Environmental Feature — 15 May 2019

We live in a society where being ‘organic’ or ‘Eco-friendly’ is seen as one of the many trends a millennium should aspire to follow, however, most of us forget that being Eco-friendly means more than just owning a M&S bag-for-life.

According to the latest study by the government-backed recycling charity Wrap, it costs the UK alone £82 million pounds a year to dispose of clothing and household textiles. It is due to a rise in the demand of what is called ‘fast fashion’ or ‘throwaway fashion’, where garments are produced and sold at low prices to generate a fast turnover. The high quantity of clothes are produced rapidly but their usage is sometimes that of a takeaway coffee cup, resulting in consumers frivolously purchasing clothing and allowing its cheap price to justify throwing it away.

Could the ‘party’ be over for bargain slip dresses and pleather Chelsea boots? Could we be realising that being Eco-friendly starts right in our wardrobe and can be sourced locally?

Staffordshire-based business, Realm Designs, founded by Eco-friendly fashion entrepreneur and 70s fashion lover Beth Povey, is known for its locally sourced, quirky crochet and up-cycled fashion pieces.

Being brought up to be as Eco-friendly as possible, Beth tells me about how she got into designing,
“I studied art at school and during my A levels, I really found my passion for creating things with fabric.

“I then went on to study at Newcastle-under-Lyme College for a year, where I did a foundation art course, which is where I learnt the art of crochet and I haven’t stopped since!”

Whilst studying an art foundation course, it was her major final year project where she thoroughly explored the way sustainable materials and up-cycling methods were effecting Eco-friendly fashion.

“Sustainable fashion has always been something I’m passionate about but found that it was hard to dress sustainably without spending a lot of money.

“This is why I decided to focus on it for my project and all the materials I used were second-hand or from sustainable suppliers.

“My project title was Eco-fashion so I looked into the effects it was having, I explored sustainable materials and up-cycling.

“Up-cycling is a really good way of creating something without having the cost of buying materials that are Eco-friendly, Fair trade and sustainable.”

Created in 2016 by Beth, Realm Designs is the epitome of local grown fashion, fabricating items from her bedroom studio space.

“It has always been a dream of mine to own my own shop selling my designs.

“During my A-levels I worked at a shop called ‘Holly Crow’ in Leek, an amazing independent brand making handmade clothing.

“This really gave me someone to look up to, it made me feel like I could actually own my own business one day.”

The products Realm Designs has to offer vary from colourful pom-pom earrings to swing dresses reworked from Puma jumpers. All materials used to form her designs are from recycled clothing.

She says, “For my designs I take a lot of inspiration from 70’s fashion and interior – I just love anything colourful and floral!

“As the seasons and fashion trends change, I try not to be too influenced by them, as I want my pieces to be timeless.

“I try to use recycled materials where possible because I want to create no or little waste. I find things in charity shops, vintage fairs and people often donate things to me they no longer want.

“It is making a new product from something that may have been otherwise thrown away.

“I also keep any scrap bits of wool and fabric, I hate the thought of these tiny pieces ending up in the sea, and I then make something new out of them. I think really carefully about every product and how I can make them as Eco-friendly as possible.”

In a recent documentary, ‘Stacy Dooley Investigates: Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’, the shocking truth was uncovered, that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry, with the oil industry leading the way.

The widely used fabric, cotton is marketed to us as ‘natural’ and ‘pure’ however its water consumption levels are the highest of all fabrics used in production. This is because the cotton plants need water for growth and also water to activate pesticides to deter pests. This results in a chemical runoff which ends up in canals, streams, rivers and lakes and changes the natural chemical balance of the water which has a knock-on effect to the ecosystem.

When asked about the mainstream fashion industry and its fast fashion approach Beth said: “The message about fashion and the quality of the products needs to be improved as I think it all comes down to the amount that is being produced.

“Companies make us feel like it’s acceptable to buy something for cheap, wear it once and throw it away. The damage that is doing to the environment is a very taboo subject; it isn’t talked about enough!

“People need to become more aware of where their clothes are coming from and be conscious about the amount of clothes they need.

“Also, the damage is not directly affecting these companies in a way they can see, it is generally less developed countries that are suffering.”

“I will always make sure my products last and are something people will love and wear over and over and everything I produce will always be made in the U.K

“However, I would like to find more sustainable material that isn’t going to have an effect on the environment.”

It is going to take more than just one Eco-friendly company like Realm Designs to achieve real change for the fashion industries environmental conscience.

Beth says, “A lot of the environmentally friendly clothes are handmade and unique so they do have other selling points.

“If people were given the option of two very similar products one being much cheaper and not Eco-friendly, sadly I think most people would go for the cheaper option.”

However, encouraging local Eco-conscious entrepreneurs like Beth, is a start to making people more aware of the effects the production of our beloved garments is having environmentally.

By Holly Stafford


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