Leah Thorn from a:dress

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 Leah Thorn from a:dress: a creative venture started in Folkestone to raise awareness of fast-fashion pitfalls, and to share the impact the industry has on the environment and on women globally. This week is the a:dress festival, which includes virtual talks, workshops and a town-wide exhibition of garments made for the project by local women.

Tell me about yourself and the work that you do.
I am an activist and I use poetry, film, message-adorned clothing and conversations to raise awareness about issues that I care passionately about. My latest project is called ‘a:dress’ and with it I aim to raise awareness of the devastating contribution fast fashion makes to climate crisis. I want to communicate creatively and accessibly ways that women are impacted by climate crisis, to acknowledge how women are targeted by, and vulnerable to, the fast fashion industry and to promote alternatives to throwing clothes away, such as supporting charity shops, doing repairs and community clothes exchanges 

How or why did you get started?
I started a:dress after I watched Stacey Dooley‘s TV programme ‘Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’. I’d been trying to find a way for a couple of years to get involved with issues of climate justice but I just felt overwhelmed by all the harsh facts. Once I understood about the impact of fast fashion on the environment, I knew there was something that I could do. Clothing has always been really important to me, my father was a tailor and I was brought up with the love of the feel and the smell of cloth and an appreciation of cut and fitting. My dad was never without a tape measure round his neck and a thimble on his finger. So working with clothes felt like coming home.

What is your favourite thing about the work that you do, or are doing for this project?
One of the things I’ve loved is connecting with some of the fantastic textile artists and designers in Folkestone. It has been a joy to build a network of passionate women. I’ve been inspired to see how women artists have taken a theme I’ve offered them or lines from one of my poems and interpreted them onto clothes. Occasionally they’ve made the clothing from scratch but mostly women have taken pieces of clothing I found in charity shops or a local vintage shop and worked with that. We’ve had some great ‘subversive catwalks’ to show the clothes off and Clare Unsworth made a brilliant film (watch it here) during the first lockdown of a socially-distanced catwalk. There are always a range of females, diverse in terms of race and size and age. The youngest model that we’ve had 3 years old and the oldest in her 70s

What are your plans for the future?
I plan to build on our successes. In March 2021 there will be a month-long ‘a:dress’ residency at the Quarterhouse in Folkestone where we will be able to honour International Women’s Day for the whole month!

What is the most challenging thing about the work that you do, or are doing for this project?
One of the challenges is reaching people in Folkestone who wouldn’t necessarily come to an event in the Creative Quarter or a feminist event or an event about climate justice. One good thing to come out of lockdown is that shops have allowed us to display clothes in the their windows for the whole of the lockdown period, many of them on Sandgate Road (a main shopping street in Folkestone). We are committed to having contact with women who do buy fast fashion - to engage with them, not to make them the problem.
Where can we find you on the internet, buy your work, or join in?
Instagram @a.dress.fashion

Facebook  www.facebook.com/adressfashion
email  adress.activism@gmail.com
my website www.leahthorn.com

You tube  a:dress film

Photography by Clare Unsworth