This post was sponsored by WYNAD, all thoughts and opinions my own.
Serendipity is a funny thing. Sometimes small moments of coincidence seem so specific and uncanny that they must have come about by design, and yet the very nature of a coincidence makes it impossible. I think about this a lot, chance encounters that become highly significant in years to come. Things we can only ever see as pivotal moments retroactively. It’s pretty cool isn’t it?
This is definitely the case for me when it comes to WYNAD Clothing. They may be a new UK sustainable fashion brand, but they aren’t new to me at all. I actually first met the founders, Hannah and Rob, four years ago. Hannah is also a trained dancer, and she and I worked together back in 2014, assisting on a project with disabled young people. We worked together for about a week, and I met her partner Rob in this time too. After that we became facebook friends, and vaguely stayed in touch in that internet kind of way.
Circle back around a couple of years, and we’ve both also found ourselves working in ethical fashion.
WYNAD’s mission is gender equality through sustainable fashion. The business began as a collaboration with rural development charity TGG Foundation who are based in the district of Wayanad, Kerala. A few years after we met, Hannah and Rob travelled to Wayanad to volunteer with the foundation. TGG operates a stitching workshop in the area known as the “women empowerment centre”, providing jobs, fair pay and training to women and young girls in the local community. Like many areas of rural India, the women in Wayanad are more likely to work in labour intensive agricultural jobs. These roles often have no job security, health benefits or pension, and on average the women are paid 48% less for their work. The centre offers women an alternative to farm labouring alongside training and development, fairer levels of pay and access to benefits and a pension.
It was upon seeing the work of the TGG Foundation that Hannah and Rob first had the idea for WYNAD; a social enterprises with the intention of supporting this initiative and eventually others like it by creating sustainable, Fair Trade fashion, whilst also donating 10% of all sales to women empowerment projects in rural India. In 2017 they were offered funding from the Reward Gateway Foundation to return to India and set up WYNAD properly, and in June began working on designs for the 2018 collection.
And it is the designs that have me really excited. As soon as Hannah mentioned the words ‘post punk inspired’ to me, I was hooked. I bloody love post punk. Joy Division is my favourite band of all time, and my regular work soundtrack since my teenage years has consisted of bands like The Talking Heads, The Cure, Simple Minds and New Order. As well as liking the music, I love post punk because it symbolises experimentation. It can be weird and avant garde, it’s energetic and vivacious, it’s complex, it’s willing to try anything out in order to create something interesting, and it mixes a whole ton of influences from art theory and culture into the mix. Look at Joy Divison alone, whose work included a variety of political tableau, highly intimate lyrcism, physics, crazy dancing and recording percussion in toilets. Post punk at its best resists simplicity or easy classification.
This is exactly why Hannah and Rob were drawn to it too. It turns out that not only do we have very similar tastes in music, but they also love that experimental edge.
‘We wanted to create clothing that was classic but incorporated a modern twist that was unique to us. For example a short sleeved shirt with an Oxford collar is a classic, timeless piece but if you print it with an abstract design using natural dyes and working with block-printing artisans then it takes on another dimension and becomes unique to us. We wanted our collection to mostly contain wardrobe essentials, things that people could easily connect with, but then for their to be some real stand-out pieces that were more like contemporary pieces of art’
Their 2018 launch collection is a men’s and women’s summer line featuring 21 individual pieces that are largely influenced by the post-punk movement. The designs come from Arpitha Raipally, a graduate of NIFT in Bangalore who has worked with brands such as Diesel, Banana Republic and Levis, and Grace Quinn, a graduate of Wimbledon College of Arts who has a keen interest in gender neutral fashion and breaking down barriers when it comes to gendered clothing (hear hear!). You can read more on the design process here.
WYNAD Clothing have partnered with Fair Trade accredited production houses such as
Jacobs Well (Bangalore), Tharangini Block Printing Studios (Bangalore) and Freeset Global (Kolkata). Each of these businesses reflects the mission of WYNAD and share its philosophy of people over profit. The fabric for the collection is either 100% GOTS certified organic cotton or an innovative alternative to silk made using lotus flowers in Fair Trade conditions. GOTS accredited, low impact dyes have been used alongside ancient natural dying and printing techniques to create their specific aesthetic.
And this aesthetic definitely doesn’t shy away from the post punk attitude of experimentation. Pastel colours sit alongside abstract, bold prints inspired by artists like Keith Haring. Easily accessible options like black and white mix with a flash of leopard print, a pop of pink, or a bright yellow trim. Contemporary and classic blend together, informed by an infectious curiosity and playfulness. It truly captures the spirit of post punk, and it most definitely isn’t able to be pigeonholed. I think this is why I love the genre, and these designs, so much. Because much of that is how I like to see myself too.
I’ve been learning a lot about this recently when it comes to styling. Since I turned 25 I’ve truly come to embrace how much styling means to me as an external projection of who I am, and it’s incredibly empowering when you have full agency of that as opposed to following fashion trends. So as much as I do love minimal aesthetics, intricate details and delicate handmade fabric, I’m also allowed to be complex enough to also love that messy, loud, avant garde side of styling too. I’m allowed to love simple classic tailoring and a wild bright colours at the same time. I’m allowed to be both thoughtful and nuanced, and brash and fun simultaneously. I can talk politics and get down on the dance floor in the same night. This is the freedom that post punk ideals have allowed me to embrace for the last decade, and this is the first fashion collection that I’ve found that speaks to me on that level. I realised that I don’t have to always wear flattering silhouettes, or things that I’m told will make me look my best, if I don’t like them. Instead I’ve been embracing styling as an indication of my substance, and it’s been way more fun. I think this is what WYNAD has been doing too, is it any surprise that I’m stoked for the collection to be released?
The price per garment ranges from £25 to £100, so it’s also pretty accessible from that side of things. Although I would wear everything in the collection, my personal favourites are the racer back midi dress, the short sleeved kimono and the oversized pink unisex shirt (seriously, that shirt needs to get in my wardrobe). In that perfect mix of complexity, WYNAD combine function, form and fun in a way that’s both playful and empowering, what’s not to love? Just make sure to add some Joy Division or Talking Heads to your getting ready playlist and you’ll be good to go.
If you live in London and are interested in WYNAD’s work, you can see them for free next Saturday 28th April at Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution. It’s a free showcase running through the day where you can discover, browse and buy from a full range of independent ethical fashion brands, so go and say hello for yourselves!