Waste Not Want Not
With nearly twenty years in business creating clothing I have collected a wealth of fabric remnants and accessories. During this time I have also sourced and sold vintage clothing. When I collect my vintage stock, some items haven’t survived the decades as well as others. If it’s not suitable for sale I will always find an alternative, nothing goes to waste.
Originally, my primary business was pop fashion, making tribute outfits and designing costumes for entertainers. Those fabrics were often specialised and usually expensive for stage wear that had to stretch, shine and attract attention in the best way. Memories of many of these still exist in my fabric stash; pieces of Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out of My Head and Britney’s Toxic outfits sit alongside Freddie Mercury’s jacket and Johnny Rotten’s bondage trousers.
I was introduced to second hand and reworked clothing from an early age. The joy of receiving a bag of clothes from one of the neighbours or a cousin was a real treat; some of those cast offs still exist in my wardrobe! There was also an elderly neighbour who would upcycle garments. Auntie Olive made school pump bags from pyjamas and reworked my Moms dresses into clothes for me and my dolls. The dolls and the clothes are now with my grandchildren.
Sustainable fashion isn’t a new concept upcycling has been in existence far longer than the word itself which was introduced to the OED online edition in 2011. Make do and mend was necessity for generations. Vintage clothing was commonly known as hand-me-downs. It wasn’t until the early seventies that UK shops began setting up selling second hand fashions, originally importing work jeans in from the United States.
When I began reworking my own stock to sell I was following my instincts; a dislike of waste and the opportunity to create something new. It wasn’t a fashion statement and the word upcycling hadn’t entered my vocabulary back then, the range I made was known as ReCreate. My customers were varied, from environmentally conscious shoppers to exhibitionists who wanted something completely different. Some years on the upcycling buzzword took off which was great news for the environment, and my business. I was able to work with ethical organisations like Friends of the Earth, even putting on workshops on re-using second hand clothing. Other collaborations included likeminded business, Get Sneaky was one I joined forces with often. We had stands together at clothes show where we were introduced to similar designers including Red Mutha and Philip Normal
What I love about reworking as opposed to traditional dressmaking where patterns are required, is that upcycled clothing takes shape as you go. No two garments are ever the same and my DIY punk ethic is satisfied with each creation. Anything goes, from an odd 70’s curtain to the cut off bottoms of jeans, the opportunities are endless.
Lockdown has affected fabric purchasing in a big way. My beloved Rag Market in Birmingham where I’d pick up bags of dead stock has been closed for weeks and online wholesalers are no substitute. I’ve returned therefore to what I have at my disposal, 100s of vintage garments and my existing stash of fabric remnants. This in turn has refocused my efforts on recreating new from old making my business 100% sustainable. Thanks also to the many friends who frequently replenish my stock; in the past few weeks I’ve had a gorgeous vintage dress from Ali Lomas, some fabulous curtains from Sara Read and an amazing stash of fabrics via Sue Flint.
Always one to take the positives where I can find them, I think lockdown has refreshed my perspective on sustainable fashion. Despite ensuring my fabric purchases came from factory deadstock, in future I will make more of an effort to incorporate what exists in my stock. If I'm using the resources already at my disposal I should never want for more. This in turn means getting even more creative, the possibilities are endless.