Has fast fashion had its day? Meet the creative fixers, revamping trendsetters and slow fashion fans who are spearheading a new movement
With Britain still in the iron grip of austerity measures, the temptation is to dive into your nearest fast fashion emporium for a cheap fix. But, as we all know, that ‘retail therapy’ buzz doesn’t hang around. For longer lasting feels, the only way is to plug in the sewing machine, rev up the creative engine and DIY – that’s dabble, darn and design it yourself.
Nikki McWilliams ( www.nikkimcwilliams.com), she of the iconic biscuit makes, comes from a homemade household. “Up until the age of 10, I only wore clothes that my mum had made for me. I had an amazing wardrobe of custom dresses and outfits. I even had a school uniform dress which I designed and she helped me to make.” But Nikki understands the lure of the high street, too. “Before I started my business, I worked in retail. Things were priced so cheaply, and customers got into the mindset of buying lots of less-expensive items that might not last as long as slightly higher quality – and more expensive – garments.” Nikki agrees it’s fun to buy new clothes, “but I prefer having fewer items that I really enjoy owning, using and caring for.” And what about handmade? “I’ve recently started making my own clothes again. It takes time but it’s nice to remind yourself how just much work actually goes into creating a garment from scratch!”
For those of us who need a quick fix of a di erent kind, Nikki’s cleverly designed a range of iron-on patches for fellow jeans obsessives. “I practically live in the same pair of jeans from day to day. Iron-on and sew-on patches by indie designers are a great way to mend torn denim, while adding a little bit of character to your clothes.”
Characterful clothes may appear unusual at first, but it’s not actually that hard to achieve this style. By revamping items from your existing wardrobe you can get a new look out of an old favourite. Christine Leech of Sew Yeah ( www.sewyeah.co.uk) believes that “some articles of clothing just get better over time. I have a black cashmere jumper I bought at a jumble sale when I was a teenager. It has holes in the elbows that I’ve repatched so many times, but this just makes it look even more unique.” She adds: “I also have a couple of favourite tops that I bought from shops years ago that are now so old-looking, I’ve dismantled them and used them to make patterns. This means I now have several of the same top in di erent fabrics, which is great.” Christine’s craftiness has given her a completely individual wardrobe, while keeping the recycling bin empty and the bank account full.
TAKE IT SLOW
This new, more ethical approach to fashion is gaining popularity, with people choosing quality over quantity and creating a capsule wardrobe, rather than hoarding rails of unworn clothes. Mindful maker Fi Bryant (@ fi_bryant on Instagram) believes that “consuming less is not only key to the future of our planet, but to finding peace of mind. Earth-kind acts, no matter how small, help wellbeing, as do making, using our hands and connecting with natural rhythms and cycles.”
Fi’s emotional attachment to her wardrobe is palpable: “I feel overwhelmed and stressed by a large wardrobe of clothes I hardly wear and feel no attachment to,” she says. “It can throw up all kinds of emotional responses. I much prefer to have less and feel more of a sense of attachment and care for each item. This is where making your own clothes and purchasing some slow fashion pieces can really help.”
Cathy McKinnon, co-author of inspiring new book Sewing Your Perfect Capsule Wardrobe: 5 Key Pieces to Tailor to Your Style, agrees. “I think there are ways you can keep on trend sustainably. I have pieces in my wardrobe that have been there for 20 years and I still love wearing them. Yes, both a shop-bought and homemade garment can feel great to wear, but there’s something really special about making your own clothes that feels unique and personal to you, the maker. You’ve chosen the fabric, the pattern, the finish and the fastenings. It’s a lovely thing.”
Whether you choose to mend with meaning, fix with flair or start slow from scratch, take inspiration from these four super-stylin’ seamstresses and just darn it.