Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Trading fast fashion for a slow future

Anyone who has read the post preceding this will be aware that I have officially quit my job. I've shared my reasons for making this decision and have drawn a line underneath it ready to start a new and exciting chapter of my life. So what am I going to do next? 

A while ago I posted about my trip to Ghana and the 100%recycled glass beads I bought while I was there( I shared a few photos of the jewellery I had created from the beads and then nothing more( Since then I have delved a little deeper into jewellery making and designed my first Textile Candy jewellery collection. Half of the collection will be made from handpainted wooden beads and the remaining half(which I am so very excited about) will be made from the handcrafted Ghanaian beads. 

I have decided to really fully commit to trying to start a business and believe that making and selling jewellery is a good launch point. One day I would love to branch out into home accessories and clothing, but that's a little further down the line.

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Above are some of the products that I have been working on: statement necklaces, simple necklaces, earrings and keyrings. They won't be available to purchase until I launch the Etsy store on 1st November but if you do see anything you love I can stick a reserve note on it so just send me an email at or a facebook/instagram message!I am also doing some custom orders for people so if you see something you like but would prefer in a different colour combination just let me know.

Now is as good a time as any to provide you with some more information about the products and the process.

The wooden items all start out as unfinished, unpainted and unvarnished wooden beads made from a Samak/China berry tree from a Chinese supplier I have found on Etsy. He delivers really promptly, gives me a great deal on pricing and always throws in a few new samples for me to check out. 

After receiving the beads I play around with structure and figure out what new pieces I can make and then the painting begins. I use acrylic paint for the wooden beads, I tried experimenting with some inks, oil and water based paints but the wood is quite porous and soaks up a lot of the colour, this doesn't allow any margin for error as once a bead is painted in ink it is very difficult to repaint- I have learnt this the hard way. 

One of the things I love about the wooden collection is that it has enabled me to be really experimental with colour. I've tried to paint all of the necklaces and earrings in quite an abstract way as I think these make them easier to wear. There are also a few different necklace styles in the mix as I want to use my first collection to test out which designs people find the most appealing. Some are on chain, some suede chord and the larger pieces are on satin ribbon.

Statement earrings are a huge trend at the moment, filling out retail stores and taking over the runway shows so I have added some tassel earrings to the collection. I also have some more simple handpainted studs and drop earrings.

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The Ghana bead half of the collection is still in its development stage but I can share a few of the pieces I have been working on! It will be made from the 100% recycled glass beads I have sourced while on my trips to Ghana combined with some metal fixtures I have bought from a Turkish supplier(also sourced on Etsy). 

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One of the reasons I am so excited about the Ghana collection is because I finally feel like I am able to do something good and have a positive impact on the world. The items in this collection promote recycled goods and raise awareness about the Ghanaian beadmaking artisans and traditional craft. Also I have decided that, for every item from the 'made in Ghana' collection, I will donate 10% of the profits to the Baobab children's' foundation (

From the offset I knew I wanted to make sure this business was socially conscious with a completely transparent production line. After working in fast fashion for most of my career I now want to do some good in some way, however small that may be. My first visit to Ghana introduced me to the beadmaking process and I realised how painstaking it is to create something so beautifully handmade. It is my firm opinion that we need to start celebrating traditional crafts like this and support the artisans involved in making them. So I decided I wanted to use some of the profits to give back to the communities that create the products I will be using. As can be imagined there are a lot of charitable organisations based in Ghana and, as much as I think what they're doing is great, I am only a baby business/small start up at the moment and so I want to build a relationship with a small foundation. I want to know who the money is going to, I want to know what it is being used for and I want it to go to a cause I feel really passionate about. This is why I chose Baobab School of Trades and Traditional Arts.

They are a small NGO registered in Freiburg, Germany(which is actually conveniently close to Basel), it was founded in 2001 and now has around 100 pupils at the school it supports. I first became aware of the Baobab school and childrens foundation on my first trip to Ghana in February. I was volunteering and living in Cape Coast at the time where they have a guest house and restaurant which helps support the school. They also sell all the products created at the school in their Cape Coast store including, batik fabric and garments, jewellery and paintings created by the students.  
The Baobab school is an extremely special place as it focuses on a creative education and teaching the children vocational courses that they will be able to use to provide for themselves in the future. The thing that makes it even more fantastic is that it is a school for disadvantaged children from lower economic backgrounds, orphans and children with learning/physical disabilities. Outside of this school these children would struggle to stay in education and learn to be self sufficient.

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The children are still provided with an academic education and have morning lessons in English, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Entrepreneurship but in the afternoon they focus on 2 vocational courses that combine well to ensure they can earn money post education. Vocational courses include: 
carpentry, bicycle repair, sewing, batik, cane and bamboo furniture making, kente weaving, beadmaking, painting, basket weaving, organic farming, oyster mushroom cultivation, production of medicine from medicinal plants and catering. 

