Valerie Goode: ethical fashion at Kitty Ferreira

1 Jul

Everyone has a story. Want to know what ethical fashion is? Valerie Goode of ethical fashion label Kitty Ferreira reckons city dwellers want an outfit that makes you look good and will take you from meetings at the Business Design Centre right through to a cocktail at 69 Colebrook Row. And if the retailer has made sure this dress is made in the UK and doesn’t harm people, planet or even silk worms then that’s even better. So where are these clothes? Interview by Nicola Baird

 

 

Valerie Goode, founder and MD of Kitty Ferreira: “All my products are made to fit me. They are for curvy women.” Samples are usually 8,10 or 12 but she can make them in size 6-26.

Valerie Goode, founder and MD of Kitty Ferreira with her new 2-tone shirt for 15/16 season: “All my products are made to fit me – I’m an industry size 12, so I am the fit model for the brand. They are for curvy women not just for beanpole models.” Samples are usually 8, 10 or 12 but she makes according to clients’ measurements from sizes 6-26.

“Did you know that 40,000-50,000 silk worms will be killed making the silk for just one blouse?” asks Valerie Goode. She’s a very friendly Londoner – so her question isn’t a challenge, she’s just pointing out that conventional fashion has a dirty side that few people know about. Turns out that if the silk worms are left for just one week longer the caterpillar can change into a moth and fly off. And the silk can still be harvested, though it isn’t quite the same quality – it’s like raw silk and still beautiful. Making silk this way has a name, it’s peace silk, and once you know it’s available why choose any other type for your clothes? Here’s a blog post Valerie, who’s the MD at Kitty Ferreira, wrote about this.

True cost
“The only way people can shop is by not thinking about how manufacturing pollutes the environment or the Rana Plaza disaster, in Bangladesh, where more than 1,000 textile workers were killed when the factory collapsed. There’s an image of a woman crushed by a wall I cannot forget,” says Valerie when we meet in a Brick Lane cafe. “But that aspect of choice should be taken out of the consumers’ hands and be the retailers’ responsibility,” she insists. “Factories should be working with the retailers to ensure the safety of the workers.” It’s a view she shares with Lucy Siegle, ethical fashion and lifestyle writer for The Guardian, who co-produced The True Cost movie about this topic.

In her 20s, and even as an experienced women’s wear designer working with suppliers for Top Shop, New Look and all the major high street chains, Valerie wasn’t aware of the amount of pollution caused by textile and trim manufacture. So when she was headhunted for a job in China she thought “it would be a great experience”.

She was right: it changed her life.

“I was living in Guangzhou for a year – the manufacturing hub of the world. They make anything and everything there. I was in a district specifically geared for textiles, and was sourcing from Zhongda Fabric Market – a humongous space, six storeys high and as big as Westfield shopping mall.”

Two-tone shirt create using peace silks. (c) kitty ferreira

Two-tone shirt created for Kitty Ferreira using peace silks available from winter ’15/16. Kitty Ferreira MD, Valerie Goode says: “I love working with silk but I wanted it to be environmentally friendly. That’s when I came across peace silks, these have been around a while but there is new technology which allows me to dye them in a modern way – digitally, using azo-free dyes.” (c) kitty ferreira

It’s bad in China
As an experienced traveller Valerie couldn’t understand why her jet lag was so slow to go when she arrived in Guangszhou.

“I felt terrible. The day after I arrived I went for a run along the Pearl River, but after five minutes I couldn’t breathe. The next day I was at work and the view from the office on the 25th floor were thick clouds, no sky. By the end of the week it looked the same. I asked a colleague why the sky was like this and she said, ‘it’s pollution’,” says Valerie, adding, “pollution is something your body doesn’t adapt to.”

“Manufacturing is creating really bad pollution in China. In summer it burns your eyes and it is really hard to breathe – and I consider myself pretty healthy. So I stopped running outdoors, and joined an air-conditioned gym. It’s recommended that you don’t drink the water; and because the water is polluted the food doesn’t taste right so I ate a lot of McDonalds and KFC, Starbucks as well. I was breaking out in allergies and spots. Even with my make up on I looked terrible. It was a very hard place to live.”

“I wasn’t happy with the manufacturing and how it effected my health and I didn’t want to be part of this. So a year later when I went back to London I started thinking about being more natural – looking to my Caribbean heritage,” explains Valerie who grew up in Brockley with parents who were skilled gardeners and taught their daughter how to cook with Scotch Bonnets, herbs, spices and fresh ingredients.

Valerie didn’t want to leave fashion, she wanted to change it. And so she started Kitty Ferreira, named after her much-loved grandmother who had passed away in 2012. Her plan was to offer sophisticated clothes that are the antithesis of throw-away fashion.

Transparent jacket for winter 15/16 has random splodges that make the designer of the collection think of pollution. "I took the original pomegranate and onion skin dye and turned it into a digital format." See the collection at www.kittyferreira.com

Transparent jacket for winter 15/16 has random splodges that make the designer of the collection think of pollution. “I took the original pomegranate and onion skin dye and turned it into a digital format.” See the collection at www.kittyferreira.co.uk

Ways Kitty Ferreira makes her collections stand out

  • The first collection was all about upcycling. Valerie used natural dyes, eco dyeing with pomegranate and onion skins (see the Pomonion range).
  • “I like the way using fruit and vegetables to dye fabrics is shared across cultures and still normal for three quarters of the world. We’ve forgotten how to live and replaced this knowledge with mechanical processes that are destroying the land and people.”
  • “I love working with silk but I wanted it to be environmentally friendly. That’s when I came across peace silks, these have been around a while but there is new technology which allows me to dye them in a modern way – digitally, using azo-free dyes without the metal component which is harmful to the environment.”
  • “The Inky Collared Dress and Inky Wrap-Front Dress for winter ’15/16 has random splodges that make me think of pollution. I took the original pomegranate and onion skin dye and turned it into a digital format.”
  • “I have visions of bringing African prints into my next collection, but more subdued, and printed on peace silks.”
Kitty Ferreira exhibiting in Milan at the invitation of the British XXX.

