GRR

Get inspired to save waste and make your own clothes

21st June 2023
Ellie Fazan

With the rise of shows like The Great British Sewing Bee and influencers like Atia Azmi and Lydia Bolton sharing their creations, this Spring Summer season, DIY clothing is the only trend that matters.

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“For me, sewing is about bringing joy into my life,” says Atia Azmi, maker, creator and founder of The Bright Blooms. “Of course, sometimes you need a t-shirt so you have to make a t-shirt, but other times it’s about making something unique. You can be in charge of the whole process – from quality to the style of fabric; adding extra details like scalloped edges or tailoring the pattern to your own requirements. So you can make something that suits you, whilst also creating a garment with meaning.” 

Once considered a niche hobby rather than a fashion-savvy movement, with the rise of shows like The Great British Sewing Bee as well as influencers like Atia and Lydia Bolton, making your own clothes is now the epitome of chic. “I think it's a great thing that a lot more people are starting to sew more, rather than seeing it as niche or nerdy,” says Atia, who shares DIY fashion, design and colour inspiration with her 31,000 Instagram followers. “These days, it’s more acceptable and interesting to say all your clothes are homemade. There’s a big sewing community on Instagram – it’s a really good way to get quick ideas,” she says. “And you can follow trends, so I often look at what designers are doing, too. I love Stina Goya – the styles are colourful and she does shapes that are easily adaptable. I look at things that are timeless and won’t go out of fashion.” One look at Atia’s Instagram account proves that homemade can be colourful, cool and super stylish. 

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Transcending trends

Making your own clothing is much more than a trend. Lydia Bolton learnt to sew as a child, and always wanted to work in fashion. While cutting her teeth at a big fashion house, she became uncomfortable with the waste the industry produced. “I try to be as eco as possible by buying second hand, and am passionate about vintage and thrifting,” she says. “I realised I wanted my career to reflect my personal values as much as possible.” 

So, she took a course at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, a research centre based at London College of Fashion, founded with the aim of “provoking, challenging and questioning the fashion status quo”. As the name suggests, their work focuses on sustainability in fashion, developing new ideas and opening a dialogue with students and brands around how we can do things better. The Sustainable Fashion Glossary – produced by the Centre in conjunction with Vogue publisher Condé Nast – states that “Current communication, sales, production, use and disposal of fashion products have alarming impacts on the well-being of ecosystems and communities across the world. Fashion is both directly and indirectly implicated in the climate crisis.” It goes on, “Only around a quarter of used clothing gets reused or recycled globally, and while there are significant regional differences in collection rates, a global average of approximately 75 per cent of used clothes end up either in landfill or are incinerated.”

It was the issue around textile waste that spoke to Lydia. “I could see how my skills as a designer and maker could provide a small solution by reusing and remaking this waste.” Thus Lydia Bolton was born. For her first collection, she sourced pieces from charity shop warehouses that couldn’t be sold because they were worn, damaged or otherwise unwearable, then painstakingly unpicked the garments before reconstructing them in line with her patterns. No two pieces were the same.

So powerful is Lydia’s vision of sustainability in fashion that she has been named One to Watch by trend forecaster WGSN. Sustainability in fashion is integral to its future and marks a change in approach to how we design, produce and consume fashion. From Balenciaga to Miu Miu, creating new clothes out of old materials is finally being embraced by major luxury brands. “Fashion is an amazing way to express individuality, creativity and activism and by taking part in the sewing revolution we can all get involved,” says Lydia. “I think it is everyone’s responsibility to be a catalyst for change within the industry and each small step helps contribute to a shift.” 

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A permanent shift

Like Atia, Lydia’s clothes portray a vision of joy, individuality and hope. The Centre for Sustainable Fashion believes that if we come together, we can achieve the change that society needs from fashion. There is hope in each piece of made and saved clothing worn. As Winter moves into Spring and Summer, Lydia’s collection of colourful patchwork scarves give way to playful ginghams and cuter-than-cute collars and bows. “I’m always interested in looking at trends, and thinking about how I can translate them in a way that has longevity,” she says. “Fashion will always be dictated by the seasons. But we ask, will I wear this in five years? My cardigans will stay in the range as we move into the new season, as they are something you can wear throughout the year.”

If you’re thinking about making your own, the new season is a wonderful time to start. Spring Summer clothes are less tailored, and champion bright printed fabrics that can hide dodgy stitching well. “Look for simple patterns with ties at the back rather than buttons,” says Atia. “And don’t spend a lot of money on courses. There’s so much on YouTube. Start off with a simple project, so you don’t need to learn all the skills at once.” In terms of fabric, look for something stable like cotton. “They can be really cheap and cheerful with great patterns for summer. Don’t set yourself goals, but go with something you’re attracted to making at that time. As you progress, it can be fun to add in details of your own, like a rainbow overlocking thread, that makes it uniquely yours.”

Lydia agrees. “Do something that you’re going to have fun with and start small! If you want to update your wardrobe for Spring Summer you should start by getting everything out and playing around with new outfits. You could turmeric dye some old t-shirts and embroider them, or add fun accessories like collars or bows. When you do something like this yourself you are creating a garment with a positive impact that showcases your belief that fashion has a future.”

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