As a keen textile artist working predominantly with recycled materials, I have become increasingly concerned with the fast fashion industry and the throw-away society we live in today, with around 350,000 tonnes of clothing, estimated at £140 million going to landfill every year in the UK. That is astonishing and very wasteful! There are, though, a growing number of up-cyclers and re-makers who are looking to source and refashion or re-use textiles in their art or ‘trashion’.
More shocking facts about the fast fashion industry:
The fast fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world.
10,000 items of clothing are being sent to landfill every 5 minutes.
The UK alone consumes about 1.1 million tonnes of clothing per year.
More than half of the fast fashion items are disposed of in under a year.
Less than 10% of materials from clothes are recycled into new garments.
It takes 2,700 litres of water to produce one cotton T-shirt.
As a person brought up on hand me downs, ‘make do and mend’ and making our own clothes, I find these figures staggering and extremely upsetting. Apart from lobbying policy makers to set new economic models for the fashion industry and the circular economy I felt that I needed to (and could do) something on a local community level. With the skills passed down through the female line of my family I thought that a useful addition to our area would be to create a community textile, haberdashery and craft recycling centre, together with a creative space.
The overall purpose of the community textile resource centre is to spread the word and encourage a culture of reduce, re-use, recycle, therefore, less going to landfill. But many other advantages flow from this, including being able to make suitable materials available locally, at a reasonable cost for up-cyclers, crafters, community & theatre groups, nurseries & schools, nursing homes etc. This would be achieved by arranging collections of clean waste from manufacturers and accepting donations from the public. I also have ambitions to pass on traditional & modern skills using recycled materials through reasonably priced workshops and social craft groups. Crafting & laughing together is such great therapy! Thinking across the age bands, as a newly retired person, I wanted to offer other newly retired people, who might be missing the routine of getting up for work, an opportunity to get involved by volunteering and/or joining a craft group or workshops, and, likewise with young people, (art and design students for example from local colleges) the opportunity to experience working in a community interest company. They would use their creative flair and skills to re-imagine and redesign items to create up-cycled clothing and homeware, culminating in an exhibition of their work.
Originally the name I chose was ‘Ragaround’, but I changed it to ‘Make The Most Of It’- it can be interpreted in more than one way and was less restricting should I want the project to branch out into new directions at a later date.
In order to get the project off the ground, I approached Abergavenny Community Centre, who were keen on the idea as it had been one of their aims to set up something similar – I therefore work under their umbrella. In January 2020 we started by setting up the weekly craft group. ‘The Crafty Coop’ was starting to grow as word got around and we also had some co-working sessions with other creative groups at the centre- which was great fun!
To further promote Make The Most Of It, I linked up with the Repair Café to have an information table at one of their monthly events where I could chat to people about their needs and ideas and what we could provide for them.
It was all looking positive with good feedback and support…. but sadly Coronavirus came along and everything has gone on hold (as I am in the highly vulnerable group this has meant that I have had to shield and most likely will have to continue to do so until a vaccine is found.)
It is such a shame, as a project like this a valuable resource in a community in terms of educating and informing people, up-skilling and allowing a space for social learning as well as the obvious benefit of stopping items unnecessarily going to waste in landfill. I guess we need to see what the next few months bring but if I can’t continue with the project myself, then it would be great to see it flourish with someone else at the helm.
Renew Wales was delighted to support this project as it was unlike any other project on our ‘books’. The original idea of tackling textile waste is a valuable one and, as a completely new group, our mentor got to work by listening and understanding what they hoped to achieve, before supporting them in terms of how to set themselves up and plan ahead- what governance options were available to them and which would most suit it. He also supported to identify income streams and work out the scale at which they sought to work in the future. The suggestion of coming under the auspices of the community centre was a very useful one as it allowed more links with the community and existing groups and a drop-off point for those donating textiles.
We are keeping out fingers crossed that we can continue supporting the venture when it’s back up and running and help connect them with other creative and waste-focused groups.