For ethical fashion houses moving from ‘green’ ghetto to city chic can be tough. But Kitty Ferreira shows how it’s done.
I came across the brand recently at a Fashion SOURCE Brand Preview event, where it really stood out.
The sustainable fashion business oozes both style – vivid colour palette, unique patterns, and wearable designs – and substance in terms of timeless design, sustainability, and innovative business practices. Kitty Ferreira exemplifies how ethical fashion can break through.
As a marketing consultant, I’m interested in how brands manage to promote themselves as ethical, but with broader appeal. Valerie Goode, London College of Fashion graduate, the woman behind Kitty Ferreira, kindly agreed to fill me in on her sustainable business.
Inspired by past generations
Working as a senior womanswear designer in China and witnessing so much pollution was her inspiration to start up a sustainable brand. As she worked on ways to reduce the fashion carbon footprint, her thoughts turned to her grandmother, the eponymous Kitty Ferreira.
“I then began thinking about my grandmother’s lifestyle in the Caribbean, growing her own fruit and veg, going to the market to buy her chickens and goats, which she would keep in her yard, and used to feed her family. The general ‘make and make do’ ethos that was very much part of my upbringing.
“So for me, being ethical and sustainable is not a fad. Rather it’s about celebrating the way she had lived and generations before her, as the norm. This throw away and over consuming society we’ve all grown accustomed to is actually not what is normal and definitely isn’t right.”
Natural dyes: veg patch to catwalk
Sustainability runs through Kitty Ferreira from its exclusive production in the UK to manufacturing high quality garments built to last past the current fast fashion trend. Sourcing textiles is of course paramount, especially as dyeing has such an impact on the environment. (An average t-shirt will use 16-20 litres of water Cambridge University, Well Dressed report).
Rather than producing new fabrics exclusively for the latest collection, Kitty Ferreira sources upcycled materials and uses a hand-dying process inspired by practices from the West Indies. For instance, the Delice Dress (pictured below) is made using upcycled lightweight wool from the UK, and the sheer sleeves and waistband are created through eco dyeing using onion and pomegranate.
“These natural materials are also used to dye fabrics as a traditional technique originating from India – a large Indian community within the West Indies has created beautiful juxtapositions of cultures including cuisine. I came across pomegranate and onion skin dyes and tested out various degrees of colour intensity (it’s amazing how many shades of colour originates from one natural material), until I finally settled on the version you see on the website.”
And the theme continues in the names of her silk shirts – Saffron, Cinnamon and Spice. This hand-dying process means that each print is unique offering a piece of bespoke luxury without the associated price tag.
Sustainability – an added benefit
The clothes speak for themselves in fashion terms, and the brand is aimed at the city set, who may not immediately be connected with ‘ethical’ fashion. For Valerie:
“I’m a Londoner born and bred, so a city girl at heart. I cannot ignore the more ‘sustainable’ values my parents have taught me, so the collection really is a juxtaposition of these two different worlds. The collection therefore has been designed in a city chic way, items you can from boardroom-2-bar, work and play; timeless silhouettes that can work with a variety of your existing wardrobe.”
The brand’s eye-catching yet timeless mix ‘n match pieces make them highly coveted by fashion fans, and also back up its slow fashion credentials. Valerie continues:
“Timeless is also a key word here, as following fashion trends is not part of the Kitty Ferreira ethos – rather knowing yourself enough to wear what feels right for you. They see that each garment can be worn for multiple purposes.
“It has been quite easy therefore, for people to recognise a good design with the sustainability angle being an added benefit.”
Kitty Ferreira is also sustainable in terms of encouraging the next generation to enter the industry. The brand won an award from the Royal College of Art to train disadvantaged young people to offer a made-to-measure service to their customers of city professionals. Valerie said, “It’s all encompassing – from UK job creation and juxtaposing a luxury service with a down-to-earth conscious ethos.”
Kitty Ferreira’s just returned from The Green Closet, a trade show in Milan, where they hope to secure further orders on top of those from other European boutiques. And Valerie has just been named runner-up with special commendation in the SCAP Extending the Life of Clothes Award (SCAP ELC Award).
I’m looking forward to seeing what this brand does next, but for now I’ll end on Valerie’s inspiring views about the fashion industry as a whole:
“Being ethical and sustainable is not a fad but rather a lifestyle choice and indeed a mindset. How models are shown are all reflective of an industry or institution that could do with a shaking up. This is what being sustainable & ethical is really all about- encompassing all aspects of life, not just fashion.”