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By Chiara Spagnoli Garbardi
British designer Lucy Tammam, fashion graduate of the prestigious Central Saint Martins University, is the creative director and designer of the first “VegSoc” approved couture brand. The UK Vegetarian Society is the oldest vegetarian society in the world, established back in 1847 as an educational charity working to support, represent and increase the number of vegetarians. The charity exerts with businesses, government agencies, policy makers and professionals, and for the first time in history it has given its blessing to a fashion brand, to acknowledge that Tammam offers high fashion with a conscience.
Ever since it was born in 2007, the London based brand has been sustainable, animal friendly and supportive of Fair Trade. Lucy – who has been a vegetarian for over 20 years as well as a young activist fighting for animal rights – started her ethical couture maison with her life savings and a small grant from a vegetarian charity. Her initial wholesale market pieces eventually grew famous amongst the high society of London celebrities and eco brides.
The label has designed seasonal high end collections that have been showcased at Fashion weeks in London, Paris and New York, and Tammam is regularly featured in national, regional, and international press, on television and online. But despite the grandeur of the customers and feedback, Atelier Tammam likes to keep a low profile: the small traditional fashion studio and showroom is based in the heart of Bloomsbury, central London, offering a personal experience to clients, who can book an appointment for a consultation to discuss their wedding outfit, from the dress to the entire apparel, including shoes, jewellery, headpieces, veils as well as hairstyles and makeup.
The making of the wedding gown is purely artisanal: a team of tailors in Banglore and Kolkatta will create a “toile” (a mock-up of the dress in lightweight organic cotton fabric) for the bride to try on in order to check the fit and ensure she is happy with the style of the dress. Clients are also welcome to suggest design alterations or additions: each gown is a unique piece. All embellishments including embroidery, beading, bespoke lace, printing are created by expert craftspeople in India, but before the dress is finished it will return to the Bloomsbury atelier and the customer will be invited again for a fitting before the London seamstress gives the final touch.
It’s very moving to discover that the some of the embellishments made in Bangalore have affected the lives of local women so positively: Ammu, for example, is a skilled embroideress who has overcome illness and oppression with help from the organisation that runs the unit that works with Tammam. And she isn’t the only one who has benefitted by Lucy’s ethical brand: some of the tailors she trained have moved on to open their own successful independent businesses.
Needless to say that nature comes in the picture of Tammam’s beneficiaries, since all clothes utilise dyes that are AZO free and the fibres are vegetarian. Tammam team members develop their own fabrics on hand looms using fibres such as peace silk, banana fibre, organic Fair Trade cotton and nettle; Tammam spent the last 10 years researching and developing fabrics that are suitable for couture whilst being vegan-friendly. And when vegan fibres can’t be created, upcycling or vintage materials become the key solution to vouchsafe the eco-credentials of the brand.
If the brides-to-be choose this brand, they can rest assured that what they will be wearing won’t use any animal skins or materials obtained through cruel practices, and the entire team of workers behind the making of the dress will have been treated with respect and paid according to WTFO certified ethical policies–a good way to start a ‘new life’, indeed.