A colourful fashion blog supporting independents & sustainable fashion in Bristol and beyond since 2011

Sunday, 24 May 2020

I am R bring a '90s twist to African print accessories

Creating sassy colourful handmade accessories in bold African printed fabrics, I am R are making waves in the independent fashion community!

I can't deny that I may be on more than acquaintance terms with I am R designer, Rachael Liddle but there's nothing better than bigging up an independent brand when it belongs to one of your besties, especially when they are creating a product that's inspired by big, bold colourful prints - all No Debutante faves!

I caught up with my girl, Rachael with a Q&A about her accessories brand whilst decorating myself up in I am R‘s colourful, printed delights! 

Circle studs (love this colour combo) £10 by I am R

An Interview with I am R

What is included in the I am R range? 

I use African fabrics to create handmade accessories. I'm inspired by colour, bold graphic print and 90’s street culture. It started with earrings, and then moved to scarves, headbands, turbans and scrunchies.

I have a big basket full a fabric scraps and wanted to make sure I am using everything, so it just evolved from wanting to have a more extensive product range and having as little waste as possible. I’m trying to be sustainable and also only use fully compostable mailing bags too. 

Where are you based?

I have a small set up based in Enfield in North London.

Big & bold studs by I am R £10

Where do you get your fabrics?

I get most of my fabrics from a local market stall/shop that specialises in African print fabrics. I also have a friend from Ghana who also brings me a fabric haul back whenever she goes home!

What inspired you to start I am R?

I come from a graphic design background and have always loved being creative but had let it all slide for years, to be a grown up, with a day job and kids. 

I bought a pair of earrings one day and thought…I can make these. That’s where it all started really.

I have always loved African fabrics for their colours and geometry and I love prints.  I already had some African Kente fabric at home, so I just made a pair of earrings.  

I really enjoyed the process from concept to product. It started as a much-needed hobby and started to slowly turn into something that people liked and wanted to buy.

Polko dot monochrome hoops £12

When did you launch I am R?

Ha! I have had a year of soft launching! I started selling at a small local festival and did well.  That’s when I began to have confidence in what I was doing.  That was in July 2019.  I only have an Instagram page at the moment and I’m currently setting up a website.

Where can we buy I am R?

You can buy on instagram.  If anyone see’s anything they like they can DM me! I also do market stalls now and then in London.

Bright geometric hoops £12

How much are the I am R accessories?  

My products range in price from £4 for a scrunchie to earrings starting at £6. The turbans are £12 and headbands start at £15, the fleece lined scarves are £30. 

What is next for I am R?

I am currently working on some new earring designs and new products to add to my range.

African print earrings by I am R £10

How has lockdown affected your business?

Lockdown has affected me both negative and positive.  I have found it almost essential, that once the kids are sorted with school work, snacks and lunch, that I go into my workshop and start creating!

I have managed to make loads more than I normally would and I don’t feel guilty for having that time.  I love it, Missy Elliot ‘she’s a bitch’ full blast, that’s my - let’s get this done - jam at the moment. Ha!

Negatively, it’s harder to get some elements that I need in order to make things.  Suppliers are closed, supplying NHS with PPE as a priority (quite rightly so) or just long delays for orders.  This is something that is out of my control, so it’s fine.

What makes I am R unique?

All items are unique one of a kind, hand signed with a logo.  I don’t use many repeated patterns and colours, so once my two yards is used up, I will order a different fabric. 

The print turnover is quite frequent, so if you like it...get it!

Bold and bright I am R scarves £30 each

Super cute stud earrings £8

Thanks to Rachael for the I am R chats! Just as we were about to publish this post another bag of I am R goodies* arrived at the No Debutante headquarters!

This time full of headwear delights from scrunchies, headbands and turbans all handmade in those beautiful African fabrics. Lock in for photo shoot number two featuring lil' Sylvie (my hair certainly is not long enough for scrunchies!). 

Scrunchy love £4 and £4.50 for the scrunchie tie
Clashing up the I am R knotted headbands £15 each

I am R headwear is great for kids too! 

I am R Turbans (perfect for bad hair days & lockdown chic) £12 each. 
More is more in I am R scrunchies and headband!

Thank you I am R xxx

*All items were gifted by I am R. 

Monday, 11 May 2020

How to create upcycled face masks from pre-loved t-shirts.

A face mask upcycled from a pre-loved t-shirt

I have been meaning to make some face masks for a while and when I finally got a moment - it's certainly been business as usual in No Debutante world - I gathered together some fabrics that I've been hoarding and got to work.

