RE[ACT]: The Slow, Sustainable Fashion Business

Fast Fashion culture enables consumers to see a garment on the red carpet or social media, then purchase it, or an imitation, on their phone within minutes. It promotes the purchasing of low cost, low value garments, with short life spans. Consequently, the vast majority will end up in landfill within one year. According to WRAP, the annual footprint of a household’s newly bought clothing, along with the washing said clothes, is estimated to be equivalent of the:

·        carbon emissions from driving an average modern car for 6,000 miles

·        water needed to fill over 1,000 bathtubs

·        weight of over 100 pairs of jeans

https://wrap.org.uk/resources/guide/textiles/clothing#

Still, alarmingly, only 5-7% of resaleable fashion is bought and sold on resale platforms. That is something that our panel of female entrepreneurs are changing. As part of the RE[ACT] Festival, the QUB and LQ BID facilitated a showcase and Q & A aimed at highlighting how several female-led businesses are innovatively repurposing materials and garments, whilst raising awareness around the detrimental and devastating impact of fast fashion.

Taylor May set the tone by presenting how her company, Responsible, resell and repurpose garments by working alongside brands to incentivise them to be more sustainable. Responsible have a ‘zero to landfill’ approach, with garments that cannot be resold being recycled or upcycled.

Jude Stephens (Queen’s) chaired a discussion with the panel, featuring Taylor May, and:

  • Marie Nancarrow (Titanic Denim) who repurposes denim into outfits, bags and even furniture.
  • Gaynor Thomasson (Heelz and Toez) who creates customisable shoes for adults and children, from algae.
  • Angela Turkington (Leopard and Lily) who uses natural dyes to create timeless silk scarfs and bespoke face coverings.

The panel discussed the inspirations behind their business, from sowing jeans for rock bands in the 1980s, to creating personalised face coverings during the pandemic. They answered questions on the difficulties in creating a sustainable brand, when we still live in a somewhat ‘throwaway’ culture, where many still have a ‘replace rather than repair’ attitude to their clothing. The panel also showcased their impressive range of sustainable products.

What emerged from the discussion was that in order to become more sustainable, we must rethink how we view and value our clothes, as well as how and where we choose to shop. Sustainability encompasses social issues such as the welfare of garment workers, as well as the impact on our planet. Sustainable, or ‘Slow Fashion’, instead advocates for ethical manufacturing process that respects people, the environment, and animals, as well as encouraging second-hand purchasing, upcycling and repurposing, to give garments a longer life.

Charlotte Irvine

Linen Quarter BID

Carol Lemmens - Arup

Carol is Arup’s Global Advisory Services Portfolio leader and interim Europe Property Business leader.

He was instrumental in developing Arup’s position paper to define the circular economy in the context of the built environment and developing Arup’s work as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s (EMF) knowledge partner for the built environment. He continues to work to raise the awareness of the circular economy approach from general first principles to practice by identifying the many challenges, enablers and opportunities available to Arup and others in making the circular economy a reality. Carol regularly contributes to Circular Economy and thought pieces, presentations and interviews globally. Most notably, Carol was invited to give a key note address to the United Nations General Assembly at their Circular Economy event, in October 2018.