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123 Bethnal Green Road: An interview with Ross Barry and Michelle Goggi

In the first of a series of tasters from Amelia's Compendium of Fashion Illustration meet the brains behind eco fashion store 123 Bethnal Green Road. Soon to be the official book launch party venue!

Written by Amelia Gregory

Gareth A Hopkins 123 SS2011
123 illustrated by Gareth A Hopkins.

123 Bethnal Green Road recently opened shop after a lengthy renovation of its Victorian corner store in a prime position right at the top of Brick Lane in east London. Hosting three floors of own label designs as well as those of cult designer Noki, what exactly is this new fashion brand all about?

“Some people might think it foolhardy to open an eco-fashion concept store in the midst of the dreaded credit crunch, but so far the reception has been great,” says Ross Barry, co-owner with sister Michelle Goggi. Having abandoned their previous careers, in the city and in design and photography respectively, Ross and Michelle are now set to shake up the world of ethical fashion with their ‘sustainable canvas’ concept. “Ethical, sustainable, green and eco are all terms with very specific connotations. We wanted to do something new and exciting.”

With their 123 collection they have created a fresh look, starting with a sustainable (rather than blank) canvas. “Our aim is to make well-made, desirable, British clothing,” says Michelle. “We want to extinguish the belief that reusing and recycling materials is at the bottom of the fashion food chain.” This is a luxury store selling well designed products that just happen to be ethical as well; upcycled from waste garments and produced locally. Using vertical production methods, whereby an item of clothing can be taken from the cutting table to the store within a week, they are able to provide exactly what the customer is keen on; reacting and responding to new trends within a couple of weeks. Vertical production gives them incredible control over every element of the process and ensures a minute carbon footprint. 

LMB Textile Recycling was set up by Ross and Michelle’s father Lawrence, who also designed the ubiquitous green textile recycling banks that populate the streets of major cities. As youngsters Ross and Michelle were soon involved in the family business. “Other children got taken to the park at the weekend. We got taken to the sorting factory where we amused ourselves by jumping around in mountains of second hand clothing.” Their father’s motto was “where possible don’t pay someone else to do something you could do yourself” and this belief has clearly been taken to its natural conclusion with the creation of 123 Bethnal Green Road….

Read the rest of this interview in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration, alongside interviews with 44 other ethical fashion designers and 30 fabulous fashion illustrators. You can buy the book here.

123 Bethnal Green Road host one of their legendary pick ‘n’ mix sales this weekend: full listing info here.


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