Barker And Stonehouse

The United Kingdom is an old nation with a broad history of entrepreneurs. And sometimes, businesses pass through generations whilst keeping a family-centric vein and fusing in an increasingly modern approach. One such company, with a rich history and energetic future ispost-war-founded furniture retailer Barker and Stonehouse.

Barker and Stonehouse was first founded in 1946 by two Royal Air Force veterans, Charles Barker and Alex Stonehouse. After enduring the trauma of WWII, the two friends dreamt of bringing a bit of pizzazz to British homes after the dreary years of the war. In the time since, Barker and Stonehouse has remained a family company, with the Barker side buying Stonehouse out in the 1970s. They’ve also grown considerably too, since starting out on Stockton-On-Tees in the ‘40s, expanding around the north-east with stores on Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Gateshead, Darlington, Hull, Knaresborough, Leeds and Nottingham – ultimately reaching London. The brand has also been able to be agile and nimble enough to change with the times, shifting towards a more conscious approach to retail. 

Over the past decade, Barker and Stonehouse has vowed to become more sustainable, with some well-meaning initiatives. For starters, they’re founding members of Trees4Trees, a reforestation initiative in Indonesia. Focused on helping the environment, Trees4Trees doesn’t just plant new trees in deforested areas, they also host educational programmes on communal reforestry, advocating for a more responsible treatment of trees. Indonesia is arguably one of the world leaders in sustainable forests, with government policies aimed at reforestation and a solid commitment to transition to a low-carbon economy. Many British and European furniture brands have joined the Indonesian efforts towards responsible forest management to create durable pieces that respect our Earth.

Read more…
Mas Salagros, A Magical Eco Resort Right Outside Barcelona

My life can be a little hectic, with a busy career that keeps me travelling on a fairly regular basis and a toddler to care for – and whose childhood I have no intention of missing. When our family look for spots to have a holiday, even for a short weekend getaway, we want a space where we can relax for some down time with the option of action-packed activities if we are up for it. And on this last recent trip to Barcelona, that’s exactly what I got.  An eco resort with a strong focus on sustainability and environmentally friendly practices, which does not compromise on luxury or culinary standards. Sweet.

About 30 minutes away from the busy centre of Barcelona stands Mas Salagros, an eco resort that serves as a haven for mindfulness. Advertised as the first entirely eco-friendly destination in the Iberian peninsula, the resort meets the standards established in European regulations on sustainability in the hospitality industry. More specifically, every single slice of life in this place is crafted to be as eco-friendly as possible. For example, all furniture is handmade in sustainable materials, including the beds and their mattresses. There is an honest commitment to sustainable living, including following energy efficiency practices and using the most organic waste management system possible. These details were what drew me here, so you can imagine I had very high expectations of a spot like this – and I have to say I was quite satisfied. Read more…

Sustainable Toy Brands For Mums Looking To Break The Plastic Cycle – Tenderleaf Toys

Sustainability isn’t just the basis of my work in fashion: it’s a guiding force in my life. I make a very conscious effort to navigate the world through environment-friendly practices, such as trying to cut back on plastic consumption in all areas of life. When I became a mother, this way to see things came with an extra responsibility: I am now raising a small human to be aware of his direct impact on the planet. I wanted to pamper my child with beautiful and fun toys, of course, but I also wanted the things that surround him to be meaningful. And so the quest to find sustainable toys began.

As a new mum, I have a set of basic standards when it comes what I want my baby to play with. I’m looking for nice-looking toys that can help him through each stage of development, but I also need toys that will entertain him and keep him safe, which quickly eliminates more than a few brands that still use toxic components. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a synthetic plastic polymer with tons of harmful additives, has long been used to build toys, and it hasn’t been entirely phased out yet. Some of the biggest brands in the world continue to use this hard-to-recycle and dangerous plastic, which is good enough reason for me to steer away from those companies’ products. Unfortunately, crossing out brands that use harmful chemicals also diminishes the umbrella of options and so when it comes to eco toy sets, I am not there yet!

