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An Interview With Bo Carter

I think people are becoming more aware of cruelty in fashion, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Bo Carter

It’s nearly one year on following the Rana Plaza Bangladesh factory collapse where over 1000 people lost their lives.
Recent news reports are claiming that the well known big brands sourcing from the factory, are now being urged to pay into a compensation trust fund, through the activity of international workers rights pressure group The Clean Clothes Campaign. http://www.cleanclothes.org/
With the issues surrounding ethical practices hitting the headlines again, Shlur spoke to Leeds based designer and ethical fashion crusader Bo Carter.
In this interview Bo shares with us her how her ethical stance shaped her own online business and how she believes more must be done to make changes in the fashion industry.

Your own collection is described as being “vegan” Have you found it easy going against what could be seen as the industry norm?
I personally don’t feel like I am going against the industry. Creating ethical friendly clothes wasn’t  a choice- it was the only way.  It is normal for me to do what I do the way I do.  I appreciate that not everyone is aware of the truth behind their clothes but I am hoping that one day people will know enough to make responsible choices.

Have you seen a distinct rise the demand for ethically produced fashion since you started?
I think people are becoming more aware of cruelty in fashion, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. I think people like to know where they clothes come from and are happier to pay extra to get “ethically friendly” products.  The Ethical Fashion Awards, like PETA for example help a lot.

Although a lot has been done in the industry to clean up its act over the years, the subject of workers’ rights came back into the spotlight last year and more recently following the collapse of the clothing factory in Bangladesh. Do you think enough is being done by big brands to tackle these issues such as working conditions?
No, unfortunately I don’t think there is enough done. Big companies put CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) into their business models- however I don’t always believe as they have been put in a place for the right reason.  It should never be part of advertising and making the company profile to look ‘better’.  It should be the choice and not just the government pressure, however if that’s the only way big companies will change their behaviour than we need even more impact from the government impact.  Accidents like the one in Bangladesh is not acceptable and this should never ever happen again.

An Interview with Bo Carter

Your clothes have a distinct and quirky feel. As a designer do you feel that creating ethical fashions makes you even more creative?
I am glad you noticed that.  I like to be quirky and different.  Even when I was a kid I always wanted to wear different clothes from everyone else.  I never wanted to follow trends and what’s “in” so-called fashion.  I wanted to be unique and stand out from the crowd and that’s what I am trying to achieve when I am designing and creating clothes.  I love playing with different fabrics and experimenting with them, I do absolutely love PVC and the ‘fake’ effect of it.  I must say I don’t feel like I am affected by not using leather or fur.

We see your career first started life following the 2010 Leeds Fashion Show. What did you do before this to get into the industry- did you study fashion at all?
I am self taught designer-  hence I love to experiment so much. Before that I was…an accountant.  Yes, I know they don’t really go together and you may wonder how on earth that happened!
Well, I always loved clothes and dressing paper dolls as a little girl was my favorite thing ever. The creativity was always in me but at the same time I liked numbers. But you can’t be creative with numbers. So I entered Leeds Fashion Show and the girls behind the show gave me so much belief in myself that I decided to make clothes for the show. Afterwards I fell in love with designing  and there was no stopping me!

I see you were at the Leeds fashion show last year, Shlur was there too and we had a great time. Do you think it’s important for independent designers to make use of local events like the LSF?
Absolutely yes!  Without LFS I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now. After I have entered the show Anjula Davidson ( the lady behind the show) told me:  “Everyone gets a chance of making their dreams real”.  I will stay grateful to her for rest of my life for those words.  LFS team works hard to make the show what it is. its great to see it getting bigger and better each year.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to make it as a designer?
It is hard work, so unless you prepared to work both days and nights don’t do it.  If this is your dream and you really want to make it work just go for it. When you see your collection on runway or in a magazine your heart will stop with pride – it is the greatest feeling ever.