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Ciel: meet ethical fashion designer Sarah Ratty

Sarah Ratty of Ciel was one of the first designers to engage in ethical practice in the UK. Now she's involved with so much more. In this excerpt from Amelia's Compendium of Fashion Illustration she describes the best way to design ethically.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Ciel S/S 2011 by Jo Cheung
Ciel S/S 2011 by Jo Cheung.

Sarah Ratty set up the label Conscious Earthwear in the early 90’s before creating the Ciel brand in 2005, website like this no rx which we profiled in the print version of Amelia’s Magazine. She currently also works as a design consultant and advises the Soil Association on sustainable issues.

How do you design your garments?
Each collection has its roots in the way I have developed as an eco fashion designer over the last twenty years. I usually start with fabrics, ambulance then I think about what garment shapes will best fit into the current zeitgeist and I combine these with my own influences from contemporary art, order travel, history and nature. I use as many innovative approaches as I can in fabrication and cutting techniques, as well as using the naturally diverse fabrics from a range of indigenous locations, which are made and developed in situ.

What is the best way to design ethically?
Within eco design there is inevitably some compromise but I always do my best to find the best materials to achieve the desired outcome. I use fairtrade materials and organic fabrics from factories in Europe and South America, all of which comply with fair labour laws as set out by Labour Behind the Label. We use azo-free dyes, which do not use harmful metal mordants to fix the colour. Heavy metals are highly polluting and contribute to toxic soil runoff if not treated correctly. We have recently started to bring some production back to the UK and we conduct a lot of our work via Skype to reduce our carbon footprint…

Read the rest of this interview with Ciel 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.


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