, co-operative and training facility for women from diverse multicultural backgrounds. Based in Brick Lane, East London, women can come here to learn English, IT and sewing skills, which they can then use for enterprise. 
Some of the women who use the training facility go on to make clothes to sell - some are private commissions and others are sold on a special Heba stall at Spitalfields Market every Sunday morning. (currently based in between Lola's Cupcakes, Benefit and Giraffe.)
Buying an item from their stall means you know exactly who your money is going to, who made the item and where it was made - in fact the money goes back into keeping Heba running.
One jacket two fashionistas
The project is instrumental in giving the women who attend skills, independence and confidence - they also get to show off their creativity in a safe environment (there's even a creche facility on site so while they are learning their kids are looked after.)
So why am I modelling some their creations with a group of other women? Well Heba need help! Although there are other handmade clothes stalls at Spitalfields they are also up against mass-made cheap clothing. So they decided it was time to do some promotion starting with a photoshoot of all the lady's hard work.
I got involved because I attend sewing classes at Heba on Saturday mornings and all the girls in the photo are involved with Heba in some way too.
On the Heba stall the stock changes regularly. They work on seasonal collections bit most excitingly take made-to-measure bespoke commissions too. So next time you are in Spitalfields on a Sunday check out the stall and see what they have been up OR if you've ever wanted to get something made just for you, an original one off that's made-to-measure OR need help with creating your own products for your own business or needs (the women provide sewing services) be sure to speak with them and then book them so that they can continue such an admirable organisation. 

Heba Women's Project is based at 164 Brick Lane and their stall is Sundays at Spitalfields Market.
If you are a woman who wants to learn to sew or make their own clothes they also run sewing classes that anyone can attend. Be sure to them them out!

Friday 2 May 2014

The Asian Awards 2014

With the Asiana Magazine girlies & Nina Wadia
When it comes to award titles, this is about as broad as it gets.
But what does it actually mean and is there any point to it? Are there any points to awards  when quite frankly there are so many awards where results are 'fixed' or worse still, the winner 'pays' to win.....? 

The awards underway
The Asian Awards took place at The Grosvenor House Hotel in London's Park Lane which is considered the quintessential Asian venue - British Asians (of the South Asian variety at least) are obsessed with this hotel, it's considered the ultimate place to have an event or wedding, because it's on Park Lane. I have to admit apart from its well organised cloakroom I've never understood the fascination with the building or Park Lane. London is home to some much more impressive five star hotels and as for Park Lane, it's such an ugly road and so difficult to cross.

My table - if you look closely you can see Gok Wan on the table in front
Now in its the 4th year the purpose of the awards is to 'recognise exceptional success in business, culture, sport and public life'...from Asia as a whole. Which translate as a night out for rich, wealthy types where some of them take home a piece of acrylic with their name inscribed on it for their mantlepieces.

Starters was either fish or a giant puri
As well as handing out awards to the great and the good, the organisers also launched the Asian Awards Top 100 which is basically like a rich list. To be honest I found that part soooo dull. Ok it's nice for such people to get recognised but near enough everyone in that list is so well-known already that there is absolutely no point to being given a book with their name. It basically lists every countries Prime Minister, richest business leader and most famous celebrity....I mean that stuff is general knowledge.

The awards themselves were a disappointment on the grounds so few receivers were there in person to pick up their prizes - a video conference of Jackie Chan is one thing but video messages from 1/2 the recipients is embarrassing as was the entertainment. They wheeled out Preeya Khalidas (ex Eastenders actress who also does musicals) who sung her 'flop' single which was released several years ago). Seriously, how can that be the best they could do?

It's so sad that the people honoured at the awards have achieved so much yet generally they get missed off mainstream  ward lists and that's the main reason why yes it is important that there is an 'Asian Awards' but I can't help feeling they are too exclusive. 

With TV presenter Tasmin Lucia-Khan

Lots of successful, wealthy people in a room, celebrating eachother's success is one thing but that doesn't make them role models. They become role models when they go into schools and inspire people - show the younger generations that they can achieve their goals and dreams by working hard.

My favourite outfit of the night - her mum designed it!
Just to get glammed up at an event sponsored by luxury brands whilst raising a bit of money with a charity auction isn't enough.

Instead of wasting resources creating pointless 'top 100 lists' I think the organisers should spend the rest of the year celebrating the success of the winners by arranging for them to have better public profiles - getting them to talk at community events, going to school sports days and assemblies across the country, that's when these people are actually at their most useful. That's my view anyway. Doubt I'll get another ticket to the event after saying that but quite frankly, until it becomes more relevant to real people, I'm not bothered! 

(Thanks Sadco & Illy for letting me be your guest!)
You can watch a short clip of the event on The Asian Awards website.