The meteoric rise of fast, cheap and throwaway fashion has created an environmental monster in terms of wastage and pollution. Jacket Required’s “In Talks With” session on Wednesday, hosted by leading fashion industry voice, Caryn Franklin MBE, who got the views of a panel featuring designer Christopher Raeburn, King & Tuckfield founder Stacey Wood and Blackhorse Lane Ateliers founder, Hans Ates, put the focus on the movement towards slow fashion and “crafted to last” products, something they all believe should be the norm, not the exception.
Designer Christopher Raeburn says people need to understand that everything they are wearing has a value to it, and as a company they focus on transparency as much as possible. “We’re really open as a business,” he says. “We do remade products in England, but we’re also really global with our manufacturing. We create recycled products in Asia, and organic cotton jersey in Portugal for instance. To quote Vivienne Westwood, so much of it is about ‘doing less, but better.’ The question that has always been in the back of my head, is why do you not want to think responsibly?”
Stacey Wood, founder of men’s and womenswear brand, King & Tuckfield, says they endeavour to “make well, make slowly and make products that last so you can create your own story,” and they have recently launched a hand-me-down section on their website to promote the full cycle of garments. “We want to make clothes that last the test of time, as that can make a real difference.”
Blackhorse Lane Ateliers, renowned for producing slow and sustainable denim in London, which also held a “Denim Repair Workshop” at the show, is another brand leading the way with more conscious production. Founder Hans Ates says that using your clothes longer and repairing them where possible is one way of making a difference. “If you use anything longer it creates memories and becomes precious. There’s an emotional attachment to clothing.”
Raeburn says he has really looked at what makes sense to his own business, because he believes what is currently going on in fashion is just creating a downward spiral. “We’re in quite a mad moment. Essentially, as an industry, we’ve reached this full capacity where people can get what they want – often at a discount. Then all of the brands are fighting each other for attention and it’s ultimately just a race to the bottom.
“So, we’re really looking at how we can actively push in the right way and disrupt to really make a difference. It absolutely comes down to doing things that have a purpose. We all need to consider what we are doing and what we are consuming. Contrary to what some people think, sustainability is not a trend. We need to sizeably change what’s happening in our industry. When Marks & Spencer said they were no longer going to sell battery farmed eggs, and were only going to sell free range – that’s the kind of thing we’re talking about.”
Leading a more sustainable path can, of course, come as a cost, and it would be foolish to think that it’s in everyone’s budget. Ates says Blackhorse Lane Ateliers jeans start at £150, and sometimes that price gets questioned by the end user. “But we give a lifetime repair guarantee, and we can end up repairing jeans three or four times which takes about an hour a time to do.” That’s where the value actually comes in.
Ates continues: “In our building we have chefs baking bread, weavers making fabrics and art restorers. Through that we have a created a constant flow of local people and Londoners coming through our door. Connectivity starts and it builds community. When you are connected to a community, then accountability starts. As companies, if we are accountable to the community that we live in, then sustainability automatically parallels with that.”
In terms of more established businesses looking to take a more sustainable route, Ates adds: “You can’t change everything in one go, just start with one percent – or something at least, and the rest will follow. The magic is in the action. If you just move one step forward something will carry on.”
Stacey Wood says sustainability is a buzz word at the moment, and every brand wants to be considered as sustainable. “If everyone does their little bit it makes a massive impact on what’s happening. We’re still a very new brand and we’re still learning every day. But we want to build our business in the best way possible.” A feeling clearly echoed by the Jacket Required talk audience.