From setting up her own sustainable fashion brand, to focussing on the issue of textile waste – Lydia Bolton is a great example of the impact accessible education can have. Upon finding our free online short course ‘Fashion and Sustainability‘ in collaboration with Kering, Lydia immersed herself (and her new business idea) in the 6-week course and it’s introduction to the issues, agendas and contexts of fashion in a changing world. Not only finishing the course with a determination to challenge the issue of textile waste, Lydia completed the course with a brand manifesto that she still uses to this day.
As we see record numbers of students across the world joining the course, it’s a perfect moment to check in, one year on, and see how Lydia has developed since throughout her first year of business.
A bit about Lydia – Originally from Cheltenham has been based in London for 8 years – since graduating from Kingston University, she has worked as a Design Assistant prior to setting up her own brand just a year ago.
You studied our online course ‘Fashion & Sustainability‘ – how was it?
The course was excellent. It taught me so much about the problems of fashion, how unsustainable it currently is and the fragile state of the environment. It was broken down into topics and stages, giving a wide range of information in videos, articles and case studies to learn about each area.
How did you discover the course and what made you choose to study it?
I knew I wanted work in sustainable fashion but I felt I really did not know very much about it and wanted to learn more. I found the course after researching online ways I could improve my knowledge of fashion and sustainability. The course was online so is easily accessible and the time commitments were manageable.
How has taking the course impacted the work you do now?
It has massively impacted the work I do now. Before the course, I knew I wanted to work in sustainable fashion but I had no idea in what capacity. It’s a huge area and I needed to learn more in depth about the issues in order to work out how I wanted to work in sustainable fashion. It was from learning about the vast amount of garment and textile waste that I identified this was the issue I wanted to try and provide a solution for.
“Doing this course shaped the way I started my business.”Lydia Bolton
Key 3 things you took away from the course?
- The fact our resources are at their maximum capacity and are being drastically over consumed.
- That change needs to happen as a matter of urgency in the way we produce and consume clothing.
- Everyone has the ability to create and promote this change and that by starting with small steps we can create wide behavioural change.
What would you say to someone thinking about taking the course now?
I would absolutely recommend they do the course! It is insightful and really in depth, and it would be difficult to gather all this information on your own. There are activities that will help you apply the information you have learnt into your own practice whether it is a business or personal level.
You now own and run a fashion brand that utilises textile waste – how did the course help you build your brand ethos/values?
On the course you write a brand manifesto and the manifesto I created on the course, is the manifesto I still use. Creating this manifesto enabled me to identify and focus on what issue I wanted to provide a solution for and build my brand values. The methods of creating you manifesto are clear and straight forward to follow: you state a fact, outline your values, describe your vision, put forward how you will change and then make a commitment to it.
My manifesto was:
Fact: only 20% of garments are recycled or donated, 80% end up in landfill.
Value: to value the resources that went in to producing the garments (even if they are ‘cheap’). By disposing of the garments into landfill the resources are wasted. We need to value out resources as they are limited and running out.
Vision: To re-use the garments/textiles we have already produced. To reduce the quantity that is send to landfill and help reduce the over consumption of raw materials.
Change: to create new garments out of old/unwanted garments and textiles.
Commitment: To put the use of recycled clothing and materials at the forefront of my design practice. To appreciate the commodities that are used to make our clothing and to prolong their life-span and value.
How has the reclaimed waste element of your work grown? Why is this important for you?
On the course I learnt about the vast quantities of waste within garments and textiles. For my experience of working in fashion I was aware about the waste from a design and production POV but wasn’t aware of the enormity of the amount of clothing that is thrown away to landfill each year – its around 200,000 tonnes in the UK each year! This is such a waste of the resources used to produce the clothing such as the 2,700 litres of water used to make 1 t-shirt. It is extremely important to me to work in a way that does not put any extra strain onto the worlds limited and in high demand resources. Instead I want to reuse the materials we have already produced and save them from being wasted. Everything I make is out of unwanted or dead-stock clothing to help increase the life-span of the materials and reuse the fabric and resources.
You recently collaborated with NIICE, tell us about that?
Yes, it launched in March 2020 – it’s a collection made entirely from their dead-stock. The clothing was unsold items from their previous collections from tshirts, sports shorts, raincoats and jackets. I wanted to create a range of pieces, that were impactful and would help open up the conversation about reusing unwanted clothing, whilst also being wearable. Having unpicked the items and worked with them on the stand to create new pieces. I reused all the trims like zips, toggles and elastic and kept all the scraps. I patch worked all my scraps together to create a ‘Scrap Suit’.
I think it’s an important collaboration, it shows a way brands can add sustainability into their post-sales process. Dead-stock clothing is a huge issue within fashion brands, I think it’s important brands are open and honest about this. There are so many creative and beneficial uses for this dead-stock clothing and its key brands utilise this, and understand the great importance of not wasting the resources. NICCE were really supportive of me as a small brand and sustainable designer – I hope to repeat this kind of collaborative project with other brands.
You’ve also just been featured as ‘Miss Vogue’s Girl on a Mission’, tell us about what’s next for you?
It was a huge honour and I’m so grateful for the support! I’m starting to do workshops where people can come and learn how to remake their old clothes into new things. I think it’s a really exciting way for me to share my sustainable practice, and the importance of reusing and remaking with our unwanted clothing. These have sadly been postponed due to Covid-19… Though I hope to continue growing my brand and provide people will and alternative way to purchase clothing that has not required any new resources to be produce. I want to help raise awareness of the vital need to change the way we design, produce, consume and dispose of our clothing – encouraging ways we can change our behaviour. During this period (Covid-19) I am doing a SEWcial Distancing series where I will be sharing DIY projects to do at home to add some creativity and into our home bound lives.