Eliza Eliza: Slow fashion that gives back

by Hanna Pumfrey

Everyone loves a bargain but the true cost of that latest wardrobe addition is woeful. We are increasingly disconnected from the people who make our clothing as 97% of items are now made overseas. There are as many as 40 million garment workers in the world today; many of whom do not share the same rights or protections that we do. They are some of the lowest paid workers in the world.

The garment trade has the potential to lift the nations that make our clothes out of poverty in the same way manufacturing transformed the lives of tens of millions of migrant workers in China in the 1980s and 90s. But the relentless demand for ever-cheaper clothes from high-street stores and supermarket chains in the West is keeping workers' wages at levels as low as US$68 a month. An amount that pressure groups, unions and even some employers admit is barely enough to support the people whose sweat and hard work the industry relies on.

I believe that the responsibility lies with us, the consumers. We are supporting the culture of cheap products. If we can change our mind-set and start to understand that we don't only need to buy cheaply but we need to buy responsibly, that is when things will start to change. If we choose to buy one, sustainable product that has been made responsibly on our Saturday afternoon shopping trip rather than four irresponsibly made ones, the entire supply chain will change, because the market rules. It is us, the customer, who is the king. We have the power to change this.

I caught up with Elizabeth, the wonderful woman behind Eliza Eliza to hear her take on the fast fashion industry and to discover what drives her to produce her collections responsibly. Interview below.

eliza eliza interview flor and cesta

Tell me a bit about you.

I live in a small village just outside Cardiff with my husband and two young children. Before starting a family, I was a Geography Teacher. It was through teaching that I came to understand how so many areas of the Fashion industry are unethical and have such a negative effect on the environment.

Nowadays I’m juggling being a full-time Mum and running Eliza Eliza but when possible I love walking barefoot on our beautiful Welsh sandy beaches, building sandcastles and playing in the rockpools with my family. Meeting up with my friends in the local village pub, laughing until our sides hurt, or just finding time to myself to listen to a latest podcast.

What was the inspiration for Eliza Eliza?

Whilst on maternity leave I started experimenting with sewing things I needed, such as cushions, quilts and bags. I started selling a few things I made through Etsy and people really liked them. I discovered the British woven organic hemp-cotton I still use today and it just snowballed from there.

I’ve always been into clothes and dressing up, especially bags, even from an early age I would always have a bag with me. I wouldn’t describe myself as ‘fashionable’ though. I love classic designs that can be worn over and over again, timeless style items rather than trendy pieces. As a mother or indeed someone looking for a capsule wardrobe, you need clothing and accessories which can be dressed up or down and can be used for different occasions. The idea behind Eliza Eliza clutch bags is that they can be used for makeup bags, nappy pouches or from day to evening clutch bags.

What are your plans for Eliza Eliza and how do you remain sustainably conscious as you grow the brand?

I have so many ideas for Eliza Eliza and I have to rein myself in and remember the importance of doing one thing well and bringing my new ideas in slowly. My clutch bags and purses have been really popular and it has been so rewarding hearing such lovely feedback from my customers. I have had quite a few people asking about larger tote bags, which I would love to add to my collection in the future. I have an exciting partnership with a new charity coming up in September for a limited edition of clutch bags so watch this space. Being sustainably conscious is the heart of what Eliza Eliza is about, I will always look to use sustainably produced materials and donate to charities.

Why did you decide to donate some of your profit to charity?

Because it really does feel good to give back and I know that seems a little cliché but it really is true. I hope my customers get that warm fuzzy feeling as well, knowing that the bag they have in their hands has done good and helped somebody, somewhere, in some way.

If you could say one thing to all the CEO’s of fast fashion retail brands what would it be?

Where do you start? We seem to be living in a world where scarily it has become the ‘norm’ to be able to buy a top for £5 or even less. Society has become so unconnected with where their clothes and accessories come from! It doesn’t help that we live in a world where celebrities and Instagram influencers, idolised by so many, do their best not to be seen wearing the same outfit twice. My advice to the CEO’s of fashion retail brands would be to slow down the amount of collections coming into our stores. In some cases, retailers are bringing out new collections fortnightly! Encourage us to fall in love with our clothes and accessories again and want quality over quantity.

Thank you so much for talking to Flor & Cesta Elizabeth, it has been a pleasure to get to know you and find out more about your brand over the last few weeks. A wonderful collection and I can’t wait to see what September and your new collaboration brings.

For now, for anyone else who is interested in staying up to date with the latest news from Eliza Eliza, sign up to their VIP club and receive 20% of your first order.