MENTION milk buttons to most people and they will think of the white chocolate version of the much-loved children’s confectionary.
But a Clare-based designer with a focus on sustainability in fashion has given us a different take.
Sandra Murphy’s women’s wear brand Afore After’s ethical production techniques and use of low-impact materials goes so far as to make the buttons on her clothes out of milk.
The buttons are a biodegradable material made of at least 96% milk casein. The milk, a by-product coming from overproduction or productions that are unfit for human consumption, is brought to a factory where it is transformed into a bioplastic raw material.
“When I say that my collection is sustainable, I’m not just talking about the fabrics,” says the Ballynacally native.
“Everything from the thread to the buttons to the labels has gone through rigorous certification processes.”
The brand’s first collection features 27 versatile pieces, including dresses, tops, skirts and face coverings, in three prints that are drawn and designed by Sandra, and exclusive to the brand.
Sandra, who has over 20 years of experience working at an international level, including stints at global brands Victoria’s Secret and Gap and multiple lecturing roles says, “It’s lovely to be back home again and the countryside in Clare couldn’t be more opposite than New York City.”
“These surroundings have reawakened my creativity and I find inspiration all around me, such as the flowers that influenced this collections ‘Blooming Stalkers’ print design.”
“I want to show people that building a sustainable wardrobe doesn’t mean sacrificing style,” Sandra says. “It can still be colourful, it can still be exciting.”
In September, Afore After won the MODOS Innovation Award, given by the circular economy initiative that links Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Office, Dublin City Council and the Regional Waste Management Planning Offices.
“I know that MODOS reviewed many applications from various business sectors across Ireland, which makes it all the more encouraging,” Sandra says.
“Fashion is still often considered a frivolity, so to win an award that spans all industries is really thrilling.”
Afore After is one of the first Irish brands to adopt a circular approach, meaning that the environmental and social impact are carefully considered in design and manufacturing.
With a focus on ethical production and sustainable materials, every raw material from the thread to the fabric has gone through rigorous certification processes.
Sandra is not just designing with stylish customers in mind, but also considering how her pieces can be reused, and how their materials can be repurposed at the end of its life cycle.
More information about the brand values and certified sustainable materials can be found on her website.