Social Enterprise and Ethical Fashion - An interview with Ala Mairi

This post is a something a little different, and a first for the blog. I was recently introduced to Ala Mairi, a luxury ethical fashion brand which combines a fusion of traditional Scottish and Pakistani artisan techniques to produce beautifully handcrafted clothing and scarves. Ala Mairi is also a social enterprise which supports the artisans who produce the clothing, and actively encourages female entrepreneurship in both countries. These are things that are very important to me, and practices that I wish more designers and companies would take on board. So I was very excited when I was given the opportunity to do a wee short interview with the brand's founder and creative director Fatima Mahmood, to find out a bit more.


First of all, how important do you think is it to encourage female entrepreneurship? 

Absolutely essential, as Hilary Clinton said 'women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world'. We need women entrepreneurs to feel the need to improve the lives of others. We need to find the gap and teach skills ,educate the communities and focus on the outcome of the training. Make a way of sustainable income from the skills so they feel the sense of achievement, earning their own livelihood and self respect.

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting their own business or social enterprise?

Spend time with the community. Feel their need, feel what they are capable of, and find ways to help them. Living among the unfortunate will make your passion to set up your SE stronger, and when you start making the difference in their lives the satisfaction you will get is something money can't buy! Be strong, persistent and believe in yourself.

How has the Women Development Project improved the lives of the artisans you work with? 

The women can buy their own clothes and books for their children. They have sense of self worth and confidence now. The positive mental change is wonderful to experience, they have smiles on their faces and they don't feel victims of circumstances anymore.

What inspired you combine the fusion of Scottish and Pakistani culture in your designs, and how important is ethical manufacturing in both these countries? 

Meeting artisans from both countries and loving their work of art, the intricate craftsmanship is the inspiration. Ethical manufacturing is core of Ala Mairi. Hand woven fabrics by Scottish Artisans mixed with hand embroider, hand embellishments, hand dyed 100% silks.

And finally, if you had to pick a favorite piece from your collection, what would it be and why? 

The Ayla snood as I love the subtlety of the unique grey colour - in order to achieve such unusual colours we hand dye all of our fabrics. I think the handmade weave panel works really well with the hand embroidered motifs with contrasting hand dyed yarns. I love the Motif pattern as It was from my inspirations from fair isle motifs. I transferred the fair isle designs in wooden blocks in order to get the motifs for embroidery.

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Click below to find out more about Fatima, Ala Mairi, and the Women Development Project

Relaxing on a Bed Of Nails

Bed of Nails

I don't know if it's due to work, college, or just general life stress, but over the last few weeks I've had terrible neck pain and tension headaches. I've been doing my yoga and meditation everyday which helps to stretch out the body, ease general aches and pains, and makes it much easier to sleep. But nothing seemed to be able to shift my head and neck-ache. Then, I remembered watching a Joyous Health video months ago where Joy talked about her use of a acupressure mat to help with discomfort in her back. So, I had a wee look online, compared different brands and types, and then impulsively bought the aptly named 'Bed of Nails'.

Basically, it's a torso length mat (and additional curved pillow) covered in over 8000 tiny little spikes which are meant to activate acupressure points along the skin to release tension, increase blood flow, and activate 'happiness' hormones to reduce stress and relive pain. It can also help with cellulite, weight loss, constipation, blood pressure, headaches, insomnia and skin complexion. 

The instructions recommend laying on the mat 10-20 minutes a day, with or without clothing, depending on the desired strength. I've tried both. When you first touch the mat, by hand, it does feel intimidatingly sharp and spiky, but once you spread your weight out over it, it feels surprisingly comfortable. With the spikes directly against your skin it can feel a little uncomfortable at first, but much like a body brush, the discomfort soon turns into quite a pleasurable sensation. If you're looking for a less intense feeling, especially for the first go, then covering it with a think blanket or wearing a t-shirt helps to reduce the spikiness against the skin. Even against bare skin, after 30 seconds to a minute the pain completely disappears and you're left feeling tingly and relaxed. You do get left with tiny indents all over your skin for a few minutes afterward though, haha. 

The short term effects are a feeling of rejuvenation, relaxation, tingling and energy. In the long term (bare in mind I've only been using it for a week), the tension and aches in my head and neck have eased significantly. It's not like, once you get up off the mat, you're healed, it more that throughout the day, your muscles stay more relaxed and you feel more energetic. I'd like to see what effects it has over a longer period of time, so I'm definitely going to keep using it. The more you use it, the more you enjoy it. I actually look forward to it now, as bizarre as that may seem. 

Bed of Nails

You can get it here, or here.

Have an awesome week.

