Fashion designer Patrick Grant, known to many as a judge on the BBC’s British television series The Great British Sewing Bee, founded the social enterprise Community clothing in 2016. Its objective: to reverse the effects of job losses in the manufacturing sector and produce high-quality clothing that benefits the community and the planet.
Speaking to 2020 SE100 resilience champion Paula Gamester (pictured), founder of The Sewing Rooms, at Conference on the future of social enterprises last month, among the issues he discussed were the impact of the decline of UK textile manufacturing on local communities, what needs to be done to make fashion more sustainable and the future he envisions for a regenerative textile industry.
Economic cracks: job creation in textile manufacturing
Grant (pictured below) was familiar as a child with parts of the UK such as the Isle of Harris and the Scottish borders, where textile manufacturing was a major part of job creation, as well as the ‘glue »Social that linked communities.
You see huge economic divides that the loss of these jobs has created
“I think the big manufacturing companies play an incredibly important role in society, and I think the loss of a lot of manufacturing jobs here has created social problems that are costing us a lot of money.” he said: “You see huge economic divides that the loss of [these] jobs have been created.
He continued, “Since I started working, I don’t know how many thousands of people have lost their jobs in the textile industry… I wanted to do something to stop this decline and reverse it if I could. “
He argued that we should go from buying ten cheap items made with poor quality materials by very low paid people to buying a good thing made locally from good materials by good employees. paid. According to Grant, this would not only reduce our carbon footprint, but also support the communities that are on our doorstep.
“This is the idea behind Community Clothing,” he said. “It’s a job creation program and it’s also about trying to help create a pipeline of people who want to get into the industry.”
Make fashion sustainable
Beyond creating good manufacturing jobs for local communities, Community Clothing also produces fashion in a sustainable way. This is achieved by using natural materials from responsible sources and ensuring the durability of their products.
Grant discussed the importance of transparency in sustainable manufacturing: “When you know where everything is done – where the fabric is woven, where the jerseys are made, where the cotton is grown… this kind of traceability allows customers to ‘be sure that they are not supporting something horrible.
Patrick Grant’s top five tips for a sustainable wardrobe
On sustainability and the fashion worlds, Grant argued that there are “two camps”.
“There is a camp that says’ we are going to reduce [our] carbon footprint. We will continue to pump the same volume… we will just do it in a way that is 20 to 30% less harmful to the planet. “
He continued, “And then there’s a whole other school of thought that says the whole system is totally redundant and inadequate and we have to rethink things.”
“This is where we sit.”
The regenerative future of growing fashion
As part of an effort to make its fashion regenerative, not just sustainable, Community Clothing has been allocated unused land by the council. They used this land to cultivate flax and pastel as part of the Homegrown Homespun project, in collaboration with The super slow way and North West England Fibreshed. Often referred to as the UK’s ‘forgotten crop’, flax is the plant used to produce flax and was once cultivated across the country. Pastel is a source of indigo dye that also originated in the UK.
We must now go beyond sustainability
“We planted this field, we did not water it or irrigate it in any way, we did not use pesticides or herbicides or any type of fertilizer, and [the flax] grew up like crazy, ”Grant said.
He continued, “We harvested it and dyed it with indigo taken from our pastel and we made this really nice piece of linen denim fabric that will actually be stronger than cotton denim.”
“It has to go beyond sustainability now,” he said. According to Grant, rather than just supporting our planet, we really need to give back and build regenerative systems in the fashion industry. Like growing a field of flax.
Building a social enterprise
Grant looked at the history of social enterprise in the UK. “There was a huge wave of positivity behind social enterprise as a model that was going to stop capitalism from eating itself,” he said, “and I think a lot has happened. who have crushed that a bit. In particular, he noted that the 2007 economic downturn, Brexit and now the pandemic have caused these setbacks for UK social enterprises over the past two decades.
He continued, “We really need to get back to a system where the benefits of businesses primarily flow to the community they are in. “
It’s amazing to build something that you know feels good
“What I don’t like is the system that is heavily focused on growth, where the benefits of the business are extracted and taken elsewhere for a small number of people to get rich.
For Grant, the benefits of starting a social business go beyond the good it does for the community and the environment – the positive results are personal, too.
“It’s so rewarding to start a business where you can feel the benefits all around you… it’s amazing to create something that you know how to do good. “
Header Image: Homegrown Homespun, a collaborative effort with Community Clothing, The Super Slow Way, and North West England Fibreshed, courtesy of Bea Davidson. The top two images are courtesy of Paula Gamester and Patrick Grant, the bottom two images are courtesy of Bea Davidson. Pictured above with Patrick Grant holding handmade laundry: Justine Aldersey-Williams (left), Founder of North West England Fibreshed and director of The wild dyeing, and Laurie Peake (right), director of Super slow way and the British Textile Biennale.
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