The Rise and Rise of Bespoke Upcycled FashionKate Stuart
Kate Stuart is a practicing artist, writer and craftswoman based in the North East of England. She specializes in up-cycling, zero waste living, quilting and painting with acrylics on canvas. She owns The Phoenix Green Store, which she hopes will become Newcastle upon Tyne’s first zero waste store. She is covering Fashion Revolution Week for No Serial Number Magazine, between 23rd – 29th April 2018. This is the fourth in a six part blog series for Fashion Revolution Week, exploring ways to become more conscious about the clothes you choose to buy, as well as the ones you already have.
Bespoke, up-cycled fashion is on the rise, and I really do have to bite my tongue and try not to say “about time!”. That long held notion that we can keep producing new garments from new materials, at huge cost to both the planet and the people who labor to spin and weave and dye and cut and sew, is surely falling out of grace, and rightly so. The world needs more of the recycling designer makers who look beyond the shine of the new, carrying the story of used textiles forward with honor and grace, while at the same time respecting that a circular model, where what has been made, can be remade, and be more valuable for it’s history, is surely the future of fashion.
As re-fashionistas go, Sue Reed, owner of The Woolly Pedlar, and winner of Best Sustainable Company 2018 (Craft Business Magazine), is up there with the best of them. Rescuing unloved and discarded pure wool textiles from a likely end in landfill, she reinvents them into new and gloriously unique garments and household textiles.
From her home-based workshop, fondly referred to as her “Woolly Garrett”, in the beautiful, sweeping landscape of Northumberland, UK, she designs and makes her own take on sweater-coats inspired by Katwise, as well as a whole range of other up-cycled, reconstructed garments like dresses, wraps, ponchos and arm-warmers.
Sue tells me “my mission is to help reduce the drain on the planet’s resources by making new from old“, and certainly, investing in up-cycled, bespoke fashion is one important way to reduce the impact of our worldwide obsession with textiles, and become more conscious with our clothes. When something is made just for you, to a design you’re excited by, and with materials that are natural, hard-wearing and above all, please you, what you have is a garment you are going to wear a lot, ensuring that the time and energy and resources that went into creating it, and then remaking it, are well spent.
Sue invests time and energy to collect unwanted pure wool textiles from local charity shops and invites social media followers and fans of her work to sent her items of machine knit woolwear that is no longer wanted, so that she can turn them into her bespoke patchwork creations. With the nature of using recycled materials what it is, and limited amounts available of any one knit pattern or colourway, her pieces have the advantage of being truly one of a kind. Whilst she may use the same design more than once, the outcome is always utterly unique.
It’s worthy of note that our human condition to stand out from the crowd, and wear clothes that we identify with is held in balance with the feeling of wanting to be part of the crowd, and for many, being fashionable is about wearing what is “in season” – loosely translated as wearing what everybody else is. But the tide is turning here too, and more and more fashionistas are realizing that stepping out in a garment that is unique and bespoke is a wonderful feeling – no risk of turning up at work or a special occasion wearing the same thing as others that are there. The one of a kind garment allows it’s wearer to communicate their own uniqueness and tell their story through the threads they carry.
It’s important to reflect on the way we view the clothes in our wardrobe, as well as the ones on our wish list – and including bespoke, handmade pieces where we can afford to, helps to maintain the kitchen table entrepreneurs who are carrying handmade haute couture skills that generations to come will most definitely need as the tide turns against mass production in textile factory slave ships, and returns once again to the craft of creating beautiful clothes that last a lifetime, and are kind to both people and planet.
Sue will be attending the Creative Ethical Living Fair 2018 in North Shields, Tyne and Wear on Sunday 29th April, as a guest speaker and stall holder. She will be discussing the importance of recycling and up-cycling textiles and why she works to keep them in the local economy. Find out more and book your ticket to this free event here!
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