Australian womenswear label sass & bide is always a free soul. Without formal fashion training, its founders Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton leaped from their accountant and advertising art director positions to the fashion industry. From denim wear their products expanded to seasonal ready-to-wear without really a long plan (everything just happened in two years). In 2002, when Clarke and Middleton were in New York when Sarah Jessica Parker was filming a scene for Sex and the City, Clarke took out her self-styled denim jacket, handed it to a security guard to give it to Parker, who eventually invited the duo to make a few one-off pieces for the world-famed drama series. Heart is the only thing that guides the designers, and heart has led them to launch ‘Made with Love’ – an ethical fashion initiative in Kenya.
Since late 2012 when sass & bide joined the Ethical Fashion Initiative, a long term project co-organised by the United Nations and World Trade Organisation, the two designers have meant hope to the women of East Africa. The pilot, like the projects of Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney, resulted in a limited-edition shopper and clutch, produced from sustainably sourced materials by around 1,000 local African artisans who did the weaving and beading.
“Sarah-Jane and I recently visited the beautifully skilled artisans in Africa with Marion Hume and Simone Cipriani for the Ethical Fashion Initiative. The craftswomen we met are amongst the most talented in the world.” said Heidi Middleton. “There is a real truth, tradition and honesty about their work. The initiative combines fashion & poverty reduction, by supplying ongoing work for disadvantaged African communities. This assists predominantly women in feeding, educating & caring for themselves and their children.Our visit has created a strong and emotional tie with providing work to African artisans as we know each product has empowered many women across Africa.”
Upon discovering the city-within-the-city with skilful artisans galore, sass and bide worked with the rural artisans, who eventually started to work at the studio in Nairobi, to produce a limited collection, which means job opportunities to the impoverished.
“Fashion is a natural partner in the battle against poverty. Ethical choices allow consumers to do good while community producers do well.” — Patricia Francis, Executive Director, ITC
With little internal demand, the only hope for the skilful but impoverished is from the outside world. Fashion – one of the most dynamic industries in the world – is an important force to combat poverty and empower women, two of the Millennium Development Goals. International Trade Centre states, “by earning a regular income, women can improve the circumstances of their families and their communities. Work enables women to grow in confidence and gain respect. Everything we do is underwritten by solid economics and a strict code of ethics. While our production is 100% ethical and with a strong focus on environmental protection, this is not a niche “eco-fashion” project, instead a vast initiative reaching out to 7,000 artisans and across the world to fashion partners from Rome to Rio to Tokyo. We are truly local and global.”
Of course – by hiring their skills we are not solving all the problems. A sustainable difference can only be made if such ethical collections can be permanent and ongoing – the Made with Love collection is at the moment out of stock. Ultimately to keep it in stock, we must create the demand for them, and it is positive.
Enough talking about her legendary husband and eco-conscious daughter. The spotlight casts curiosity on her, just her. Linda McCartney the photographer. Linda McCartney the musician. Linda McCartney the animal rights activist who taught her daughter to care all living things, and taught the rest of us going vegetarian is the best thing the mankind can do for mother nature. “If slaughterhouses had glass walls the whole world would be vegetarian.” is remembered, and echoed by every winner of her Memorial Award presented by PETA.
Her photography was no less recognised. From the humble receptionist at Town & Country magazine who only learned photography of horses at an art centre from teacher Hazel Archer, she became the unofficial photographer taking pictures of the Rolling Stones in a record promotion party, and eventually pressed the shutter before artists like Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, John Lennon and Neil Young. She was the first female photographer shooting a front cover for Rolling Stone magazine, and her sensible portraits revealing the humane side of some of the unaccessible superstars of the time even graced the hall of V&A Museum – and now all are in the new TASCHEN publication ‘Linda McCartney – Life in Photographs’.
Her shots range from spontaneous family pictures to sessions with Janis Joplin and Michael Jackson, as well as artists Willem de Kooningand Gilbert and George. Always unassuming and fresh, her work displays a warmth and feeling for the precise moment that captures the essence of any subject. Whether photographing her children, celebrities, animals, or a fleeting moment of everyday life, McCartney did so without pretension or artifice.
The book, which comes in a limited edition (sold out!), hard cover edition and iBook version, features over 170 photographs selected from Linda’s archive of over 200,000 images. This collection was produced in close collaboration with Paul McCartney and their children. As such, it is a moving personal journal and a lasting testament to Linda’s talent.