Ethical fashion used to have a bit of a reputation among those who like to consider themselves très chic and über-stylish. As in, fine for festivals, and maybe the village fete, but for anything smart, or for work, or especially for a wedding or special event – er, no.
But one shop in York has been at the vanguard of encouraging a very different view of ethical fashion, its store windows and photo shoots proving that you don’t need to compromise on style when you choose clothing with a conscience.
Maude and Tommy can be found on Grape Lane, not far from York Minster. It was opened nine years ago by Anne McCrickard, with the founding values that her business would aim to be a positive force in the world, stocking only products that provided a decent wage for skilled workers around the globe, choosing brands conscientious regarding their environmental impact and with all business practices determined by principles of justice and equality.
But Anne was adamant also that Maude and Tommy would not be the sort of ethical fashion shop that took itself too seriously. “From the beginning, my whole concept was definitely not to have an earnest outlook,” she says. “I want people to buy things – and most people do – because they just love the product, rather than because it’s ethical.”
When she first opened the shop, it was called One Ethical Boutique, but changed the name to Maude and Tommy five years ago, after a brother and sister, who used to babysit her when she was a little girl. “I have fond memories of them, so I thought: ‘Oh, I’ll call the shop that’,” she says, adding that sadly, this “rather old-fashioned” farming couple were no longer around to see their name adorning her shop.
Anne grew up near Keswick in Cumbria and worked for many years as a solicitor in London, moving to York in the late 1980s and teaching law while she had her three children, now grown-up. “And then I decided I was going to do what I’d always wanted to do,” she says. “I’ve always been really interested in textiles. My mother taught me to sew.”
She doesn’t design her own clothing, although she might one day, but instead selects beautiful designs made ethically in the UK and around the world, with brands including People Tree, Braintree and Komodo, which produces in Nepal.
Customers are a wide mixture of ages, and York is the perfect place to be, both for a local regular clientele, and for the city’s huge numbers of visitors. Many customers visit York actually to seek out the shop.
“We encourage people to have styling sessions. We’re quite happy to help people dress up and come and have a play, really, try lots of things and find out what they like,” says Anne.
And “posh dos” are definitely on the agenda. “We do sell a lot of clothing now for special events,” she says. “We sell it to the sort of woman who wants something that they feel they are going to be able to wear again, so they look smart, but it’s never rigid.”
Ethically produced, and then ethically reworn – a very welcome alternative to throwaway fashion.
Photography: Mike Nowill at www.mikenowillphotography.co.uk
Models: Rebecca Jade King and Rowen Ford
Hair and make-up: Kirsten Riddleton
Location: York city centre