Fashion and sustainability have always struggled to go hand in hand. With design houses pumping out up to 6 collections per year and the demand for fast, affordable clothing only growing stronger, fashion shows no sign of slowing down and the environment is bearing the brunt.
However there are small pockets of more mindful, consciously created clothing emerging across the industry, and The Acey is part of this. Launched by Holly Allenby in September 2014, The Acey is an online store that combines ‘ethics and aesthetics’, championing innovative brands with a stylish but sustainable edge.
Despite being a relatively new venture, Holly is managing to gain an impressive following and continues to build a carefully curated selection of brands. Each piece pushes the boundaries of environmental production; whether it’s a pair of minimal heels made out of cork, or a coat created from up-cycled fabric. The Acey has banished any preconceptions of sustainable fashion most likely to be spotted in the aisles of health food shops and the wardrobes of hemp-fanatics…
‘It’s so important to not sacrifice the aesthetic side or the ethics. I want people to buy a product because they genuinely want the product. They’re not buying it because it’s a pity party or they feel like they should’.
Holly is no stranger to working with ethics in mind, after starting her career with footwear brand Toms, who’s ‘one-for-one’ approach (for every pair of shoes bought, they donate a pair to help a person in need) demonstrated a simple, ethical approach to large-scale clothing manufacturing.
Starting out as an intern in the california, Holly then moved to Amsterdam to work in Toms’ head office. The city’s independent sartorial spirit inspired her story…
‘I think the city inspired me without even knowing. They don’t have many chain stores, a lot of their design is really independent’ says Holly, ‘There was a bag brand that we now stock which uses up-cycled leather (Puc), based in the Netherlands. It was an amazing product with such an amazing story behind it. I wanted to give these brands an elevated platform, I wanted to tell their story and really celebrate it’.
This desire to present these brands to a larger audience, combined with a lack of cool, ethical clothing available on the market, formed the basis of The Acey. Holly chooses the brands based on innovation and integrity (‘which is essentially the social and environmental impact’) but wearability and desirability of the pieces is equally paramount.
So what can we expect from the Acey aesthetic? Holly describes her pieces as functional, contemporary and clean. ‘When we’re buying pieces we always want to know what the purpose of the piece is, when will someone wear it? Will they wear it more than once?’. It’s this mindful approach that refuses to compromise on the crisp, minimalist style of the Acey woman.
The designers stocked on the site each utilise ethical materials and methods in a unique way. Bag designers Matt and Nat are a vegan brand crafting sleekly designed handbags lined with recycled plastic bottles, and Brawl are a British-based company producing effortless, staple garments in their Shadwell studio. Although having such a huge variety of craft is wonderful, Holly explains the pitfalls when finding brands that have a similar ethos in a market where each product is wildly different.
‘When I started the Acey it nearly stopped me from setting it up because I was really looking for a quick fix to describe each brand. Something simple that the customer could access. It broke me in the beginning. I was researching it so much as every brand we work with has an impact. I mean not every brand is everything but I really limited myself because I was felt the brand has to be x, y, and z. So we just decided to work to find them by innovation and integrity.’
Considered thought and research has gone into selecting each brand, and Holly prides herself on knowing the process behind the product.
‘Because we’re not the brand we don’t have access to the factories. We have to trust them. We make sure we meet everyone in person and have a good relationship with them. But every brand is very transparent and trustworthy’.
Since setting up The Acey, Holly has transformed the way she consumes fashion to reflect the values she promotes through the online store. Regular high street shopping trips have taken a back seat, instead making way for a capsule wardrobe that really embraces a ‘quality not quantity’ approach.
‘I’ve stopped shopping on the high street - it’s a big change but not actually a sacrifice and it’s just completely different. I spend more on fewer things’.
It’s the issue of sacrifice that plagues the fashion industry and propels young business women like Holly to do their bit in altering the way in which clothes are made and how we shop. Across the world the working conditions, pay and human rights of individuals are being sacrificed in the name of quick fashion fixes. It’s something Holly feels strongly about and continually strives to change, even in a small way.
‘I think for me the human cost is huge. I understand how difficult it is in terms of relating it to us because it feels like such a different world. Bangladesh is really, really bad. But things like The True Cost - which is a documentary that’s just come out - is an amazing tool because it really shows who’s producing the clothes. It’s honestly such a good watch’.
There’s no arguing with her passion, and here at Glasshouse we can’t help but admire a female entrepreneur who has launched a successful (and consciously-minded) business at the tender age of 24. ‘I feel like there’s more of a movement going on at the moment that’s empowering women in business’ claims Holly, and we couldn’t agree more. What’s more is that The Acey seeks to support and empower other businesses at the same time, without compromising the environment.
Like us, Holly prefers to take a natural approach to her busy daily life. ‘My routine in the morning is to have hot lemon; half a lemon in hot water. I cleanse, tone, and moisturise everyday. I’m currently using Liz Earl, but also looking into something new from from Content Beauty. I use coconut oil on my nails and cuticles and I used to put it my hair. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing!’. As big advocates of coconut oil here at Glasshouse, we say it’s definitely a good thing.
In between running a business and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, Holly has lots of exciting things in the pipeline at The Acey. ‘We’re launching a collaboration called The Clean Closet with Traid who are a clothing charity. When we send out a person’s order we’ll also send them a free post bag and ask them to send something to charity. We’re trying to make closets a bit cleaner!’. Is there any good deed Holly won’t turn her hand to?
Checking out what The Acey has to offer and spreading the sustainability word is a must-do for anyone with an interest in ethical clothing, and don’t forget to give The True Cost a watch for more on the issue. The face of fashion is adapting and with pioneers like Holly at the forefront we can’t help but be excited for the future of sustainable clothing across the globe.
Shop and discover more online at The Acey
Holly’s Make-Up Bag: Holly wears RMS living luminiser, lip2cheek, Un-Powder and Volumizing Mascara. She uses organic coconut oil for cuticles and an eye moisturiser.
Photography: Jessica MacCormick, follow her on instagram Interview conducted by Olivia Crighton
Hair (colour, cut and styling) by Olivia at Glasshouse Salon
Holly wears Nanushka Yowie Jumpsuit from The Acey, Sunglasses from Toms, Sterling Silver Shark Fin Ring by Tada & Toy from The Acey , 18CT Gold Plated Victoria Falls Ring by Tada & Toy from The Acey, and Gold Faceted Stacking Tree Ring by Tada & Toy from The Acey.