Every single thing I go to lately seems to have the advertised start time about three-quarters of an hour before it actually starts. It’s as if they know I’m coming and in anticipation of my lateness, give the wrong time. The problem is, I have been dead on time for a change! So; not having the courage to speak to strangers already chatting to each other, after spending as long as I politely could browsing the clothes rails at To The Moon, I walked up and down the road for while and moved my car to a less dodgy parking space until the first person was due to speak, according to the piece of paper sellotaped to the wall. I perched on a stool at the back of the room with my notebook at the ready, interested to hear what they had to say about ethical and sustainable fashion….
I had been excited at first to see that Bristol had its own Fashion Week. However, I’ve looked at the website for the last two or three years and it never sounded interesting enough to bother to go, and it sounds like I was right. The general consensus at the event was that it’s all very well parading people wearing what are in the High Street shops, but we want to see what is actually being designed and/or made in Bristol. This is where the shop, To The Moon, next to the pub of the same name, comes in. It stocks locally designed and manufactured clothing, jewellery and accessories. I picked up business cards from Drum & Fife; Red Bird Makes; Alexandra Nicholson; the Headscarf shop and Eden & After (I’m really wishing I’d bought one of their necklaces now), but there were others, so definitely go in and have a look.
Anyway, back to the talks – the first was from Lizzie from brand Anteform. Begun in Leeds, and now based in Bristol, Anteform is on its 10th collection with
everything made from reclaimed fabrics. The thing that impressed me the most is that Lizzie knows everyone involved in the entire production line. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all brands worked like this? I also loved her design decision that they don’t make anything you can’t run for the bus in! I found it fascinating that at the back of warehouses all around the country there are rolls of fabric getting dusty because they weren’t quite right for whoever it was made for at the time. So some of Anteform’s clothes include Liberty print fabric from the 1980s, not used originally because there was a slight fault in the run. Now, the faults are worked around so the majority of the fabric is not wasted. Also scarves from the late 1970s found in Bradford; and panelling from waste cloth in a weave-house in Macclesfield are used. I love seeing tweed in clothing, and part of the new collection include panels of tweed from roll ends and blankets that would otherwise likely have ended up in landfill. There is a fishermen knit range made by a couple in their garage in Cornwall using 100% reclaimed wool. The fact that every single item of clothing has a fascinating story behind it, is what makes everything special.
We next heard from Zoe Robinson from The Good Wardrobe. This is a website dedicated to helping people find what they need, whether it’s advice from the forum or finding ethical children’s clothes in the directory. She also mentioned a ‘Sew It Forward’ initiative encouraging people to teach friends and neighbours how to sew.
Helen Brown from Kecks Clothing spoke next, and she was all for upcycling unwanted clothing and runs workshops and talks to schools and groups about how to do it. I wrote down in my notebook that she said Bristol Textile Recycling centre receives 40,000 t-shirts a day. That can’t be right – maybe it was 4000 a day. That’s still a hell of a lot of t-shirts just from Bristol every single day! She showed us how to cut a t-shirt to turn it into yarn – perfect for chunky knitting or crochet. I’m looking forward to showing Rain how it’s done as she’s a crocheter, but always struggles to find the money to buy thick yarn.
When I was about to leave, I said a quick thank you to Gemma, the shop owner, who asked if I was going to do the style challenge. They ran a competition to dress up in the best outfit from the shop and the winner (using #tothemooninstyle on social media) would be given a £30 voucher for the shop or bar. I said I was too shy to do it. The truth is, I was too shy to say that there was nothing in the shop that would fit. On my first look around, I didn’t think anything of it – having recently been a size 20-22, I am well used to looking at clothes shops and not finding anything that fits. Then I remembered I’m now a size 16, which really should be within the sizing range for normal clothes shops. I’m not even sure I saw anything in size 14 either. There were a couple of items on the vintage rail that might’ve fitted, but I certainly wasn’t going to risk trying them on with people waiting to see and take my photo! Granted, most of the other people there were skinny little fashion students (she says in the nicest possible, not jealous in any way sort-of way) who had no problem slithering into clingy body-con dresses; but that’s not the point.
Whilst driving home and thinking about it, I actually felt let down. Are curvy women not allowed to choose ethical and sustainable clothing? Designers often only go to size 12 or 14 and this exudes exclusivity and the desire that only slim, beautiful women are allowed to wear their clothing. I hope this isn’t the case for the designers at To The Moon. I hope they’d unfortunately sold out of larger sizes and hadn’t had chance to re-stock. I hope they don’t tell me that I might’ve fitted into the Fishermen’s jumper or that loose-fitting glitter top. Feeling like beggars can’t be choosers, does not make for an enjoyable shopping experience.
Anyway, I did not intend for this piece to end up being a curvy girl rant; I wanted to keep it positive, because what this little community is doing is amazing. There was an atmosphere of optimism and all the speakers talked about expanding their directories; their shops; their blogs etc. There was even talk of an ethical/sustainable department store. As Helen said, the fashion industry as it is, is a huge global problem and needs to be changed. Workers need to earn a living wage and work in safe environments, and the more we walk about it, the greater the chances of change happening.
I came away feeling inspired and encouraged by the fact that people are actually making successful businesses in a sustainable fashion industry, and feeling like I should be polishing a little tiny halo above my head for Oshun, for doing my bit!