Wardrobe Crisis - Christopher Raeburn, Remade, Reduced, Recycled | Ethical Listening

I can't get enough of Clare Press and her hugely, likeable idiosyncratic approach to the issue of sustainable fashion. Self confessed fashion magazine junkie, she's been writing about fashion for twenty years and is the author of the book Wardrobe Crisis; How We Went From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion. Based in Australia, her podcast Wardrobe Crisis, introduces us to designers, activists and all manner of folk with a sustainable philosophy whom we may not otherwise come across.

She manages to tackle the issues in her book and through her podcast, with steely assertiveness and a lightness of touch making the prospect of actually doing something about it seem quite achievable. Clare Press has described how she has feet in both fashion camps and serves each with equal passion; she adores the world of fashion for all it's frippery and show, but has also become a respected advocate of Sustainable Fashion as well as an activist.  Indeed, Australian Vogue are so impressed with how she flits between the two worlds that they created a role especially for her, Sustainability Editor-at-Large.

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This podcast features English fashion designer Christopher Raeburn, tracing his time in art college when he first began de-constructing army surplus supplies to re-make into something contemporary and wearable, to his free repair service enabling people to prolong the life of their Christopher Raeburn clothing, to his community workshops in his London studios giving people the opportunity to get creative themselves, plus his use of organic cotton and PET recycled plastics.

Christopher talks about how people question what they can do as an individual, but for him 'that's the entire point. It's about what we can do ourself, but also as a collective'. And I love, as Clare Press points out, how he tells his stories and talks about the future of the planet in his own reasonable, sensible and ultimately relatable way.

Tamsin  ✂️

Talking Slow Fashion | Meeting Students at Kinsale Community School

When I got the email asking if I'd be interested in giving a talk to a class of students at Kinsale Community School, my instinct was, oh, I don't think I'd want to do that. Then I thought, as it's something I feel strongly around, know a little about and am trying to adopt sustainable practices in my designing and making, that maybe I should find out a bit more before hastily declining. Ms Hayes explained that her Year 2 CSPE class (that's Civic, Social and Political Education, I had to google it) had been learning about the impact of fast fashion and she was hoping to bring someone local in to talk to them.

In February, I stepped out of my comfort zone and had an amazing time with this class of informed and curious young people. The talk ranged from why clothes have become so cheap today, how the quality of clothes was better in the past, assembly line manufacturing vs making a complete garment and a bit about my own story. At the end of the talk, they had lots of great questions prepared before the bell rang and they dashed to get home. And I returned home, too, feeling unexpectedly elated and optimistic.

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A New Year (ethical) Resolution

Sewers (as in someone who sews) are often exceptional collectors of fabrics, trimmings and buttons and we have cherished relationships with our respective collections. I realised long ago that the enjoyment I get from acquiring new supplies and imagining what they could be made into is almost as fulfilling as completing the finished piece. Visualising options – so may possibilities! - is a necessary part of the design and planning process. It might look like daydreaming to some, but there's a lot going on behind those faraway eyes.

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My own selection habits have had to sharpen up, taking into account how garments made in different fabrics have to hang together as at least some kind of coherant collection. I've had to broaden my gaze as I'm not only choosing shades that I'm personally drawn to, I need to consider colours that suit other complexions and tastes. Still, I find myself experiencing that magpie twitch when faced with a gorgeous sample of fabric or exquisite button. I'm improving at resisting the temptation of buying without knowing quite what I'm going to do with it. Without a plan, these compelling new supplies are both charged with opportunity and a rueful reminder of that already over high fabric pile.

