As part of Fashion Revolution Week, we’re showcasing the garments created for us by 5 young Scottish Designers whose focus is on sustainability.
Fashion Revolution Week challenges us to ask “who made my clothes?” – and to understand the processes involved in the production of what we wear. These 5 young designers are all committed to working towards a more sustainable fashion industry – where designers value the planet’s resources and as consumers we all know and care about where our clothes have come from, how they were made and the stories they have to tell.
Garments featured can be seen in the window of our Paisley Shop from 23rd April 2021.
Guest blogger Thomas Dixon reflects on the interviews he conducted for ReMode’s Guest Designer series.
“For the past five months ReMode has collaborated with emerging designers across Scotland, challenging them to create a garment from a pack of donated clothes. I interviewed these fashion designers about their practices and how they understand and relate to sustainability. These interviews have revealed a rich culture of upcycling and the thought and effort which is being put into transforming a wasteful industry into a sustainable and caring one. We hope that these interviews have provided some inspiration to our audience to take on their own upcycling projects.
I met first with Morag Seaton (over Zoom of course) where we talked about her upcycled jacket which she crafted by deconstructing two woollen jackets. Seaton’s design process is concerned not just with how clothes look but the “complex relationship between clothes and society”. Key to this approach is a consideration of clothes and the part they play in a larger system of consumption and expression rather than simply trendy aesthetic objects. Seaton spoke of how memories, mending and emotional attachment are fundamental to transforming how we wear and preserve items of clothing. Making clothes last longer and worn more is a key component to reducing wasteful consumption.
Conducting these interviews during a pandemic also revealed the hopes these designers had for the future and the massive changes which have taken place so far over the past year. Seaton brought my attention to three major new directions in fashion. First is digital fashion, so clothes which are purely for the digital space and are not manufactured at all. The second was the possibility of a fast fashion which is biodegradable and could be made and disposed of quickly and without too much pollution. Lastly there could be a return to slow, considered hand crafted approach to fashion which are made to last a lifetime.
My next interview was with Sarah McCormack, who shared with us her labour-intensive process of hand sewing and sculpturally draping fabric. McCormack was sent lace and silk garments to transform which was unusual for the designer as she usually works straight from fabric, but she noted that it “adds…facets to the way its adapted” alluding to the stories and history an existing garment can bring with it when upcycled and given a second life.
McCormack told us how she sourced her fabrics while studying in London, collecting offcuts from a merchant in a market, off the beaten track and deadstock sources. McCormack avoids buying fabrics new, often purchasing deadstock instead and prefers organic materials opposed to polyesters. She does not source specific fabrics as much as makes use of what is around her and avalible. This could be understood as avoiding participating in the supply/demand culture which drives fast fashion which McCormack phrases as being “opposed to consumption in the ‘new’ sense”, constantly trend chasing.
These all feed into McCormack’s conception of sustainability which rests on the idea of working directly on fabric – “no toils” – and producing one off, unique garments which are special and made to be treasured. She also opposes the idea of perfection, championing ‘deconstructed’ or ‘messy’ clothes, meaning there is less waste in the quest of making perfectly commercial items.
When talking about the wider fashion world, McCormack expressed how outdated typical fashion-shows seem in today’s world, believing in a future which is focuses on young creatives rather than huge professional companies.
Melody Uyanga Ramsay also disregards the idea of prototype toils in her practice. Instead, she emphasises the idea of practicality in making, ensuring all materials are used in a way which have continued use, rather than making something that is fated to be thrown away. When she received her upcycling pack, she responded to the conditions of the pandemic and wanted to make something that could be used immediately so made facemasks to ‘serve a purpose in the here-and-now’. She continued this ethos of practicality by including numerous pockets in her upcycled jacket/vest. Uyanga Ramsay, similarly to Seaton, also champions contextualising the idea and purpose of clothing and like McCormack, enjoys working with found fabrics rather than sourcing them specifically.
This emphasis on practicality is contrasted against David Black’s use of fashion as escapism during the pandemic. Black mentioned how he saw fashion as a good way to bring joy and hope during dark times, introducing us to a restorative idea of fashion that is not just a functional item, but also a process which enriches our lives.
Black relies primarily on old clothes donated to him in his design practice which he then transforms using several different upcycling techniques. Black introduced me, for the first time, to the method of ‘subtraction cutting’ which is an efficient way of creating avant-garde shapes without much waste. He demonstrated this technique for us by creating a colourful dress from old t-shirts. He also enjoys patchwork and creating t-shirt fringe from jersey.
Black noted the impact that the digital space has had for independent designers being able to photograph, model and sell clothes all through their phones. This new technology could help to support a new economy of independent fashion makers as opposed to huge wasteful corporations.
Christopher Reid’s approach to fashion, specifically their graduate collection, has been informed by the conditions they found themselves in once the pandemic hit. Without a proper studio space, they had to focus on individual pieces of clothing rather than considering outfits as a whole. This led them to becoming more considerate, spending more time on embellishing and finishing.
Reid enjoys a similar relationship with fabrics, as per our other designers, happy to source from charity shops around Edinburgh and emphasised the emotive quality of second-hand fabrics. Reid made us a corset and a shirt from old floral fabrics which they then illustrated onto, taking inspiration from woodblock prints depicting the witch trials in Scotland.
Reid spoke of how they want to maintain a made to order model of making, ensuring no overproduction. They also are looking to source boning and eyelets which do not come from metals however Reid drew our attention to the pay off between the amount of time it takes to hand finish a garment which can sometimes mean it becomes economically unviable. This is an important tension to consider when it comes to balancing sustainable practice and sustainable business models.
From these interviews I have gathered techniques, concepts, and visions of an exciting future. These designers have radically altered my way of understanding of clothes, what sustainability is and how upcycling can be a fundamental aspect of building a more environmentally friendly future.”