Slow fashion is all about quality over quantity. The most sustainable way to shop is to build your wardrobe with timeless staples you’ll wear season after season.
You get bonus points if you’re shopping with a local Northern fashion designer, like Georgia Boniface. “My background is in fine art,” Georgia tells me. “I have a degree and masters in contemporary fine art so my approach to creating my work is generally a response to colour, shape, the materials I’m using and the process involved in making the clothing.”
She has always made clothes as part of her artistic practice alongside painting, collage and installation. After graduating in the mid-nineties she started work on her first clothing label, Laundry, launching the first collection in 1994 and selling internationally through independent boutiques in London, Paris, Milan and New York for the next six years. “I stopped making clothes as the market completely changed,” she says. “Looking back now I can see it was the increasing influence of the large high street brands and the speeding up of the fashion industry in general, expecting designers to produce at least two collections per year, which was completely unsustainable. I became very disillusioned with it and returned to art.”
She began making clothes again about 8 years ago as part of her MA work and quickly realised how much she had missed it. “So that’s how boniface came into being,” she tells me. “I also realised I could do it differently this time, keeping it slow, ethical and sustainable. My aim is to keep things simple, make clothes that give the wearer a flattering and elegant silhouette with as little embellishment as possible.”
I usually work in block colours: garments made of single colour fabrics which tend to be the foundation for a collection to which I can add other more textured or patterned fabrics.
Now the Boniface signature styles remain constant as staple pieces within the collection, while additional colours, seasonal designs and fabrics are introduced in shorter runs over the year. Limited edition fabrics are sourced from local mills in Yorkshire and Lancashire keeping the collection vibrant and exclusive. Georgia draws great inspiration from Modernism in general, and the ideas of colour and form from The Bauhaus. She also tells me she is fascinated by the understated structural elegance of Japanese clothing design, which shines through in her silhouettes. “I create limited edition pieces using traditional pattern cutting methods, hand drawn patterns and literally sculpting with fabric to achieve the shape of the garment that I want to make,” she says. “I usually work in block colours: garments made of single colour fabrics which tend to be the foundation for a collection to which I can add other more textured or patterned fabrics.”
She’s recently launched a collaborative collection with illustrator Jenny Bowers, who is known for her lightness of approach, sense of colour and visual immediacy. “Jenny and I have been friends for a long time,” Georgia tells me, “so have always been aware of each other’s work, but I think it’s just that the time was right. I saw something she was working on and thought it would work really well as a fabric design and so we started talking about how we could actually work together on something.”
In the end Jenny produced a completely new design based on the colours and shapes Georgia had been working with for her collection. “I absolutely love it, and it now forms the basis for the range that I’m still producing,” she says. “We’ve talked about adding to it with more designs, so hopefully that won’t be too far in the future.”
Of course, Coronavirus is playing its part in Boniface’s immediate plans. “Certainly these sort of plans (with Jenny), have been slightly on hold with the uncertainty of the past few months. Honestly, I’ve found it very difficult. I wasn’t able to get into the studio for quite a while and it’s taken some time to feel properly creative again, but it’s coming back!”
“Very patient customers are finally receiving their orders and I’ve got new additions to the current collection so things are looking a lot more positive. I’ve had time to think a lot behind the scenes I guess. The slow fashion movement was gaining a lot of support before the effects of the pandemic but I know people have really paused for thought about a lot of things, and we are just not going to accept the state of the industry as it is and the way it has accelerated over the last twenty years.”
“Hopefully, now we are able to access independent sustainable brands online and we’re getting more used to virtual shopping. It will give the smaller more ethical brands a chance to grow and change the way people consume fashion. Over the lockdown period I’ve been doing some ongoing work with the Department of Fashion & Textiles at The University of Huddersfield who are researching aspects of waste, recycling and sustainable practice within the fashion industry, things are at least in development for some fundamental change.”
All photography © Shaw & Shaw, used with permission.