Magic and ethical fashion

She remains best
known for playing the youthful wizard Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter
films. But now Emily Watson is weaning teenage shoppers away from mass-produced
chainstore clothes in favour of ethical fashions made on a small scale in some
of the world’s poorest nations.

Watson’s latest
collection for People Tree, which works using strict Fairtrade and
environmental guidelines, will be launched at A Garden Party to Make a
Difference, a 12-day environmental festival next month organised by Prince
Charles in the gardens of his London home, Clarence House.

Fashion experts say
Watson, now 20, has a considerable amount of influence among girls and young
women who have watched her gradually shed the image of the somewhat frumpy
Hermione to emerge as a fully fledged fashion icon. “I think a lot of young
women have grown up with her, seen her develop her style,” said Emily
Sheffield, deputy editor of British Vogue.

Traditionally,
ethical fashion is a sector associated with older consumers more concerned with
provenance than design. But Orsola de Castro, co-curator of Esthetica, the
British Fashion Council’s eco-sustainable initiative, believes this perception
is changing and Watson is part of that. “We have to make ethical fashion
available and interesting and glamorous for the public,” she said. “Celebrity
support is providing that platform.”

Watson says she wants
to create clothes for people of her own age, introducing younger lengths and
fitted shapes to the People Tree brand. “Emma appeals to younger people and the
collection has sold incredibly well on [online fashion outlet] Asos,” said
Safia Minney, founder of People Tree. “When clothes are worn by someone as
lovely as Emma, it brings a whole new customer in.”

Watson’s previous
collection, for autumn/winter 2010, will be for sale from Wednesday from People
Tree. “Although I wasn’t centrally involved in the design, I had a great fun in
helping People Tree select some gorgeous Fairtrade textiles,” she said. “There
are even a few party dresses, such as the little black satin tulip dress which
can be dressed up or down to suit any occasion.”The paradox is that while
People Tree is relatively affordable – items cost as little as £20 – Watson is
herself a highly visible fan of upmarket fashion and haute couture.

Long a Chanel
favourite – she wore the label to various red carpet events from the age of 17,
and now attends their shows – Watson has starred in two Burberry campaigns,
with the brand’s chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey, praising her
“classic, effortless beauty” and “modern edge.” She is now a regular on the
front row at London Fashion Week, attending Burberry and Christopher Kane
shows. She wore the latter’s designs when she appeared on David Letterman’s
chatshow in the US.

Watson’s style
influence is now such that her recent dramatic haircut, shedding Hermione’s
curls for a gamine pixie style, revealed in pictures on her Facebook account,
brought widespread attention.

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