#WeAreTesting Sustainable Venues: Sisu London Rooftop Retreat

Bag-laden Oxford Street shoppers can rejoice this summer, for finally a rooftop retreat has opened that doesn’t involve navigating the perfume section of John Lewis. A security man, an un-marked door and four flights of stairs are the only things lying between you and your next summer drinking hole, but is it worth the climb? 

Words: Kyra Hanson @kyra_sian

Sisu London off Oxford Street. 

Sisu London off Oxford Street. 

Sisu describes itself as a 'utilitarian nature reserve' with a 'greenhouse' restaurant offering 'organic vibes' and 'Scandinavian surrounds'. After reading the press release I was all but ready to grab some binoculars and settle in for a bird watching session. However, rather than the 'smörgåsbord of leafy green plants' promised, the spider plants were dry as a bone and the poor potted plants on our table were dead beyond recognition. The shrivelled leaves flaked off in my hand as I sipped a very strong Old Fashioned from the coin-operated cocktail tap – the most expensive drinks vending machine you’ll encounter at £8 a token. So, nil pois for green fingered bar staff.

If it’s cocktails you’re after opt for the Swizzle, a fizzy mix of Appleton Estate Signature blend, pineapple juice and Velvet Falernum (a spiced-citrusy-sweet liqueur). It’s a little on the sweet side but doesn’t arrive in a jam jar, so you get more booze for your buck. There’s also a drinks selection from Camden Town Brewery. Food was perfect for a light bite but I wouldn’t recommend turning up here ravenous. Before ordering, I searched the food and drinks menu for those 'organic vibes' to no avail. The aubergine taco with chili and fried onions would have benefitted from some sauce. The cauliflower cheese arancini was tasty but titchy, at least the chicken waffle was free range.

We were informed via email “the whole menu is not entirely organic, however the food mainly uses organic ingredients, and the drinks also strive to use organic produce whenever possible.” If this is the case why not make mention of it on the menu? Surely it’s a selling point for the health conscious, eco-consumers of today?

This rooftop is surrounded by taller buildings, which hogged the sun on our visit, however the RetrEAT (design by DENLDN) was a welcome addition. More shed than greenhouse (it being constructed of wood not glass), the thick blankets, chilled playlist and use of natural materials did manage to meet the relaxed, Scandi-cool brief. Heated concrete seating was a nice surprise though not exactly ethical. And there are two tiny toilets in which no matter where you stand you will set off the hair dryer.    

"More shed than greenhouse (it being constructed of wood not glass), the thick blankets, chilled playlist and use of natural materials did manage to meet the relaxed, Scandi-cool brief." 

So, does Sisu get any sustainability points at all? Well, we were told the plates are biodegradable and the furniture has been upcycled by the Sisu team. This is a well-located urban hideaway, which you’d be pleased to stumble across after navigating the snap-happy tourists and queues of Primark shoppers below, just don’t turn up for the organic vibes. 

Sisu serves food and drink between noon and 10pm every day, from now until late September.


Portland General Store: Artisanal Toiletries for Men

Does shaving make your skin itch? Do chemicals in aftershave lotions cause irritation and red skin? Say no more! From the rugged depths of nature to vintage bottles, Portland General Store creates artisanal vegan and organic cosmetics for men. Created in small batches, this line of skincare for men is constantly innovating and brewing up new concoctions. Lisa Brodar, the mastermind behind Portland General Store’s natural skincare recipes, talks men’s skincare and its more organic future.  

Words: Johanna Raudsepp

Various Portland General Store Products.

Various Portland General Store Products.

What inspired the launch of Portland General Store? Where does the name derive from?

The idea was inspired back in the mid 2000’s, it was the heart of the maker movement in urban cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Portland, Oregon. I was living in Brooklyn and took up an interest in knitting, getting my supplies from a knitting supply shop called “Brooklyn General Store”. Etsy was a new place where makers and artisans could sell their goods. I decided to start a shop that would sell artisans goods in Portland, Maine, where my partner and I had decided to relocate. When I came across a vintage perfumery book and old apothecary bottles, I started mixing up concoctions — creams, perfumes, oils — and so, the brand was born.

In natural cosmetics, ingredients are everything. What are your favourite components to work with and why? 

Wow, so many! I’ll narrow it down to my current favorites, since I’m always experimenting in the lab. Right now I’m a little obsessed with oils, especially camellia flower oil, which I use in a face oil. It is just so beautiful, and non-greasy, perfect for all skin types, male and female. The inspiration to use camellia flower oil in our face oil came its use through the ages in Japan. I mean, Japanese women have flawless skin, there must be a secret! One secret is that they use camellia flower oil to cleanse and moisturize. 

Portland General Store Old-Fashioned Aftershave Balm.

Portland General Store Old-Fashioned Aftershave Balm.

