Tag Archives: environmental awareness

Re-thinking fashion for London Fashion Week

Rayon fabric

I’ve never been a “follower of fashion” in the usual sense of what I choose to wear, but I do like to take a peek at the catwalk fashion scene to filch ideas for my own eclectic taste. London Fashion Week has been in the news this week, including quite a few articles looking at some more sustainable facets of fashion whilst equally highlighting the huge environmental impact of fashion.

I’ve seen several designers who’ve created their collections from upcycled materials and also Hatton Garden jeweller, Rosh Mahtani, winning an award for jewellery incorporating recycled bronze.

Undoubtedly, the fashion industry does have a monumental carbon footprint but I do think this is gradually becoming more widely acknowledged, both within the industry and amongst consumers. With over a million metric tonnes of clothing ending up in landfill each year, this really is the time for action. It is good to see some positive steps on sustainability from the influencers in the world of haute couture.

Global Fashion Exchange is a consultancy that works globally on promoting sustainable consumption patterns and they were one of the organisers of a high end ‘clothes swap’ event at this week’s London Fashion Week. In a similar vein, Mulberry, the luxury fashion company, organised a secondhand handbag swap.

Clothes swaps have been around for a while, as some people have tried to move away from fast fashion and become more environmentally conscious consumers. People attend swap events with friends or other like-minded folk and literally take along items they no longer want to wear and swap them for something they would wear. I’ve not been to any swap events yet myself, though I am a keen thrift shopper in charity shops and have items I have ‘discovered’ in vintage clothes shops.

Purple rayon satin vintage shirt
Purple rayon satin vintage shirt (un-ironed! )

Recycling or re-purposing clothing is one way of reducing the amount that ends up in landfill. Several designers had created their London Fashion week collections from recycled or upcycled clothing or materials. Christopher Raeburn is a London designer who has been working in recycled and upcycled materials for a decade now. Another London designer, Phoebe English, has transformed the whole way her business operates in order to build in sustainability. Interestingly, she initially found that stockists were not keen to follow her lead into sustainable fashion until it became clear to them that this social shift was supported by customer demand.

Upcycling clothing items has been something of a life-long habit of mine. I’ve posted a few times here on my blog about some of my projects. This post is about a raggy old woollen sweater that had a second lease of life when I restored it back into a wearable state with some crochet flowers.

Crochet embroidery links the crochet patches
Stems and leaves in crochet embroidery link the crochet patches

The Hexagon Hat, made for my son from a pair of old trousers, is another upcycling project I’ve shared on my blog.

Hexagon hat - almost finished
Hexagon hat – almost finished

The upcycling project I currently have in progress, I have been working on for about three years now, so I think that rather takes slow fashion to a new level! This patchwork jacket is made entirely from woollen sweaters that my dearest had at various times accidentally shrunk in the washing machine!

Upcycled woollen jacket from felted woollen sweaters
Upcycled woollen jacket from felted woollen sweaters

However, the resulting felted wool could then be cut like fabric and the patches are sewn together by hand using binding made from old trousers. The jacket has sleeves too and a collar that I will attach in the next phase. My planned design has a full lining made from upcycled shirts too, but we will see what transpires on that part.

I’m really glad to see upcycling being acknowledged as an increasingly standard practice amongst the leaders of fashion design. I know that upcycling clothing has quite a healthy following globally – I’ve gathered some great ideas from others on my Pinterest boards. Now I hope we will soon see more sustainability spill over into the broader fashion scene.

Peggy

Upcycled Message Mat of Hope

The arrival of Springtime sunshine started something of a creative cascade for me. I described this creative wave in an earlier post and this has combined with the additional seasonal inspiration of Nature waking from her winter slumber and showering us with new shoots and blooms from the warming earth.

One of the projects that has so far evolved from my kinetic Springtime spree of creativity has been my upcycled supermarket carrier bag rug. In my last rug update post I was interpreting my design as a mirror of how we make use of the world’s finite resources – a message in my mat.

The white section of my upcycled crochet mat
The white section of my upcycled crochet mat

As I crocheted further on my mat I began working on the white section. It is not pure white, as you can see, but is laced with red and blue. Sometimes these colours are clearly seen, sometimes masked. The mat’s message here is the influence our one small country, Britain, has had on industrialisation both here in the UK and throughout the world, particularly since the period of time we call The Industrial Revolution (during the 18th and 19th centuries). This influence has left its legacies everywhere. Like the red and blue colours, sometimes these legacies are very evident and sometimes they are masked by more recent developments.

Victorian railway bridge, North East England
This Victorian railway bridge spans a path where we often walk. The path was once a mineral line, busy with steam trains hauling coal to the River Tyne.

North East England, where I live, was renowned for the coal production that powered the Industrial Revolution. Our local environment is full of remnants of this industrial past. The very house and village in which I live was built for mine-workers. In creating my mat here I feel this represents a link between the past and the future. Just as mining families would have created their old rag mats that I talked about in my first post on this project, I too am now crafting my mat from upcycled materials.

Upcycled Crochet bag mat close-up
Upcycled crochet bag mat – a closer look

It is important to me to try harder to use less of the earth’s resources – though I do not claim to be perfect by any means! Most of us accept that fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are not good news for our planet’s future. I think we can all try and play our part by reducing our own consumption and carbon footprint and by encouraging each other in our environmentally-aware endeavours. There is so much we can do ourselves but also by spreading our ‘encouragement’ in the direction of our governments we can try and use our collective powers of persuasion to convince them that our one and only planet is certainly worth caring about.

To reflect in my mat these feelings of hopefulness and of actively encouraging environmental awareness, I chose to finish it with a strong green border. You may notice the border is deeper on two sides. These deeper sides will eventually lie east to west in my porch. This final part of my message mat is to say that from east to west, around the world, we can all play our part in protecting our planet.

My completed upcycled crochet mat
My completed upcycled crochet mat made entirely with supermarket carrier bags and a hand carved hazel hook

I’ve enjoyed creating my upcycled message mat – both the crochet part and thinking about the story that belongs to this mat. On a practical level, I’m happy with the way my mat has worked out. It is nice and thick and is quite soft too.

The construction method I chose involved simply knotting each strip of carrier bag to the next. I realised this was obviously going to leave a lot of loose ends but rather than try and hide them all, I thought they resembled carpet pile so I decided to leave them showing. I think they add to the texture of the finished mat too. I am also glad to say the mat fits just nicely in its intended destination, my front porch.

J Peggy Taylor