'Pretty Rubbish' & 'SAINTE!' - Final Projects from the Fashion and Textiles department at City College, Brighton

June 23rd, 2016 was not just a day that changed the direction Britain had been taking over the past 40 years, it was also a day where we were able to see another change of direction that is taking place but this time within the world of fashion. Brighton Fashion Week was invited along to see the final projects of the Fashion and Textiles department at City College, Brighton.  On show was an impressive and broad spectrum of projects that students had developed for a new fashion industry that is created out of some of the key challenges in our world today.

Today’s students are faced with the fallout of a lifestyle so many of us have developed where most things we buy are either a few clicks away or a few streets away. Although this creates an ever more convenient world for our fast paced schedules, connections seem to have been broken between us as the consumer and the people and environment that make the objects we are so quick to buy. Often our choice is driven by “the perception” of a bargain even if it might be something we do not necessarily need or will value.
With each new purchase, are we just adding to the causes of climate change, large amounts of landfill waste, and the tragic exploitation of individuals we do not meet so that we can just consume more and more?

Last year, Brighton Fashion Week worked with WRAP’s Sustainable Clothing Action Plan and Love Your Clothes campaign, the Ethical Fashion Forum, Fashion Revolution and the World Fair Trade Organisation to deliver two days of workshops and activities to contemplate and rethink how we all consume today.

Our Head of Sustainability, Siobhan Wilson, went along to City College and interviewed two students, Florence Hutchings and Lola Spinks about why sustainability was such a big part of their final projects this year.

Flo Hutchinson had attended the Brighton Fashion Week events and had been so influenced that she decided to change her career .  We asked Flo what had made her to want to follow a career that focused on sustainable fashion.  Lola Spinks, the second student we interviewed,  explained her impressive exhibition titled “Pretty Rubbish.”

Florence Hutchings' “Sainte” Magazine & BFW's Head of Sustainabilty, Siobhan Wilson:

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SW What made you decide to follow a career path in fashion communication?

FH I’ve always had an interest in fashion, but in my mind it wasn’t really a realistic job. I also felt quite troubled by a lot of what I saw in the industry, especially with the rise of fast fashion and I just didn’t see it as something I wanted to be a part of. As a foundation student I thought I’d end up specialising in graphics or illustration, but after I went to talks with Orsola De Castro on sustainability at Brighton Fashion Week I knew that I wanted to be involved in the industry and take part in making it sustainable and ethical.

SW Do you see sustainable fashion as a trend or a movement?

FH I think we are really starting to wake up and realise the environmental and social impacts of the industry. There is a lot more awareness, especially after the Rana Plaza tragedy. There are plenty of sustainable/ ethical clothing brands that are definitely part of a movement that is paving the way to a more sustainable future of fashion. Even high end designers such as Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood treat sustainability as a movement. However, I also think that as sustainability increases in popularity, it turns into a marketing technique for some brands that want to appeal to whats on trend. Ultimately, it doesn't matter too much if people are interested in sustainable fashion because its ‘trendy’. I just think that this takes away from what really matters.

SW Has your interest in sustainable fashion changed the way you shop?  If so, what do your friends and family think of your new shopping habits?

FH Most definitely! It has inspired me to really only get my stuff from vintage and charity shops. I prefer doing it too, as I don’t feel guilty every time I buy something! It is more time consuming, but the clothes are usually way cheaper, better quality and individual. Now I rarely buy things off the high street (maybe the odd pair of socks or knickers). My personal style has massively evolved since I have started to do this as it’s a greater challenge to create an outfit, unlike how everything is laid out and paired for you already in the shops on the high street!

My friends and family think its great, it has made them a more conscious of where they get there clothes from too!

SW What do you think of the range of choice for people your age in sustainable fashion?

FH Honestly, I wouldn’t say that there is a great deal of choice yet. A lot of young people like to shop vintage, which is great in terms of recycling clothing. But in terms of new sustainable brands, the clothes tend to be pricier and aimed at a slightly older market. I understand why people my age don’t buy from sustainable fashion brands as they are a lot less accessible in comparison to high street shops. Saying this, as sustainability is becoming a more prominent issue, more and more brands will adopt sustainable methods out of high demand.

SW Do you have any favourite sustainable fashion brands that you have discovered and would like to share with us since starting your new magazine “Sainte?"

FH I absolutely love Electric Tees, they create sustainably/ethically made t-shirts which are really cute and are featured in SAINTE! People Tree is also good, I like that they have many classic pieces, which is great if your thinking of slowly building up to a sustainable wardrobe.

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Lola Spinks: Pretty Rubbish

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SW Tell us a a bit more about your exhibit "Pretty Rubbish."

LS My main aim with 'Pretty Rubbish' was to raise awareness of the amount of waste produced in the UK by creating a piece that was visually accessible for the public. Sometimes pieces of visual art that carry a strong message can feel like an attack on the viewer, especially when the message is about waste because it often isn't particularly nice to look at! Pretty Rubbish is made from a combination of new coloured collaged plastic bags that have been filled with various types of waste. The bags are decorated with satellite imagery of landfill sites that have been embroidered and beaded onto the plastic.

The amount of waste we each produce is such an important issue but as a person who tries to control it I know it is very hard to do with all the packaging used!

SW Do you have any tips for how we can reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill?

LS Yes! I find that the most useful tip is to simply ask yourself while you are shopping, about where your product's packaging will end up after you are finished with it. Now, don't get me wrong, it's easier said than done. It takes time to get into the habit of considering this as a deciding factor of whether or not to buy something! Another good tip it to know your rubbish. Look through your bin and see what is the biggest contributor to your waste footprint and ask yourself 'can you live without it?' because landfill sure can! Lastly, don't buy packaged fruit and veg! Use your local greengrocer and take reusable packaging like Tupperware boxes or reusable bags.

SW Do you see waste as an issue mainly with food?

LS Food packaging is a massive contributor to landfill of course, but we often have the option to buy food with recyclable packaging or even none at all. For me, my project was kick-started by the amount of fabric and material waste in the fashion and textile industry. We throw away so many old clothes every year and they don't only fill up the planet, but the dyes release harmful toxins into the air. I really think that the whole industry needs to change. We are simply producing too much! If we were to stop all clothing production today, there would still be enough to go round the world's population! Of course, this wouldn't be practical as millions of people would be out of work but I believe that there must be a more sustainable and more ethical way to produce clothing.

SW How does your view on waste affect your fashion choices?

LS It has completely changed the way that I shop. Other than certain essentials that are simply too expensive (for a poor student!) to buy elsewhere, I have not shopped in a large high street chain for about 9 months. I either buy all my clothes from second-hand vintage or charity shops or make my own clothes. I also sometimes treat myself to something from American Apparel because all their clothes are made it America and are very good quality. People Tree is another brand I hope buy from and support as they do incredibly good work. But I really cannot sell charity shops enough! I think everyone should give it a go because you are basically all swapping clothes whilst donating to charity - it's amazing! It takes a bit of time to get the hang of, but when you find something in your size that you love for £4... it's a pretty good feeling. Who doesn't love saving the planet, helping people and getting a bargain all at the same time?!

SW. We loved your exhibit "Pretty Rubbish."  What will you be doing next?

LS. Thank you! I am heading to London in September to study BA Textile Design at Central Saint Martins.

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- Siobhan Wilson, Head of Sustainability, Brighton Fashion Week