Saturday, April 23, 2011

Miss Annie Who?

May I introduce you?
I am very happy to feature this extensive interview with Jane Olley, the director of Annie Greenabelle. The ethical and sustainable fashion label Annie Greenabelle from the UK was just recently voted 2nd in the category of "Best International Brand" in's Best of Green Competition. I'd say they perfectly reach their aim to prove that ethical clothing can be beautiful, on-trend and affordable. But read more for yourself to get a deep insight into this brand:

elilos blogspot:
Who is Annie Greenabelle?
Jane Olley: Annie is her own person – she follows trends but likes to add her own twist to them.  She loves to dress up and is a real girly girl. She is confident and likes to stand out from the crowd.
I think she would agree with Mahatma Gandhi when he said “ there is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness"

And who are you, Jane?
I have worked within a fashion environment for the last twenty years.  I am married to Richard who has manufactured jerseywear garments for 25 years. My father in law, Matt, supports me by making the woven garments and with his knowledge of dyeing and finishing.

Who else is behind the brand?
We have a very small staff of approximately 11 people including myself. Isobel and Maisie are the designers, my brother Tom is in charge of online orders and customer service, Joy is my assistant and helps with marketing the brand and processing the wholesale orders and Kitty is our office assistant and part time model! Our accountant Paul comes in on Wednesdays and on Fridays, Rachel comes in to analyse sales figures and desperately try to organise me!!  Rebecca, Charlotte and Julia look after our concession in Topshop Oxford Circus.  However, we all pitch in together with unpacking / packing and labelling garments when we get a big order in!
And what idea is behind your brand?
As a consumer I wanted to buy ethical garments but also had a keen interest in fashion. I often felt I either had to compromise the fashionable element of the garment or the price was out of my reach.

I felt there must be a way of being able to produce fast fashion in an ethical way – and there is!
And then, how did Annie Greenabelle become "who" she is?
I always knew that the brand would be Fairtrade, I feel very passionately that people should not suffer physically or be abused financially because they are in a vunerable position.  However, it was on a trip to India to source the Fairtrade cotton that I made up my mind that the fabric was going to be Organic as well.
I think, I like many, had not really considered the benefits of Organic cotton. We eat organic in many an instance because we feel it is better for our bodies  but I hadn’t really considered the side of buying organic products because they are so much better for the environment.  This was something that I became aware of whilst travelling. I learnt huge amounts of chemicals were used in cotton production and these in turn were polluting communities’ water systems and making people ill.

How do you set up a new collection ?
We research the trends  - shapes, colours and prints, we like to design around fabrics so we go out and source reclaimed fabrics and sample prints for our organic cotton, we then produce quick hand drawn sketches, the designers and director have a meeting and we decide on the shapes we like and then mock them up in illustrator/photoshop. We also get inspiration from
the Designer Forum for trends, catwalks, films and music videos, vintage clothing stores and street-style.
And how is it produced?
We either do our own pattern cutting or send the specifications to the factory in Poland to be sampled. The designers also travel to the factory in Poland to work directly with the machinists to get samples right and ready for production. Once we have the perfect sample we then get grades made, making sure every size fits right. This style will then go into production, which is then sent to our unit for us to sell online, or send to Topshop or one of our 60 boutique customers.
What is special about your ethical/organic label?
We can sell at a competitive price – which is why we still work in stores such as Topshop. 

And what is the constant?
Vintage inspired garments with a classy, girly feel to them. We predominantly focus on pretty dresses but we recently branched out into knitwear and we have started using new fabrics such as bamboo alongside the Fairtrade and Organic cottons.

Is it hard to run an ethical/organic fashion label?
I think many people who have set up a company would say there are times when it all just seems too hard and too stressful. I have also had to learn an awful lot in quite a short time. Also the manufacturing industry in Leicester has been hard hit in the last few years with much of the production being moved off shore where wages are cheaper.  We run a Fairtrade factory here in the Midlands and our production helps secure 29 jobs.

The biggest problem still is to try and convey that sometimes it is better to invest a couple of extra pounds into a quality garment which has been made fairly rather than buy lots of cheap “throw away” fashion pieces which is more the mind set of the moment. 

What keeps you going?
Knowing that we are helping young girls out in India have a better standard of life. 
Seeing a young girl walk down the street in one of our dresses, or read comments sent to our customer  services about how pleased someone has been with their purchase - all this makes me feel very proud of what we have achieved. We once had a photo sent from someone in the USA who wore one of our prom dresses and she said it was a “picture of her on her perfect night in her perfect dress. Becoming second in’s Best International Brand category in their Green Awards 2011 also helps to let us know we’re on the right track.

What and when will we see more of Annie Greenabelle?
The next collection should be ready in August / Septemper.  Expect plenty more vintage inspired styles in Fairtrade and organic cotton.  There will also be new pretty prints in organic cotton jersey. Luxurious soft knitwear will also feature strongly as this has been incredibly popular this season.

You will soon be able to sign up for our Spring/Summer 2011 catalogue which has an offer of £20 off any full price order! Keep checking our website for details! 

We definitely will!

(At this point I want to mention, that I am not and will never accept to be "paid" in any way to feature brands on my blog. I write about them when I am enthused about what they do and consider it worth sharing with you. I strongly believe in a sustainable lifestyle and consuper resposibility and therefore like to inform about certain brands.)

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