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Talking About My Generation

My business mantra has always been, 'There's Nothing New Under The Sun'. It really has all been done before, especially in fashion, we can't help but have been influenced by the past. This also applies to lifestyle choices which, for some of us were a way of life before they became a new trend.

In particular I'm talking about upcycling; a word which wasn't even in the dictionary until the mid 90s when it referred to preventing waste by reusing materials that were still potentially useful.

I've blogged previously about sustainable fashion not being a new concept and the way I was influenced by the use of skills handed down from previous generations. This blog has been prompted by an article I read on the subject of reducing throwaway fashion waste by Guardian Labs. Whilst I'm in agreement with the ethos of the article and applaud the business it features, I was piqued by a throwaway comment (no pun intended) stating that charity shops 'used to have a stigma attached'. The drive being that people now love a charity shop whereas years ago we were embarrassed to be seen there. This is just not true and demonstrated by the replies I received to my comment on that post.

My generation were fortunate to live through the age of fashion tribes when music was reflected in the clothes you wore, most notably punk. That was the dawn of DIY fashion as a trend when we trawled jumble sales and charity shops for items to customise and rework into a look. New Romantics had that same approach and then there was the mod revival and rude boys, searching for second hand suits and crombie jackets. Go back further and you'll remember we were taught needlework in school, there was always a local dressmaker at hand to alter a hem or put in a zip, mend and make do is decades old. Our local shoe mender told me he cuts more keys and engraves dog collars than he heels shoes and yet we had six cobblers in the town repairing shoes over thirty years ago.

As for the new age of environmentalist telling us we should wash no hotter than 30 degrees and line dry - what do you think happened before tumble dryers and washing machines? I'm carefully avoiding the cliches here but seriously, the narrative has to change! We should be talking about reintroducing traditions rather than inventing new trends. Furthermore, repairing and generally looking after your clothes was something to be proud of, wearing second hand wasn't something to be ashamed of and history should not be rewritten to accommodate the influencers of today.

In 2011 myself and a designer friend Helen, recovered several bags of jeans legs and shirt sleeves that had been hacked off in the name of 'upcycling by some fashion students for resale as denim shorts and sleeveless baggy shirts. That was NOT upcycling is was massacre! In my stock, nothing is reworked into something new unless it has no life left in it and then every part is reused where possible. This is the same for the majority of upcycled fashion.

There's no doubt a wealth of fabulous young talent coming through fashion colleges bringing with them new and innovative ideas for ways to prevent fashion waste. Their knowledge and use of digital media to promote their designs is propelling the conversation surrounding sustainable fashion forward in ways we never could 'back in the day'. However, there has to be a place for my generation of thrifty stitchers and jumble sale hoarders because we're not just going to f-f-f-fade away...

Pic taken at my stall at Red Mutha Fashion Fair, Brighton in 2010 one of the forerunners of the upcycling trend which attracted all the best attention!


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