Clothing has the 4th largest impact on our environment, after housing, transport and food. The impact that UK clothing has on the environment, and the opportunities to reduce it are huge, consumers are taking better care of their clothes, with 700,000 tonnes of CO2 being saved through people changing their clothing care habits. UK households have also reduced the amount of clothing they put in their general waste bin by 50,000 tonnes.
It’s one of the reasons for the past 5 years we’ve run the same work experience challenge for pupils in the St Austell, Cornwall area (and sometimes a bit further away) when they do their week with us. We have a set project which (we feel) is both interesting, sustainable in both learning and output, as well as enjoyable plus the students get to take away their eco fruits of their labour. Our process is simple, arrive and get a feel for our studio and our team, admittedly we get approached a year in advance for work experience and demand is hot. We pick those who have researched us the most and can relay so. They then watch one of our eco awareness films, usually The Inconvenient Truth if they’ve not already watched it. Personally, I think all schools should have their pupils watch this.
From there the fun stuff, research and present findings on ethical fashion brands and standard brands. Work through Leap’s design process to evolve your own eco conscious fashion brand or garment design working with all members of the Leap team. During the design and refinement phase we get each student to source via one of our certified eco suppliers (there are a lot of green wash clothing suppliers out there) an item of clothing they like which we pay for as a gift to them and we then show them the print process in applying the design to their eco fashion item. As Maisie has done so well from this years week.
The result is that all work experiencees are engaged and have improved awareness of ethical clothing. They will hopefully buy well, buy good, invest in the future and they proudly get to walk off wearing their latest creation. We love it and I get the feeling they do too.
Here’s what Maisie had to say:
The whole point of work experience is to go out to a work place and-you guessed it- experience work just as you would if you actually had that job, as well as to prepare you for life in the work place after college or university. So I’m sure you can imagine that my friends and I were pretty nervous for our first day of work experience- down to not knowing what to expect than anything really, but straight after walking up the stairs and into the studio to be greeted by Claire and some of the rest of the team, I felt much more at ease knowing I’d be surrounded by a group of happy and polite individuals. One of my fears was that I’d feel in the way or an inconvenience and as a result, given jobs like making tea or coffee to keep me occupied, but I was given my own little project to get on with, and I felt very much included whilst also being able to work independently with some guidance.
During the course of the 5 days I spent inside the St.Austell based studio of Leap, I received the opportunity to watch the whole team work in their own little branches of the graphic design environment, as well as give my own hand at designing an ethical clothing brand and a logo for it. What I found most interesting, (other than being able to create my own, bespoke t-shirt), was being able to talk to the team about their own individual role in the studio and the processes that a designer will go through from a brief from the client to the final ‘product’ and how something can develop from an idea to a creative and interesting website, design, or product. Personally, I found it really interesting how Matt and the team can find so many eco friendly materials and processes to create each project. Not only do they take pride in producing ethical outcomes in their designs but this “motto” is carried throughout the whole studio and outside too- basically everything from the loo roll and hand soap to the amount of waste produced and the methods that the team choose to travel to and from work are ethical or heading in the direction to a cleaner planet.
The task I was given for my week long work experience was to create an ethical clothing brand with a final product of a t-shirt or garment displaying the logo and/or name of the brand I made. To begin this project, I started by researching existing clothing stores or t-shirts that I already like and appeal to me, (they didn’t have to be ethical), after looking over the tops I had chosen, I picked out some common factors that each shirt had and I liked- ie, they were all quite basic in design with a plain white or block colour background and a small design or logo displayed on it. during the second day, I began to produce a presentation of the work and research I had done so far. On the Wednesday I developed designs and logos as well as brand-names for my brand. However this was also the day I realised that my photoshop and illustrator skills were somewhat lacking, and as a result I spent a rather large portion of the day watching tutorials on how to use them. Thursday was the day that all of my researching and designing really began to come together as this the was the day I started using illustrator to complete the design and ‘finish it off’. On the final day, I managed to complete the logo design, and get it sent off along with the t-shirt to be printed off and made into a finished piece.
What I learned and what I want to pass on…
Introducing alternative methods for unsustainable living is a simple and relatively easy way of beginning to save our planet and try to prevent the negative impacts our way of life has on Earth and our contribution to climate change as well as global warming. One method we can all chose to partake in and that can be started as of now, is buying clothes from ethical stores and companies that share like minded opinions with those of us who wish to make a difference. These companies and clothing brands use alternative materials that are more organic and sustainable than less natural materials. An example of a material is combed organic cotton, used by “Continental Clothing” in their ‘Earthpositive’ collection and another example is also from “Continental Clothing” but in their ‘Salvage’ collection, and this particular material is made from 60% Recycled pre-consumer cotton organically grown and 40% Recycled post-consumer polyester.
Unfortunately the scale of the issues that are being faced, especially around climate change, makes many individuals feel powerless and therefore reduces their belief that their own behaviour can make a meaningful difference, so they are left with the well known attitude of “well what difference can I make”. But if every one held this idea of mind then of course nobody would make a difference! It is when we begin to find more positive attitudes surrounding this issue that people begin to group together and take part in small tasks that add up and really do make a difference. If one person decided not to recycle their water bottle, then that is one less pencil that can be made from recycled plastics and sold at the Eden Project, sending the message to a wider group of people who may feel inspired to take their first steps towards saving our planet.
Personally, I feel as though producing and buying ethical clothing is a brilliant step forward in saving our planet and I would definitely love to begin buying more from ethical brands.