The four of us at Here Today Here Tomorrow want to say a huge congratulations to the Centre for Sustainable Fashion on their five year anniversary! At this milestone, they have asked us, being part of the first graduating group from the MA Fashion and the Environment, to spend the next week sharing what we’ve been up to since then and how we’ve used our experience on the MA to be changemakers…
The original group of four who set up Here Today Here Tomorrow are Anna-Maria Hesse, Emma Rigby, Julia Crew and Ines Vicente. Coming from a range of backgrounds including knitwear, womenswear and accessories design, we all shared in common the desire to develop our creative practise sustainably and to expand our knowledge and expertise in this area. We met during the inaugural year of the MA Fashion and the Environment, written by and at that time directed by Dilys Williams. Our experience on the course was challenging, enlightening and opened us to the possibilities and opportunities for innovation in sustainable fashion. Following graduation in January 2010 we were determined to continue the work we had started throughout the MA and established Here Today Here Tomorrow – an experimental and collaborative studio shop based in Dalston, London. In July 2011 Inês decided to return to her native Portugal and Katelyn Toth-Fejel joined and has been the fourth member ever since.
When Here Today Here Tomorrow began our aim was to set up a studio shop where we would not only practice as individual designer/makers in a creative collaborative space, but also sell our collections and directly engage with our customers. This dual use of the space connects the local community and those that pass by to the processes involved in making products. It also means the shop is often quite an active busy place! Showing people the materials, skills and time required to create products by hand is something not frequently communicated to the high street consumer and we find that it radically alters perceptions of products and understanding of sustainability.
ONE SIZE DOESN’T FIT ALL
Many media sources and brands portray sustainable fashion in simplistic terms, be it limited to only using better materials or taking 3steps to green your wardrobe. We know however that this doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. Inspired by the Centre for Sustainable Fashion’s leadership in this field we celebrate a diverse range of approaches in the shop. In this way it is demonstrated to customers that there are many different solutions to sustainable design. This includes designs that address issues such as recycling, durability, natural dye, organic materials, fair trade production and traditional craft skills. But it also means re-thinking how and why we buy clothes in the first place. And therefore another component of our work is educational. We offer classes in sewing and mending in the shop as well as organise exhibitions and events that to help people rethink how they approach consumption and the materials in their lives.
Another major part of what we have done over the past 3 years since finishing the MA, is set up our own fair trade brand, under the Here Today Here Tomorrow label. At the heart of our design process is a consideration of materials, production, quality and aesthetic beauty. Now in it’s third season, our autumn winter knitwear collection embodies our continued commitment to sustainable design practices. Each product has been hand knit with 100% wool, by skilled Nepalese craftspeople and supported by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO). We have twice traveled to Nepal to work collaboratively with our producers, building in a deeper understanding of each other’s knowledge and perspectives but we’ll talk more about the exciting new projects we are working on in Nepal later in the week.
As our business continues to develop and grow, we are contributing to a growing awareness around social and environmental issues in the fashion industry. Business and policy play an important part in building sustainability, yet often the most poignant contributions towards sustainability are people-centred. In the future we hope consumers will feel empowered to be less passive and more engaged with the products they buy, the making process and the story behind them.
– Anna-Maria, Emma, Julia and Katelyn