Finding environmentally sound toy brands with ethical work practices can prove somewhat difficult, even in Europe and the US. The amazing thing is that we’re getting an increasing number of choices, which in turn means they’re not a luxury anymore. Celebrities and royalty aren’t the only ones who can afford sustainable toys for their toddlers and growing children at this point, as there’s a growing variety of more affordable options. There’s no need for children in general to grow up surrounded by PVC and who knows what other toxic components.

Read more…

Sustainable Toy Brands For Mums Looking To Break The Plastic Cycle – Lanco

Tender Leaf is a fairly new company, but there’s another toy maker I recently fell in love with that has been doing this for decades. Barcelona-based company Lanco has been making fully artisanal rubber toys since all the way back to 1952. The raw material used by Lanco stems from the same place as Tender Leaf Toys: the rubber tree. For over fifty years, this Catalan company has manufactured natural rubber toys for babies and even pets. A family company, Lanco has been at the forefront of European toy making for quite some time, and it was a joy to discover them, as I became a mum.

The Lanco founder and grandfather to the current owners, Alfredo Benet Domingo, was an artist who fell in love with the endless possibilities of rubber. Feeling a deep affinity to children, he decided to focus his talents of creating beautiful and colourful toys for babies. In the 1950s’, sustainability and ecology weren’t particularly popular concepts; it was just the way things were done. It’s a testament to Lanco’s commitment to the craft than in over 50 years they never neglected natural rubber for more toxic materials, staying true to latex for more than half a century. Still, it was only recently, in 2015, that Lanco began focusing its corporate image on the sustainable practices that have been the company’s backbone throughout its history. The company’s manufacturing process occurs in their factory in Fez, Morocco; each toy then heads to Barcelona, the starting point for them to be shipped internationally. As it often happens with traditional and family-based companies, the better part of Lanco workers have been there for over two decades, and women comprise 64% of their staff.

One thing I like about Lanco is that they make toys for babies as young as one month old. The items are hermetically sealed so that no mould can accumulate inside, in turn making it safe for newborn babies that are still too young to be vaccinated, and are thus much more exposed to bacteria. Lanco fulfills every European toy standard, using only biodegradable materials, from natural rubber to food-grade dyes. Every single one of the Lanco toys is crafted by hand, from prototyping in Plasticine all the way to adding the colour details.

Lanco focuses on making toys for babies, with squeaky and silent varieties that are soft to the touch and completely safe for any infant to chew. They have a few collections specialising in one of the toughest moments of parenting a baby: teething, which can be painful and traumatic for everyone in the household. Teethers Amapola are comprised of simple and unicolor shapes for babies to grasp and bite; Teethers Huella toys are shaped as animals, helping babies become familiar with their shapes and stimulated by colours; Teethers Semilla toys are all in bright colours, shaped as plants and fruits; and Teethers Orilla are two-piece toys inspired by waves, showcasing sweet shapes like elephants and birds.

The Spanish company categorizes their baby-focused products on four age groups: 1 month, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months. The toys for each age are designed to fit each developmental stage, so, for example, toys for newborns have a focus on grip, which they can eventually change between hands.

Lanco also has a whole catalogue dedicated to one of the most traditional and beloved toys we inherited from the 20th century: the rubber duck. After manufacturing rubber ducks for over half a century, Lanco has this product down to an art. They go beyond the yellow rubber duck and expand to more colours, including white, black, green, purple and brown; there’s a holiday version with a Santa hat and they also have some “bad” duckies, including a Diablo one.

The classic versions don’t even begin to cover the wide variety present in the Lanco rubber duck arsenal. They have a multicultural line that includes a Viking and a Miss Piggy-type fashionista; there are work-inspired ducks like a bobby, a fireman and a DJ; and even some romantic ducks, from one holding a rainbow flag to a married couple. The options go on and they’re all very sweet and silly. It’s clear Lanco goes beyond simply making them for little kids; some of these can make a nice present for an adult who has stayed young at heart.

