Ethical clothing designer Kim Berg: ‘Slow fashion is my way of helping the earth’

I grew up the youngest of eight kids. I was adopted at four days old. My biological mother was 15 or 16 years of age.

Ethical clothing designer Kim Berg: ‘Slow fashion is my way of helping the earth’

I grew up the youngest of eight kids. I was adopted at four days old. My biological mother was 15 or 16 years of age.

Straight away, my parents took me to our holiday home in Connemara.

I spent the first 12 summers of my life there, although our family home was in Dublin’s Mount Merrion.

Of the eight kids, five were adopted. While we were private school educated, I lived in hand-me-downs and bought clothes at church sales growing up.

It was only natural that we shared, given the size of our family.

Growing up, my best friend used to wear new designer clothes. But she thought our stuff was cool, and loved being in our house, which she thought was crazy in a good way, with all the kids. Back in the 1980s, people weren’t really materialistic. Or that’s the way I remember it.

When I was around six or eight years of age, I used to be given 20 pence for each shelf I cleaned when my mother was deep-cleaning our kitchen.

When I was 16 or so, I spent an entire summer painting the outside of our holiday house to raise the money for hair braids.

The Fancy Fawn kids’ clothes I design feature Irish flora and fauna. That’s my mum’s influence.

She’s massively into nature. She has been rescuing and caring for wildlife for years. I’ve seen her help many badgers and foxes.

If any visitors have mange she buys medication and sees they get it. She passed her love of animals and nature on to me.

I hope to do the same with my three daughters aged five, two, and six months.

Creating slow fashion is my way of helping the planet. That’s my thing. My clothes are well made, hand-made and meant to be handed down.

The fabric we use is OEKO-TEX certified. That means its made at mills that strive to reduce our collective impact on the environment.

The fabric is organic cotton. No harmful substances are used. I send out hand-written plantable greeting cards.

When planted, they grow into a little plants. Nothing goes to waste. All the packaging is biodegradable, the boxes, the tissue paper, and even the mailing bags.

The clothes are made in Minnesota. I’d love to have manufactured in Ireland but it would have been too expensive, given our size.

But we do use an ethical fashion house that manufactures on a small scale, and I’m working on moving elements of production to Ireland in the future.

I’m trying to get our 2020 spring- summer line GOTS certified, so they’ll be fully organic and of global organic textile standard.

I care very much about the earth, but it was boredom that inspired me to set up my business. My husband works away Monday to Friday, so I need to keep my mind busy at night.

Even with three daughters when you don’t have a partner at home during the week, it can be lonely. You can’t just invite over friends and neighbours, as they have their husbands.

So, I needed to find something for me and I’m so happy I did.

I work in a room overlooking the sea. At night, I leave the curtains open and design and iron by the window. It’s lovely.

I feel both hope and despair for the future of our planet. I try to stay positive for the kids. But Dublin is filthy and I’m hearing now that recycling is not enough.

Yesterday I walked the beach in Connemara and my mum and I filled the car boot with the plastic pallet wrapping, plastic sheets, and tooth brushes we found.

My eldest daughter helped us to gather the rubbish. She knows it’s not enough to collect shells, that we also have to collect litter, as plastic is killing the ocean and the animals in it.

As a family, we try to avoid plastic. We’ve swapped cling-wrap for reusable wax coated paper. We also use keep cups.

We’re renting right now, but we’ll be moving into our own house next year. We’re putting in two sparkling water taps, to cut down on plastic use. We’ll make everything as eco-friendly as possible.

We try to walk rather than drive when we can. As we live within walking distance of the local school, we leave the car at home.

Our neighbourhood is great.Car-pooling has really caught on which is good for everyone.

The designer I most admire for eco-friendly fashion is Mini Rodini. I love her and I love her stuff. She’s organic, and completely sustainable. She’s my inspiration.

In my work I’m hugely conscious of waste. As low waste is important, we aim to reduce cut-offs. Our patterns are cut in a way to ensure very little is leftover.

Even that fabric gets used in the making of scrunchies.

As for the earth’s future, education is really important. The schools are doing a really good job of teaching the kids about the environment and the importance of clean-ups.

The children are responding.

All around me, I see improvement.

One of my nieces has a soda stream, as she won’t buy plastic. Young people, in particular, are really well informed.

They are constantly teaching me things about the earth. Because of them, I feel great hope.

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