This week I made another trip to London to go to the Meet the Manufacturer tradeshow. This was exactly what it says it was - a chance for designers to find manufacturers who can realise their project dreams and produce their products in the UK. The show, now in it's third year, was set up by the Make it British team who also ran the Make it British forum back in October that I was lucky enough to attend. They are doing an amazing job in bringing together the great manufacturers we still have in the UK (yes, there really are some left!) and their counterparts to help create high quality British products that are sought after across the globe. In fact a recent survey showed that British made products are considered to be fourth best quality in the world. This is reflected in the revival for British made goods as manufacturers are reporting a 25-30% increase in demand compared to a few years ago.
There were over 170 suppliers to the fashion, textiles and homewares industry at this year's show including leather goods manufacturers, fabric mills, knitwear factories and printers to name but a few. Throughout the two days of the show there were also seminars by industry leaders on various different topics around making in the UK, a wool room, a brand hall, live workshops and demonstrations of hat making and pattern cutting for example and an ask the expert area. The brand hall showcased lots of different products all made in the UK from silk scarves, to shoes and even underwear. This all went to show the diversity of skills we still have in this country and the great wealth of creativity and talent that we nurture.
I met many very interesting people and companies including knitwear manufacturers; Crystal Knitwear and Harley of Scotland, Think Positive Prints - a digital textile printing company, Team Tots -a childrenswear manufacturer and CFS - a fashion sampling studio. Some of these I hope to be able to work with on my launch collection. It was really useful to meet these contacts face to face to get a feel of whether they will be suitable for what I am trying to achieve and also to gain expert advice and opinion. I even got some very encouraging feedback on my design ideas which really helps to spur me on!
If you too are looking for British manufacturers here are some helpful directories; one by Make it British, one by the Leicestershire Textile Hub here and another by UKFT.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.
#MeetTheManufacturer #MakeItBritish #StartupBrand
Denim is the obvious choice for boy's clothes as it is hardwearing, easy to wash, doesn't really need ironing and is inexpensive to buy. However, I am sorry to say folks that it is probably the worst fabric in terms of impact on the environmental and people. Standard denim production is a dirty business that consumes vast amounts of water and highly toxic chemicals. Treatments such as sand blasting are particularly noxious leading to lethal silicosis in many workers. On average in the UK we each own around seven pairs of jeans and each of those produces 915lbs of carbon dioxide during it's average lifespan of 4 years. If we all bought better denim and wore them longer just imagine how much carbon, water and nasty processes that would eradicate!
However, you will be pleased to know that there are some 'Slow Denim' brands out there who are working hard at sustainability and minimizing their environmental and ethical impact. Nudie and Mud Jeans, who I have mentioned before, both use organic cotton and have a repair and recycle ethos. There are plenty of others trying to clean up the image of denim who are worth a mention too, such as Tuffs, Blackhorse Lane Atelier and Story Mfg. A special mention goes to Monkee Genes as they are based near where I grew up! These brands employ a short supply chain and produce locally in order to guarantee standards and sustainability. Hiut Denim, based in Wales, make raw selvedge jeans which are traditionally worn in by the owner for a year before washing. Although this may seem extreme to the average consumer even high street stores including H&M and Topshop have seen success with their own selvedge ranges. Hiut's 'raw' denim has a fierce following and are a must have for denim aficionados. Fortunately many of us are willing to fork out more for premium denim jeans, especially with such ethical guarantees so there is hope for the denim sector as a whole to become kinder and greener.
Market leader Levis Strauss are also doing various innovative things within the industry too. Working with Aquafil they use nylon waste such as discarded fishing nets to create a new material that they now incorporate into their denim. Textile waste is also converted into renewable fibres that go into their new 511 jeans which are made using Levi's water<less method which uses 96% less water.
In terms of kids clothes, there aren't that many who do organic denim. Frugi and Mini Rodini were the main ones I could find. Hopefully as sustainability becomes a more accepted notion we will see more organic and slow denim become available in the sector.
Do you know of any other denim brands doing amazing things or have you tried any of the brands mentioned? I would love to hear what you think to help inform my own future denim purchasing.
#SlowDenim #Levis #HiutDenim
Sadly it seems to me that most things these days are not made to last. As a society now we have bought into the idea of upgrading and discarding when the latest model or newest trend comes out. In fact some products have in-built obsolescence (think most smart phones) so the manufacturers can get you to buy their latest version This really needs to change if we want to move to a sustainable circular economy - which basically means eradicating the whole idea of waste.
We can change this mind-set starting with our clothes. If we all looked after our clothes better, they would last longer and we wouldn't need to buy so many. A detailed survey has shown that most fashion purchases are only worn seven times, but if that garment's life is extended by nine months it's carbon, waste and water footprint would be reduced by around 20-30% each.
The first rule to ensuring a long life garment is to buy good quality pieces. Spend a bit more with a brand that is known for better quality and look for a heavier weight of fabric and better construction. Buying classic timeless pieces will also mean you are more likely to get more wear out of them too rather than them looking off trend in a matter of months.
How you wash your garment is a major factor in how long it will last. Washing too often, on a high temperature and spin and tumble drying will fade and damage fabrics very quickly. Look at the label and your machine instructions very carefully . Delicate items could even be hand washed and always wash dark colours inside out.
Many items of perfectly good clothing end up in landfill because they need very minor repairs. Repairing missing buttons and broken stitching is a very quick and simple task to do. In fact there are sew and repair groups popping up all over the place where you can learn some great skills to fix those beloved garments. If not there is likely to be a tailor or seamstress locally that for a small fee will be able to repair nearly anything. Some brands like Patagonia even offer their own repair service so are definitely worth considering. Another option if you have tears or holes is to add some embroidered patches to cover them up. You can get all sorts of fun designs now that will add extra personality to your clothes. Jeans can always be turned into shorts if they get torn knees too.