After finding a fairly easy pattern online, I knocked up a sample and managed to perfect the face mask (on my second attempt, although I still managed to rework the practice attempt into a usable face mask) and the construction just fell into place.

The fabric

I upcycled cotton fabrics and t-shirts to create my face masks, it's a great way to reuse rather than buying new. Your chosen fabrics will need to be breathable so cottons and cotton jerseys are perfect for the job.

You can use elastic to make simple loop fasteners or make self tying straps using both cottons and t-shirts fabrics. (Read below for construction ideas).

I had to make a few masks as every member of my family of five requested one after I made my trial mask! The checkerboard fabric was very popular with the boys and Sylvie's tiny little floral face mask was made from an old top of mine. The rigid cotton fabrics look great with the pleats in and concertina out great when you put them over you face.

Sylvie in her super sweet child's face mask

My second face mask (see top image) was upcycled from a cotton jersey t-shirt. I had already cut a large section off the bottom of this t-shirt to make a crop top, so the left over large hem (that I have been hoarding) was reused to create the mask. 

Although I would say the cotton jersey is a little harder to work with as it is a stretch fabric, the finished product feels super soft and contours to your face quite nicely when wearing it. 

Get inspired and create face masks that suit your style. What better way to do that then using your own clothes and fabrics? I have chosen fun printed fabrics for my masks, I needed a mask that matches my style and cheers me up, even if my smile is hidden away under the mask!

When upcycling t-shirts I would recommend using either a plain coloured t-shirt or an all over print, placement prints may look a little odd when pleated up. I will always encourage experimenting though, maybe you can make a placement print work? If you do I wanna see it!

The ever popular checkerboard face mask!

Disclaimer alert!

These face masks are NOT PPE certified face masks, although the pattern does allow you to add a filter to your mask, if you wanted to (on this occasion, I did not).

These masks are simple, wear once and wash items, they are to be used for a short time only and replaced with another mask when needed. Which is why you may need a few masks to see you through your time when you are out in public - social distance abiding!

There is also contrasting evidence on whether we should be wearing them or not at all, with the UK not really embracing the face mask as much as other countries, it's been difficult to judge. A friend living in China warned that we would all be wearing them in the UK soon but alas, over a month in, this still does not seem to be the case.
I guess it really is up to the individual unless the current guidelines change. 

In my opinion, the masks are a useful thing to stop you spreading infection when you are out and about and they also act as a deterrent from touching your face! Plus you can use them when cycling too as a pollution blocker!

Different size face masks for adults, teens and children

Create your own face mask

The pattern I used for my face masks came from the Sarah Maker blog. Which you can find here this blog post has some very useful hints and tips, where Sarah also confirms that the masks are not a substitute for PPE.

This pattern is fairly easy to construct as long as you have basic sewing machine experience and knowledge on creating pleats in fabric.

The most fiddly bit for me was adding the elastics as this can pull the fabric in, so my only tip would be to pin in your elastics to the sides and pin the bit that goes around your ears away from the edge, so you don't sew the elastic into the side seam - lesson learnt! Ha! 

The best thing about these face masks is that they are completely washable so you will be able to wear them over and over again. Having a small selection - a capsule wardrobe of upcycled masks if you like -  is advised so you always have a clean mask available.

Give this pattern a go, I actually got a bit addicted to making the masks!

Perhaps you will have a bit of spare time to get involved with making them for the NHS / your local hospitals too, find out how about sewing groups in your area by checking local Facebook groups. 

If you are not that confident in using a sewing machine, why not ask local makers or family members to help you create your own face masks? Get in touch and I can help you upcycle your old t-shirts into several face masks or hook you up with other makers. 

As you know, news on social distancing and covid-19 can change on a daily bases, always keep up to date to follow current guidelines. 

Remember, there is also the option to wear a face mask whilst riding your bike too (for protection against traffic pollution) just because lockdown (as we know it) is coming to an end it doesn't mean you need to stop protecting yourself and others. 

Right, I'm off to find more hoarded fabric and old t-shirts to upcycle!

Stay safe x

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

How to support sustainable and slow fashion NOW - A new vlog for the Sustainable Fashion Chats series

Supporting slow & sustainable fashion is still just as important & relevant in a pandemic, find out why and how you can get involved with the new No Debutante Youtube & IGTV series - Sustainable Fashion Chats video below.

Featuring tips on reworking your wardrobe & slowing down your fashion consumption, alongside information about garment worker supporters Fashion Revolution and Labour Behind the Label

Follow No Debutante on IGTV and YouTube for more...

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