Sustainable and wafty: this is the dress for summer
Summer is a time when faff-free dressing comes into its own. Particularly this year’s semi-locked-down sunny season, when no-one wants to be hitching and hoicking clothes while juggling hand sanitizer and opening a door with their elbow. Lisa Galibardy from the sustainable label Cotton Conscious has got wafty summer dresses sussed. She spends half the year in India, designing and overseeing production of her collection and then the summer months in London, selling at local markets with her business partner husband Blue Philpotts. ‘The shapes are inspired by travelling around Asia and living in Rishikesh where the women have always worn loose fitting clothes for modesty and to keep cool in the hot weather,’ Lisa says, ‘We like the fullness of flowing dresses. They’re very practical and comfortable. Most of our designs use more than four metres of fabric per dress, so there is no compromise. Our customers always comment on the volume and feel of the fabric.’
Arriving in London with this season’s stock, one week before lockdown, the couple quickly shifted their operation online. ‘To be honest , we weren’t sure how it would go,’ admits Lisa, who modelled the dresses while her husband took photos for the Cotton Conscious website. ‘ we’ve been taking it one day at a time but I’ve been busy packing dresses to send all over the world, France, Spain, Japan. And we are grateful for the support from our regular customers who’ve been contacting us by email.’
Sometimes called the Market Dress because this relaxed, oversized style is ideal for wafting around local street stalls. Which is exactly how I first encountered the designer, standing in front of a rail of beautiful organic cotton frocks at a South London market. Wearing the pull-on-and-go dress with simple plimsolls or trainers and accessories picked up on her travels, Lisa is the perfect advertisement for this sustainable wafty style. ‘ I love watching the reaction when someone finds a beautiful dress,’ adds 45-year-old Lisa, ‘ I love seeing customers, meeting them at the market, getting their feedback. It can tell you so much, I’m missing that interaction…’
Cotton Conscious is a small operation. Profits go back to one tailor and his family unit in Rishikesh, plus a small community of workers who live on the same street. Last summer’s sales enabled the pair to buy a new generator and some industrial sewing machines for the makers. ‘They are amazing people,’ continues Lisa, ‘When we buy equipment it benefits the entire community. Our tailor makes all the saris and school uniforms for the local village. We could go to a larger factory but we like it the way it is. We’re not mainstream or mass produced and we don’t want to lose the artistic creativity and the handmade feel.’ Working with the family is mutually beneficial admits Lisa, ‘ We learn from them, they learn from us. It’s not about making money.’
The future, returning to India and planning next year’s production, is uncertain for Cotton Conscious, ‘ The beauty of how we work is that it allows us to live in Rishikesh, to stay there and help people. We bring it here and then earn just enough to go back again. We’re in touch with India all the time at the moment – getting together to raise money for migrant workers all over the country to get home. We’ve had lots of positive, spiritual feedback from friends out there which has carried us through.’
Ethically produced in natural organic fabrics with a slightly looser fit, these dresses are cool in all senses of the word.
Cotton Conscious are offering That’s Not My Age readers 15% for the next 10 days (free worldwide shipping), simply use the code TNMA. Read my feature on sustainable fashion brands that don’t cost the earth HERE. It’s definitely worth having a look at People Tree, Birdsong and Mother of Pearl’s collaboration with John Lewis :
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