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I am currently in conversation with the founder, Edith de Vos, and am hoping to find out more information regarding the prices of equipment for the students at the school, the cost of each child's education and how much it would cost to sponsor a child's education. Should any of you lovely readers want to get involved- I will keep you all updated with the information I receive.

This half of the collection will also be packaged with a FREE wax print cotton gift bag. The fabric was hand printed in Ghana using the traditional batik process, half of the fabric used in the gift bags was created at the Baobab school and the other half has been created by the independent batik mamas employed by Global Mamas. While in Ghana last week I contracted Debora, a local seamstress in the Cape Coast area, to sew the gift bags using the fabric I had selected. This was important for me as part of creating a transparent production line.

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Left to right: Baobab batik fabric, Debora sewing the gift bags, one of the gift bags in the fabric purchased from Global Mamas.

Hopefully this has been a useful update for you all to see what I'm working on and what I have quit my job to do. I'm really excited about this and am praying extremely hard that it goes well. Please check out the Etsy store when it launches on 1st November, until then I am posting product updates and inspiration images on my business instagram: @textilecandy 

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It would be really great to drum up as much support as possible for this baby business of mine, especially while it is in it's initial growth stage so please feel free(No pressure at all) to share this post/share images on pinterest/facebook/instagram I would love to be able to sell most of the 'Made in Ghana' collection and raise some money for the Baobab Childrens foundation!

Gone is the van plan of last November, this time it's for real.

Farewell fast fashion

It will come as no surprise to many of you that I have, once again, made the decision to quit my job. As Facebook and LinkedIn have both kindly reminded me my career seems to be cyclical. I sub consciously work on a 6 month tolerance cycle between March and August- I start new jobs in march and quit them in August. Maybe 6 months is my standard length of time to figure out whether I enjoy a position and the company and, if not, whether I can tolerate them regardless. This was the case with my most recent company. I worked the probation period(3 months), hated it, decided I could tolerate it, lasted 3 more months and then decided I couldn't...Once again I will be leaving my job at the end of November, exactly the same as last year.

2017 World Happiness chart.

So why? Why am I quitting my position as Senior Graphic designer for a 'trend led fast fashion brand' in Switzerland "the 4th happiest country in the world" (according to the World Happiness report of 2017: As I am spending 5 out of 7 days of the week at work I don't want my job to cause any job, no matter how well paid, is worth sacrificing your happiness and health for. So when I start feeling miserable 2 out of the 5 working days a red flag goes up in my mind...when I get to 3 out of 5 days a week then I start working on my exit plan. Once I have affixed my mind on something I am quite fast at actioning it, this is exactly how I approach job happiness. To me there is no sense in staying in the same position if you know it is making you unhappy, if you don't like something in your life- change it. So thats what I've decided to do....again. 

When drafting this post it was getting a little lengthy so I've split it into two parts:the rant and the plan! This post is the rant.

As with all fast fashion jobs a certain amount of stress is to be expected- we are working with fast productions speeds and short lead times, but when that stress is exasperated by a disorganised system and egotistical, indecisive colleagues the design process becomes extremely difficult and unenjoyable. Being creative on demand in an environment like this becomes borderline impossible. Once a company causes me to loath the thing I love the most(the thing that enables me to express myself properly) I know thats another indication for me to leave.

In order to achieve the fast production speeds we are encouraged to opt for quantity over quality, this goes against everything I believe and everything I have ever been taught. I produce designs architected by someone else, I am only required to carry out someone else vision, therefore I can take no pride in my work and have no accountability for it. After months of doing this I begin to become creatively brain dead, incapable of coming up with my own ideas as I'm so accustomed to not having to. A further reason to leave. 

One of the biggest problems I have concerning my current(soon to be recent) position is the ethical side of fast fashion, not just in this company but in the industry as a whole. There are printed tops on the website for 6.99 euros, I can't see how it is ethically possible to produce a garment like this without someone somewhere being drastically screwed over to achieve the necessary profit margins. The manufacturing line isn't very transparent and I have no knowledge of who the suppliers are, which factories they are working with, whether they are subcontracting work to get the lowest price or what the health and safety regulations are in each factory. 

 I also have a huge issue with the copyright infringements I am expected to make on a daily basis. People higher up in the company go on shopping 'research' trips to Seoul and Tokyo, visit suppliers and factories, take photos of garments and come back requesting that we copy the graphics or the slogans "exactly as it is". With all fast fashion competitors doing this exact same thing the retail industry becomes saturated with imitations of the same thing in every store. Not only is copying designs illegal, it also makes the high street dull with no new innovative, creative long can we sustain this for!?