Women's cosmetics have already taken a turn to natural. Are men's products following suit? Why do you think such a movement is happening? 

Absolutely, or at least I like to think so! Being at the forefront of this movement back in 2009, I would say it was a bit of a struggle to convince some men who were used to going to the neighborhood one-stop-shop bar of soap. Using names like ‘Whiskey’ and ‘Tobacco’ I think sort of tricked them into buying a natural product! 

Then, when they started to see results, like less oily or dry skin, less razor burn and irritation, less flaky scalp, they came back, they reviewed the products, we got featured, and there was sort of a domino effect. Matched with the growing trend in men’s grooming (not necessarily all-natural), more men have sought us out, but still, I think there are large pockets of men, domestic and worldwide, who haven’t yet caught on.

"Using names like ‘Whiskey’ and ‘Tobacco’ I think sort of tricked them into buying a natural product!" 

In what way does Portland General Store embody slow beauty principles? 

We definitely don’t rush the process. Every step is slow — from formulation, to making the product, to even how we fulfill and pack. I think a lot of it is like cooking — we pour our hearts into each product, and even each package. I try to imagine myself on the receiver’s end, opening this box, filled with goodies, a card, dried flowers, a sample. It is very personal. We are not a large corporation and fulfillment is done in-house.

What does Portland General Store dream about at night? 

Oh boy, many wonderful things! Big dreams include owning a farm with a little shop that sells the best in natural and organic skincare, and other goods related to living clean and well. But for now, we are in the midst of a package redesign, moving back to a true ‘General Store’ look and feel. We’re working with a hand letterer to design a couple of products this spring, and we’re very excited about that!

"I think a lot of it is like cooking — we pour our hearts into each product, and even each package." 


#WeAreTesting DABBA Herbal Cosmetics: Magic Nuances of Nordic Plant Extracts

Latvian brand DABBA's herbal cosmetics range led us to discover the magic of its fresh Nordic, 100% natural ingredients. DABBA uses fine, nuanced plant extracts, which are created for different moods and different events. DABBA distilled, natural floral waters and face and body oils are made entirely of certified organic plants, flowers and wild tree leaves, and are qualified to an ECOCERT standard. We went through a true sensory experience testing all this vibrant herbal bonanza 

DABBA face oils collection, 2016. 

DABBA face oils collection, 2016. 

Hanna-Amanda tested…

 1. Wild Raspberry Leaf Water — Gentle and Refreshing Toner for Mixed Skin

I’ve been a fan of refreshing, easy-to-use facial spray waters for as long as I can remember, especially due to my frequent flight hopping, which means I often feel the need to hydrate my face and freshen up the skin during the hours spent in air. Dabba’s floral waters, made of the purest spring water and fresh Nordic plants, boast hydrating effects, whilst helping to stabilise skin’s own pH level. On top of natural ingredients, I’m usually the most concerned about their actual effectiveness. Dabba’s Wild Raspberry Leaf Water promises to soothe, tone and balance the skin. It’s a nice change from the more regular rose and peppermint scented sprays available in the eco-cosmetics market. I applied this floral water every morning by spraying it 2-3 times and let it absorb for a few minutes before applying Raspberry Oil Elixir by Dabba. This product brings a calming, soothing experience and leaves the skin soft and even, without any irritation. These distilled floral waters without any chemically added fragrances also help to cleanse and prepare your skin for absorbing your next-step facial care products, such as day-creams and natural oils, whatever your preference. I liked the refreshing skincare experience and it will certainly remain one of my go-to travel must-haves.

2. Raspberry Oil Elixir - Intensive Multivitamin Serum

This intensive multivitamin serum was the perfect pairing for the cold weather we have been experiencing in the Northern Europe. At first, I was a bit scared the texture might be too oily, but it is actually quite smooth and dissolves well. The best impact I encountered was the way it evened my skin tone, whilst giving my face a baby-soft feel. It is especially handy to use in the mornings, as it helps to reduce tiredness effects immediately, and also provides a protective layer underneath make-up, guaranteeing required hydration. The droplet cap is extremely useful, as it helps to measure and apply the elixir in just right amounts, so you your face doesn’t exactly swim in oil all day long… Truly recommend this herbal elixir featuring raspberry notes for winter. The small bottle is nice to carry along, as it fits even the smallest handbag. 

3. Revitalising Body Oil with Yarrow and Birch

Another great hydrating winter product with forest-scent nuances. I used this organic oil after a soothing hot bath. The effect was very refreshing and pampering — you can get a lot out of only a few drops. The scent gives a nice energy boost. What I like about oils is that they keep the moisture locked in for a long while, which definitely speaks of their advantage over body lotions. Visible results: smoothness and more even skin complex. Love the nostalgic glass apothecary bottle, which should help to preserve the right consistency for longer. A great organic, more natural equivalent to the infamous Johnson’s baby oil. 

