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Photo by @collingwoodnorriss Caption: Lambswool scarf, made in Scotland by Collingwood-Norriss
In an increasingly throwaway culture, there seems to be a backlash. Those who choose the handmade, the bespoke, the artisan over the dangerous trend towards fast fashion. What has spurred this revolution? It could be the fear of automation, that one day our low skilled workers will become obsolete, replaced by robots. It could be a fear for planet earth, seeing its resources stolen every day and pollution pumped into the atmosphere. It could be a sense of responsibility to those stuck at the bottom of the production line, working in squalid conditions for almost no pay. It could be the organisations that call for more transparency within the industry. Whatever it is, one thing is for sure, the green revolution is coming and part of the solution could be found in bespoke fashion.
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Photo by @lainemadeunique Caption: Shetland wool beanie, made by hand at Laine – Made Unique
With the rise of automation, many industries are now seeing jobs being done by machines, that were once done by hand. When we think of highly computerised industries and tasks that don’t require great dexterity, it seems obvious for things to become mechanised. However, people are really starting to see the value in items made by hand and as such, it seems the job of the tailor is safe.
Whilst large fashion companies can reel of thousands of meters of fabric, to be overlocked quickly and cheaply abroad, some smaller fashion companies are employing more unusual techniques to achieve beautiful results. Zero waste pattern cutting can require great skill and expertise, cutting organic curves from cloth, leaving no scrap of fabric unused. In much the same way there has been a turn back towards zero waste knitwear, where garments are knitted exactly to size, meaning absolutely nothing is wasted.
Small companies seem to be springing up everywhere, from Laine – Made Unique, a studio based in Brighton, who use old fashioned techniques to create zero waste, bespoke clothing, to Collingwood-Norris on the other side of the UK in Scotland, who use hand manipulation techniques to manufacture colourful silk and wool accessories. This movement has an appeal from both a grassroots and trickle down level.
Another exciting trend that directly combats waste, is that of upcycling. Where recycling is taking something and reusing it, upcycling is the art of turning something old into something completely original, with more value.
For those of us who are creative, upcycling can be something we do for ourselves. It could be something as simple as turning that old band t-shirt into a mini dress, or something as complex as saving pieces of a christening gown to adorn a wedding veil. For those who can appreciate the art but would rather have the hard bit done for us, there are a cluster of new designers who have taken upcycling to a whole new level, releasing entire collections based around this theme. Take for example Linda Thomas, who talks here about her stunning upcycled fashion line.
It used to be that we had just a handful of key pieces in our wardrobes, which would last us from season to season and year to year. The pieces were well made, using quality cloths and as such could be expected to last a very long time. With the recent rise of fast fashion brands, some of which drop up to thirteen collections per year, it seems our clothes no longer need to last for more than a few weeks.
However, noticing that this trend was simply not sustainable, there has been an uptake in the use of skilled tailors. Whether it’s the tailor or seamstress just down the road who will make a vintage dress fit like a dream, or the tailors of Savile Row who will painstakingly measure you and create something completely from scratch. The quality of cloth and the fit are becoming increasingly important to consumers.
Another aspect to this bespoke fashion, cannot be understated, is the need for clothes to feel unique. In a world where you’ll often see several people sporting the same blouse on a busy high street, sometimes it’s nice to stand out a little. From choosing a colourful suit lining, to revamping a charity shop bargain, the true fashionista is looking ever more to break the rules, rather than ‘follow fashion’. Perhaps if we spent a little more time buying mindfully, we could be kind to the planet, to the makers, to our local economies and most importantly, look fabulous doing it.