On a cool, crisp winter’s eve, bubbly bloggers and fabulous fashion students huddled outside West Ham Station, drawing curious looks from the real Eastenders. This was the rendezvous point on my magical mystery tour from Midlothian, on an assignment with Zero Waste Scotland, to report on a unique re-styling event.
The Love Your Clothes (LYC) campaign team were our hospitable hosts at LM Barry’s Britannia Mill, a vast recycling centre. Set up by WRAP, a not-for-profit organisation supported by UK Governments, LYC aims to raise awareness of the value of clothes and help us make the most of the clothes we already have.
This family run recycling centre is one of London’s largest clothing recycling businesses. It collects on an average week 170 to 200 tonnes of textiles, clothing and shoes; 80% is sorted out and exported for reuse, 10% that isn’t fit for reuse is cut into wiping clothes, and 5% is sent for flocking and felting, leaving a minimal 5% waste, incorporating household rubbish, hangers and single shoes.
“The concept of hosting a styling challenge for fashion bloggers at LMB factory was a reality check yet inspiring back drop. I think the important messages of the LYC campaign is to unlock the value in your wardrobe, to look after your clothes, to buy good quality items made to last and to enjoy transforming your old clothes through re-styling, re-fashioning and repairs” said textile upcyclist Barley Massey from http://fabrications1.co.uk/, with her scissors and sewing machine at hand, ready to assist the friendly competitors.
The competition, to unearth garments and create a new-season party look, was judged by fashion and personal stylist Emma Slade from http://backofthewardrobe.com/. This radiant recycler has an ethic that she describe as ‘thoughtful fashion’ – it’s about being conscious and creative with clothes.
“I think nights like this are so important first of all from an awareness point of view so people with a credible microphone out to the social community can see what goes on behind the scenes. So we can help show how much joy and fun can be had with the textiles we so often discard as tired and finished , not this season, not current enough or just not our favourite piece. The event is education in how much waste we produce (probably sometimes unnecessarily), you know, you get to experience the visual gravity of it all… For me, these clothes are a veritable playground of the unique and exciting; they provide an opportunity to be wearing something different – to dress someone else in something different. It’s a challenge. We don’t challenge ourselves with our clothes anymore because things are so readily available and everyone is spoon fed style.”
The timing was very poignant, as Emma went on to comment that the event ”was somehow almost the direct parallel to Black Friday – beautiful people breathing new life into mounds of discarded clothing. It was frenzied no doubt, but in a good way. The excitement was palpable and it was all positive energy!”
Fi Cuningham, who works for the fashion PR agency tasked by WRAP, summarised the importance of this event:
‘I think the LYC campaign is immensely important in raising awareness of an issue which I think is not that high on the public agenda and certainly not a hot topic amongst the fashion industry, although the situation is improving… If more people were aware of the impact of throwing clothes in their bins and how much a difference recycling garments makes, not only to the UK but worldwide (with Africa in particular relying on the 1st world for second hand clothes), I think it would really change the way we treat our wardrobes’.
£140 million worth (350,000 tonnes) of used clothing ends up in landfill each year. Thats over 30% of all the clothing we get rid of. Even worn out clothes can be recycled into new products, such as industrial rags, speakers and insulation, so there is still value in the clothes we throw away.
Love Your Clothes is all about providing you with quick and easy ways to make the most of your clothes. For more tips and inspiration visit www.loveyourclothes.org
I left London feeling both shocked by our wasteful consumerism, and totally inspired in how we can work together with the social media generation, to combine fun with facts and fabulousness,
Gordon J Millar
Scot Street Style Ltd.