Stellen garment for a:dress

This is the story of how I developed my garment for a:dress.

I first heard about a: dress when I attended a talk chaired by Leah Thorn called  'Fashion To Die For' at the Quarterhouse, here in Folkestone, last year. I hadn't considered how I would get involved myself, but listening to guests speaking about the devastating impact of fast fashion both on the environment and on women's lives globally, I knew that I wanted to get involved somehow.

Initial sketch


As the project developed Leah (read about her here) sent out a list of the issues and areas that fast fashion impacts to interested local women to develop garments for a subversive fashion show. After reading through I thought I'd focus on the issue of over production. I came up with the idea of making a garment using waste from my own business- which, of course, is already a waste product.

My initial idea was to use an old t-shirt as a base and tie lots and lots of t -shirt yarn scraps to it (making a sort of hairy monster) and then cover it with a second t-shirt, which would be ill-fitting and hardly contain the scraps. It was titled 'bursting at the seams' and designed to highlight over production & the attempts at hiding this through 'green washing' - such as recycling schemes. I was also considering printing a slogan saying 'Nothing to see here' or similar.

However once lockdown began I was unable to visit a charity shop to buy the t-shirts, so my idea had to evolve. I decided to make the entire garment from fashion industry waste. Made completely by hand from t-shirt yarn. The base is made from 1 1/2 bobbins of yarn, approx 120-180meters. Then scraps from my business cover the garments. There are approximately 40 different yarns used.


garment progress
Some major fast fashion retailers are keen to appear as though they are doing something about the mountains of post-consumer fashion waste by offering recycling for used clothes. But this is such a tiny drop in the ocean as it is estimated, with current technologies, it would take 12 years to recycle what fast fashion produces every 48 hours. Although this is a clear example of green washing, at least it is raising consciousness about post consumer fast fashion waste. As my garment evolved I realised that I could actually highlight the pre-consumer waste involved in fast fashion, that maybe people are less familiar with. Before the clothes even get to the point of sale, they have already caused tonnes of waste. Waste water, fuel emissions and fabric. For every garment produced there is waste material left over, this is usually sent to landfill. This piece is made with some of the garment production waste which has been rescued and turned into t-shirt yarn, and has now become known as the "waste coat".
So far a:dress have held a number of subversive catwalks around Folkestone, even with the extra challenges of social distancing, and have also had a film produced by Clare Unsworth. My piece has been expertly modelled by Josie Carter each time, and the photograph above is by Geoff Brightling.
This week is the a:dress festival week, there are virtual talks that you can book onto too, so do have a look at the programme which can be found here.
wool shop window
The piece is currently on exhibition in the Wool Shop, Church St, Folkestone.a dress fashion walk map