Johanna tested...

4. Peppermint Floral Water/Toner

If you are a tea-lover, like me, you will most certainly love this product. I find peppermint to be very soothing, yet refreshing at the same time — sounds like the perfect toner to wake you up in the morning. It smells of fresh garden peppermint leaves and reminds me of summer. Have you ever tried fresh peppermint tea? Ice it down in the hot summer and it becomes the most refreshing drink. Now that is what this floral water takes me back to! I like having that tiny joy in my everyday. It comes in a regular spray bottle inside a quirky box decorated in fun earthy patterns. What makes it even more unique is its architectural shape.

5. Hydrating Face Oil with Chamomile and Borage

I have discovered the wonderful range of face oils just recently and natural products like this continue to impress me. We had below -20 Celcius weather this past week in the Northern Europe and this Dabba face oil came in handy. I have very dry skin during our crisp winters, so much so that even the best moisturisers cannot fix it for the entire day. This face oil, however, did the trick. After applying it in the morning, it kept my skin fresh, hydrated and oh-so-soft throughout the whole day. I assume that unlike face creams, the oil is not that susceptible to cold weather — which is just fantastic! Tea-scented things seem to be the repetitive theme, because this product reminds me of the fresh chamomile tea my Russian grandma used to make, with chamomile flowers from her garden. You can feel the power of nature. It comes in a lovely small bottle with a droplet cap. Very handy to have with you when you go about your daily business.

6. Calming Body Oil with Linden and Calendula

Another huge hit for me. It does exactly what it says on the bottle — calms your senses. This one takes me to my favourite season, spring, and I can picture the linden trees around my country home blooming and the bees buzzing away in their usual busy manner. I wish I had a bubble bath product that smelled like this. Like the face oil, it instantly absorbs into your skin, so you don’t have to worry about the greasiness. The moisturising effect lasts for longer and you never need to use much. Completely worth it! This one has a regular bottle, nothing fancy. But it’s 100% natural — it does not need all the glitz and glamour. Dabba is pure, honest and Nordic. Perfect for someone who values taking care of their skin and is on the hunt for products that have a youth-restoring effect.



To reward our readers for their loyalty, we are giving away a refreshing bottle of DABBA Birch Leaf Water for mixed and oily skin and a bottle of DABBA Strengthening Hair oil with Birch and Nettle. Both products for one lucky winner!


To enter our first ever giveaway:

1.   Make sure you have liked ‘Savant Magazine’ on Facebook.

2.  Simply share this post on your timeline and quote ‘Nordic Plant Magic’. 

3. The winner of our first giveaway will be announced on Thursday, January 19th, 2017 23:59 UTC. You are welcome to share until Wednesday, January 18th, 2017. 


By Signe: A Danish Brand + Women As Artwork

By Signe is a Danish fashion brand dedicated to catering honest and feminine easywear for the independent and creative woman in a modern society. By Signe stands out not only by its clean candy-coated aesthetics and having the whole honest production process from A to Z taking place under one roof, but also seeing women as artwork that should only be wrapped in the dearest delicate comfort... 

By Signe Lookbook AW16. 

By Signe Lookbook AW16. 

How would you classify the woman By Signe is meant for?

Actually, describing a muse like this is a bit unnatural for me, because I never wish to exclude or discriminate. But I am inspired by natural women who are more art than beauty. I am inspired by independent and creative women, and I wish to create healthy and comfortable garments for the natural woman in a modern society. 

By Signe Lookbook AW16. 

By Signe Lookbook AW16. 

What was the main catalyst leading you to create a sustainable brand?

I have a huge conscience, so when creating the brand, it was essential for me to create a product that I could vouch for 100 per cent. [I was motivated by the concern that] the fashion industry is one of the most polluting in the world. By setting up my own production in-house, I wish to prove that it is possible to combine design and handcraft based on ethical principles, in order to create a deeper dimension of honesty and soul behind the brand in today’s industry. 

"I am inspired by natural women who are more art than beauty."

By Signe Lookbook AW16. 

By Signe Lookbook AW16. 

What are your personal tips for looking good, but consuming less?

I would encourage the consumers to build a beautiful basic wardrobe of organic clothing. These garments, if chosen well, should be long-lasting and live through several seasons. Also, I would ask everyone to recycle and donate instead of throwing anything away. 

How does By Signe stand out from other responsible fashion brands out there? 

By Signe definitely stands out for having gathered the entire design process under one roof. Our creative studio is located in extension of our production — cutting, finishing and packaging area. This ensures full control of all parameters and the required quality of the entire process.  

