Words by Sophie Smith.
This year, with Extinction Rebellions Fashion Action and the Environmental Audit Committee, ‘Fast Fashion’ has been thrown into the spotlight once again, and attitudes are changing. Consumer love for fast fashion, a term coined by retailers for designs that have flown quickly off the catwalk and into retail stores, is a trend addiction. These types of clothing are not built to last. More than 60% of the fabric fibres are derived from fossil fuels, they both end up in landfill or in our oceans, and don’t even get me started on their carbon footprint!
Consumers can reduce their carbon footprint easily. Simply look at where the garment is made, and also look at the ‘transparent policies’ of the company you are purchasing it from. Sure a lot of garments are made off-shore. But if you can invest in the local UK manufactures, or clothing brands in countries, which have pledged to reduce their carbon emission to zero. Then that’s your first step towards green! However, the main focus of any consumer should be the ethical side of fashion.
Within the tailoring industry ‘fast fashion’ is a term rarely used. If you have ever bought a bespoke suit you will understand the level of skill required to create it, and it’s certainly not a quick process. However, that’s where the tailoring industry can lead by example in the fight for ‘slow fashion’.
A British bespoke tailored suit, like the ones made at Morgan & Fenwick, is produced with a very little carbon footprint. It’s important to talk about the carbon footprint of bespoke tailoring because it has a holistic approach to (environmental) sustainability. So how do you make a bespoke suit even more sustainable? It doesn’t involve a milk bottle topcoat or tin foil cufflinks. It’s about collaboration and progression within the industry.
This season Morgan & Fenwick bespoke tailors have teamed up with JustHarry. A fun reused, recycled denim fashion brand who’s deigns quote ‘withstand the test of time’. Director Harriet offers to repair your loved garment so you can keep on loving it! In our collaboration, we’ve taken the fine art of tailoring and JustHarry’s bespoke Denim cloth and produced a cutting edge tailored jacket. Made in the UK with low carbon emissions, this recycled, pre-loved denim is still packing plenty of killer style!
Director Harriet is 26 and is the owner of Just Harry. She studied Fashion Design at Leeds College Of Art (now Leeds Arts University), where she met Morgan & Fenwick director Samantha Fenwick. The two shared very similar values about fashion but travelled down very different paths to get to where they are now. We caught up with Harriet, (over FaceTime of course!) to get the lowdown on her brand and what it stands for in today’s crowded market.
What was your route into the sustainable fashion industry?
‘My route into the fashion industry actually started at LCA where I did a live brief with a local independent brand. I created my entire final collection based on a brief that was going to be taken straight to the shelves, so to speak. However, a few hard lessons were learnt along the way and in the end, I didn’t work for the company and ventured down to London in seek of an internship or a job in the mad, fast world of fashion!’
What made you start Just Harry and what does the business do?
‘Just Harry started in the living room of a house share in London when I created myself a patchwork jacket from pre-loved denim jeans and wore it out, I got so many compliments and people were asking me where I got it from. I then got commissioned to make a collaged jacket and from there the brand just grew. I started making bags and purses and started going to small markets, and finally created a collection big enough so that I could launch my own ASOS Marketplace boutique. It then got to the point where I had gone down to working part-time so that I could focus on Just Harry, but living in London was expensive so I was picking up more and more shifts. I realised then that I had a decision to make, if I really wanted to give JH a go, I needed to move back up North (home) and give it a real push. I didn’t want to sit later on in life and think what if, so I moved and I have come so far and have never looked back. I also really wanted to be my own boss and have free creative reign on my projects and designs.’
‘Just Harry is a sustainable fashion brand which is all about the denim, it focuses on the deconstruction and reconstruction of pre-loved denim to form a collection of jackets and accessories. Just Harry aims to create desirable pieces that tell a story and show that recycled and preloved doesn’t have to mean second-hand drabs.’
Have you got any advice for consumers trying to reduce their carbon footprint?
‘It’s hard for brands that are actually sustainable to differentiate themselves from the fast fashion brands that are greenwashing themselves to make them appear eco friendly and sustainable, so don’t be fooled. Make sure you dig deeper and do some research and support the brands that are making a difference.’
What’s your favourite part of the job?
‘I love the whole process! Taking old garments and turning them into a totally new and unique piece. But I have to say, my favourite part of the job is when I get an order, I actually do a little dance and it puts a smile on my face for days. I think because of its reassurance that people love my designs and actually want to purchase them and wear them. Honestly the best feeling in the world.’
Do you see yourself collaborating with other sustainable designers and artists in the future?
‘Of course. Fast fashion brands have the upper hand and I think us small, sustainable brands need to stick together and help each other out. I also just love getting creative with other creatives, it’s just amazing and can bring so many new ideas to the table.’
The result of this unique collaboration is a fully recycled single-breasted Jacket, sporting a wide peak lapel and real cuff buttons. The suit jacket is lined using a piece of lining Samantha has had kicking around, leftover from her graduate collection in 2016! The buttons on the suit are made from the recycled denim and even the pocket bags have been cut from an old pair of cotton trousers. The intention of this collaboration was to create a garment, taking elements of both brands style to emphasise the importance of sustainability throughout the fashion industry.
Morgan & Fenwick and Just Harry both share an overwhelming passion for creating unique products, that are contemporary, stylish and of course, as green as possible! This collaboration between the two brands isn’t revolutionary but has created a doorway to a whole new realm of possibilities within the fashion industry. ‘This Jacket is just the beginning’ says Samantha, ‘I hope we can expand this idea much further!’.
The ethos of the brands you shop with should be important to you. It should be the deciding factor when you're considering your purchase. So next time you shop, do some more research on the brand, ask them about their policies, ask them where it is made, where the cloth came from, how it got to the UK. Every time you make a greener choice when purchasing clothing you are helping towards the bigger picture of saving the world.