Slow Fashion Ethics And Low Waste Production In The Studio

Slow fashion in progress- bespoke corsetry
Work in progress- moulded silk before it greets steel.

‘Tis the season of shopping, excessive packaging and glitter everywhere! If that sounds a bit “Bah Humbug” let me reassure you- I blimming love Christmas. But seeing piles of sparkly wrapping paper in the trash always makes me conscious of the ecological cost of holiday traditions, so I felt inspired to share the positive story of how we’re trying to fight the wastage of the fashion industry at Orchid.

Corsets- The Definition Of Slow Fashion

Bespoke corset and lingerie set in white silk.
A bespoke order with asymmetric silk detailing and matching lingerie.

I think slow fashion is a buzz word that we may not all fully understand. Put simply, slow fashion is about a move away from disposable clothing and garments with built in obsolescence. A move towards long term investment in your wardrobe that doesn’t tread on the workers behind the label. Developing countries are not always able to supply safe working conditions and fair pay whilst meeting the price demands of big high street names. However there are some great brands like Dorsu in Cambodia setting the standard for high quality clothing that supports great working conditions and proper pay. Read to the end for more awesome slow fashion designers you may love!

To me, corsets from independent makers are the perfect example of slow fashion at work. At Orchid, there is just me working on your order, through communication, pattern cutting, construction and even the post office run. I have other people who work on my website etc, but the actual labour takes place in my home studio looking out over the Welsh hills. This means no uncomfortable feelings about “who made my clothes?” and knowing that you are supporting the 21st century version of British manufacturing. The cottage industries and small enterprises who exercise their craft with pride. That also means taxes paid in this country, not profits hoarded overseas!

A corset is also, by it’s nature, an heirloom item. It has been crafted to your specifications, we have worked on it together through emails, in person fittings, and swatches through the post. You have deliberated between two perfect shades of blue, and we’ve planned each component to work for your body and requirements. This year I’ve had the pleasure of many past clients returning for new corsets, one of whom had been using their last corset for 7 years! I call that good value for money, and good care of the resources that go into creating a luxury garment.

Low Waste Production

Isolde neck corset close up

The thing that always held me back from outsourcing elements of my work are questions about waste. When I cut a corset, I am careful to lay all my pattern pieces in such a way that the materials go as far as possible. This makes financial sense- silk satin is £50 a metre, and some of the lace I use is well over £100 a metre. But also, from manufacturing of fabrics to ordering them in from overseas, there’s a large carbon footprint in what ends up on the cutting room floor. It’s unavoidable that there will be some waste when you cut a garment but here’s what I do to minimise that impact.

Any pieces that may be used for cups or short waspie panels on a future order are obviously saved. In the fitting room I have a waterfall of vividly coloured fabrics to choose from, many of which are saved from previous orders. If we have it in stock- you aren’t charged for it. This encourages clients on a budget to choose from the beautiful things that we already have rather than shipping new exotic items across the ocean. Little scraps are saved back for colour swatches for clients or the many patchwork projects I keep meaning to do! I also send packs over to my sister for craft at my nephews’ playgroup, and save up my empty cotton reels for making toy car wheels on rainy days! It might sound silly but little changes can have a big impact when we all take part.

Lately I have started to design new products that use up the awkward off-cuts of luxury fabrics that I can’t bear to throw out but were too small to be useful in a meaningful way. This is how the Isolde neck corset was born! The silk bobbinet (mesh) I use for hot climate corsetry and lightweight shapewear comes in quite narrow widths, and I’m often left with a few inches on the end of a piece that will never be used in a regular corset. These sections are perfect for the delicate panels of a neck corset, and now, when I’m cutting out a waspie and see a space inbetween pattern pieces, I’m cutting out spare panels for the next Isolde order! The silk satin channels that hold the boning also allow me to use short bias lengths of this luxury fabric without cutting it from a new piece. So we have a sensuous new product where I don’t need to charge the client for material costs, and a little less waste makes it’s way to landfill. Everyone wins.

Lastly- I do try to keep packaging at a minimum. I want you to feel the thrill of opening our beautiful branded boxes, but I also hope that you keep them after the unboxing ceremony! They make great wardrobe organisers, and stop your corset laces getting tangled with the rest of your collection! Incidentally, all our boxes are made locally in the West Midlands, supporting a company that has been running since 1926, and that gives me a really good feeling! You will often find a thankyou card in with your order and a business card or two, but I don’t send you reams of postcards, catalogs or stickers as experience says, these tend to end up in the bin! If you’ve spotted a way you think we could improve things further it would be great to hear from you- let me know your thoughts about UK manufacture and what matters to you in the brands you support.