At the interview the job I am currently doing was sold to me as being 'trend led, young, exciting, fast fashion where I could create fun placement prints for a growing brand'...or something along those reality I spend most of my time stealing photos of tumblr girls from google images/pinterest/tumblr/instagram...mixing their faces together to make a new, unrecognisable girl(for copyright evasion) and then re-touching the photos to make a more 'beautiful' girl for a photoprint t-shirt. These are the images we are selling to young girls, these are the girls we are inadvertently telling them they should look like. We are fabricating faces, slimming thighs, stretching proportions and spoon feeding these images them to impressionable teens. After 6 months of scrolling through images trying to find young girls "attractive enough" to meet the company beauty standards, I was left feeling self conscious and dejected. 

To give you a further understanding of why I can't align myself with the ethos of this company, here are some of the absurd and offensive statements I have over heard:
- Upon suggestion of having a mixed ethnicity model in the branding someone high up in the company claimed she looked "dirty" and couldn't be used. Models used in company branding and on photoprints are all caucasian, I have tried on countless occasions to use a variety of models and all have been rejected.

- When designing a photoprint of a young girl I was told that her hair was "the wrong sort of blonde"

- When designing a photoprint of 2 young girls(around16) I refused to make one the image was taken from my file and distorted to change her body proportions.

- When suggesting we use words like "ambition" and "positivity" I was told that this isn't the message we want to give our customers. Instead slogans and words like "cute", "rebel", "sorry if I look interested, I'm not". Aspirational messages and those promoting body positivity are a no go.

Those are just a few snippets from everyday conversations.

Aside from this Switzerland is UBER expensive. I knew this before I moved here but had thought that my salary increase would cover the increase in cost of does not. Basel is so expensive that the majority of citizens travel to Germany to get their groceries...I have to go to a different country to buy food- laughable. Add this to the multitude of fees and fines that the country like to throw at you: for putting paper in your trash, for engineering work being done on a road near your house, for a mandatory metal label for your doorbell, for the release of small items from Swiss customs. I don't mean to put anyone off visiting Switzerland in this post, as a country Switzerland is an amazing and beautiful place to visit. When I went for a weekend in St. Moritz last year I completely loved a holiday...but, as is to be expected, a holiday is not representational of everyday life.
I would definitely visit Switzerland again for a weekend- the alps are astonishing, the architecture is beautiful and quaint and the transport is efficient, but I would not choose to live here. Of the 3 countries I have lived in outside of the UK I have found Switzerland the most difficult and the most isolating. Maybe visiting Ghana before relocating here contributed to my growing dislike for la vie en Suisse, the wealth disparity and the difference in value of money in these two countries is astonishing and something I really struggle to get my head around. 

 To be completely truthful I should never have taken this job. I accepted the offer due to a lethal concoction of fear, financial insecurity and future uncertainty. If I could offer any advice to a graphic designer/designer just starting out in the fashion industry it would be to never take a job for these reasons. I had quit my previous position to start up my own business but, after realising I had no idea how to do this, I got scared and fled back to the safety of a full time job with a monthly salary. 

After moving back home to the UK last November I had planned a few freelance projects/illustration commissions and my 2 month volunteer trip to Ghana(the best decision of my life for many reasons) but I had not planned further than that and the uncertainty of having no fixed income, the future being completely unknown and out of my control really scared me. So, just before leaving for Ghana, I decided to accept the job offer because then at least I had a plan. 
I pushed my intuition to one side, and moved to Switzerland anyway because I was scared of starting something on my own. Bad decision Becky- I had never even visited Basel before and now I was moving my entire life there. 1 month into my probation period was enough to know that I did not fit in well within the company. I was in shared accommodation for the first 3 months with people I didn't know- I felt extremely isolated and with slow internet was unable to easily contact my family and friends back home.  However, I decided to stick it out until the end of the probation period hoping that when I moved out of the shared accommodation and had all of my belongings in one place in my own home all would be fine. I gave it 3 more months after moving out and then made the decision that I would hand my 3 months notice into my apartment in August and my 2 months for my job in September. So here I am.....finally listening to what my soul is telling me to do and I am so very happy with the decision.

My mum likes to remind me that I feel like this at some point in all of my fashion based jobs. In truth, the company and the position make very little difference if there are fundamental problems within the industry and fast fashion is flawed to its core. I have often questioned whether I have chronic job dissatisfaction but have come to the conclusion that until I am working for myself, executing my own dreams instead of helping someone else achieve theirs I will not be happy.

So what will I be doing next? Well one thing is for certain- I will NOT be taking another job in fast fashion, no matter what the financial benefits are and no matter what exciting country an opportunity might be in. When I accepted this job I promised myself that it would be the last job I had before starting up my own business and daring to try my hand at freelancing.... I guess I'm calling my own bluff. I have secured a freelance job that, hopefully, will provide me with enough money to live off and I will be opening an Etsy store in early November as my first step into starting my own business.

You might recall that last time I quit my job I had a very obscure plan of buying an old van and converting it into a mobile boutique(I am still so very keen on this idea) what ambitious plan do I have this time? What will I be flogging on my new Etsy store?That will be revealed in the next post :)

NB: The txt based images were all taken from pinterest, if you created them/know the creator please let me know so that I can properly credit them.