Designer in the Spotlight
- How was 8HS formed and why did you decide to focus on sustainable sleepwear/lounge wear.
Eight Hour Studio was born out of a love of hand block printing, natural fabrics and a desire to do something creative in a sustainable and ethical manner. My original concept was to start with basic silk Ts and tops with some block prints on them. However, the more I explored women’s fashion and clothing the more I felt there was a lack of interesting choices in sleepwear, and certainly a lack of stylish, fashionable sleepwear. You could buy either high street sleepwear which was inexpensive but bland, or silk sleepwear at the luxury end which was very expensive.
"There was not a lot of choice in between high street sleepwear and luxury silk sleepwear. Eight Hour Studio filled the gap!"
And that is how Eight Hour Studio began. I was already working with a very talented, young fashion designer here in London, and so we changed our focus to stylish but comfortable sleepwear / loungewear using gorgeous organic cotton. And of course, hand block printing, which I absolutely love!
What influenced you into creating your 8HS collections?
My heritage is originally Indian although my grandparents left India when they were fairly young and moved to Africa which is where I was born. While I no longer have family in India, I have always remained fascinated by the culture. As I began travelling to India in my early 20s I discovered block printing and fell head over heels in love with it. The skill involved is immense, and the finished print looks like a piece of art.
When I began thinking about starting a business of my own, I knew it had to incorporate block printing in some form. I also love beautiful natural fabrics, and so I came up with the idea of creating clothing using this ancient Eastern method of printing but with a Western aesthetic.
Open back tank top - Shop Here
Where do you think eco luxury fashion is heading and have you seen a change in the market?
Awareness of eco luxury fashion is definitely rising. I am very pleased to say that on a monthly basis I am discovering new brands that are choosing to operate on ethical principles. And not just that, they are creating fashionable, stylish and beautiful products which people want and are willing to spend more on because they know they are made well.
Sonia and Giovanna at Selfridges attending an event titled "The Human Face of Fashion" - featuring speakers from Bottletop, Lucy Siegle, Storm Keating..
More consumers are learning about the hugely detrimental effects of fast fashion through brands that already exist, media, advocates of slow fashion such as Lucy Siegle and Livia Firth, and also through documentaries such as The True Cost. There is definitely a movement towards buying less but choosing well.This being said, there is still a long way to go.
"I would love to see the fashion industry change to the point where operating on ethical principles is just the way things are done, rather than being the exception, but this will clearly also require consumers to continue to demand garments made in this manner."
Describe 8HS in three words?
Luxurious, unique, stylish.
What were the Challenges from starting up your own business in a sustainable way?
The greatest challenge in starting a sustainable business is making it commercially viable. This is obviously a challenge for any business but when you consider our products are all handprinted (from hand carved blocks), and made using fair trade practices with organic cotton fabrics, inevitably this means our production costs are relatively high. Creating beautiful and ethical products at a price which people can afford, see value in and are willing to pay is difficult. It is all about telling our story so that customers can appreciate the time, effort and skill that goes into creating every unique piece.
Another challenge was actually finding suppliers who share our principles and values. It took almost a year to find our fair trade manufacturing partner, but once we had, we knew they were the right partner for us as they are just as passionate about the craft and people behind the clothes as we are.
Describe the ethical aspect of 8HS?
For us here at Eight Hour Studio, treating people, the planet and our partners with care and respect is crucial. We are all about building long-term relationships with those who share the same principles as us. We look to use suppliers who are committed to fair trade practices and sustainability. Social responsibility is at the core of what we do.
Artisans, working in Jaipur, Rajastahn
We currently we use Indian organic cotton (GOTS certified) and an Indian production studio that operates under fair trade practices. We are also supporting the art of hand block printing, an ancient craft that is slowly dying out as printers struggle to compete with mass production and fast fashion. Our production studio, like us, is deeply committed to continually improving the sustainability practices of the business. They use only fibre reactive, low-impact dyes that are also AZO free and free of heavy metals.
We are far from perfect, but continued improvement and innovation is key. Our impact on people and the planet is always at the forefront of our minds and conversations when we make business decisions.
- The artisans you work with are from India. Please tell us more about those working behind the collection.
We work closely with a fair trade production studio based in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Through regular calls and emails we discuss with them how to bring our designs to life and work through issues and challenges the production process may face be it weather related (dyes won’t dry during monsoon season!) and/or design related (can the designs be re-created using wooden blocks).
Block printing is a craft that is generally passed down from generation to generation and takes years to master. The skill required to hand carve the blocks, master colour palettes and then apply the prints by hand in a consistent manner is extraordinary.
There is also the team of tailors who do the cutting, stitching and finishing for us. All staff are paid fair wages and work in a safe and clean environment. They are employed on a full time and permanent basis so they have consistent and regular income, rather than on a contract basis which results in instability for the staff and their families. All staff and their families are also given medical care benefits and tend to live locally in Jaipur.
- Do you have any examples of how people purchasing your pieces have helped their livelihoods?
"Every time a consumer purchases a garment from us, they are effectively creating demand, and ultimately employmentfor a highly skilled community in Jaipur that is increasingly finding it difficult to get regular employment."
Modern mass production processes mean these traditional methods of production are under on-going threat. Their expertise is increasingly being marginalised and without consumer demand will continue to be so. This makes the link between people purchasing our garments and their livelihood very clear.
In addition to our fair trade production partner in India, we have recently started working with a small production studio here in London called FabricWorks (http://www.fabricworkslondon.org). We have been working with them on small projects based around using left over fabric from our production runs to create small luxury products such as shower caps and eyemasks. By using up as much of the fabric as possible we are reducing our waste. At the same time we are also helping them support the local community by providing textile training and development programmes for local unemployed women. Some of these women may then go on to join the FabricWorks skilled production team or work in the fashion and textile industry in London. By purchasing our products you are assisting these women in their efforts to learn a skill, seek employment and support their families.
- Your pieces are so versatile. Worn day and night. What is your favourite piece in the collection, how do you wear it?
This is such a tough question because I love all our pieces! However, if I were to choose one piece it would be our Navy Square Shorts http://ethicalcollection.com/collections/eight-hour-studio/products/cotton-shorts-navy-square.
I am generally not much of a shorts kind of girl, but this piece is so comfy, stylish and flattering. It is great for lounging around at home and for those warmer summer nights paired with the Camisole or Long Back T . In addition, the shorts are great when kicking about in summer with a plain T and sandals or when on holiday as a post beach or pool cover-up. Plus I absolutely love the print. Creating the navy square print, which is our take on tartan, was particularly challenging due to the large size of the squares, and that makes me love it even more.