2 entrepreneurs whose career paths went in opposite directions after they left university have re-joined forces and launched an online fashion portal showcasing and selling the work of the best up-and-coming European brands who are producing and designing in line with the concept of “slow fashion”.
TARLEE, based in Haggerston, curate and display the work of exclusively independent and emerging brands who “struggle in the competitive fashion environment where they lack the financing and resources to gain recognition.”
“In today’s cluttered fashion landscape, finding something unique and exclusive is something that modern customer’s seek”, say founders Liz and Tara, who created TARLEE “for independent and emerging designers to showcase and sell their current season”.
The site features hundreds of dresses, hats, shoes, flip-flops, tops, trousers, jewellery and bags (and much more besides), all easily navigable by brand, type of clothing, “new in” and a specially edited section helping buyers choose outfits for specific circumstances, e.g. summer holidays, special occasions, or city breaks.
Being strong supporters of what is known in fashionista circles as “the slow fashion movement”, and ethical fashion techniques and processes, TARLEE have introduced the pioneering concept of “Ethical Tags”, which are designed to highlight to customers the “sustainable and ethical credentials” of selected designers.
Because the designers they showcase and whose goods they sell are “much closer to their production process and supply chain” than larger retailers, TARLEE say that “when we select and invite our designers, we ensure that they produce quality pieces designed to have long life cycles rather than short lived and trend driven, throwaway items”.
There are 6 different “Ethical Tags”, that brands can earn, by adhering to the specific rules for each tag; Fairly Traded, Handmade, Made in the EU or UK, Organic, and Sustainable, and each in their own way promotes good practice, including manufacturing in healthy and safe environments, not making excessive use of fertilizers or pollutants, maintaining artisanal skill sets, and ensuring workers are provided with decent working conditions and paid a decent living wage.
Liz and Tara met at Warwick University, bonding, they say, over a “shared love of pink Sambuca”, before Tara decided to pursue a career in Investment Banking, and Liz “worked for independent and start-up designers and experienced first-hand the struggles they face, especially when it comes to selling their collections.”
Tara’s frustration with the limitations of mainstream fashion eventually persuaded her to team up again with Liz and create the platform. Before featuring a collection, the duo say, “each item is vetted to ensure that is has been designed for longevity”, differentiating the platform from those selling only “trend driven, throwaway fashion.”
In addition to their products, Tara and Liz insist on actively promoting the backgrounds of the designers they feature as well as the inspiration behind the designs. Each designer is given a comprehensive profile on the site, allowing them to “describe their entrepreneurial journey”, and enabling customers to “shop and wear a story”.
Whilst curated fashion platforms have become commonplace (digital progress means everyone can have a stab at being a fashion curator these days), TARLEE imposes an extra layer of ethical and quality considerations, and demands to see demonstrable commitment to the cause of “slow fashion”.
The founders are in the process of developing an affiliate network; currently orders made through the platform are passed to the designers, who send the items direct from their studios.
Tara and Liz also say they are constantly on the lookout for new designers (around 20 designers are currently featured on the site), and discover and meet many of their partners either at trade shows or through social media, inviting those whose values and designs they feel are aligned with the TARLEE brand and customer to join up.
TARLEE does not charge monthly or joining fees, or demand brand exclusivity, and only takes a commission fee when a purchase is made.
Hipster fashion in Haggerston is alive and well, it seems, not just providing colour and inspiration, but re-writing the rulebook on what constitutes the acceptable face of modern fashion.
TARLEE’s site may well be the antithesis of the fashion flogging, indiscriminate online marketplace – whilst retaining the convenience of the “disruptive” online shopping portal.