Our in-house Danish production ensures absolute ethical security in a non-discriminating, healthy and safe environment. We cover everything around the garment sustainably too, such as size and care labels, which are handprinted on organic cotton. All sewing thread is made from organic cotton. Hangtags, printed material and packaging are made from recycled and recyclable paper. 

"I wish to prove that it is possible to combine design and handcraft based on ethical principles, in order to create a deeper dimension of honesty and soul behind the brand in today’s industry." 

By Signe Lookbook AW16. 

By Signe Lookbook AW16. 

Your branding is sophisticated, yet simple and unique. Where did you take inspiration for Creative Direction for Signe?

My own personal aesthetics are directly reflected in the visual profile of the brand. This comes from constantly being open for inspiration and developing it over time.  I find inspiration mostly from old books, poetry, photography and travel, and I combine this with my passion for luxurious soft organic materials and comfort. 

By Signe Production Studio. 

By Signe Production Studio. 

"I find inspiration mostly from old books, poetry, photography and travel, and I combine this with my passion for luxurious soft organic materials and comfort." 

If you could make one major change in the fashion industry today, what would it be?

This could be really abstract, as my first priority would be to make sure that everyone involved in the entire industry is treated well. It would include many more larger changes, obviously, as all is connected. We strive for all fabrics to be organic and certified by The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) which is recognised as the world's leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibres. GOTS defines high-level environmental criteria along the entire organic textiles supply chain, and requires compliance with social criteria as well, such as freely chosen employment, no child labour, safe and hygienic working conditions, payment of living wages and reasonable working hours.


ELLISS London: Unconsciously Conscious Organic Jersey Wear

ELLISS is a London-based responsible brand focusing on organic jersey wear. The collection 'Unconsciously Conscious' speaks of choosing responsible clothing unconsciously for its aesthetics rather than merely ethical production. Their vintage-inspired jersey wear, using ultra nostalgic silhouettes, sported by vulnerable looking girls, is not only visually appetising, but out-of-this-world comfy, too. Even so much so, we want to keep it close all winter long... 

ELLISS 'Unconsciously Conscious' lookbook, 2016. 

ELLISS 'Unconsciously Conscious' lookbook, 2016. 

How does ELLISS connect sustainability and fashion?

We use organic materials and manufacture in England to maintain a low carbon footprint and are conscious of every element of the design process to waste as little as possible. 

What are the main aspects ELLISS as a responsible fashion brand looks to improve?

I would like to show that sustainable fashion can be stylish. The design is very important to me. I want people to buy the clothes because of the way they look, rather than just because they are consciously made. The collection is called ‘Unconscious Clothing’, I want the women who buy my clothes to not necessarily be looking for something eco-friendly, but to choose a piece because of the design – to unconsciously be conscious. 

ELLISS 'Unconsciously Conscious' lookbook, 2016. 

ELLISS 'Unconsciously Conscious' lookbook, 2016. 

Why is it so difficult to get something responsible manufactured in Britain?

It isn’t difficult to have things responsibly manufactured in the UK as you can oversee the production. However, it did take time to find the right factory. The options are few, but I am lucky to have found a factory I can work closely with. The price is slightly higher in the UK than abroad, but the quality is fantastic. 

What inspired the creative direction for ELLISS? Who is perhaps your muse?

The creative direction has happened very naturally from working with great teams on the shoots. Amy, the model in our lookbook, is incredible — she has the ability to look so vulnerable and confident at the same time. That is something that is important to me, to show women in a natural way. We just released a behind-the-scenes film of the launch presentation, which is a candid look at the girls, the playful, real moments. 

"I want the women who buy my clothes to not necessarily be looking for something eco-friendly, but to choose a piece because of the design – to unconsciously be conscious."

ELLISS 'Unconsciously Conscious' lookbook, 2016. 

ELLISS 'Unconsciously Conscious' lookbook, 2016. 

What personally bothers you the most about fast fashion? How can we still look good with less? 

The waste — the nature of the way people buy clothes needs to change. The best way to shop is to buy less, but pieces you really love. Curate your wardrobe. 

How much importance does sustainable living have in your everyday? 

It plays a big part in the way that I think. I like to buy vintage clothes – that is one of the reasons I decided to focus on jersey wear. Vintage shopping is great for a trousers and outerwear, but when it comes to lingerie and T-shirts – you want something fresh and new. I love wearing matching jersey underwear and a soft T with a pair of vintage jeans.

"The best way to shop is to buy less, but pieces you really love. Curate your wardrobe."

ELLISS 'Unconsciously Conscious' lookbook, 2016. 

ELLISS 'Unconsciously Conscious' lookbook, 2016. 

What makes it tricky to have an entirely Made in Britain clothing brand?

Manufacturing in the Britain is more expensive, but it means that you have control of the production and can see everything that is going on throughout the process. I think it is important for the customer to know where their products are coming from.