ATRIUM MUSINGS » ethics
Though it can be costly in terms of time, money and headaches, giving gifts to loved ones is something that we all enjoy, particularly around the festive season. Something about all that merriment puts our gift-giving urge into overdrive and, more often than not, our finances into arrears.
It is commercial silly season, with every waffle maker, selfie stick and puppy needing a new home and every aunt, uncle and cousin to buy for.
Pressure from ads, social media and early-buyer busybodies is aplenty, so often on Christmas Eve, or just the day before, we find out ourselves in a panic. Purchasing items that fill a temporary need on Christmas morning, but are sure to be consigned to landfill soon after.
A holly jolly junkyard
From jolly to junkyard in a matter of days, it's a grim fact that waste around the holidays is gravely existential. Thankfully with a fact like that, slowly comes attention and with attention slowly comes action.
The fashion industry, for example, has found itself on the radar for its waste contribution more frequently than ever. Which should come as no surprise, the clothing and textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world. From beginning to end, it’s a business that’s riddled with waste issues.
Clothing uses a huge amount of resources to manufacture (it takes more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture one t-shirt and a pair of jeans), wastes a high percentage in its production (about 15% of fabric intended for clothing ends up on the cutting room floor), and pollutes soil and water systems with wastewater generated through the manufacturing process.
To top it all off, consumers throw away millions of tonnes of clothing each year, using up precious landfills with material which could easily be recycled.
The industry is broken
The sense that the fashion industry is ‘broken’ is one of the main things that inspired Atrium owner Kate, and jewellery designer Chupi, to open the store. “Chupi and I have spent many years working in the fashion industry at home and abroad and we had both come to the same realisation through our different paths that the system is broken."
The sheer volume of product is such a burden on the world. The environmental and human rights cost of producing all that stuff, sold non-stop on an impersonal conveyor belt of high street, high stress shops, only to be thrown away after a few wears, was just so miserable to us. We knew of so many amazing independent designers and labels that were doing it differently, so it made sense to open a space that could reflect a whole different ethos of shopping.”
What Kate and Chupi have tapped into with Atrium is a growing desire among consumers to buy consciously, and to buy for long-term use. Christmas is a perfect time to spread the message of sustainability, while at the same time treating friends and family to a piece of beautifully crafted clothing that’s made to last.
Change and respect
It’s all about gradually shifting attitudes around the clothes we wear – from being aware of how they were made and where the materials came from, to respecting our precious planetary resources by taking good care of pieces to ensure they last as long as possible.
Giving the gift of sustainable fashion helps raise awareness of the issues, and means the receiver can feel good about what they’re wearing. For Atrium owner Kate, it’s all about love.
“We do a lot of research and questioning to find out what is really happening behind the scenes in any product we decide to stock. We only want to bring in designs that have been beautifully made to last for as long as they are loved, with the minimum cost to people and planet.
We believe that all things that are loved will last, so our primary goal is to make sure when you visit you find pieces that you will connect with and love forever!”
From wool to wear, that cosy knit that graces your back – do you know where it comes from?
Less accusatory and more inquisitory, this is a question more and more of us are asking –where did it all begin? Do I know and do I mind divulging? The ideal answer to both is yes, but there is an appreciation of the slow-fashion learning curve that can be applied.
Provided the learning does not move at a similar pace.
A quick education? Slow fashion is part of a wider movement toward conscious consumerism, a wholesale change in our attitudes to buying stuff that’s sorely needed to help get us out of this environmental pickle we find ourselves in.
Natural, durable textiles have a big role to play in the slow fashion movement, meaning knitwear has a special place at the sustainable table.
A well-crafted and well-cared-for woollen may take a little longer to make, a little longer to save up for but it can last a lifetime.
Our knitwear offerings marry luxury with a social conscience to create timeless and beautifully crafted pieces from forward-thinking designers.
Here we profile four of these knitwear mavericks and the ethical, mappable materials they use.
Liadain’s trademark woolly bobble hats can regularly be seen adding splashes of colour to the grey, wintry streets of Dublin, but these popular head-warmers are just one part of her ever-evolving collection.
The Irish designer is committed to longevity in the clothing she crafts, weaving each jumper, scarf and hat with sustainability in mind. Liadain’s pieces are shaped from Donegal Merino yarn, a traditional, high-quality and durable material with roots stretching back to the eighteenth century.
The playful colour palette of Liadain’s pieces mirrors the Irish landscape, echoing the tones of indigenous plants like blackberries, fuschia, gorse and moss that at one time formed the basis of the dyes for Donegal yarn.
Young designer Pearl Reddington is blowing the Irish knitwear scene wide open with designs that break the mould.
Woven from a mixture of traditional Donegal Merino and contemporary glitter Lurex, her jumpers become canvases for fantastical landscapes, often with textural additions
Pearl was the winner of a Future Makers Design Award this year. If that doesn't cement her place as one of Ireland’s most important knitwear innovators, then a mention in Vogue.com's feature on "Celtic cool girls", will.
Cashmere wonders woven together with a flair for style and a commitment to the highest quality of materials and the highest standard of manufacturing. Ros Duke's eponymous knitwear label breathes years of experience which go far beyond its 2015 conception.
Earths and greys fill her Autumn Winter 2017 collection, with soft yet spirited pinks poking through in the form of tube skirts and stripes – an inspiration perhaps from her cashmere's Italian origins.
The makings are much closer to home with each of her creations crafted by a small group of knitters at home in Ireland.
Photo Cred: Simon Walsh
With an aesthetic born of traditional Italian and contemporary London influences, A-MM-E is a new label with a mature conscience based in Devon, UK.
The brand embraces slow fashion, producing low-key luxurious classics with a contemporary twist, forgoing short-term trends for long-lasting style.
A-MM-E uses ethically sourced cashmere of the highest quality, woven at an eco-community in the Himalayas.
There, workers are paid a sustainable wage, the welfare of the goats is protected and the factory operates with a minimal carbon footprint. As the company say themselves, “It’s nice to wear something that feels good on many levels.”