Fiona Kehily-Ives, originally from West Cork is a public relations consultant in London.
Q When it comes to buying clothes, what’s your top priority?
I have a few – the quality of the material is imperative, its origin (I prefer natural fibres produced in sustainable environments or localities in the UK or Ireland), how a piece is put together and, to a degree, exclusivity. I really dislike the throwaway culture that exists today – I prefer to save up and buy good quality or special pieces and look after them for the longterm. I try not to be a slave to trends either – it’s not practical. I buy classic styles and accessories which are made to withstand the test of time.
Q Do you know much about clothing manufacturing? What would be your impressions of the industry in general?
My impression on the whole is quite negative when it comes to the high street. I feel that I can’t avoid buying something that’s been produced in an unethical way in some way or another. I try to look at brands that are ethical or homegrown – brands that use suppliers who pay their workers properly, give them decent conditions and are mindful of the environment. But I don’t always get it right. Designer brands are just as guilty – that couture dress may be made of the finest silk and pearls but the ‘little sister’ brand won’t be as mindful about keeping supply to the minimum.
Q Do you think that more expensive brands are more likely to treat workers better?
Some maybe but I think there are nearly always clinks in the production chain – ie fabric may be produced ethically but what about the beads, the buttons, the thread or the zips? I’m pretty sceptical.
Q Is it something you have researched or are you happy to trust your favourite brands?
I’m always suspicious to be honest. But there are certain brands I trust – People Tree is a good example. And more clothing companies are basing their whole brand structure around sustainability. But we have to remember that people’s livelihoods depend on these lines selling so it’s good to raise awareness but some countries just aren’t as equipped when it comes to environment and employment law. This is a fact and won’t change overnight.
This project is supported by the Simon Cumbers Media Fund.