Recently, a couple of likeminded textiles addicts have offered me lengths of fabrics that they, too, have hoarded over time. With the proviso that I'll only use natural fibre fabrics, I've acquired a new stack of small amounts of irresistible fabrics. Interestingly, these unplanned adoptions are less emotional than the ones I make on my own. Alone, I fall for colour combinations I rarely see, prints that evoke something from the past or a novelty that I think I'll never come across again. Whereas the fabrics that have been bequeathed to me, lovely as they are in their own right, present more of a design challenge to figure out how to incorporate them. The challenge of using what I already have is not only my challenge; before buying more and more, I think it's important for all of us to remember what we already have and consider if there is a way to re-purpose or re-use before opting for introducing more new material – any kind of stuff, really - into the world. To me, a resolution is a promise you make to yourself and it doesn't need to be scheduled by the commencement of a New Year. If a resolution is to be made, then make it whenever. So, my Un-New Years Resolution is to be discerning and considered with my acquisition of the new and embrace the challenge of using what already exists.     

Tamsin  ✂️

Contemplating an Ethical Festive Season 

As the year comes to a close we find ourselves so busy, planning the time to be spent with family and friends and doing our Christmas Shopping. I know some people who totally adore the whole shebang and others who feel overwhelmed by all there is to do. As I get older, I find the last days of the year are also a time for reflection of what's passed, of where I am now and what's ahead in the new year. I know others are reflecting, too.

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When it comes to sustainability, all the wheels can fall off the wagon at Christmas. Our good intentions of only buying what we need and minimising the accompanying packaging is harder to adher to. Step one is to be aware of what we're purchasing and what it's packed in; Buying something that merely has novelty factor almost guarantees it's going to end up as waste in landfill, much better to buy something that the receiver will care for and look after. Step two is to know that small changes in our purchasing habits, like remembering our bags-for-life, really do make a difference.  It's about considering the choices we make and putting kindness at the centre of it all, to others, the environment and ourselves.

Have a Happy Sustainable Christmas!
Tamsin   x

Saturdays at Skibbereen Farmers Market

In May and with some trepidation, I began getting up earlier on a Saturday morning to head off to  Skibbereen Farmers Market.  Having had several years experience of the bricks and mortar kind of retailing, being outside in what is basically an open tent and subjected to the weather, was a scenario that was a little daunting. However, my partner, Donagh Carey, a fine artist, was to join me and together we brought a combination of wares that possibly hadn't been seen together at Skibbereen Market before.  

Skibbereen Farmers Market is everything you want a market to be.  A diverse collection of local stallholders selling interesting  things that you actually want to buy.   For those who appreciate Slow Food, you can do your weekly shop at Skibbereen Market and be confident that you're buying from the person who has produced it and who has travelled just a few miles.  You can only get fruit and veg that's in season, because you'll only find local food here.  There are stalls specialising in collectable jewellery, glassware or china, secondhand books and vinyl records.  There are contemporary ceramicists  and knitters of hand dyed yarn, plus many stalls selling plants for the garden or polytunnel  and a lady who grows her own  flowers and sells the most charming cut flower bouquets.  It's a real authentic market.

Having a website is grand, in fact in the 21st Century it's essential, but I was missing out on  interacting with clients and getting feedback. It's one thing presenting images and descriptions online and a totally different experience meeting people one-to-one and hearing their responses and seeing how the clothes actually fit.  And of course, for customers, it's much easier to know whether something is going to suit you if you have it right in front of you and can see and feel it.  I've even customised a private fitting area complete with mirror and carpet so you can try things on.  

There are many lovely aspects to spending a Saturday at Skibbereen Farmers Market and they are all connected to the people who are there, both stallholders and market goers.  Having an opportunity to have conversations about sustainability and what it means, finding out what resonates and what is important to different people and explain how I'm approaching sustainability in the collection, all make for a very fulfilling day at the market.  One lady, dreamily lost in her own thoughts whilst examining a garment made of printed cotton fabric, suddenly commented, "These remind me of clothes I use to wear".  That will do for me.  

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We'll be at Skibbereen Farmers Market on the Fairfield off Bridge Street every Saturday from 9am to 2pm come rain or shine (but probably not hurricane).  Contact me for me details on anything to do with the collection or the market.  For more information about the work of Donagh Carey click here.

Tamsin