Winter Folklore - An interview with Braintree Clothing

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Braintree Clothing recently contacted me to tell me about their newly launched A/W range. I had a look through the website and fell in love with the cosy, eclectic feel of the new collection. The most recent range is Winter Folklore, which has an laid-back, vintage feel, featuring vibrant folksy prints in rich jewel colours. There are lots of the warm layers and chunky knits that you'd expect from a winter collection, but in a variety or cuts and styles to suit different tastes and body types. There are more basic styles, like leggings and tops, which are perfect for yoga, as well as more detailed patterns and prints in the dresses and cardigans.

Luckily, I was given the opportunity to interview Jo Woodman, a member of the Braintree team, to find out more about it.

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First up, describe Braintree's signature style in five words or less. 

Unique, eclectic, flattering, feminine, relaxed.

Now, what was the inspiration behind the autumn/winter collections? 

Key trends in our autumn/winter '14 collection include jewelled rich colours, folk and vintage inspired prints and embellished unique styles. We were inspired to give our customers some great relaxed, casual weekend pieces, which were easy to layer up during the cooler months. We combined with our pretty, feminine prints and quirky styling details which Braintree is known for.

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If you had to pick a favourite item of clothing from the new range, what would it be and why? 

I always go mad for warm and cosy knitwear pieces during Autumn/Winter! Braintree have a lovely range of new, unique, organic knitwear pieces for AW14. My favourite would have to be the Calluna Tunic. It’s a casual but super cosy piece to through on with jeans and boots, but the fairisle pattern makes it extra special and unique. It would be perfect for snuggling up in during Winter and I could see me looking forward to wearing it every year.

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What was the inspiration or desired feel for the lookbook?

Our lookbook is overflowing with exciting new prints, floaty romantic dresses and tunics, and cosy knitwear in deep jewel tones. We wanted to inspire customers with a huge variety of easy to mix and match options and unique, eye-catching looks.

And last but not least, if you could only wear leggings and tops or dresses and socks every day for the rest of your life, which do you choose and why? 

Oooh, this is tough one! I’m obsessed with both Braintree’s bamboo socks and bamboo leggings so would really struggle to live without either! Looking at my wardrobe though, it’s probably made up of 90 percent dresses, as I practically live in dresses all year round. So I guess it would have to be dresses and socks for me.

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I had a lot of fun speaking to Jo and learning about Braintree. Some of the winter collection looks so lovely and cosy, I think I'm going to have to treat myself. Checkout the full collection at and use promo code 'WONDER' to get free delivery (until 01/01/15). 

LoveLula Beauty Box - November '14

Yep, it's that time of the month again. No, not that time. I meant it's time to post what I got in my beauty box this month. 

Barefoot SOS - Face and Body Rescue Cream
This advanced formula provides a welcome relief to dry or sensitive skin. Intensely rich and nourishing, and suitable with those with eczema.

Suti - Cleansing Balm
This handcrafted organic Balm transforms into an uplifting oil on contact with the skin; part of the Suti's beautifully balanced range designed to nurture body, mind and spirit.

Giovanni - Deep Moisture Shampoo

A luxurious formula to soothe dry and chemically processed hair; increases shine and delivers a finish that's as smooth as silk.

Jason - Brightening Apricot Wash
A gentle, soap-free foaming Scrub to polish away impurities and remove Makeup leaving skin clean and comfortable. Mild enough to use every day.

Hello Fresh gift card
Top chefs create exciting step-by-step recipes, sourced with the exact fresh ingredients delivered to your door for free, to cook delicious meals at home. 

Living Nature - Nourishing Hand Cream
This rapidly absorbed had treatment blends healing Manuka Honey and Larch Tree extract to repair chaffed hands and give extra protection from moisture loss

I'm really happy with the size and quality of the products this month. I've tried out the creams and they're brilliant. I'm looking forward to using all the items, I like getting to experience new brands and products every so often. 

I'm interested to hear if you've used any of these and what you thought, or if there's any other green beauty products that you recommend. 

Have a brilliant day.

Ethical Box - The Ethical Marketplace

The new online marketplace, Ethical Box, has launched, and to celebrate, their hosting a pop-up event in London on the 29th-30th of November. The event is run over two day and will introduce customers to some of the best ethical brands around, such as Faulkner London, The Fablelists, Jara Wine, Buttress &Snatch, and US Fashion Source. For more information and how to get there, checkout their Facebook page.

Those who can't make the event can check out the website to see some of the first products available. They host a whole range of sellers, offering all kinds of goods, like clothing, accessories, jewelry, and beauty products. I picked out some of my initial favorites. 

I'm a sucker for plum, and I'm a sucker for Chelsea boots. I want these so bad.

Yes, those shoes have badgers on them, how cool is that?

I'm really excited about this site because it makes it easy to browse and buy ethically responsible products. What's more is that there is some seriously awesome stuff, from brands that I previously didn't know about. I think this is a huge step in making ethical fashion more accessible and appealing to a wider audience, which will hopefully be another way to help it move into the mainstream. So check out the site and let me know what you think, 

I hope you've had an awesome week.
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