Slow Fashion Brands You Will Love

slow fashion gown
A Katherine Davidson gown, shot by Sally Sparrow on Abigail.

Katherine Davidson

Katherine Davidson is an elegant designer maker based in Merseyside who has a very clever line focused on the capsule wardrobe. She offers a foundation dress that’s made to your measurements at a very reasonable price, which can be reinvented again and again with the accessories and layers she is constantly adding! I am proud to own a KD piece, and can vouch for the craftsmanship, value, and love that she puts into her work.

Chyvonne Le Monnier

More ethical than slow really! An original and fun alternative lifestyle brand with great designs and real principles. Chyvonne only brings in limited runs of each product and works with ethical producers to make them. She is conscious of sustainable fabrics and biodegradable packaging, but the garments are anything but worthy! I own a ClM hoody and it is my FAVOURITE because I’m a tall woman, but her pieces are tailored  and ultra long so I don’t end up with an annoying midriff gap or look like I borrowed my brothers clothes!

Sisters Of The Black Moon

I really wanted to mention these guys because a) they feature truly wonderful independent designers and artists and b) As a graduated goth I really love their grown up, high fashion witchy look. Using luxurious materials with most pieces being handmade to order in America. They have recently run a project making gorgeous jackets from recycled leather which really excited me. I plan to become a customer very soon!

Maude Nibelungen

If you don’t know of Maude yet, you will LOVE her. She hand knits perfectly imperfect garments including gorgeous open weave stockings, lingerie and sensuous intriguing cover ups. She is utterly unique and a fascinating designer running her brand in Canada. One of her pieces is currently winging it’s way to me across the sea!

Who are your favourite ethical brands?

2017 Winter Gift Guide

Well The Weather Outside Is Frightful…

Whatever you’re celebrating this Winter, everyone loves to open a touch of luxury! Our gift guide this year showcases some of our new styles, including a growing range of ready to wear corsetry and some very decadent fetish inspired lingerie. Arranged for every budget, we hope you unwrap some of our handmade treasures this year.

But My Dear, You Look So Delightful…

Budget £10-£50

 

Gift Vouchers

Did you know that our gift vouchers start as low as £10? Choosing a size dependent gift for someone can be difficult, so if you’re stumped or have missed our shipping deadlines then you can purchase the value of your choosing and receive a code that can be used online within 24 hours.

Accessories

Speaking of size dependent dilemmas- our chokers (£20) and masks are one size fits all! With colour selections to personalise your order, a seductive treat to open is just a click away.

Our corset storage bags are just £20 and are the perfect gift for a corset addict! They allow you to organise your collection and hang them up in the wardrobe away from tangled laces and other nightmares. Colour code the bag to the corset with our custom colour options!

We have two lingerie harness styles to choose from as well! The Morgan harness is our newest addition, with a refined bondage look, featuring a triple drop of ascending size ovals. For a more delicate style, try our En Régate harness. These pieces start at £35.

Since We’ve No Place To Go…

Budget £50- £100

Accessories

Looking for something seductive and decadent? A French lace mask and choker set (£57) could be your answer. Match your colours and metalwork for a luxurious package, sent in one of our branded gift boxes.

New for Winter this year- the Isolde neck corset (£80) is the ultimate in fetish indulgence. Made in couture silk mesh with silk satin accents and double O ring detail. The swooping shape and elegant design will make this a treasured gift for years to come.

Lingerie

All our lingerie separates come in under £100! Why not try our new Adara suspender belt style with a pair of silk stockings? or our Acquiesce harness bra, which can be styled over clothing or worn alone for a sensuous encounter.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

Budget £100-£200+

Lingerie

We have released three exciting new lingerie sets for Winter, starting from £155 for a bra and panties. Look at the Caron, Adara and Inira styles for boudoir inspiration. Caron and Inira can be mixed and matched for a personal set!

Corsetry

We offer standard size corsetry with custom colour options from £200. Choose from our Perle mesh underbust in ivory or black or our brand new Adara waspie. All have multiple fabric and trim options to personalise your order, and our sizing chart makes it easy to get the right fit for first time wearers! Why not add a matching corset storage bag to complete the gift?

