In Conversation about Fashion and Sustainability.

The words Sustainability and Fashion combined are really beginning to become researched topic at the moment. I regularly get asked by students ,studying for their dissertations, if they can interview me surrounding the topic.

By the way if you’re a student and want to talk do reach out to me. If I have the availability I would be more than delighted to help. Contact me here.

Here I chat with the students of The University Centre Somerset who are enrolled on their new Fashion and Textiles Bachelors.

Firstly, could you share a little bit about your business and the inspiration/idea behind Daines Atelier?

Daines Atelier design and sew one-off garments from hand-picked vintage textiles. For anyone who is conscious of the negative impact of the fashion industry and wants to represent their individuality. Based at the Silk Mill Studios, Frome, Somerset in England.

Every year around 206 tonnes of textiles are thrown out in the UK alone. Only 15% of the textiles we throw away are actually recycled. The large majority of these textiles are still fit for another purpose.

It is also a shocking fact to discover that 93% of carbon emissions and pollution from the fashion industry comes from the creation of textiles. If we could use the textiles we already had produced, it would be incredible at the difference we could make as an industry towards combating Global Warming. Which is why we focus in our sustainability.

What are your key values/morals within your brand?

Our key values lie under Sustainability, Slow Fashion, Circular Fashion and Craftsmanship. When designing and producing our garments these are the key areas we ensure everything represents.

We are transparent with being an ethical fashion brand. All of our materials are sourced locally, all vintage or deadstock. Everything is handmade at our studio. we Upcycle/ repurpose these textiles while committing to being a circular fashion brand.

Not advocating mass production. We create one off or a limited quantity of clothing. Focusing on the quality of a garment to ensure its longevity. As a result, Craftsmanship is at the core of Daines Atelier, using traditional tailoring and dressmaking techniques. Everything is a beautiful handmade item.

You can read more about who we are on our About Page.

What sustainability challenges (if any) does your organisation face?

The main sustainability issue with preloved textiles and vintage materials. (especially ones from the 1940s after polyester was first introduced and the 1960s when spandex was first introduced). The fabrics contain micro-fibres made from plastic. Which can easily enter our water streams and be extremely polluting.

The benefits of plastic fibres is that they can reduce wrinkling in clothing, make clothing cheaper to produce, pick up dyes more vibrantly and are more durable. It’s why we typically see a lot of pristine clothing from the 1950s onwards.

But we have to balance out whether it is better to be using these already produced textiles. Whether we leave them to landfill where they will take over 200 years to biodegrade? Or worst burnt emitting more pollution once again.

Scientists are currently discovering new ways to omit less microfiber plastic pollution. Such as water filters and laundry bags. (see Guppy Friend). There is also an increase in knowledge about how often we should be washing our clothing and the correct way of washing them. Elizabeth Cline, author of Overdressed and The Conscious Closet addresses these topics well.

How do you think the covid pandemic has affected consumer behaviour?

During the pandemic the ecommerce industry saw a 10% increase in online shopping. Continuing on it still remains around the higher percentage. Pre-Pandemic I didn’t have an online presence and would typically be trading at markets. But building an online presence during this time proved successful.

There is definitely an increase of interest towards shopping consciously. A lot of protest has been done against fast fashion brands such as Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing. Especially after Boohoo were committing slave labour in the UK to produce unethical garments. Or Molly-Mae earning half a million as Pretty Little Things new creative director . While their factory workers abroad were not even on the living wage.

An interesting statistic spinning off this is that if these retailers increased the price of their garments between 86p-£1 ,then they could pay their workers the living wage. But it’s all because of the politics between factories wanting the work, rather than it being ethical and fair.

Wardrobes are changing. If we go back to before the pandemic people were constantly updating and refreshing their wardrobes without comfort and function in mind. We are currently seeing a rise in staple wardrobe pieces that are more suitable to everyday life due to an increase in self-care.

Do you feel covid has made consumers more aware of sustainability and their carbon footprint?

When we step out of the rat race glued to our phones and just focused on A-B, it gives us time to reflect on what is actually happening in the world around us. The pandemic allowed for time to educate themselves further on topics of sustainability that interested them, to have more free time to come across the nitty gritty of society.

Without the high-street being open and people turning online to shops. This opened up the space for smaller and independent retailers to showcase their products more at the forefront with consumers.

During the pandemic online retailers platforms such as Fassion and Sustainable Fashion Week became more prominent. Being able to showcase multiple brands together all with the same vision that consumers were actually looking for.

Depop has also been a credible platform for encouraging consumers to shop second hand, fashion their removed clothing and in supporting small handmade businesses. They’re becoming a retailer leader for shaping the future of the fashion industry.

How do you feel awareness can be raised to the impact of fibre production on the environment (in terms of excessive water waste, micro plastics, climate change etc)?

By talking about it. When I first started addressing these topics through social media, I was reconnected to a lot of friends who told me that they had no idea how toxic the fashion industry was. Or about the difference in fibres and what their actual stats were.

We are the generation that needs to ensure we are talking about it, producing garments with our own moral compass and educating ourselves on the right and wrong.

Can you share your perspective on green washing and how some companies appear more eco-friendly without necessarily incorporating more sustainability or ethical practices into their business?

I have a friend who works as a garment tech for a high-street retailer, who informed me that in order for a garment to be considered recycled content, less than 2% of the fibre actually has to be recycled. So for example, if a garment says that it’s 97% recycled content, in reality it will only be around 1.8% recycled.

When it comes to green washing there’s a few buzz words you have to avoid: Conscious and Sustainable. These umbrella terms are used so regularly by the high street giants that it’s actually a lot better to look for Niche words such as ‘upcycled’ or ‘circular’ or even ‘repurposed’.

Some of the most ironic greenwashing I have seen by companies include: Asos and their ‘Circular Fashion Collection’ that in contrast to all of their other garments amounted to such a small number. H&M and their ‘Conscious Collection’ playing with statistics to make themselves appear more on top, whereas if you delve deeper into their dying process or their ‘recycled fibres’ that’s terrifying. Boohoos future ‘Pledge’ to be a sustainable company and taking no action, but tricking consumers into the belief that we will one-day be sustainable. Or ANY brand that labels everything as organic. There’s proof that organic materials actually use more water in order to be produced than the genetically modified crops.

A Fashion Brand will never be sustainable if it continues to mass produce and to influence others to shop more and buy constantly into trends. Hence the high street will never be able to actually label themselves as sustainable.

What simple methods would you suggest to someone who is trying to lead a more sustainable lifestyle?

The first step is to cleanse your social media. Unsubscribe from unethical retailers on your mailing list; unfollow influencers who promote fast fashion brands; be aware when you see an advert promoting fast fashion and immediately block it. Then I am conscious of who you choose to next follow on your social media.

Watch, read and learn.

I listen in the regular to so many great podcasts including: Wardrobe Crisis by Clare Press, Common Threads, The Anima Animus Podcast and so many more. There is truly such a wealth of knowledge on these podcasts for free.

I recommend the books: A Conscious Closet by Elizabeth Cline to anyone introducing themselves to slow fashion. Sophie Benson is a fantastic journalist who has written for the Guardian and Dazed magazine. On Instagram I follow another journalist called Tina, who is @thinkingthreads her Instagram is consistently filled with so much knowledge. 

We were actually recently on the AA Podcast. You can listen to our episode here.

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On Netflix you can find a wealth of documentaries. Including Plastic Ocean, The true cost and more. YouTube can also be a great place for sourcing shorter videos/ news articles surrounding the industry too.

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