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Bianca Spender on sustainable fashion: ‘There’s always a way to weave in something beautiful’

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Bianca Spender

The #MeToo movement, the 19th-century designer Emilie Flöge and the water stewardship council of Australia may seem to be unlikely inspirations for a fashion show but these are all part of the backstory for Bianca Spender’s latest collection.

On Monday the designer launched her resort collection at Australian fashion week. In a show staged in a cavernous warehouse with bare-brick walls, she sent a parade of young women down the runway in draped dresses, sculptural tops and tailored pants.

The collection was filled with glorious but unexpected combinations of mint green, terracotta, buttery yellow, royal blue and white, with a splash of fluoro orange. Even the most casual observer would have appreciated that the clothes looked both elegant and wearable.

But there’s much more to the design of these clothes than their expertly draped finish. Firstly, Spender didn’t start off thinking about the latest trends or the hottest colours; she began by thinking about the emancipation of women. “[I was] trying to think about the role that fashion has and the role that fashion has had in our lives in giving us power and freedom and equality.”

Bianca Spender in her studio three days before her fashion week 2018 show
 Bianca Spender in her studio: ‘I think [being sustainable] means being careful and respectful. That sounds really simple but it’s really complex in a creative world to be careful with your resources.’ Photograph: Carly Earl for the Guardian

She spent hours researching the Victorian dress reform movement, which brought about the abandonment of corsets, the push for women to wear pants in the mid 19th century, and the aesthetic dress movement, to which Flöge belonged. “[The aesthetics] were like it’s not beautiful to distort women’s bodies, why are we doing this?”

The dress-reform movement also shifted the emphasis of women’s clothes away from the waist and up to the shoulders – an idea that has changed Spender’s approach to design. “It’s really interesting when your anchor point changes, how you come about designing and what you’re allowed to hold off – for me, it’s a major shift.”

In her work, she’s also attempting to untangle some of the sustainability conundrums inherent in the fashion industry. The industry is one of the most polluting in the world and is often linked to worker exploitation, but Spender is looking for solutions.

“I think [being sustainable] means being careful and respectful. That sounds really simple but it’s really complex in a creative world to be careful with your resources, to be really respectful of every metre of fabric you use.”

She has used dead-stock fabrics – those end-of-run fabrics usually discarded by manufacturers – since she started her label almost 10 ten years ago. And she has now made a commitment to increase the use of those fabrics from 23{193319180524fe1cbcf93f2fa4436f311e82d10b1113c9fa2c57b372435e0a56} to 50{193319180524fe1cbcf93f2fa4436f311e82d10b1113c9fa2c57b372435e0a56} of her production.

A model at Bianca Spender's fashion show
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 Spender’s Australian-made clothes are accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia. Photograph: Matt Jelonek/WireImage

In this collection, the fluoro orange, mint, butter and graphic blue print fabrics were all dead-stock fabrics. Using these fabrics makes her more creative: “I had to find ways to weave them in because they are so beautiful and compelling. There’s always a way to weave in something beautiful.”

She has worked with the same makers for many years, and her Australian-made clothes are accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia. She’s also working with a company that makes recycled polyesters and recycled fabrics, she has got rid of most of the plastic in her packaging and she has worked with The Social Outfit on a capsule collection made by refugee and new-migrant sewing technicians. Her next challenge is working with Water Stewardship Australia to look at the Chinese companies that make her silks, addressing how they can improve their water usage.

Spender also believes sustainability is about creating clothes that last and she says she has worn many of her own clothes for about 10 years. “[My collections are] always designed to not be out of fashion next season, so that is also intrinsic in it.”

She’s not alone in her push to increase fashion sustainability: other Australian high-end brands including Lee Matthews, Ginger & Smart, Arnsdorf and KitX are trying to improve things, while smaller ethical brands including Vege Threads, Pure Pods and Good Day Girl are breaking through. There’s also an industry push with initiatives including the Australian Circular Fashion conference, and online retailers including Well Made Clothes.

But she knows there is much more to be done, individually and collectively. “I’m not going to solve it on my own, but I’m just trying to work with anyone who’s interested in working with it and look at all of these different layers to see what version I can do.”

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Original Article posted by : The Guardian

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Why A VVS Diamond Might Be Right for You

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Shopping for diamonds can be hard. With a stone so valuable and often gifted as a meaningful present, you’ll want to find the perfect one. When faced with so many options, it can be hard to know which type to choose, but we think that a VVS Diamond might be the perfect choice for you.

What is a VVS Diamond?

