Sunday, 27 June 2010

Behind Miss Butterfly - Beautiful Soul

Fashion, even eco fashion, is not one of my usual topics, but I was so enchanted and inspired by Nicola Woods and her creations that I wanted to write about them. Nicola is the designer behind “Beautiful Soul,” a rapidly rising eco-fashion label. 

I’ve met Nicola at the one of my favourite hangouts in London, the deliciously bohemian Candid CafĂ© in Angel Islington. While I was waiting for a friend, we got to talk and she told me how a trip to Japan in 2005 had changed her life.

Before the trip, she was a successful insurance broker. She was making good money, but didn’t particularly love her job. In Tokyo, surrounded by beautiful fabrics and designs, she had an epiphany and resurrected her childhood dream of being a fashion designer. 

 She went back to school and after graduating from  London College of Fashion in 2008, won a scholarship through the Centre for Sustainable Fashion and worked as a designer for Tabeisa, a South African charity supporting disadvantaged communities across Africa. “This sparked a determination to set up my own sustainable fashion label,” she says.

And so, she set up a studio in her bedroom and got to work – and Beautiful Soul was born.

Beautiful Soul’s pieces are beautiful and elegant, but it is their fabrics and multi-functionality that I found so exciting. The garments adjust and can be worn in a multitude of ways to suit different moods, body shapes and seasons. For example, the Mari Coat from her autumn/winter 2010 collection can be worn in five different ways from full coat with kimono sleeves to coat body without sleeves or kimono sleeves worn alone.

“Garment adjustability is important to a woman as her favourite piece can be cherished for a lifetime, regardless of a few additional pounds,” says Nicola.

Her fabrics of choice are Japanese vintage kimonos, vintage saris, Fair-Trade organic jacquard, British wool, handloom cotton and bamboo jersey – all recycled and/or from a responsible source. Embellishments and accessories are hand made by a small cooperative in South Africa.

“The vintage kimonos date back to the 1940s and by giving them a new lease of life, it is hoped that a Beautiful Soul garment can be cherished for a lifetime, maybe even passed down through the generations,” she says.  

Beautiful Soul’s SS10 collection - Miss Butterfly - is currently on display and stocked at the V&A Museum in London (in the gift shop). The collection was inspired by Puccini's Madam Butterfly and each of its unique pieces borrows its name from a famous Japanese Geisha.

Last year, Beautiful Soul has won the Ethical Fashion Forum’s Innovation award, was a finalist at Fashioning the Future and showcased at the Interstoff Asia, Hong Kong, promoting sustainable fashion design. And this year, Nicola presented her collection for the second time at London Fashion Week (Estethica) and has just created a bespoke piece for Lily Cole from a deep purple vintage kimono.  She likes her customers to visit her brand new Notting Hill studio overlooking Portobello Road to select their own  kimonos from her large selection, which she'll fashion into unique garments.

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