Bespoke corsetry is not out of the question for gifts, but it can be tricky to plan if we don’t have an existing pattern for your recipient! But fear not, our gift vouchers can be used towards a bespoke order and will give your loved one a wealth of choice across our site.

If you’re still not sure you can always contact us to ask for some recommendations for your budget and preferences, we’re happy to help you find the right gift! Have a magical holiday, friends.

Heartland- A Love Letter To Wales

Adara suspender belt back

Coming Home

Heartland is born from a challenging year of personal change and upheaval. A significant part of all this is the move back to my home, my heart, Wales. I was born here, I’ve never strayed far from the border, and every time I am lost in her landscape, I am filled with energy and contentment. Wales is a country that breathes poetry, that nourishes the soul, that overwhelms the senses, whatever season you greet her in.

When trying to express a direction for the new collection, it was this love that I came back to, I wanted the theme to reflect the passion, the boldness the inspiration that I find here. The Heartland collection uses traditional Welsh names to identify the styles, each with a delicious meaning that I hope you’ll enjoy as much as the designs themselves.

Inira- Meaning “Honour”

Shop the Inira frame bra
Shop the Inira thong

A striking lingerie set, encompassing a harness bra that frames and flares around the body with detailed thong in lustred satin. Large oval rings clutch at clusters of straps, making the bra ideal for layering over clothing for a distinctive fetish fashion appeal.

Options- available in scarlet or black, with you choice of silver or gold metalwork.

Adara- Meaning “Bird Catcher”

Shop the Adara quarter cup bra
Shop the Adara Panties
Shop the Adara garter belt
Shop the Adara waspie

The standout look from Heartland, featuring a sensuous collection of quarter cup harness bra, alluring panties and our first garter belt which overlaps and entwines in the most seductive fashion. Crossing straps and cut-away areas highlight the body in elaborate lace flourishes. This collection also includes a made-to-order waspie with many custom options, allowing you to collate a matching set that you can truly treasure.

Options- Lingerie available in Black or ivory, with your choice of silver or gold metalwork. Corset has extensive custom options.

Caron- Meaning “Loving”

Shop the Caron bralette 
Shop the Caron cage panties

A full bralette set with cage back panties. The triple strap waist belt on the panties frames the waist and echoes the bold styling on the strappy bralette. Made in a lustrous satin with strap and mesh features.

Options- available in black or ivory with your choice of silver or gold metalwork.

Morgan- Meaning “Seashore”

Shop the Morgan harness

The ideal style-up for an outfit. The ascending sized ovals create an arresting effect peeping out from under clothing, and team up well with a corset ensemble. A fetish inspired look that can be built upon or played down depending on your style.

Options- available in black or ivory, with your choice of silver or gold metalwork.

All Change At The Studio

New fitting room

It’s been longer than I realised since I sat down to share our news, but in my defence it’s been a busy couple of months! In addition to the usual commissions and photoshoot plans, I’ve been moving the studio and changing the Shrewsbury address into a dedicated client space and fitting area.

I know some of our readers will have visited us at Charlton House for their consultations, and we get lovely feedback from clients about how much they love our town and the funny little attic space we call home. For those who haven’t climbed our stone steps, Orchid HQ for the last 6 years has been up in the eaves of a converted medieval manor house, which still has the stunning exposed stonework of the original building as you enter! My sunny little garret looks out over the rooftops and chimney stacks of Shrewsbury town centre, and is a wonderful little creative hub. We also have a friendly ghost called Lady Sarah, according to the local paranormal tours.

However it has always been the dream to separate studio life into a fitting space and workroom, so more space can be dedicated to display and scene setting with clients, and I can be free to make creative muddles and spread out as the commissions fill the work table. A recent home move back over the border to Wales has increased this desire, as it’s a long daily commute! But I’ve found a perfect temporary workspace back home, which has enabled me to do long awaited things, like setting up a proper height pattern cutting table so that I can work standing up at long last! It’s been fantastic to have a driving force behind all the things I’ve been waiting to do for the business, and the resulting studio is a pleasure to work from. After nearly 11 years in business it was high time that some updates were installed!

New studio work room
Hard at work at the new desk.

