Ethical fashion is a new buzzword, yet we truly believe in its importance. We talk to Paula from Sheer Apparel on all things fashion, plus she gives us an exclusive discount.
What inspired you to start Sheer Apparel? Tell us the story behind it.
After 10 years in my corporate job, I started getting itchy feet. I’d been harbouring the wish to start my own business for quite awhile, so was really excited by the prospect of using my energy for a good purpose.
I'd learnt a lot of the damaging effect that fashion has on people and the environment. I wanted to shop in a different way, but I was missing a single place where I could shop with confidence, where I loved the clothes and could find everything I needed that I could trust was ethical. That’s how the idea was born.
What does sustainable fashion mean to you?
‘Sustainable fashion’ can be a confusing catch phrase. For me it means good labour standards, environmental sustainability and longevity.
My business works very closely with our partner brands to make sure their clothes are made in fair conditions. Right now that means that many of them are produced in Europe, where with stronger regulations it is easier as a small firm to ensure good production ethics. But we also work with some brands in South East Asia that are specially certified. It is mostly women who make garments and too often their work is extremely stressful, poorly paid and sometimes dangerous, I care about this deeply.
All our clothes are made of more environmentally friendly fabrics, such as linen, organic cotton, some recycled fabric and beautiful vintage lace.
Everything is handpicked for style. Only clothes our customers truly love and wear for a long time are sustainable, so we are really picky in curating our collection.
Why do you support brands with a heart?
Running a business is hard and complicated but it’s also a huge opportunity to promote positive causes you care about. All our brands are amazingly passionate about their mission. Beside the fact that we love their products, it’s an absolute pleasure to work with them. Most of the teams are female, and by promoting fairness in fashion manufacturing, they are also promoting a woman’s right to a safe and decent workplace.
Describe the look you're going for.
Personally I love casual elegance. Great quality, feminine clothes that make it super quick to put an outfit together - that makes you feel instantly well dressed, minus the fuss.
I think it’s also reflected in how we curate the collection. We want to offer great quality, attractive fashion to women with busy jobs and full lives. Our aim is to provide a great collection that covers work, workout and play. That means great shirts, beautiful versatile dresses, luxury knitwear and soft supportive workout clothes.
Do you see a difference in the quality of your brands?
Completely. We mostly work with small companies that are focused on creating excellent products. That means they can talk to me for an hour about the quality of the seams in their lingerie, the various environmental certifications of their organic cotton or the relative benefits of different types of wool. There is no way you get this kind of quality on the high street.
I really love this. We get to offer clothes that aren’t just there for a season or two. They may well become pieces you love for a decade. Everything I wear from our own collection has become a much loved piece and our customers say the same.
How is consumer’s desire for sustainability and transparency changing the fashion world?
Change is underway, but it’s not fast enough. I think that’s because as consumers we are still in two minds about sustainable fashion. Of course we’d choose more ethical products when we shop, but the majority of us are too busy to think about all the different issues every time we buy something new.
I completely get that, which is why I want to provide a platform that makes it easy and enjoyable to shop for sustainable fashion, to excite more and more women about the topic. I strongly believe that this will contribute to more of us asking our existing favourite brands on the high street: "Hang on, why doesn’t your business work like this?"
What trends do you foresee this fall?
I’m not huge on trends, as I think it’s a little bit comical how the fashion industry scrambles to come up with something ‘new’ several times a year. Most trends are derivative of a decade or two ago. Trends are also not very useful for finding your personal, unique style that makes you feel amazing.
But of course combining classic pieces with a great new colour or print, or experimenting with a new cut is a lot of fun. I’m loving that red is back in a big way this fall, it’s such a powerful colour. I also love mid length skirts and interesting collars.
How do the clothes we wear infiltrate into our personal lives and their journey?
I think how we feel on the inside and how we interact with others is always more meaningful than what we’re wearing. At the same time who doesn’t know that feeling of wearing something you really love and feeling more confident and more beautiful.
I talk to personal stylists a lot, because I find their work fascinating. The best ones I’ve met start with a conversation about their client’s hopes and goals, long before they take a look into their wardrobes, such as a really fabulous one called Roberta. They really focus on helping them achieve something broader. I love that.
Is there a link between style, ethics and personal happiness?
I can only speak for my personal journey, but I think this is absolutely the case. Some time ago I started being more focused on beautiful, quality pieces that really flatter me instead of buying many things. That made me buy less, and buy better, and has left me with a smaller wardrobe of clothes that I love more and feel great in. I think as a result my style has become more sophisticated.
And it does make me happy that, for instance, I can talk about my AmaElla neglige. Not only how gorgeous it is, but that it was made of certified organic cotton which is much healthier for cotton farmers. Plus it was sewn together in a social enterprise garment factory. To me, this is true beauty.
Do you have something for our reader’s to take away to make them think about?
By far the resource most cited by people who have changed their minds about fashion is ‘The True Cost’. It’s a beautiful, shocking, hopeful and engaging film that is a must watch. I also encourage everyone to take small steps to find out more when they shop. This can be as simple as looking at labels. When you realise, for example, that a premium high street brand charges you £100 or more for a jumper that’s mostly polyester…that really opens your eyes. Finally if you are interested in discovering your unique style, ‘The Curated Closet’ by Anushka Rees is a fantastic handbook.