VVS is a clarity grade for diamonds and you’ll be able to find grades as VVS1 and VVS2. Clarity grades are assigned to diamonds by laboratories based on the imperfections that can be found within the gem. Depending on whether there are a certain number of imperfections, the colour and where these inclusions are, they can be more noticeable, and therefore earn the diamond a lower grade.

The highest clarity grades are Flawless (F) and Internally Flawless (IF). These are then followed by Very Very Slightly Included – VVS – and this grade has two different levels of VVS1 and VVS2. The final grades are Very Slightly Included, Slightly Included and Included.

Almost Flawless

Since they are nearly flawless, the imperfections on VVS diamonds are hardly visible. In fact, there are so hard to see, they can only be seen under high magnification. In some cases, the imperfections can’t be seen by a jeweller’s magnifier. This can mean that you’ll be able to get yourself what looks like a flawless gem but with a slightly lower price tag.

Variety of Choice

When buying a round brilliant white diamond, imperfections are hard to identify anyway, so it is recommended that you go for a VS or SI diamond. However, when looking for a larger diamond, imperfections will be seen more clearly so you’ll want to find a higher clarity grade.

In addition to this, finding a fancy shape, such as a heart or princess cut, more of the diamonds available will be VVS. The same goes for locating a coloured diamond. This is because the colour and shape of a diamond will determine how easily identifiable imperfections are.

Pricing

This could be considered a pro or a con depending on what angle you’re coming at this from, but VVS diamonds could be cheaper than opting for flawless diamonds and they won’t be any less beautiful. But, as the clarity grade improves, the price will increase and choosing a lower clarity gem won’t necessarily see much difference.

Investment

If you’re seeing your diamond purchase as an investment, a VVS diamond is a rarer find than lower clarity grades. However, in general, diamond resale prices won’t necessarily increase. Especially with white diamonds, you’ll find it’s hard to sell your gem for much higher than the price you initially paid for it. If you’re looking to purchase a diamond as an investment, it’s recommended that you opt for a fancy color instead.

Overall, VVS diamonds have fantastic appeal. It’s the perfect option for those wanting something flawless to the eye, but with a lower price tag. Not only this, but they can come in a wide variety of cuts and finishes that will match your personal preferences and desires.

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Why Do We Propose With Engagement Rings?

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Proposing with an engagement ring just seems like a fact of life – the sky is blue, the grass is green and when you want to marry someone you buy a big beautiful ring and propose. But this hasn’t always been an accepted tradition and derives from symbolic gestures of eternity and ownership in different ancient cultures.

So, why do we offer a ring to the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with? When did the tradition begin and what does it mean? How has it become such a widespread and accepted tradition?

It all dates back to Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians saw circles as a symbol of eternity, so newly wedded couples would create rings out of braided reeds to exchange as a token of commitment. These rings were worn on the left-hand ring finger, due to the fact this finger contains a vein that runs directly to the heart (named the Vena Amoris at a later date) – the heart was also a symbol of love even in Ancient Egypt. This is the oldest documented use of rings being exchanged as an engagement ritual.

In 2nd Century B.C., the Ancient Romans are believed to have started the use of betrothal rings as an offering to the bride instead of money or other valuables. The symbolism involved here is distinctly less romantic than in Ancient Egypt or in modern times – this was about signalling the man’s ownership of the woman. The woman would wear a gold ring during the wedding ceremony and while attending other significant events. Then, while at home, the woman would wear an iron ring as a reminder of her binding legal agreement i.e. that she has agreed to be owned by her husband.

So far we have seen modest woven rings to symbolise eternity together, gold rings to signal ownership in public facing ceremonies and iron rings to remind wives of their legal agreement. When did diamonds and other glitz come into the equation? Diamonds didn’t come into play until many centuries later, as late as 1477, when the Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a ring that had flat pieces of diamonds spelling out the letter “M”. After this, the rest of the European nobility had to follow suit and began adding more extravagant jewels as a way to show their prowess. There are also documented uses of romantic rings in the Middle Ages called “posey rings.” These rings had romantic poems engraved on them and would be exchanged between couples.

The use of diamonds became widespread after 1880, following the DeBeers Mining Company’s exploits in South Africa. The company adopted the slogan “A diamond is forever”, and told men they should spend two months wages on a ring. Somehow, this advertising venture became embedded into our culture, and by the 1940s it was widely accepted in Western Culture that you had to propose with a diamond. Nowadays we are flooded with wonderful engagement ring options, such as tiffany engagement rings, and have more choice than ever on how we propose.

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