In this guest article for Urban Times, Ayten Roberts, founder of luxury, British-made lingerie brand Ayten Gasson, discusses the importance of British manufacturing, and the true meaning of the “made in the UK” mark. Ayten Gasson have donated a gorgeous organic silk knicker and eye mask set, to be auctioned at our sustainable fashion charity event, Bid for Better, on December 13th.
With seemingly more and more fashion labels claiming ethical and “made in the UK” credentials, we thought that we should explain what we, here at Ayten Gasson Lingerie, believe is the true meaning of a much misused marketing device.
Growing up with a family full of designers and makers, I knew the importance of well made pieces, and the history and skill in British manufacturing. My mother had worked as a seamstress for Arcadia in the early 1990s and I remember my grandmother working in a north London factory producing clothing for at least 30 different designers each season. Upon graduating from Central Saint Martin’s in 2004, I was saddened to find the closure of many of the UK based manufacturers and design houses. All design jobs had moved to Europe while the London factories I knew as a child had all closed as designers now searched for a cheaper alternative overseas.
As an independent British designer I feel it is vital for me to support the industry around me. Each link in the chain is considered, from the lace and trim supplier, the factories I have worked with, and continue to work with, and the independent boutiques I sell to. I am often frustrated to hear the ‘tricks of the trade’, which are used to fool us into thinking something is made in the UK from the design board to the final item. For instance, did you know, a fashion piece can be made in the Far East, but have a button sewn on in Britain for it to be “hand finished in the UK”? Or that many “designed in the UK” pieces are then sourced and made abroad?
We at Ayten Gasson are proud to work with the only company in the UK who specialises in organic silk fabrics. In a similar process to farming, organic silk production means that no pesticides, insecticides or harsh chemicals have been used, in the production of the silk fibre and in producing the finished cloth. Organic silk is the softest and must beautiful silk we have ever seen and used for our pieces, inspiring us to create more of our ranges in this stunning ethical fabric.
We are also currently researching organic plant dyes which will allow us to expand our Eco Lingerie range. Organic silk is currently only available in a natural cream, making it perfect for bridal but not for some of our key fashion pieces. Once we harness the knowledge to ethically dye our silk we will be launching a full range of ethical lingerie, nightwear and accessories.
To fully explain what enables the silk we use to be termed vegan, or peace silk, we must first understand how conventional silk is made. Silk is produced when an adult silk worm begins to spin a fibroin protein which they produce themselves. The strain of silk is woven into a tightly enclosed cocoon. Each cocoon can be formed from up to 100 meters of silk. Next, the silk worm secretes a fluid which burns a hole thought the weave allowing it to emerge. Unfortunately this also damages and breaks the fibre. Instead, the farmer kills the silk worm by boiling it alive, saving the silk. Peace silk is vegan because it allows the silkworm to emerge out of the cocoon naturally. Fibres from the damaged cocoon are then spun together forming a silk which has the same luxurious feel as organic silk, with a raw appearance.
We feel it is important to try and be as ethical as possible in all aspects of the label. We will always make all of our items in this country and proudly mark our ranges with ‘Made In The UK’. When possible, our elastics and ribbons are sourced in the UK while our laces are from British mills. It is these ideals that we hold very dearly and would like to think that more companies would feel the same way too.
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