For the series Good Folk on this blog I have sent interview questions to some really wonderful people who are either making things, running shops, or generally promoting sustainability. I think you will enjoy reading their answers as much as I have, and I hope they inspire us all with the knowledge that there are people doing good in the world!
This interview is with Holly from Pocket: made to order clothing from repurposed and deadstock fabric. Here she shares the intention behind her work, a virtual tour of her workspace and an important message about how we perceive garment production the world over.
Tell me about yourself and the work that you do.
I'm Holly, a Slow Fashion practitioner and designer-maker of clothing made from repurposed and deadstock materials. I'm a Yorkshire born lass, living in the Holme Valley (Last of the Summer Wine country!) with my husband Martin and our feline companion Loki.
I have designed a small range of garments for my clothing label - pocket - which are available on a made-to-order basis. My focus within the range is on quality, longevity and versatility. Each design is available to be made in a fabric of your choice with customisations offered on length, design features and finishes. This way of working, as opposed to designing in seasonal collections, is with the intention of offering the wearer the opportunity to 'design their own' garment essentially. The end result is something personal, meaningful and intentional.
How or why did you get started?
I started working on pocket in July 2019 upon returning home to West Yorkshire after living overseas in New Zealand for seven years. It was a happy accident really, and came about very organically. I was looking for seamstress work when I found a studio in a shared artspace within an old wool spinning mill in the heart of my hometown Huddersfield. I moved in and began re-working some old designs whilst doing bits and pieces of freelance sewing. Gradually, I found myself working more and more on my own pieces and receiving requests for custom commissions as word spread. I realised I wanted to focus on utilising my skill set to offer an alternative to mass-produced clothing and promote a more considered approach to clothing consumption.
I was hesitant about contributing to the already overwhelming amount of clothing already in existence. So it was important to me to find a way of working that was intended as a solution to that problem. I decided to focus on sourcing pre-loved and deadstock materials to repurpose & give them a new lease of life as clothing. I use vintage bedding, curtains and embroidered tablecloths in addition to re-fashioning existing garments.
I launched my online store in June 2020, feeling pretty anxious about doing so during the middle of a pandemic! But I was blown away by the response and feel very excited about the future of the label.
Do you have a motto or quote that defines your practice?"Clothing to love for a lifetime: to be worn until threadbare & faded."
I often use this phrase as my tagline, as I think it sums up my desire to encourage long-lasting connections with our clothing. I see my work as a journey, which starts with giving an existing textile a new lease of life, and is further embellished and enriched through the wear and use of that garment.
Take me on an imaginary tour of your workspace.The artspace is on the top floor of the mill so once you enter the building, you walk up four flights of stone steps. You can still smell the natural oils from when the mill was a working spinning factory. The place exudes a sense of history. The first thing that strikes you about the artspace is the expanse of beautiful wooden floorboards, still bearing the holes and marks from the mill's machinery, added to over time by splotches of fallen paint from resident artists. Half of the room is partitioned into separate studios, each with a different coloured door. The door to the pocket studio is the third door along, and is white.
The room is long and fairly narrow, with a large window at the end, flooding light into the space, with a view of trees on the adjacent hills and Huddersfield's renowned 'Castle Hill' monument. To your left is a set of shelves stacked with fabrics organised into colour groups, haberdashery, books, packing materials and vintage pattern envelopes. On your right is a split level clothing rack with garments, samples, toiles and card patterns.
Next to this is a desk where all the administration and design work happens. Across from the desk sits 'June the Juki', my industrial straight sewer machine, usually bathing in a pool of sunlight. On the wall above the machine table is a pegboard filled with threads, scissors, snips, pliers, tape measures and rulers. To the right of June, running parallel to the window, is a raised trestle table on which I do all the pattern-cutting and cutting out fabric. I also store big rolls of fabric and domestic machines underneath this table. In the corner by the window is my pressing station, full length mirror and mannequin.
What is your favourite thing about the work that you do?
I love sharing insights into the creation process! Often the 'behind-the-scenes' part of clothing production is hidden away, which has allowed a kind of disconnect to form amongst us as consumers as to the work and skill that goes into making clothes. I have such a love for sewing and I want to share that. To celebrate and champion the craftmanship involved so that we can form a better understanding of clothing's true value.
It brings me so much joy when I hear that people have felt inspired to bring their sewing machine down from the attic, dust off the cobwebs and have a go at making or altering something for themselves.
Have you got a particular cause or issue that you would like to raise awareness of?
It's very important to me that my work helps towards greater transparency within the garment manufacturing sector. I hear the phrase 'handmade clothing' a lot, but usually only in reference to small independent labels such as myself. I'd like to work towards dispelling the common misunderstanding that cheaper clothing must be made solely by machines on some sort of conveyor belt system. All clothing is handmade. Even a t-shirt from Primark.
It's vital we start visualising the person behind the purchase, wherever we choose to shop. How you spend your money is a vote for the kind of world you'd like to see. Personally, I'd love to see a world in which garment workers are paid a fair living wage for the skilled work that they do.
What would be the top thing that you would change about the way we treat the planet if you could?
I'd love it if we could all swap our disposables to reusables! There are so many great alternatives out there now, it's such an easy switch. We rely on this planet's resources for our own survival, amongst many other species, and these resources aren't finite. Convenience isn't king compared to what's at stake. The simple act of switching to a reusable product in order to be more considerate about the impact our choices make is well worth the 66 days it takes to form a new habit.