 

But the real investments have gone into the fitting area. It’s still a work in progress with a long way to go but the additional space in the Shrewsbury address instantly created opportunities. There is now a huge three part mirror so clients can view themselves from all angles during a fitting, with a sumptuous rug and racks full of samples to be explored. The mannequins gather around, dressed in their own finery to intrigue our visitors, and of course, tea is waiting to be served! The antique changing screen, embroidered with peacocks by my great grandmother still graces the corner, waiting for you to try on something precious and fall in love.

New fitting room
Spring sunshine filling the new fitting room

There are many more jobs awaiting me in the fitting space but for now, it’s a lovely work in progress, and I will be delighted to welcome you to the studio area for your own bespoke commission! Our waiting list is already filling up through the summer but there are spaces for special projects and made to order corsets from our online store.

Save

Focus On A Bespoke Corset Commission

Bespoke corset with matching silk lingerie

A journey into waist training

Ever wondered what it’s like to order a bespoke corset? To work with a craftsman to create something uniquely yours, never to be repeated? Here’s a very special commission I worked on recently. Made for a male client who had never even tried a corset on before he contacted me last Autumn.

My client was looking to begin waist training, and wanted corsets that were lightweight to fit discreetly under clothing. Initially he was interested in an overbust style but after looking at his requirements I recommended an underbust. This would fit better with his lifestyle and would prove easier to camouflage as underwear. He decided on a waist training starter kit, including an Edwardian underbust and ribbon corset with suspenders and a camisole. These pieces would be made in a way that kept bulk at a minimum whilst remaining sturdy and suitable for regular wear. The concession to this being the choice of using silk ribbons for the ribbon corset! Silk ribbons are not as durable as the grosgrain ribbons I would usually use for these pieces. However they are incomparably luxurious and feel wonderful against the skin. There is a very special lustre to the colours in these ribbons!

We discussed how he would like the corsets to look, and he knew he wanted them to have refined feminine styling. He chose a palette of pale pinks, golds and peach but gave me control over the final choices on fabrics. This was a wonderful opportunity for me, as I love creating soft, feminine looks. Being able to create something precious for this first time corset wearer was a real privilege. We agreed my choices would be a surprise, and I began selecting glowing silks that belonged in a wealthy 19th century ladies trousseau!

Silk, lace and lingerie

My client was able to visit the studio for a personal fitting where I took his measurements. We talked a little more about the style for the corsets, but mostly about his travels through Europe! Fittings aren’t essential for most underbust corsets as I can work from measurements sent in using our instructions at home. However it’s a great chance to efficiently make most of the decisions needed for a bespoke corset order. For some people these meetings can be a little nerve wracking. Particularly where they are unfamiliar with corsets and are expecting someone far scarier than me to be behind the door! But tea and biscuits usually prove that we’re all good friends nice and quickly.

Another result of the fitting was my client choosing a set of our lingerie to be made to match his Edwardian corset. He chose our En Regate set- an underwired bra, delicately strapped panties and a lingerie harness. These would work really well with the colour schemes I had devised and made the set even more complete!

Edwardian bespoke corset in progress

I settled on a rich coral peach silk with a smooth finish for the underbust. It was a great weight of silk to use for the matching lingerie and had a lovely gleam to it. During our meeting we had also talked about gentle colour contrasts, so I decided swirls of symmetrial ivory lace applique would be used to highlight the centre front and hips with graceful motifs. The lingerie looked romantic next to it in the peach silk with ivory strapping. The silk ribbons were very hard to choose- so many exquisite shades, each suggesting a different direction. But in the end I opted for a combination of creamy ivory and tarnished gold, set against silk panels in a dusky rose shot gold dupion.

Unwrapping a treasure

From the fitting to completion of the corsets was around 5 weeks- a little slow thanks to the Christmas rush! but as my client preferred to collect the corsets rather than have them posted it was a while till I was able to present them! I am always excited but nervous to hand over any order- will it meet the vision the client had when they came to me? But especially so when I’ve been given free reign over design on a bespoke corset. I pray that I haven’t misjudged their brief, and that they receive something they wouldn’t have thought to ask for, but have a connection to all the same. Judging by the message I received when he got them home I hit the mark!

“Hi Bethan, WOW, beautifully exquisite creations!

You truly are talented at your profession, thank you for all that you have done for me. I am amazed at how they feel when worn.”

How would you feel if you had opened the box to find these corsets?

Waist training kit with matching custom lingerie
The completed waist training kit with matching lingerie.