Those are the unequivocal opening words of a report released earlier this year by Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC). There is a link to that report on the website of Rags2Riches UK, a social enterprise that is aiming to be part of a grass-roots solution to the environmental and social problems caused by ‘fast fashion’.
Launched just a few months ago, the Brighton-based enterprise is run by Annabel Dearing, who is seeking to create a network of sewers, tailors and designers who will be upcyling donated fabrics to create new clothes and accessories for sale online, and also repurposing clothes brought in by customers who want to bring new life to old garments. Originally from Lancashire, Annabel was keen to set up a project that has personal resonance.
“Traditional jobs up in the north are suffering, and sadly some of the old craft skills are dying out,” she says. “I wanted to create something that takes textiles out of landfill, enables people to make money for themselves, and also keeps alive those wonderful skills.”
Via meetup.com, Annabel has been hosting weekly sessions in Brighton where local tailors, designers, pattern-cutters and enthusiasts meet for coffee, cake and idea-sharing. Fabrics are also brought in, and upcycling projects taken on. With up to 30 people in the network so far, the enterprise is starting to gain momentum.
“People have brought in dresses to be funked up, and curtains or cotton sheets that can be transformed into anything,” says Annabel. “We saw an old-fashioned men’s suit that got a bit of a redesign. Someone came in with some linen trousers, which got made into a pair of shorts and sandwich bags. We’re excited about what can be done.”
That EAC report also states that ‘around 300,000 tonnes of textile waste ends up in household bins or landfill every year,’ and that ‘less than 1% of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing at the end of its life.’ With projects like Rags2Riches UK, Annabel hopes that such statistics will eventually become a thing of the past.
“We’re trying to get rid of this reliance on fast fashion,” she says. “Ultimately I want us to make garments that are everyday, mainstream stuff. So you don’t have to go to high street stores, because we can make you a decent T-shirt, that – literally – does not cost the earth.”
By Theo Hooper
Rags2Riches UK are looking for sewers, tailors, designers, enthusiasts and suppliers of recyclable fabrics to join their movement. Get in touch at www.rags2richesuk.com