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Giovanna Eastwood

For this month we had the pleasure to interview Giovanna Eastwood, founder of Ethical Collection, an online shop based in London, which promotes ethical fashion with a focus on brands who support the work of artisans around the world.

After graduating from the London College of Fashion, where she studied Product Design and Development, Giovanna worked for nine years in the industry before launching Ethical  Collection, following her stay in Brazil, where she worked for the mother's charity in a local slum. It was there that she understood the full potential of ethical fashion as a means of improving the lives of people at risk of social exclusion.

Ethical Collection was inspired by your work for your mother's charity in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, which employs young women who produce and sell recycled bags. What was it like to be involved in such a project and what did you take away from it?

You can never be prepared for such an experience. It was a very emotional experience - I felt immense joy in sharing the lives of these incredible people, was exceptionally humbled at their generosity (even when they had so little to share), was inspired by their creativity, love and work ethic and was often greatly saddened and frustrated by the living conditions, suffering and inequality that was largely going on unremedied. There was an obvious lack of opportunity for people to improve their station in life - and it was a major inspiration for me with Ethical Collection to stimulate opportunity for people in similar situations. The people were simply wonderful - very eager to learn and make a living for themselves.

It was life changing for me and I take that experience into everything I do. In whatever way I can, I aim to be a part of a positive change in the fashion world where our decisions can improve lives and protect our environment rather than the opposite. For now, what I am primarily looking to do is open up new markets to talented artisans and eco designers, our customers have responded spectacularly to this! The support has been overwhelming.   

Mercado Global tote

You are also collaborating with social enterprises through Ethical Collection, such as Vintage People x Nottingham Hill Housing, which aims to improve the lives of senior citizens, or Argentinian knitwear brand Phida, which supports local artisans. How did these two collaborations come about, and what makes each of them special?

This is something we are very proud of and I think it is a unique concept for a business such as ours.

Notting Hill Housing is a charity very close to my heart - I have been volunteering with them now for over 4 years doing floating “befriending” with their residents, particularly the elderly. There are some very creative residents within the Notting Hill Housing network, many of whom do not have resources or contacts to apply their skills commercially - I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to showcase their talents by doing a collaboration. And Notting Hill Housing were thrilled with the idea and very supportive! This collaboration was done with the Vintage People Collective, the creative arm of Notting Hill housing run by the very lovely Chloe Burrows. Our pom pom maker was Elsie (pictured below) and we hope this is the beginning of something very special and good for the community. 

The Phida collaboration was achieved through a mutual contact. Mariel (the founder of Phida) and I met, exchanged our ideas and aims, and hit it off immediately - among other things we love all things “pom pom” and so it was a match made in heaven. I loved their story as well - each item is knitted by artisans using naturalcactus needles - and their favourite Llama is the very friendly “Juana the Lama”. It is a community project, it is hugely important to those involved, and it is such a privilege to be involved.

Elsie and Chloe from Notting Hill Housing

Ethical Collection has a very varied portfolio of brands, how do you source them and what are your main criteria?

We decided from the outset to be a platform for a variety of customers - we wanted to avoid being narrow, and typecast in any particular niche. Our goal, while ambitious, is to open up eco and ethical luxury to all customers - which we do by scouring the globe and individually selecting and vetting the best ethical products. It is a painstaking process building the right collection and establishing long term relationships with our brands and supported projects.

It is key of course that our customers trust us - and so we spend a lot of time diligencing our brands as best as is possible so that we can be confident that what we showcase is in keeping with our ethos. From the information we collect, we can then assess if they meet our high standrds or not. It is then our job to ensure that what we showcase is not only ethical, but is also exceptional and desirable in its own right. It is our belief that, if we get this right, our customers get the best of all worlds - and we will be offering the market transparency and a choice to shop ethically, which to date has been lacking in mainstream fashion.

Night Shirt by Eighty Hour Studio

How would you describe your customer base, and what do you feel motivates them to chose ethical over conventional fashion?

We have a very wide range of customers. Some are very eco focused - they come to us because they know that they can trust us with their decisions. Others just love our beautiful products (and the guilt free shopping experience is a bonus)! We would say our typical customer is consciously stylish - not overly influenced by fast fashion trends but rather someone who is considered in what they purchase, both in relation to the beauty of the products and in the impact that they are making on our world.

The world is clearly changing in this respect - and not just in fashion. The world’s media, politicians and citizens are increasingly focusing on such issues as climate change, environmental impact, slave labour, gender inequality, global poverty and the growing inequality between rich and poor. At Ethical Collection, we believe that we all have a role to place - and it is often the cumulative effect of our small day to day decisions that makes the difference. We like to think that our customers are ahead of the curve in this regard - they already recognize that they can enjoy their fashion experience without encouraging practices that harm our world and the communities we live in. We see customers as our partners in this movement. 

Esencia Cathy jumper

What are you looking forward to for the coming season at Ethical Collection?

We are so excited about 2016 - our new collection is looking wonderful and we can’t wait to launch it! We have more exciting collaborations in the pipeline. Our spring/summer 16 collections are starting to come in and are looking absolutely beautiful! We are looking to have a pop up store in London over the summer, and are looking at locations - we will keep you posted! And we look forward to continuing with our customer interactions and building our Ethical Collection community. 

Many thanks to Giovanna for sharing your vision with us.

Cuero & Mor tote

All images courtesy of Ethical Collection.

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