Kitty Ferreira exhibiting in Milan at the invitation of the UK Trade & Industry.

Clothes that make a difference
Valerie, now 36, has a clear vision of the clothes she wants to sell to Islington women.

“My clothes are about a certain mind-set, lifestyle choice and celebrating how our grandparents live. My grandmother was from Trinidad. She was a very wise, intelligent woman. She could look at you and know everything about your person – she had what we’d call ‘the third eye’. I suspected nothing about human behaviour could ever surprise her. Like most people in Trinidad she had a big plot of land so grew vegetables. In her yard were chickens and goats. She didn’t live in the city, but her community had a small church that everyone went to as well as shops. It was very friendly and natural.”

“When I went to visit Trinidad I was surprised. My cousins don’t realise how rich they are living an island life; they all aspire to live in London to earn money. But their lifestyle is the answer to the problems we have in the western world. Last time I went, I helped my cousin build a house from scratch because he’d just had a baby,” says Valerie who still seems amazed that she added house-building to her c/v. “I also helped them plant a garden with coconuts, that are now fully grown. But I’m London born and bred and these types of skills can easily become lost…”

What she knows best is how to dress a woman so that she looks amazing, emphasising curves with a dress made in the UK with impeccable ethical credentials. She’s already won several awards for her designs and this spring was in Milan, invited by the UK Trade & Industry, to promote British made fashion.

Valerie Goode in her brand Kitty Ferreira pomonion dress. (c) kitty ferreira

Valerie Goode shows off her curves in her brand Kitty Ferreira Pomonion Dress. (c) kitty ferreira

Looking to Islington
“There are several boutiques on Upper Street where I’d like to see my designs,” says Valerie from Kitty Ferreira. “Generally ethical fashion is casual, but if you are working full-time you need to dress more smartly so I’m targeting the corporate world. My clothes are for boardroom activists and city types who are busy. They are aware of environmental issues but don’t have time to look for these clothes. They do want to look good and nothing can compromise that.”

Well said Valerie. Fashion and shopping are two things Islington excels in, but as Valerie’s story about why she set up Kitty Ferreira shows, you can find beautiful clothes which are made with respect for people and planet.

Do have a look at her website with its info about the benefits of slow fashion, gorgeous warm-coloured Pomonion dresses/shirts and the new collection of black and white peace silk-work shirts and dresses. They look stunning and have great finishing including French seams and Valerie’s signature V on the pockets.

Best of all a Kitty Ferreira purchase means you are part of the solution. That’s surely a cool addition to your clothes rail than the items, however beautiful, that are made in a way that causes so much harm to so many people who are like you, but just happen to live in a different part of the world.

http://kittyferreira.co.uk/
https://twitter.com/KittyFerreiraUK
https://instagram.com/kittyferreirauk/
https://www.facebook.com/KittyFerreiraUK

More places to find eco-fashion – not on the high street

  • Try Kitty Ferreira “ethical fashion made in London” for your work pieces. More relaxed items can be found at:
  • People Tree http://www.peopletree.co.uk/ “ethical clothing and fair trade fashion”
  • Natural Collection http://www.naturalcollection.com/ “fair trade, organic and eco-friendly fashion”
  • Braintree http://www.braintreeclothing.com “sustainable style”
  • 30-year sweatshirt – a crowdfunder bid you can support (closes late July 2015) see here
  • Plus you can repurpose and upcycle your own clothes by repairing and reusing. Try DIY or lessons or find buttons and trims at Ray Stitch, 99 Essex Road and Smug, 13 Camden Passage. There’s also fabric shop Rolls & Rems, 21 Seven Sisters Road.
  • Islington has some interesting second-hand shops for vintage finds including Past Caring, 54 Essex Road and Save The Children/Mary’s Living & Giving, 138 Upper Street. Also look on the antique stalls at Camden Passage for unique items.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

 

 

 

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3 Responses to “Valerie Goode: ethical fashion at Kitty Ferreira”

  1. nicola baird July 1, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

    From Facebook because I suggested vegetarians might want to know about the cruelty involved in making silk. A good point from Charlie…
    Charlie Kiss aren’t you vegetarian?

    Nicola Baird Yes! Most of the time. But I didn’t know about this – or had chosen not to realise. I did wonder about inc vegans too, but then thought that was just rude. Looking forward to your party!

    Charlie Kiss I’ll share. the thing is that people who aren’t vegetarian mostly try to avoid cruelty if they can help it..so worth ‘promoting to everyone’

    Nicola Baird Exactly what Val was saying to me in the interview. Thanks for pointing this out! I will try to avoid making such a clanger again.

  2. nicola baird July 1, 2015 at 8:35 pm #

    Another from Facebook
    Priti Louise I got curtains for sale made of ‘matka’ silk. It is made from wild silk collected after the moth has flown.

  3. nicola baird July 7, 2015 at 10:47 am #

    A challenging question from Facebook
    JR: “interesting and, of course, excellently written. I don’t feel that bothered, though, that fashion designers don’t feel that represented by the green movement. I worry far more about our failure to maintain any sort of hold in the mass market. Five years ago I could go to Debenham’s and buy normal, affordable jeans and office trousers made from Fairtrade cotton. What would we have to do, as a movement, to reach out to Valerie and what sort of impact would that have on our standing with the millions who don’t sell clothes, or even buy clothes, in Islington boutiques?”

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