In all, I want my child to grow up in a world that’s increasingly aware of each product: where it comes from, who works on it and on what conditions, what measures are taken for it to be safe. The best way I can think of creating that kind of consciousness in him is by surrounding each step of his development with carefully thought-out items crafted by brands that care. I’ve fallen in love with the products and worldviews of Tender Leaf Toys and Lanco, and I can’t recommend them enough. I’m also madly excited to see my son go through each step of life, and I also can’t wait to find the toys that will help make him a happy and aware little human. Find out more about the company here.

Harley and Lola, impeccably sustainable

More than anything else, I believe in the relationship between fashion and sustainability. My personal quest on conscious living began designing and producing clothes ethically, and it has expanded to every corner of my everyday life – or I try my best for it to! There’s no reason living as sustainably as possible should mean drifting away from aesthetics, even when it comes to the customisation of our spaces – in fact, it should be quite the contrary. When redecorating my home, I was glad to see that sustainability has permeated the furnishings industry for a while, and the that the trend is still very much growing. When researching about sustainable British furniture brands, one happily kept popping up: Harley & Lola. While mostly focused on retail, they also have their own brand, which offers a comprehensive range of natural candles and diffusers, wood and Capri leather furniture. 

Take a look at the Harley & Lola website, you will know pretty instantly that this is a brand with a vision for our planet. On the homepage, centre stage, you’ll find information on their Green Scheme, a programme dedicated to being friendly towards our environment, by keeping their emissions as low as possible. Fully focused on responsible handling of their own carbon emissions as a business, Harley & Lola has a strong will when it comes to lowering their impact. Their environmental scheme consists of two major steps: carbon neutral delivery and free CarbonClix for every lb spent on their store. 

While it’s nearly impossible to fully eliminate the negative carbon imprint of shipping (products will always need to be moved around, most often in polluting trucks), this company is truly dedicated to offsetting emissions. The initiative is simple yet effective and when purchasing with Harley & Lola, customers have the option to choose carbon neutral delivery. Then, the company commits to balancing things out by either planting new trees or building green energy plants, whether they’re hydroelectric, solar or wind-based.

Read more…
Notre Monde give me goosebumps

Despite how it may seem, I am a housecoat and when work seasons get intense, I appreciate my time at home that little bit more. Being home means getting the chance to get “sit in” of everyday life, which feels a blessing when I’ve lost that sense of normalcy for a few weeks. That’s part of why I wanted to re-decorate my home in a way that made it feel almost like a sanctuary, an oasis. And finding a brand with a traveller’s heart like Notre Monde made all the difference!

Founded by American self-taught artist Dawn Sweitzer in 1997, Notre Monde designs stem from her art and travels. Her biggest inspirations are cultures from around the world, and she pours her experience with colours and the feelings evoked by certain places into her art. Back in 2013, Notre Monde became part of the larger Ethnicraft Group, thus expanding its reach. The merger also gave Notre Monde a new crew of artisans from all over the world, most particularly from their large factory in Java, Indonesia. Notre Monde works towards doing everything in-house: designing, producing and distributing its products.

Read more…
Pure Thoughts, a Britain-Made Alternative to Conventional Candles

I love having candles around the house, particularly those that work their aromatherapy magic. However, I also have an infant at home, and my number one priority is always keeping the safest environment possible for him. Having a small child has made me hyper-aware of the number of mainstream things that contain harmful chemicals, and scented candles are no exception. Babies are highly sensitive to smells and chemicals, and it turns out that traditional candles release a lot of toxins when they’re burning. With that knowledge, my quest to find natural candles that wouldn’t jeopardise the health of my family began: the last thing I’d ever want to do is pollute the air inside the safe space of my home.

As an aromatherapy lover, I’m looking for soothing smells whenever I search for candles. Meanwhile, as a firm believer in sustainability, I also need to find a brand that matches ethical standards. Lastly, as a mum, I’m looking for something that the grownups in the house can enjoy that doesn’t come close to harming the little one. I’m happy to say that, after searching for a while, I’ve finally found the perfect brand: Pure Thoughts. Read more…