Ciel is a contemporary womenswear and lingerie label with a simple design aesthetic to make beautiful clothes from the best possible green fabrics. Ciel signature hand knits and quilted parkers, relaxed boyfriend sweaters, beautiful soft organic alpaca knitwear and sophisticated draped jersey, which sit well between the vibrant Liberty up-cycled print silk dresses, organic cotton underwear and silk lingerie. Ciel’s range presents design-led, hand-finished garments with an eco-philosophy at its heart.

This week I was able to catch up with the designer of this unique brand, Sarah Ratty, on her first time exhibiting at Somerset house.

Q. Sarah, tell me a little about yourself and your design background?

Well my mum was a fashion lecturer at Brighton University, so I’ve been trained in the fashion way since the age of four. I’m very interested in the history offashion and textiles and I look at quite a lot of vintage pieces. I’m very inspiredby the fashion of the 40’s and 70’s.

Q. Would you say this reflects your own personal style?

Yes definitely, I like to do fusions, taking elements from different times and mix it up with more modern styles.

Q. What projects have you got in the pipeline?

I’m doing a collaboration project with Liberty Art, where I’m up-cycling the Liberty archive prints. So we’re doing limited edition pieces, and I’m doing a collection that’s going into Whistles in April.

Q. What was the inspiration behind doing ethical and sustainable fashion?

Well I’ve always been an ethical fashion designer, ever since I started with my first brand, Conscious Earthwear. I started with recycled knitwear from post consumer waste, had it laundered, and then we’d make these wild and wonderful creations out of Aran knits.

Q. How do you ensure that you work in a sustainable and eco-friendly way?

Well I’ve always used recycled and up-cycled materials, but now it is great as we’re also making our own hand-knits out of baby alpaca. The alpaca is organic and un-dyed so it comes in 36 different natural shades…so it’s quite exciting for me as a designer to have come full circle.

Q. Have you encountered any challenges when trying to adhere to this ethical philosophy?

Well I find that the restrictions you place upon yourself can make you more creative. That’s something that certainly happened for me. My whole ethos was that I wanted to try and make every garment range that I could, but in a green way, whilst also ensuring that it is modern, contemporary and has its own story.

Q. So what’s the story behind the organic cotton underwear and the Liberty upcycle print lingerie?

Well, because it’s the international year of the tree, I wanted to use the work I’m making to talk about the ocean of breath that we share, and to bring focus whilst still integrating into the rest of the collection. So this Autumn/Winter collection is like Amy Johnson meets Hansel and Gretel in the forest.

Q. What do you think the future is for sustainable fashion?

I think that as people become more aware, it will be the norm for the fashion industry. That’s what I want. I went to the UN last year and I was on a panel talking about the rise of the ethical consumer and what’s next, and from this I
created something called the Designer’s Green Call. This was to get people to sign up and say what it was they’d like to see in the next 10 years in terms of fashion. The feedback was universal – we need for recycled polymers to become the norm, we don’t need to have virgin polymers anymore.

Some very exciting news recently has been that Walmart has said that for futureproductions they want all of their polyesters to be from re-cycled polymers. That’s huge because that opens up the supply chain for everybody. I think it’s really important that we work hand in hand with companies like this, and designers that are here are leading the way.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring ethical fashion designers?

Do it, don’t think too much. Do it and enjoy it. Have a go and make something happen.

Stockists include: Frameworks, Japan; Igigi, Hove (UK); Eco-Age, London; Whistles – UK. For more information on Ciel, visit the online shop www.cielshop.co.uk.