Many other clothing ends up being discarded due to staining. Have a handy box of stain removers that cover every stain type and treat stains immediately with cold water then they will be less likely to set. If you have a really bad stain you could always consider dying the garment another colour.
Dying faded garments is a very simple way to rejuvenate clothes. I have a pair of jeans that I have had so long and wear so often that I need to dye them for a second time. It's really quick to do in your washing machine and they look like new. Remember that most stitching is synthetic so that will stay the original colour and colour rules apply - a red dye onto an yellow fabric will go orange.
Storing clothes well is another way to look after them. Jumpers should be folded rather than hung as they will stretch out of shape. (Jumpers can be made to look smart again with the use of a pilling comb) Hang your tops after wearing them to air them out and get more use before they need washing. Never use those nasty wire hangers from the dry cleaners, good quality wood hangers won't stretch your clothes or poke through them! Fabrics need room to breath, so don't over fill your wardrobe space and then they will crease less too. And make sure the hanging space is cool and dry to prevent and mildew creeping in.
Finally, when the much loved item can no longer be saved you could consider recycling or upcycling it. Pop it in a textile donation bank and it may get a new lease of life as car insulation at the very worst. Upcycling an old jumper into a cushion or patch-working old shirts into a blanket are just a few ideas.
Check out my Pinterest board here for more hints and tips.
#GarmentCare #LovedClothesLast #SustainableFashion
Water is fast becoming a rare commodity. It may not feel like it to us in rain sodden Britain but in other places in the world it is now a serious and life threatening issue. There has always been tensions over water supplies throughout history but these problems are on the increase due to population growth and climate change. Less than 1% of our planet's water is accessible for us to use and most of this is used to grow crops while about 1 billion people cannot access safe drinking water. Now let's think about how the fashion industry comes into that as one of the largest users of water.
The Indian textile industry uses 425, 000, 000 litres of water a day to process their fabric production. Cotton, which 40% of our clothes are made of, is a thirsty plant and is often grown in very dry regions. It can take around 1800 litres of water to grow the cotton needed for one pair of jeans, but then add on the processes used in manufacturing and how much we use to wash them and Levi's reckon it works out about 3,781 litres!
According to the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) it takes 2,700 litres of water to make a t-shirt. To put that into perspective this is what a person could drink in 900 days! Contamination of water supplies is also a massive problem with 20% of all industrial water pollution being due to printing, dying and treating textiles. These are applied in water baths are then often discharged straight into the local waterways.
The fashion industry is in fact the second largest polluter in the world second only to the oil industry. An estimated 8000 chemicals are thought to used in textile processing which are devastating lives in the industrial areas nearby. In some places you can tell what the colour trend of the season is by the colour of the rivers. These issues prompted river conservationist Mark Angelo to produce a film released last year called Riverblue that has won various awards - watch it if you can.
However, there are many initiatives around the world now working to help reduce water usage and contamination in the fashion industry. The BCI & World Wildlife Fund are helping farmers to reduce their water usage, Levis are pioneering their Water<Less method of recycling water in their denim production and Clevercare set up by designer Stella McCartney, is encouraging consumers to wash their clothes less. Furthermore the need for sustainability within the industry is driving many exciting new technologies such as AirDye, ColorZen and DyeCoo which are dyes that penetrate using air instead of water and advances are being made in digital textile printing that should start to replace the water thirsty mathod of traditional screen printing.
We can all play our part too: by buying organic cotton - where pesticides are not leaking into the water tables, by choosing ethical and environmentally aware labels that keep a strict eye on their water usage & discharges, to wash our clothes less ourselves and with greener laundry products and to buy less and wear longer. Loving our clothes more thoughtfully means loving our planet too.
#WaterandFashion #TextileProduction #Riverblue #Clevercare
Winston Churchill once said "those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it" this truism rang in my ears recently as we visited Cromford Mills in Derbyshire. Those of you who have been reading past blog entries or know your history will know this to be the first water powered cotton spinning mill that sparked the industrial revolution. Situated just down the road from where I grew up, it is part of the Derwent Mills UNESCO world heritage site which provide a tangible glimpse into our textile history. Built in 1771 by Richard Arkwright, an entrepreneurial man who patented a carding machine and water loom that launched the mass production of cotton.
Working conditions in Victorian cotton mills were notoriously arduous and dangerous but Sir Richard Arkwright was seen by many to be a good man. He built most of the houses in the village for his mill workers and their families and for the weavers that spun his yarn. A hotel, mill and market were also established as was a chapel where the children attended Sunday school and received an basic education which was somewhat of a luxury for most mill workers. They worked twelve hour shifts with an hour for lunch for a six days a week with a week's holiday a year and even had medical insurance. Child labour was sadly used which can never be condoned.
What Sir Richard had known, even a over 300 years ago, was that it was important and beneficial to respect his workers. Happy workers means better productivity and is better for business as attested to by vast fortune and knighthood in 1786. This ethos is sadly missing today in our modern fashion & textile industry. Most workers, some just children, are in mainly developing countries work very long hours with few breaks or leave, have little or no rights, no housing or education provision and no medical insurance. In this day and age things should be different surely?
At the close of fashion revolution week to mark the Rana Plaza tragedy I am inspired by Cromford Mill to think about how the industry and consumers can move forward in a positive way and learn from both the good and bad aspects of our distant and recent past. What are the barriers to change or what could be the agents for change? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas as I try to challenge such barriers and establish positive agents within my business.
#TextileHistory #ArkwrightsMill #RanaPlaza #FashionRevolution
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