A shared sense of style and concern for the planet’s wellbeing convinced cousins Anna Singh and Rachael Wood to launch their ethical clothing brand, Chinti and Parker, in 2009. Under the mantra ‘conscious cloth’, the duo creates luxury clothing from organic materials such as bamboo jersey and Seacell (sourced from wood pulp and seaweed), without compromising fit or style. Having quickly become a favourite of style mavens such as Alexa Chung, Marion Cotillard and Gwyneth Paltrow, Chinti and Parker has recently reached Australian shores via The Standard Store and Land’s End in Sydney, and Frockshop in Fortitude Valley.
What was your childhood dream?
I grew up around fashion, but my childhood dream was to be an air hostess – absolutely nothing to do with fashion! I travelled quite a lot as a child and so I wanted to do something based on that.
What first sparked your interest in fashion?
My parents are both involved with fashion retail in the UK, so I grew up with it all very much around me. I’d go to the office after school and it was inherently part of my life. I don’t know if there was a particular event that sparked it; I think it was just always there.
How did Chinti and Parker come into being?
I had another business – a cosmetics brand called Pout – for about six or seven years before it was sold to an American company. My cousin Rachael had been working at Browns in London and we both ended up being free at the same time. We shared a similar style and aesthetic – we’d both go shopping and come back with the same thing – and we decided that it was an appropriate time in our lives to do something together.
What inspired you to go into ethical fashion in particular?
Well, both of us are moderately ethical consumers – we’re not full-on greenies and neither do we claim to be! It was more of a lifestyle choice in that we were interested in organic clothing, but we didn’t want to compromise on style. It almost seemed a given that it was what we needed to do. We don’t shout openly about the ethical side of our brand, but some people do pick up on it and really love it, while others are not so interested.
How have attitudes changed towards ethical fashion since you began in 2009?
It’s good now that bigger stores like H&M are tackling ethical fashion, but I think there’s still a long way to go. When it started about ten or 15 years ago, ethical clothing was made from hemp and was all thick and nasty. But now there are a lot of brands doing really good-quality ethical clothing, which means that you can achieve the sense of style you want and be ethical at the same time. The fabric development has also changed enormously and is still changing. We’re always pushing boundaries because we want elements like drape in our fabric, but it’s getting better each year.
Will you evolve the Chinti and Parker collection to include ready to wear?
I’m actually sitting here with the spring/summer 13 collection in front of me, because we are going to shoot the lookbook this week, and the collection has definitely expanded. It’s a much fuller range that I think could be described as ready to wear. There are a lot more dresses and tops and bottoms and knitwear – it’s definitely a lot more rounded collection.
What inspires you?
Neither Rachael nor I are girly girls, and we really like oversized, boyish details, so while you might find the odd feminine piece, generally we operate on the androgynous side of fashion. We look at men’s tailoring and shirting, which we really love. In terms of other inspiration, we always look to French fashion – the classic Breton in whatever guise. For our next collection, we’ve moved into a lot more geometric prints, which is definitely a move forward for Chinti because we’ve always done little delicate spots and stripes. We do struggle to call ourselves a fashion brand because we’re not. We hope that the pieces will last longer than a couple of seasons and that they don’t date.
Does your love for travel inspire your work?
For sure. It’s so easy now with the iPhone – I’m always out and about taking pictures of people, colours and all sorts of things. Our cashmere comes out of Mauritius, so we went there last year for work. And I went to the Maldives at Christmas.
Who inspires you?
Personally, it would be my dad – I’ve learned a lot of what I do today in fashion retail from him. I’m also inspired by Faye Toogood, an incredible British interior designer, who uses a blend of colours, textures and prints in a subtle and beautiful way. I adore her work.
What has been the greatest challenge you have had to overcome?
That’s an easy one: the production process is an absolute nightmare! We’re a small brand with small quantities, but we like detailed garments with hidden seams and things like that, so we’re quite demanding in the production sense. Getting people to work with us, and to take a leap of faith that the brand’s going to grow to a size where the business will be meaningful to them, has definitely been the greatest challenge.
What has been your greatest achievement?
It would definitely have to be our collaboration with NET-A-PORTER – we do an exclusive collection for them twice a year. A couple of years ago they were doing something specific around ethical clothing and they found us. It’s just grown from there; it was very lucky for us that we were what they were looking for at the time. The other greatest achievement for us would be seeing our garments on certain celebrities we love, like Alexa Chung or Marion Cotillard, who was photographed wearing one of our jumpers that she bought herself – we didn’t even gift it to her! Gwyneth Paltrow is also a Chinti fan; we work with her quite a lot.
Would you consider yourself to be a success?
In the last few weeks, I’ve been out a few times socially and people have said to me that they’ve seen Chinti and Parker everywhere and that what we’re doing is amazing. I guess that, in the last few months, we’ve gotten the brand to a place in the UK where it’s been very well-received. But for us, true success for the brand would be to have a key store in every key city around the world.
What is your dream now?
To establish Chinti and Parker as a full ready-to-wear line that people go to for items of longevity.
Where do you find peace in life?
I have two boys and, whilst it’s not peace and is a completely different life and pace, it’s a form of relaxation in a weird way. I’m also about to do a meditation course in two weekends’ time, as part of the search for a little bit more peace!
What are your words of wisdom?
People smile back to happy faces.